After last month’s bonfire of the expenses, it was frugally comforting to return to a sane spending level in October. Nothing dramatic happened (other than our slightly premature snow) and nothing terribly expensive happened either. This is an illustration of why frugality is a longterm proposition: spending fluctuates–along with savings rates–and success only occurs when you maintain a frugal arc over time.
The key is that on the whole, Mr. FW and I save vastly more than we spend. Some months are simply better than others. I don’t budget for the simple reason that I find it easier to live on frugal autopilot–I approach each day with the mindset that I’m not going to spend any money. Of course I will spend some (especially if it’s grocery day), but I never plan to spend up to a certain number, which is what a budgeting mentality would prompt me to do.
Ok probably the best thing that happened in October was Bumble Bee Costume Mayhem! By which I mean Frugal Hound and Babywoods were bees for Halloween. My nieces and nephew all wore this bee costume for their first Halloween and so my sister and I agreed Babywoods should wear it too. And, wouldn’t you know it, I already had those bee antennae for Frugal Hound! Sometimes I rock at life (Frugal Hound does not agree).
Since we don’t get trick-or-treaters down our quarter-mile driveway, we took baby bee over to the town center for a Halloween potluck dinner party. She loved staring at the big kids in their costumes and the highlight of her night was playing with a wrapped candy bar (which mommy later ate… ).
Winter Is Coming
As I shared the other day, winter decided to pop in a bit early this year with several mini-snowstorms. Temps have since risen–and we’ve actually gone two days now without lighting the woodstove (our heat source)–but that early snow got us in the mood to plan. To that end, we made several winter prep purchases this month.
Most notably, we got Mr. Frugalwoods a pair of insulated rubber muck boots–a necessity for working outside in sub-zero conditions. He’s been wearing cheap, uninsulated rubber boots and we both agreed that not getting frostbite on a toe qualifies as a spending priority. He also purchased a pair of insulated work mittens (along with leather waterproof sealer) and insulated rubber gloves, both of which will be useful for doing farm work outside in the wintertime.
Since we’re now a two car family, we bought a second snow broom/ice scraper so that each car has its very own (Mr. FW occasionally travels for work and hence, the cars are not always in the same place). Somewhat unrelated to winter, but spurred by our tire-changing failure this month, we’re outfitting ourselves to (finally) change our own oil. When we lived in the city, we didn’t have a driveway, a garage, or even a designated parking space, so changing our own oil wasn’t going to happen. Now that we have the space for it, that’s a chore Mr. FW will insource.
Bulk Oats (aka I do not like BJ’s)
I am mourning the absence of my beloved Market Basket (our AMAZING locally owned discount grocery store in MA) as well as Costco. We have a BJ’s here, which we joined, but let me tell you, it is nowhere near as good as Costco.
Their prices are higher (I checked them against my Costco receipts) and they don’t carry all the things we most appreciated from Costco. There is a Costco an hour and a half away from us and we’re seriously contemplating getting a membership and making a monthly trek up there. Still under debate. TBD. I’ll keep you posted.
One of the things BJ’s doesn’t have are bulk oats. As you may recall, we are a family of oat fanatics. They are healthy, they are cheap, and they are what we eat every morning for breakfast. Babywoods too! I’ve been buying our oats–we eat a mix of rolled and steel-cut–from the regular grocery store, but Mr. FW discovered we can source them much more cheaply online. So, this month we made an inaugural purchase of 50lbs of rolled and steel cut oats. We also bought several large food storage containers to house these vittles, which’ll show up in next month’s expenses. I’ll let you know how this system works out for us.
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 last month. I share this because it’s the most transparent articulation of how we allocate our resources and adhere to a lifestyle of extreme frugality.
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! Plus, as I explained here, we pay bills in full the month we receive them–that’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property taxes.
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in October:
|Groceries||$556.37||Ugh, I really miss Market Basket…|
|Household supplies||$188.02||All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, dog food, and dental floss.|
|50lbs of rolled and steel cut oats||$120.97||Our first foray into buying massive quantities of grain on the internet.|
|Arctic muck boots||$92.76||Mr. FW’s new boots. They are WARM and super tall. A boon for snowy weather work.|
|Electrical and plumbing supplies||$85.75||The last remaining supplies for Mr. FW’s fabulous installation of our fabulous dishwasher, which works fabulously.|
|Internet||$74.00||Gotta love our fiber internet out here in the woods!|
|Doctor visit co-pays||$40.00||Mr. FW and I both had our annual exams this month.|
|Gasoline for car||$34.95||Have I mentioned lately how much I adore our Prius? Gas mileage for the win!!!|
|Snow broom and leather water sealer||$32.45||This is the snow broom/ice scraper we got.|
|Work mittens and winter work gloves||$30.04||Mr. FW’s hands will be well warmed while he works in winter, whilst whistling Wilco in the wilderness of our woods. With a wallaby.|
|Snow tire swap||$25.00||Swapping the Subaru’s regular tires for snow tires… something we will do ourselves in the future.|
|Waste oil container||$10.47||For changing the oil on both cars.|