November was a month of merriment. From hosting Thanksgiving to lots of snow, we’re loving winter (ok technically late fall) on the homestead.
Since my fabulous in-laws were here for the whole Thanksgiving week, they graciously offered to babysit Babywoods one evening. And so, Mr. Frugalwoods and I went out for our very first date since before Babywoods was born! Considering she’s a year old, we were pretty excited. We–gasp–went out to dinner, which is that aberrational $52.42 restaurant charge you see below. I think we might have to make the Thanksgiving week our annual date night tradition ;).
Since we’re homebodies anyway and since Babywoods goes to bed early (circa 6:30pm), Mr. FW and I feel like we have date night every night: we put our girl to bed and then enjoy dinner and a TV show alone together. But, we were tremendously grateful to my in-laws for giving us the gift of a true night out!
Not All Propane Is Created Equal (or at least it’s not priced equally)
November also provided a reminder of the wisdom of shopping around. We use propane for our hot water and gas stove and, our tanks were running low. Deducing that companies can price propane at their discretion, I called every single propane distributor who’ll deliver to our address. Sure enough, I was quoted prices ranging from $4.52/gallon to $1.99/gallon. All for the exact same product! You better believe I went with the $1.99 option. It’s easy to assume a commodity like propane will be the same price with every vendor, but the frugal weirdo knows the wisdom of comparison pricing!
Snow Tires (continued)
Snow tire-apalooza continued this month with the purchase of high-quality studded snow tires for our Prius. The Prius is not exactly a snow machine (despite being named Snowdrop… aspirational, perhaps?), but we’re hoping these studded tires will allow us to drive it safely on into the winter since the gas mileage (and hence gas savings) is so phenomenal on this vehicle. So far, so good! Fortunately, we have the Subaru as back-up for the worst wintry conditions.
Mr. FW also continued his efforts at outfitting us to perform automotive repairs and maintence on our cars with the purchase of a floor jack, breaker bar, torque wrench, socket extensions, impact wrench sockets, oil filters, filter wrenches, crush washers, pinch weld protector for jack, and oil drain pan. The goal with all of our tool and farm equipment purchasing this year is to enable us to save money over the longterm by insourcing as much as we possibly can. I feel like next year will be sooooo cheap by comparison…
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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.
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards for several reasons:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where that random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. This prompts me to spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
- We get rewards. Who doesn’t like rewards? Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying things we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry any debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (which are fully paid off every month) has greatly helped our credit scores.
If you’re interested in opening a credit card, I highly recommend using this site to search for a card that’ll best fit your needs. And if you’re interested in travel rewards cards specifically, check out this list curated by my friend Brad from Travel Miles 101. I respect Brad’s work in the travel rewards space and I trust his advice on which cards will reap the best benefits.
Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with using a debit card and/or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend!
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, sign-up to take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which we’ll be doing together in the month of January 2017! You can join over 2,200 fellow frugal sojourners who’ve already signed up for the Challenge.
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 November:
|Groceries||$563.84||On the high side on account of us hosting Thanksgiving and our family for the week. An expense we’re happy to incur!|
|Snow tires||$451.80||These are the tires we selected for the Prius. Our hope is that they’ll allow us to drive the Prius safely throughout the winter.|
|Propane||$398.00||200 gallons at $1.99/gallon. Used for our hot water and gas stove.|
|Steel wheels for snow tires||$231.96||Steel wheels for the Prius snow tires|
|Household supplies||$225.25||All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, soap, and dental floss.|
|Tools (automotive)||$174.93||Floor jack, breaker bar, torque wrench, socket extensions, and impact wrench sockets.|
|Dog food (6+ month supply)||$123.28||We found a deal online on Frugal Hound’s generic grain-free salmon and sweet potato kibble from Costco, so we bought 6+ months worth.|
|Gasoline for the cars||$108.20|
|Oil changing supplies||$95.61||Oil filters, filter wrenches, crush washers, pinch weld protector for jack, and oil drain pan.|
|Turkey||$55.00||Our hyper-local Thanksgiving turkey, raised at a farm a mere 2 miles from our house.|
|Date night!||$52.42||Dinner at a restaurant! Try not to faint.|
|Home phone (8 months of service)||$50.00||We have VOIP for our home phone line, which is a necessity since we don’t get cell service out here.|
|250 Christmas postcards from VistaPrint (including shipping)||$43.96||Check out the full story on my frugal Christmas postcard hack.|
|Doctor’s appointment co-pay||$35.00|
|Casters for our wood box||$29.87||See the full story here.|
|Snack catcher||$6.99||A genius contraption for holding Babywoods’ cheerios. Worth every penny.|