August was a fairly reasonable month with a few aberrational annual expenses that bumped our spending up above my ideal $1,000 (non-mortgage) level. As we settle into rural life and the tumult of moving across state lines (with a baby and a dog… ) recedes, our expenses drop a bit closer to our pre-move level with each passing month.
A Medley Of Money
In advance of the wintry chill, and in light of our plan to heat via our super efficient woodstove, I found a chimney sweep and had them come do their sweeping thing. This turns out to be one of those things that isn’t necessarily a DIY activity. It entails lengthy ladders, specialized sweeping equipment, crawling around on the roof, and, of course, in-depth knowledge of chimneys. Mr. FW and I have exactly zero of those things. Sometimes, it just makes sense to hire an expert. Our chimney sweep also inspected all three of our flues, so we’re now prepared to warm ourselves when the inevitable cold strikes.
Frugal Hound made her annual trek to the vet in August–her first here in Vermont. She checks out as a hale and hearty hound at seven (!!!!) years old, for which we’re most grateful. It was also Babywoods’ first trip to the vet and she made her presence known by: 1) biting the desk calendar; 2) grabbing the computer monitor; and 3) chewing on a tongue depressor. I was so proud.
August is Mr. FW’s birthday month and, as is Frugalwoods tradition, the birthday person gets to plan a day entirely of their choosing. Unsurprisingly, the birthday person elected to visit The Alchemist brewery in Stowe, VT, where the famed hop-laden IPA Heady Topper originates. Since we made this sojourn on a weekday, we didn’t have to wait in line for long before… we purchased our very own case of beer.
Mr. FW and I enjoyed ourselves as the brewery served free tasters and since they have ceiling fans, Babywoods was equally delighted. Those things are amazing to watch if you are nine months old. We then drove over to Montpelier, VT for a scrumptious birthday lunch. Babywoods presided over the affair from her high chair and, with near-constant dosing of broccoli and cheerios, allowed us to enjoy a fabulous little birthday date.
Grocery costs continue to fluctuate wildly, but I remain unconcerned. I think the issue is trifold at this point: 1) Babywoods is eating food, so we’re buying more of it; 2) I’m still trying to figure out the thriftiest shopping options; 3) We’ve had the pleasure of hosting a ton of guests this summer (4 different groups of out-of-town visitors in August alone!). Hence, I tend to think it’ll even out eventually.
We are quite pleased with our decision to buy a Prius before moving out here to the homestead. We don’t drive everyday, but when we do drive, it’s often long distances. Hence, the fact that we only spent $56.20 on gas this month–and went on several long-distance day trips–is an epic boon for both wallet and environment. Go Snowdrop go!
In other possession news, our printer experienced a catastrophic injury at some juncture during our move and, as a result, no longer prints. We survived sans printer all summer and only had to race over to a friends’ house to print once (prior to our massive DMV trip).
But, the time has come for us to once again have the ability to print. As adults in this world, having a functional printer is a good thing. Mr. FW set up a price alert on Amazon so we could purchase a printer when it dipped down into sale region. We had to wait several months for such a sale, but, totally worth it for the savings.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$e$
Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to aggregate and consolidate our transactions from across all of our accounts. We then drop them into a spreadsheet to provide the below analysis for you fine people.
Tracking expenses is, in my opinion, the best way to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. Sounds harsh, but without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a frugal must, folks. No excuses.
Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for us to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth. If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, give Personal Capital a try. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking.
Where’s Your Money?
One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. A high-interest savings account gives you money for nothing. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:
Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.
And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while you sleep. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, is here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.
How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report
The below is an itemization of every single dollar we spent over the course of the month. I do this because it’s the most transparent articulation of how we allocate our resources and managed to quit our city life and decamp to the country.
Want to know how we manage the rest of our monies? Look no further than Why We Don’t Micromanage Our Money. We also own a rental property in MA, which I discuss here. Why do we save so much and spend so little? It’s all in service of our goal to reach financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods (which happened in May!!).
For us, embracing frugality is a joyful, longterm choice. We prefer a simple life to one filled with consumerism and we spend only on the things that matter most to us. Our approach isn’t one of miserly deprivation; to the contrary, we live a luxuriously frugal existence.
Interested in how we keep costs so low? Check out How We Save 65% Annually. If you’re up for some hardcore frugal adventuring, take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and, see how we did one year later in How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us.
But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????
Wondering about common expenses that you don’t see listed below? Our August 2015 expense report has the answers you seek!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in August:
|Groceries||$551.33||Ugh, not thrilled with this amount. Clearly we are still working out our VT grocery strategy. The amount fluctuates wildly from month to month, so I’ll try and figure out a stasis this fall.|
|Chimney sweep and flue Inspection||$185.00||An important maintenance activity for any wood-burning household.|
|Annual vet exam, medication, and teeth-cleaning food supplement||$158.73||Frugal Hound had her first Vermont vet visit and we’re pleased to report she’s hale and hearty at 7 years old.|
|Household supplies||$98.02||All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, dog food, and dental floss!|
|Mr. FW’s birthday beer||$80.70||The rather pricey, but definitely worthwhile, gift of a massive flat of beer from The Alchemist brewery.|
|Food dehydrator (and extra trays)||$77.08||More on this in my upcoming “This Month On The Homestead” post… we purchased this dehydrator along with some extra trays in order to dehydrate our incoming apple crop! Yes I tried to: 1) find it used; 2) borrow from a friend, and 3) buy local. All three attempts failed so I bought it on Amazon.|
|Internet||$74.00||We love our Fiber internet here in the woods! Worth every penny.|
|Printer||$64.99||This is the printer we purchased on sale.|
|Gasoline||$56.20||Thank goodness for Snowdrop the Prius! I shudder to think what our gas line item would tally in her absence.|
|Mr. FW’s birthday lunch||$48.11||A fabulous and festive birthday celebration.|