A gorgeous September sunset over our neighbor's field
A gorgeous September sunset over our neighbor’s field

Brace yourselves for an expense onslaught: September was our priciest month on record. By far. Yes indeed, we’ve royally outdone ourselves this time. Fueled by travel, a dishwasher, and our property tax bill–among other things–we spent a gigantic amount of money this month. But, it was (mostly) all for good. And, I am (mostly) unconcerned.

As frugal adherents, we don’t strive to never spend money, rather, we strive to spend only on things that matter. And on things that increase our longterm quality of life. It’s also true that months like this exemplify the rationale behind our frugality. Thanks to our savings and our lack of debt, we don’t have to sweat it.

Plus, there’s no reason to get upset over an expensive month. If you find that you spent more than you’re comfortable with last month, don’t berate yourself. Instead, take action this month. Get yourself set up with a way to reliably track your expenses–I use Personal Capital–and make changes going forward.

We Pay In Full

Our trees began to turn...
Our trees began to turn…

One of the reasons we occasionally have outlandishly expensive months is the fact that we pay for everything in full at the time of purchase. We don’t finance anything (other than our houses) and we don’t delay credit card payments.

Hence, this month includes the property tax bill on our 66 acre Vermont homestead for the entire year. We had the option of paying in two installments, but we prefer to pay things off immediately. Many folks pay property tax and insurance to their mortgage company on a monthly basis, which is a system called escrow. The mortgage company then pays the property tax and insurance bills on behalf of the homeowner. We don’t do that for our Vermont home as we’d rather take care of these bills of our own accord. So while our property tax bill looks like a big number, it covers the entire year. Plus, we love where we live and we chose Vermont for a reason.

As a sidenote, the reason we choose to carry mortgages on our primary residence and our rental property is that we have incredibly low interest rates on both homes. Hence, we prefer to invest our excess cash in the stock market, which should yield higher returns than we’d experience through paying off both houses.

My Husband Loves Me

Babywoods in CA!
Babywoods in CA!

Another reason we spent so much money in September is that Mr. Frugalwoods loves me. A lot. I know this because–unbeknownst to me–he purchased and installed a dishwasher and a kitchen sink disposal while Babywoods and I were off traveling. We’ve wanted a dishwasher here in Vermont since first we laid eyes on this house. I know that plenty of folks survive their entire lives without dishwashers, but I am not one of those folks.

Doing dishes by hand–a task Mr. FW and I performed together every single night since moving here–has to be my least favorite chore. By far. Yeah, I’m all for insourcing, but I’m also all for machines that’ll do my work for me. My inveterate handy man had to rip out several cabinets, move the refrigerator, install an outlet, re-plumb the kitchen, and re-wire the electrical in order to get this dishwasher and disposal ready for action. He then surprised me with a glorious reveal the night I returned home. Have I mentioned that he loves me?

Travel: Gets You Every Time

Babywoods and me on the beach in CA
Babywoods and me on the beach in CA

September also saw our three-week-long cross-country trek. Mr. FW joined us for the first leg of this journey, which was down to Orlando to visit his family. Then, Babywoods and I kicked it solo for the remaining 2.5 weeks as we visited my family in San Diego and I attended a conference. All the gory details of me flying alone with a baby are forever enshrined here. You’re welcome.

Despite my chief frugal weirdo efforts to travel cheaply (which I’ve done many times, I swear!), this trip was not a particularly glittering example of thrift. The airport was my main culprit. I had to check a suitcase–something I haven’t done since airlines starting charging for the privilege–because it’s not physically possible to cart baby, stroller, carry-on, and carry-on suitcase by one’s self. Furthermore, I packed food but was thwarted by a 3.5 hour delay before my connecting flight. Given that I was alone in an airport for hours with a baby, I ate all my food and had to buy more.

In the category of positive travel spending, we had the pleasure of taking our family and friends out for a few meals and drinks! We were delighted to treat folks while traveling. Although we rarely eat out when we’re at home, enjoying ourselves on vacation is important. Readers frequently ask me how we balance socializing and gifts with frugality, and this is yet another example (more on this topic is here, here, and here).

Being Sick

Palm trees in my sister's yard
Palm trees in my sister’s yard

Also expensive. Mr. FW’s previously reported stomach bug landed him in the ER for a day, which cost us a co-payment as well as lunch in the cafeteria for me and Babywoods. This was another instance where I did pack food, but we were there for 8 hours and ate it all! I guess I need to up my packed lunch game.

Thankfully, we’re all healthy now–although I’m still shaking off the remnants of a cold and cough I caught out in CA. Not our healthiest month on record.

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

Mushroom grove on our driveway
Mushroom grove on our driveway

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 (ok, except for this month… )? 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 (and there are a lot of them… ) we spent in September:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Annual property tax $6,895.63 We paid a full year’s worth of property tax on our Vermont homestead.
VT mortgage $1,392.86
Dishwasher! $519.00 My new best friend. We have a $50 rebate, so the actual price will end up at $469.
Groceries $325.63 The one winning category this month! Always happy with a bill below $350 for the three of us.
Meals for family and friends $244.63 While traveling, we treated our family and friends to meals and drinks out.
Kitchen sink disposal (and electrical hardware) $189.41 Mr. FW installed this disposal along with the dishwasher.
Electrical and plumbing supplies $152.74 Electrical and plumbing supplies for disposal and dishwasher install.
ER visit $150.00  Co-pay for Mr.FW’s trip to the hospital.
Household supplies $102.47  All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, dog food, and dental floss.
Gasoline $92.23  Gotta love our fuel efficient Prius!
Internet $74.00
Medical records transfer $57.91 Our MA doctors’ offices charged us to transfer our medical records to our new VT physicians
Seltzer C02 canister swap $53.57 The cheapest way to enjoy seltzer. See how we hacked our Sodastream here and here.
Utilities: Electric $50.35
Checked luggage $50.00 Ugh. Hated to check luggage (the first time I’ve done so since airlines started charging), but it wasn’t a practical option to carry on my suitcase while flying solo with Babywoods.
Airport parking $48.00 The very reasonable bill for four days of parking at the Burlington, VT airport.
Coffee grinder $44.99 Our trusty coffee grinder bit the dust, necessitating a replacement.
Metal roofing for firewood stacks $41.80 We got a bunch for free, but we needed more to cover our split, stacked firewood to help it dry out for winter.
Additional UPS for electronics $39.99 A battery backup and surge protector for our electronics (we experience somewhat frequent, though brief, power outages here in the woods).
Airport food $17.22  A seriously delayed flight = buying food!
Food while in ER (all day… ) $13.38 I packed food, I swear! But Babywoods and I were really hungry…
Outlet plugs, picture hanging hardware, and graphite for our door locks $11.67 Outlet covers for a certain baby’s wandering fingers, hardware to (finally) hang up our pictures, and graphite for our sticky front door lock.
Lubricant for snowblower chain $9.87 Winter is coming.
JB Quick Weld adhesive $3.60 Uh, this is a long story… I’ll discuss in my forthcoming “This Month On The Homestead”
TOTAL SPENT: $10,580.95  
LESS MORTGAGE: $9,188.09

How was your September?

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  1. Would you mind posting a picture of your protected firewood sometime? We just got two cords delivered for our first full winter at our new place and we need to figure out a better way to protect it than tarps. We didn’t cover it during a recent rainy week in MD and it’s starting to grow mold. Thanks!

  2. I walked around in a daze for months wishing I had 66 acres in Vermont. Now that I’ve seen your tax bill…. well, that’s a taxing hill to climb. Its like renting… from the State of Vermont! Ouch!

  3. I laughed at the entry for JB Weld — can’t wait to hear the story. That stuff is pretty marvelous. We made good use of it this month to repair the refrigerator door in our RV.

  4. I’m with you on paying bills in full as soon as possible! That’s part of why August and September were so expensive for me. For example, I prefer to pay my car insurance in full once per year ($663) and I paid for a dental surgery in full ($916 with insurance!) before I switched over to my high-deductible health plan. Overall, I spent ~$5,000 more than I normally would for August and September, but a lot of that was for FinCon and XYPN. I consider these investments in my career / business well worth the expense.

  5. Wow! Spendywoods! I always go into shock when we have expensive months and vow to eat nothing but lentils for the next few weeks to make up for it. FinCon looked like loads of fun by the way, I was joining in vicariously via Twitter 🙂

    1. We just try to not use electricity as much as possible. So, lights off when we’re not in a room, infrequent small appliance/dryer usage, and we don’t have AC. Nothing magic, we’re just very mindful.

    2. Other tips:
      – lights off if there’s light from outside; open the curtains and enjoy free solar power
      – unplug your microwave when not in use (I used to keep mine on a power strip, and I’d just hit the switch)
      – unplug media devices when not in use
      – don’t watch TV very often
      – keep your freezer full
      – keep a few jugs of water in your fridge so that all the cold doesn’t escape whenever you open the door, but don’t overpack your fridge

      You can borrow from the library or buy a device called a kill-a-watt, and it will help you see which devices use the most power in your home. Then, target those.

      1. Don’t forget computers. We always see a usage bump when one of our parents visit because they spend all day on the computer.

        1. You guys are so lucky. In Ontario (Canada) we highest rates for electricity/heat/air. If you don’t use any hydro your bill is still about $100 (delivery charge and taxes). My sister lives in a small 2 bedroom apt. Her bill runs about $300/month. Low income people choose between food and hydro (is not good during a cdn winter). The province beside us charges less than half what we do. Unless you go off grid with solar there is no way to cut your bill down.

  6. About the rebate: So many people don’t take advantage of this! Fifty dollars seems so small when you look at the whole bill, but it’s not, and those rebates add up. I think companies look at rebates as great advertisement, like a sale where most people don’t get the sale price because they forget to send in for the rebate. Good for you for taking advantage of it!

    1. I look at rebates as if I had to open my wallet and take out the amount of it or write a check for same. Then I think about opening my wallet and putting it in there when it’s returned to me. When my son got scholarship(s) for college that seemed somewhat incidental when compared to the price of the school, I told him think about paying out the amount of the scholarship, visualize opening your wallet or writing a check and seeing your bank balance go down, then think about getting a check that you can cash and put in your wallet or account. He figured it out pretty quickly. Rebates are not to be ignored!

  7. Looks like a great September. We pay our property taxes twice a year, and it bumps up our expense that month for sure. But public education is nice, and parks, roads and things like that….=) So I don’t mind. And I am totally with you on the dishwasher. I HATE washing dishes by hand. If it cost $3000 I would still buy one! And we bought a decent one, because I also hate rinsing and pre-scrubbing. =)

    1. I share your sentiments exactly on both the benefits of property taxes and the value of a good dishwasher 🙂

  8. Ok, you taught me something today (always a good day when you learn something new!). I never knew you could dump Personal Capital spending data into a spreadsheet. How cool is THAT!! MUCH easier than logging daily expenses, and definately something I’m going to check out (I’ve used PC for years to track our net worth and asset allocation, but haven’t used it for expense tracking). Keep up your great work!

    PS – $6895 annual property tax bill, ouch!

  9. We live in San Doego and feel pretty fortunate to have a $1400 yearly tax bill, but we purchased in the 1980s ???? Love reading your updates !

  10. Your property tax amount though a big number seems fairly reasonable considering it is a home with 66 acres. Ours is 2500.00 a year for a home and 1 acre here in Coastal Georgia. We had an expensive September also.
    I am really glad that those months are few and far between!!

  11. My property taxes in Arlington (town just smear of Cambridge for those not in the area) are $7500 for 1/4 of an acre and a 1300 sq ft ranch house, so yours seem like a bargain!!! Ahhhh Vermont! Am curious why you choose to pay in full instead of earning interest, given there is no penalty for paying in installments.

  12. All in all, it looks like you had a great September. If you subtract out the one time costs, it wasn’t actually that expensive. Certainly not far from your usual.

    We ended September a few hundred over our target budget, but dividends in September significantly exceeded our expenses. So it was all good!

    Sorry to hear you guys are feeling sick. The first few years after having a baby are like that. They seem to catch everything and then pass it on to you. Hope you feel better!

  13. WOW, that property tax bill!! Ours is around $1200 for 40 acres with a small home and pole barn in Northern Michigan… My in-laws have 40 acres on a small lake with a very large log home and outbuildings, and theirs is less than $2000 annually.

  14. September was a fairly normal month for me on the expense side of the equation. It seems that a lot of your expenses this month were one-time items or once a year items which you don’t “amortize” over the year. So I wouldn’t be worried at all if I were you!

  15. I also spend an unusual amount of money due to a trip. I went solo, though. I flew Frontier, which charges for carry-ons, so I basically packed some clean undies in my free “personal item” and then let my sister, whom I was visiting, dress me up like a giant doll. I was flying alone, which felt like an incredible luxury. Even though I had to sit in the back of the plane in the middle, because Frontier charges extra for window or aisle seats.

    Pro tip: When you’re comparing ticket prices, don’t forget that your bags are free on Southwest, my airline of choice. (Denver is a hub of theirs, so it works out.) With “Family Boarding,” you get to board after the A group but before B, regardless of your actual position, so you can find seats together quite easily. AND they still serve free juice and coffee and little cookies shaped like airplanes with which my children are enamored. (Yes, I ate mine, too.)

    Glad Mr. FW is OK–the ER is scary!

  16. If your woods are not in the current use program for forestry, you may want to investigate it. I believe you can have your County Forester walk the property and advice you for free, but you would then need to hire a Forester to develop a ten year plan. Most folks in the program in VT save enough in property taxes the first year to pay for the forestry plan, after that the property tax savings are yours:)

    1. Yes, we are indeed enrolled in current use! We just have a lot of land :). But we love it here and are happy to pay our taxes to support things that are important to us.

  17. September was a pricey month for me as well. I traveled three different times and also doubled up my rent so I could the bonus on my new credit card. But I got to meet you and a bunch of other fabulous people in person so I have no regrets 🙂

  18. Expensive month! We are having a couple. New house expenses were more than my husband expected. Good news is that we had two weekend rentals with my husband’s paid for home that will generate enough revenue to cover the expenses at both homes. Weather is cooling off, so the insulated windows to replace the aluminum ones in the basement will reduce heat loss. Back to cooking every meal, children’s sports made it hard with some late nights where we grabbed food while out. Got a much needed trim by my husband Saturday afternoon, my best friend stopped over to get hers trimmed for free as well. We met a friend of ours later that evening and she asked about our salon appointment my best friend had posted on Facebook. She told her she got her haircut with me at my house. She asked if we had a stylist come do our hair and who was it because our hair looked great. She said it was my husband and my friend went over to him while he was talking to her husband and wanted to know when she could come visit to get her haircut. He joked he was kinda busy because he had some painting to do, she asked if he had an extra brush, if he cuts her hair, she would help him paint. He said sure fair enough. So this weekend coming, he is going to give her a haircut. Of course I warned him that once he cuts her hair, he will become her regular stylist. So I guess we will get more company on the homestead. I turn down requests when they ask me, but if they ask him directly, he is on his own.

  19. Okay, from the pictures that I’ve seen, you are not an octopus, so spending money on a checked bag, extra food, and such is perfectly acceptable! ???? I am always, always, in awe of your expenses. I am with you, if I can afford to write one check & pay a bill off; i.e.-insurance, property tax-then I am all in favor of being done with it. Why drag out the agony? I’m saving for a new dishwasher (my 1972 Hotpoint died). I absolutely hate washing dishes by hand, but I will not finance any appliance! I just wish that I had a handyhands hubby to do the grunt work. You Frugalwoods have taught me so much about money! I am a devotee of Personal Capital, and last month I spent-wait for it-$1158. less than the previous month! (Hand claps all around.) I have not felt deprived, cheated, or put out one bit. In fact, I am starting to feel in control of my money. I grew up in a family where it was either poverty or rich rich. And, without thinking about it, I emulated that thinking. I am finally understanding what it means to THINK before you spend. That is a huge accomplishment for me. So thank you guys again, for getting my money train right side up!

  20. “As frugal adherents, we don’t strive to never spend money, rather, we strive to spend only on things that matter. And on things that increase our longterm quality of life.”
    What a brilliant way to articulate the topic of frugality and simplifying. Some family and friends have expressed outrage, doubt and even (light hearted) ridicule over our decision to sell the house and car, downsize excess stuff and cut spending. They are sure we are depriving ourselves of necessary luxuries, but we are financially secure, less-encumbered, and happier than many people. I might borrow the phrase above when trying to explain this philosophy to non-believers, and will always attribute it to you

    Thanks for the great information.

  21. I am loving your homestead updates, but your old Cambridge posts are an especial gold mine for me. I’m 39, graduating with an MBA and 100K in debt in May, and moving to Boston in June. I’m trying to figure out how the heck to aggressively pay off debt and save for retirement in such a high cost of living city. Rent seems to be the kicker! Maybe I’ll come across some likeminded individuals who want to share an apartment!

  22. My conclusion is that Vermont is crazy expensive! I’m not sure what your property is valued at, but that is one HUGE tax bill. Does the income from your Cambridge rental cover it? If so perhaps you can subtract it from your month’s expenditures. Also, that airport parking is 30% more than I pay here, and I am constantly trying to find a cheaper lot!! Maybe there are other options in Burlington, although with BW it’s probably worth it to park close by.

    I feel you on the checked bag fees- I always check my bag as I have both status and a credit card that waive the fee and I want others to have space for their carry on. If you usually fly the same airline, perhaps a rewards card would pay for your luggage fees. Money, though, that seems well spent, as is the dishwasher.

    You are totally lucky you don’t have to escrow. It drives me crazy, but I guess I will enjoy my lower PITI payment come January since my property tax bill went down boy 12%!

  23. I think your property tax bill is quite reasonable for 66 acres and your lovely home. As you know, I’m in Vermont also, and we pay $6000 for 10 acres and an 1800 sq ft home in Chittenden County. But, as your reader stated, it’s all good. We’re happy where we live, have good schools, roads are cleared of snow, maintained, etc. We’re ok with it. So glad you’re enjoying Vermont…..and your new dishwasher. Love Babywoods!

    1. We have the same feelings you do, Bev. Love our schools, roads, and town! And Vermont is even better with a dishwasher 🙂

  24. Your property taxes are very reasonable for such a size of property. Here in PA, property taxes are very high to make up for the fact that state income taxes are too low to help cover education expenses. You can have property taxes as high as your VT bill for a small house on a tiny plot of land in a Philly suburb. There’s actually a lawsuit about it right now because poor cities have low property values which only makes the tax bills higher (due to foreclosures) which only makes the schools worse in quality which perpetuates the cycle of low property values, poor schools, etc. I imagine this is a problem in other states so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future if the lawsuit succeeds.

    Where you live do you have garbage pick-up? My in-laws in central PA don’t (well they do but it’s like $1 per bag of picked up trash), so that’s one reason their property taxes are fairly low, but then they burn trash (very central-PA) which is terrible for the environment… Nothing like burnt plastic polluting the ground. At least they’re no longer on well-water so they’re not drinking the toxins.

    1. No trash pick-up here :). We take it to the recycling center/trash truck once a week. It’s free to recycle and we also compost, so we don’t generate all that much actual trash–we average about one bag every two weeks. Trash bags are $2 a piece so we try not to use too many!

  25. Sometimes everything just hits in the same month! I guess the travel and kitchen upgrade weren’t coincidental, but the ER visit and property taxes sure were.

    I feel you on the dishwasher BTW! We don’t have one in our apartment and dishes and bottles are now soooo time consuming.

  26. Jebus! That’s a mighty big property tax bill, Mrs. FW! Makes me feel better about our 4K tab. I agree with your approach on not using escrow. We go with semi annual payments, which amounts to an interest free loan for 50% vs. paying 100% up-front. I don’t like escrow because the bank tends to hoard more than what’s needed for taxes and insurance.
    Interesting decision on the disposal. Those things can be trouble. We’re fortunate to have organics recycling here in MN, so we don’t use ours much anymore. Regardless, I’m sure you’ll appreciate having it – and it is a nice accomplishment for Mr. FW. DIY / being handy is stealth wealth.

  27. I don’t know much about the various taxes in Vermont, but RE tax doesn’t appear cheap. I like your philosophy of handling it yourself though rather than paying into escrow and having cash sit idle until the payment due date. Were you able to pay with a credit card and get points on your RE tax? Now that would be awesome!

    Also, kudos to Mr FW for all that manual labor to get the dishwasher installed! That’s a little more DIY than I could handle, solid work and great way to keep the cost down!

  28. I bet you (or your wallet?!) is glad that month is over! We tend to have months like that occasionally where stuff breaks, we do a planned upgrade or repair, our taxes or insurance come due, and then we have something completely unexpected. That’s offset by the $1000 months where nothing bad happens and we pretty much spend $ on groceries and utilities.

  29. It is amazing how different areas have such different amounts for property taxes. Yours seems really reasonable to me. We live in NH on 6 acres in a small ranch and we pay $5000 a year.

  30. “….because it’s not physically possible to cart baby, stroller, carry-on, and carry-on suitcase by one’s self”

    Pro tip: Carry baby in the Ergo; everything else in/on the stroller. I travel(ed) a lot with my littles when they were babies, and often without my husband. I checked a bag about 50% of the time, but the other half the time it was very doable with an Ergo.

    1. Yep, that’s what I did, but I still couldn’t manage a suitcase along with the carry-ons and stroller :)!

  31. When I lived in NJ (2012) my yearly tax bill was $10,000 for a 2200 sq. ft. house on a 1/2 acre lot. I am sure the tax has increased since then. To me, your taxes of less than $7000/yr. for a beautiful home and 66 acres sounds like a bargain!

    1. Yes, I’m surprised so many people think the Frugalwoods taxes are expensive. We pay $8,300 in property tax for a 1,400 sq ft house on a small lot (probably 1/2 acre, no idea, but it’s just a regular yard). We are in the SF Bay Area, which is crazy expensive. We just bought last year and our taxes are triple what the previous owners were paying because they bought so long ago. Ugh.

  32. We have a stomach bug that has been hitting everybody down here too. My wife & I never get sick and we both caught it, causing me to take my first sick day in years. Glad to hear everybody is on the mend.

    We also got our property tax bill this past week. It’s not due until February but we had the money and went ahead & paid it. Didn’t want any large expenses sneaking up after Christmas.

  33. The tax on your farm seems a bit high to me. In this “neck of the woods” there are many programs available to reduce taxes…agriculture….forestry…etc. I certainly understand being OK with paying your fair share…The thought with the lower taxes being that this is “open space” that places less of a burden on the State and preserves the rural heritage. I share your pain with the checked baggage…DW did some traveling out West and had to check bags … for $50..She felt like her pocket had been picked . Glad to hear you have your wood situation under control….Winter will be here before we know it!

  34. Our September has been pretty spendy, since we purchased a house on September 8! Here’s how we did this month on expenses and our savings rate:

    Rent: $1,060

    IRA Contribution: $200

    Internet: $84.92

    Phone service: $63.12

    Car Payment: $345.36

    Utilities: $169.85

    Insurance: $138.42

    Groceries: $409.06

    Take out: $452.96


    We’re over-budget by a whopping $202.96 on take out for the month. Curse you, renovations!

    Medical: $0

    Other: $639.08

    A few notable “Other” expenses included:
    •Getting new driver’s licenses
    •A Costco trip where we bought plastic cutlery, paper plates, and cups for the house
    •We had to renew our car’s inspection and registration
    •We bought a birthday gift
    •We purchased Girl Scout treats from my niece

    Gas: $191.54

    Savings: 53.69% of take-home pay

  35. I don’t know, $6895 tax bill on 66 acres sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I’m paying half that on a .33 acre parcel in suburbia.

  36. After reading what you pay in taxes for your beautiful homestead in Vermont, I decided that if it wasn’t for my grandchildren and children living close by, I would consider moving. I pay very close to what you pay for taxes and hav a 1700 square foot townhouse in the Chicago suburbs with no other land. I do like what I hav and am grateful for it but…..you sure are getting good value for what you have.

  37. Impressed by your travels and expenses.

    My toddler loved it when we turned his convertible carseat into a stroller by attaching it to our suitcase. I’ve heard of people doing this with D-rings and strapping, but there is a ready-made (and not too expensive) version called the “traveling toddler carseat travel accessory”. I’d want to wait till the little lady is a tad bit older and more of a toddler/less of a baby to use it though. https://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Toddler-Seat-Travel-Accessory/dp/B000JHN3AS/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1476294108&sr=8-1&keywords=traveling+toddler

  38. Be careful with a garbage disposal and a septic tank!!! Using it for food waste could plug up your leach field. Scrape plates into a compost bucket before loading in the dishwasher. Any food waste that gets caught in your sink strainer basket can just go to the compost pile. Then you are free to remove the disposal and use it to grind apples and press the mashed up apples for cider!

    1. Yep, that’s exactly what we do. We don’t intentionally put any food down the drain. The disposal is there just for the accidental bits that get through our drain catcher. Otherwise, everything goes to the compost!

  39. We just got our property tax bill too. That is not a fun piece of mail to open.
    I’m surprised how high your property tax is–that’s almost what we pay for out here in expensive southern California.
    Paying in full is a pretty baller move. Way to go!

    Your kitchen project is impressive. We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation of our own, but it is mostly cosmetic items, so I’m not having to deal with any plumbing or electrical. That sort of thing ratchets up the anxiety a bit.

  40. Not to rain on your parade, but… When we moved to our homestead I was new to septic systems, so I did some reading. One of the things that I read was that most kitchen waste (animal fat, food particles, etc.) was not good for septic systems, and should not go down the kitchen sink. Thus, garbage disposals were not recommended. However, since you have one now, here are some guidelines I found: http://www.mrrooter.com/greater-syracuse/about-us/blog/garbage-disposals-and-septic-tanks/

    1. Yep, agreed! We don’t intentionally put any food down our drain for that very reason. The disposal is there as a back-up for the accidental bits that do get through our drain catcher.

  41. September was an extremely good month for us. We were under budget, but also, I got engaged! It was a really exciting time for us and I was so grateful to have such a loving fiance who made it such a memorable experience for me! We did spend a little extra unplanned money to purchase the photos that were taken (since it was a once in a lifetime thing) causing us to go slightly over budget.

  42. Most airlines will give you a meal voucher if you’re delayed more than three hours. I’d write to the airline about your delay and see if they offer you a voucher for a future flight.

    1. Totally, besides the (skimpy) meal vouchers, me and hubby later filed a complaint to the airline and they gave us Euro 250 (each) for our three hour delay on a Euro 50 flight. It wasn´t the most romantic of the honeymoon flights, but at least we got something for our pain!

  43. Since having kids, we’ve become huge fans of Southwest Airlines, just for the two free checked bags. For such tiny people, they require a lot and it’s a nice piece of mind that I can pack whatever I think we’ll need to make our trip enjoyable. We’re lucky that are home airport is a big SW hub.

  44. Why use a kitchen disposal in the first place? Isnt it bad for your septic system..? You could alternatively compost

    1. Indeed, it is bad for a septic system if it’s used often. We don’t intentionally put any food down our sink, the disposal is just there for the accidental bits that get through our mesh drain screen. And, we also compost–one of the great advantages to living out here :)!

  45. I have been reading your blog for a few months now and really appreciate it. I’m also a Mum, and I am really impressed with your capacity to roll with things and buy what was needed (i.e. food at the airport and ER, baggage check) without too much guilt. It’s a delicate balance, but a really important one. And while we can generally push our adult selves a little harder when we need to (“I can def. cram all this into a carry on and then heft it above my head!”), it’s another game entirely once you have kids. And as I like to say to myself (and sometimes my kids!), If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

  46. I see $150 “co-pay” for an ER visit, but I don’t see expenditures for medical insurance premiums. How do you swing that?

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