Date Night! And Other November 2016 Expenditures
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.|
How was your November?
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If it reassures you at all – we’re in rural Quebec (like, dirt road rural, same as you), about 2 hours north of you. We drive a Honda Fit with good snow tires through winter, and haven’t had a problem.
The ONLY issue is if you get stuck in a snow bank or something, where your options are either having a car with 4WD (makes it easier to get out), or a decent shovel (to get yourself out). But assuming you’re on a road/driveway with less than like 6 inches of snow accumulation and that you’re not driving like a maniac? It’s fine.
Quick question: an expense I can’t seem to cut down but that doesn’t appear on your list is insurance: life insurance, car insurance, house insurance. Do you just not have any of the three?
I’m so glad to hear your Honda Fit serves you well in the snow! We try not to drive like maniacs ;). So to your question on insurance–we do have car and house insurance, we just pay those bills in full in the month they come due. That’s why you don’t see a monthly expense line item for insurance. In the month(s) we pay them, you’ll see the full bill reflected.
Yup, I drive a VW Jetta in Colorado with studded tires all winter. Did the same, invested in a spare set of steel rims for the winter. One recommendation I found helpful: invest in snow chains for your car and keep it in the trunk.
Great job with getting a night out! I hope y’all had fun. 🙂 It sucks to pay for a dinner, but it’s nice as a rare treat, after all.
It’s always really tough getting established in a new home, especially when you’re switching from an urban to a rural environment. I’m sure next year will be less spendy for you. 🙂 But bravo on being prepared for the coming winter! It would totally suck to be stranded out there.
Another bonus to using credit cards for all of our purchases is that our bank extends our warranties. We bought most of our appliances with a credit card so, if they broke and were out of warranty, there’s a chance our bank will still cover the cost to replace the item.
Our November was quite spendy! It was our last month before our student loan payoff ($65,000 of debt in 18 months!), so we rebounded and bought way too much stuff. I guess you could say it was our last spendy hurrah before really getting down to business. Womp womp. Onward and upward!
One note on propane/oil pricing: our oil company is slightly higher than the low cost fuel only service but as a customer, I get preferential treatment if my furnace goes out on nights/weekends. They tend to treat customers better than ad-hoc calls. They are also more reasonable on annual maintenance than the low cost company.
What type of beer did Mr. Frugalwoods order at date night?
We’ve seen super wide rangers when it comes to propane as RVers. Sure, of course, the pricing would be different around the country, but you’d think it wouldn’t be $1.50 in California and $5 a gallon in other states. It’s so backwards, haha!
I’m glad you got the chance to splurge on a date night 🙂 I think it’s when the so-called splurges start becoming weekly habits that things get dicey. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season!
I always track my expenses in Mint (I like that I can categorize them myself), but I think I may start dumping them into a spreadsheet so I can go through and more closely look at what I could’ve cut. Mint has become such a habit that I don’t really may as much attention to it as I did before. Thanks for sharing!
I recently downloaded transactions from Mint, where I *thought* I was being careful to assign categories correctly. I found so many mistakes that are now difficult to correct several months later. I think I’m going to start downloading monthly 🙂
YNAB is another fantastic alternative especially formthise who live abroad
It’s nice to see its not only me who had a crazy November. Winter costs are tough!
Who do you use for phone service? We have vonage which is $18/mth but I like your price much better!
November was not a cheap month despite my best efforts. I accepted a new job which meant moving all of my earthly possessions to a new town. I had to do it within two weeks, so frugality wasn’t my top concern. Fortunately I got a lot of allowances and reimbursements to offset those higher costs. I also made a large charitable contribution which further escalated my spending, but I’m very happy with how that turned out so I don’t regret it.
Great job on the propane!
We probably would go out to eat more, but getting a sitter for all the kids is a pain. So our kids go to bed at 7 each night, and we have some alone time as well. It’s a more sustainable plan vs trying to get a sitter each week. Plus MUCH more affordable. Finding a sitter who can handle 5 little kids isn’t easy (or cheap!) I know I make corralling these 5 little look easy-peasy, but surprisingly not everyone feels the same way. 🙂
We also use our credit cards as much as possible for the rewards. Since I left my job we have been doing a lot more travel hacking. We just went on a surfing vacation to Costa Rica, and after some travel hacking the total cost including flights, car, parking, dining, and surfboard rentals was ~$1200 for the two of us. And we just booked our next vacation to Jamaica using only rewards points.
That is a crazy range in prices for propane! We have a similar deal here in CT with our oil suppliers. I just called around before locking in, and while our existing supplier wanted $2.70/gallon, I was able to get it down to $1.99/gallon. It’s definitely worth calling around!
Did you guys get BBQ? I see lots of sauces!
I didn’t know Mr. FW wore glasses. Maybe he will get LASIK like you!
Costco makes a return! My dog eats the same food as FH does. Did you guys pay for a membership?
We did not get BBQ, but now I’m craving it! We got fancy onion rings and they came with lots of sauces (I was in heaven). He wears glasses occasionally, but not all the time (although I think he looks great in them 😉 ). So we actually got the dog food from Jet.com because they had a huge sale and free shipping! Still not sure what to do about Costco for the long run…
Costco being far away really depends on how you look at it. If you’re driving all the way there just to go grocery shopping it is definitely far. However, if you decide that once a month you want to do something around Burlington (picnic in the park, go to the beach, shelburne farms, hike mount philo, etc) and then go by Costco before you head home, it would feel completely different. Like an errand vs an outing.
I’m always amazed that you can pay less that $1400 a month for that wonderful home you have! That’s just not gonna happen within commuting distance of DC!
That sounds like a pricey turkey to me, but I don’t eat meat very often, and I don’t think it’s even possible to get hyper local meat around here. I do think it’s great that you guys know what you value and you choose to spend money only on that!
And I love the picture of pink Babywoods sitting out in the field!
love this! amazing use of funds this close to christmas! one question….the christmas cards…250 @ .34 each to mail is about $85. does that expense come out of your household line item? it’s only once a year, but is that where you pull that from? thanks!
I actually bought the postcard postage in December (so it’ll show up next month) and, fortunately, I’m not mailing all of them–a lot will be hand-delivered 🙂
Good to see the update. Never thought of doing car repairs ourselves! How did you find your local turkey? Did you need to cook it differently than a store bought?
Found our turkey through a recommendation from a friend and it was delicious! Didn’t have to cook it any differently (although we do use a temperature probe to ensure accurate done-ness) 🙂
It was nice that you folks got to enjoy a date night out! That needs to happen once in awhile. My November was a little more on the spendy side as we had to upgrade our computer. We did get a good life out of the other one though! We also hosted Thanksgiving but as you mentioned, that is a worthwhile expense! Also mulling over some new tires for our vehicle. Tis the season!
Who do you use for you voip service? We have vonage and its 18 a month. Like your better!
We have VOIP.ms, but you have to set up the low-level network integrations yourself, so it’s a trade-off!
When my hubby and I (native Texans) spent three years living in Anchorage, Alaska, studded tires were one of the best purchases we made. Our Honda Civic and Volkswagon Jetta did just fine in the ~6 months of snow, though to be fair, the city was plowed regularly.
Where’d you find a deal on F hound’s food? Or dogs eat the same stuff! 😛
A Huge portion of my November fell into the Holiday Gift Bucket. I did redeem CC points for $275 worth of gifts but my husband says we need to count that as income and also track it as money spent. He says this is because that money would otherwise be used to pay for items we need. Do you do that as well? I have a long list of family receiving gifts since we both have divorced/remarried parents and quite a few siblings on each side.
November was the best month for savings and low spending! Can’t wait ’til January!
UGH Propane. I can’t even. It makes me sick to think about this, but our house came with propane to heat the hot water. There may have been a few propane companies initially, but eventually there was only one. We had intended to convert to electric (normal for hot water here in FL), but kept putting it off…until we got a $650 fill up that lasted us all of 3 months with conservative use. They were charging us nearly $7 a gallon, because they could. It gets better…right after the $650 fill up they called and offered us a pool tank fill for $1.99 a gallon. I lost my you-know-what and told them they could credit our $7 a gallon fill to $1.99 a gallon if they could fill our pool tank for $1.99 a gallon. To their credit, they actually did, and immediately we converted to electric. That didn’t mitigate the thousands we’d spent on propane annually for the past 5 years though, for no real reason except for lack of competition.
These propane companies disgust me, and if there’s any way to just not have propane I’d go that route 🙁 I know electric for heat/hot water isn’t practical in New England and you probably don’t have natural gas where you are, but are there other options? Oil? We started off at around $2 a gallon 5 years ago and they just kept hiking it until it became price-gouging. I don’t trust them, even with being able to shop around. Once there was no competition in our area, the remaining company could price-gouge and we were a captive audience. I wish I’d converted to something else a long time ago.
November…well, I haven’t checked, but I don’t think it was terrible. Our groceries seem to be coming out at $620 a month. Higher than I’d like, but not so high that I’m willing to work any harder at it than I already do.
School was out for a week. Instead of paying for a Thanksgiving camp, we opted to work from home half days with the 10 year old at home. (Not so easy with the 4 year old, but his preschool was still running for the first 3 days, and we had Thurs/Fri off). That saved $175. We aren’t getting so lucky at Christmas. Husband doesn’t want to split work days for 2 full weeks. I understand this, as he’s “fun” and when he is “working from home” the kids don’t let him work, like they let me work. If I’m working for 4 hours at home, it means two. For him, it’s 30 minutes, maybe. So for Christmas (11 days no school), we are doing one week of camp at $305 (ouch). Our normal YMCA camp is $175 but for some reason, they are not running one this year. At least it’s a programming camp. Rest of the days we will split.
Congrats on the date night. We did better this year. Our kids don’t go to sleep until 9, and I go to sleep at 9, so we don’t get at home dates. We work near each other, so do an occasional (5x a year) lunch date with our packed lunches and a picnic table. We go to one or two company holiday parties a year and pay a sitter. This year we also had 4 other dates. After paying $50-70 on a sitter though, we tend to go cheap on the rest. Our friends are no longer interested in swapping date nights.
We found the same thing when we moved into our house this summer that’s heated by propane. Here in Maine, oil prices are listed on a state website that is (often) updated daily, and the prices don’t usually differ more than 10 to 15 cents a gallon. But propane…that’s another story. In our research, we came across a co-operative buying club called the Fuel Club (http://www.thefuelclub.com/). There may be more cooperatives in Vermont, but this one covers both Vermont and Maine. For $40 a year membership, we’re getting deeply discounted rates on our propane. We’re saving almost a dollar a gallon over the next cheapest alternative. I highly recommend looking into it if you haven’t come across it already.
What is your method for keeping track of you expenses and breaking them down by category when you shop at somewhere like Costco? Do you manually go through an separate out the households from the groceries? I would love to have a scanner than would digitize receipts so I could export everything to excel but they are too expensive to justify and I haven’t found a good app for it yet. I find that it’s hard to stay motivated when I have to sit and go through each receipt item one at a time to categorize them.
What I do is check-out at BJ’s (similar to Costco) in two separate transactions. Since they have self-checkout lanes, it’s easy for me to do. Then, I refer back to my receipts to confirm which totals are household and which are grocery. Slightly more labor intensive, but not a huge deal.
We’ve been hitting -20C (or more!) temperatures here so I’ve had to investigate block heaters etc. I think I’ve got a good set-up going and I’ve put the block heater on a timer so I don’t waste electricity at night. Thank goodness for youtube instruction videos! I’m not very mechanically inclined but it helps a lot to see how other people do things.
We found the same thing when we moved into our house this summer that’s heated by propane. Here in Maine, oil prices are listed on a state website that is (often) updated daily, and the prices don’t usually differ more than 10 to 15 cents a gallon. But propane…that’s another story. In our research, we came across a co-operative buying club called the Fuel Club. There may be more cooperatives in Vermont, but this one covers both Vermont and Maine. For $40 a year membership, we’re getting deeply discounted rates on our propane. We’re saving almost a dollar a gallon over the next cheapest alternative. I highly recommend looking into it if you haven’t come across it already.
Sorry that these posts came up multiple times. I had problems sending it – but apparently you didn’t have problems receiving it. 😉
Where did you find such an awesome deal on Costco grain free salmon dog food?
On Jet.com! Not sure if it was a one-time sale or what, so we stocked up 🙂
It sounded like your car tools were going to be more expensive than they turned out to be. That’s cheap for a long term investment and it’ll save you ever so much money in the future. The restaurant visit was also surprisingly cheap. Looks like you both had some great beer as well!
Sometimes we all have “stock up months” providing future savings. You are 100% right, sounds like you’ll have an extremely cheap year in 2017.
For us Christmas travel expenses were almost quadruple our regular spending. I’m excited to join in on your frugal challenge and extending it to February to make up for the money spent. I wonder if I can beat the $677 I spent for November!
If you’ve not yet come across the cooperative buying club in New England called The Fuel Club, I highly recommend it. We’re saving almost a full dollar per gallon over the next cheapest option for our propane deliveries. In Maine, there’s only one provider through this program, but perhaps there will be more to choose from in Vermont.
If you use enough propane, you should check into contract rates. Perhaps things operate a bit differently in VT, but in SD we contract with our propane provider for a lower rate over the winter months. In September our provider will let us know the “contract rate.” We specify how many gallons we want during the winter at that rate. Then we pay in one or two installments in the fall, and they keep our tank filled all winter. We use propane for heating and cooking so this makes sense for us. I was able to contract for 700 gallons at $0.89/gal.
Yeah, we don’t use enough propane. Since it’s only our hot water and stove, we just don’t use that much. But 0.89 is a great deal–way to go!
Hey Mrs FW! I was wondering why you decided to stop having the full post available in RSS readers. I like being able to have the full post there because I read at work, and when I read within an RSS reader it looks more like real work (vs. when I have to come through to your site, with the header and related posts and etc. in full view, its pretty clearly not work). I usually don’t follow blogs that don’t provide their full post in a reader!
Hi Lisa–not something we did on purpose! Mr. FW is currently migrating our host and email system for Frugalwoods and that seems to have knocked a few things out of whack. He’s working to get everything fixed. Apologies for the inconvenience in the meantime!
Propane prices surely are variable. We lease our tank and so keep the same company all the time. Our company has a winter price protection program that we pay $50 to enroll in. They guarantee the price will be capped off at a certain point. If the actual price happens to be below the capped price, we pay the actual price. This winter, our capped price is just a hair over $1.50 per gallon.
The price protection program is worth it for us, because one winter, propane prices skyrocketed to $4 or more per gallon. We, like many others, found less convenient alternatives to propane and rode out the rest of the winter with minimal propane use.
Like Christine K, I’m in Florida and we ditched propane because we also had no competition for suppliers and they charged what they wanted, plus kept us waiting at times for the refill, because, you know, what else were we going to do but wait? When we built, we switched to electric, oh so fast.
November was more spendy than usual, thanks to getting 99% of my Christmas shopping done in November, having people stay with us for the holidays, and of course, the holiday meal. December will also be a little spendy, because of extra foods and activities. The biggest thing is that our homeowner’s insurance is due in December — how did we not notice that until too late? What were we thinking to schedule that so close to Christmas? 🙂
UGH, we dealt with the waiting too, sometimes for days without hot water. Now that’s not as huge a deal in FL as it would be in a freezing cold climate, but nobody wants to take a cold shower if they can help it! We actually converted in our same house after the $650 fill. I told DH to call the electrician or I would. Total cost was under $700 for the electrical work and the new tank install. Our electric bill hasn’t changed at all year-over-year since converting over, so that propane money was truly money down a hole for us 🙁
Do you shop your homeowners’ annually? Now that more companies are writing on the beach I really try to do that. One year it literally dropped by half!
It’s good to see that the two of you can be outrageous and extravagant once in awhile! Mrs. Grumby tends to want to eat out far less than I do, so it’s been an adjustment for me. But she consistently asks me, “What would the Frugalwoods do?”. Great post.
Forgive me if you’ve posted this somewhere else, but what kind of dog food do you buy? We have two dogs and like to feed them grain free Blue Buffalo. We’re always switching up when/where and how much we buy so some quarters are better than others, but we’ve never gotten a deal like the one in your expense report! Tips for buying inexpensive but good quality dog food? We don’t have a Costco in town, but maybe I should branch out and look for one in a nearby area if the deals are that much better…
And yay for a night out, since I’ve cut down on spending I have to keep reminding myself that some things are worth *splurging* on.
Hi Kalen! We got her food on sale from Jet.com this month. It’s the Nature’s Domain Salmon & Sweet Potato grain-free kibble (which is Costco’s generic version of Taste Of The Wild). She loves it and it’s the same ingredients as the more expensive versions!
We use our credit card points to avoid Christmas gift spending from hitting our budget. We have 2 cards and use one for gas and eating out only – it gives us 3% back on restaurants and 2% back on gasoline. We use the other card for everything else, including paying bills – this card gets 1.5% on all purchases. We save all cash back credits in a separate account throughout the year and use it as our Christmas gift budget.
We had a bit of a speedy November as well. I’m so excited for you guys that you got to go on a date night, that’s awesome. It resonated with me though, what you said about it being date night every night. We don’t have kids, so sitting down to a delicious meal at home each night kind of does feel like date night every night! That’s a really cool way of looking at it. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!
Our expense trackers never look as low as yours ;). But we had a rough November. I’m pretty sure we even had the same problem last year too. It would appear that we overspent by A LOT. Most of which was contributed to eating out too much.
I am so jealous of that dog food bill! Yikes! That is about $20 a month! I feed Orijen and the cheapest that I can get it, at the local feed store, is $78 for the large bag. Even with cockers, I go through a bag in about a month & a half. I may look into the Costco brand. I adored having propane when I lived in the Sierras. It was my heat, water, and cooking stove. I paid about $400 every 6 months. Way, way better than any utility company. I am amazed that you got snow tires for the Prius. They are super amazing cars. I just wonder if you have any start up problems with that extreme cold? One more reason to live Frugally: unexpected expenses. My trusty LG dryer was perking along just fine, then it started screaming when I last loaded it. I suspect it needs a new belt, since it turns and heats fine. Just when I think that I am digging out from under…………sheesh! And just so folks know: this blog helps tremendously. I have literally PAID FOR ALL of my Christmas shopping! No sneaky bills for me!
Woohoo! Way to go on paying for Christmas in advance :)! We’ll just have to see how the Prius does throughout the winter. Today it drove out just fine through several inches of snow, so I’m optimistic.
Great job. Date night once in a great while is such a treat.
Urban dweller here: I noticed you don’t have sewer water expenses? Did I miss something or do you have a well for water and septic tank for ‘sewer’?
Hi Marisa: good question! We have a septic system and well water out here in the country 🙂
Good price on the dog food! If only we had a Costco near us. We get our dog food at the store. Maybe I should look into online. I’m just about to order more food for the rabbits. I always feel bad for the postal delivery person, because it comes in a 50 lb bag!
We got it on Jet.com this time!
Nice November Frugalwoods. Indeed, it *pays* to shop around for propane. The markup can be ridiculous.
When it comes to portable propane tanks I found the equivalent of GasBuddy for propane – wrote a post about it too: http://bit.ly/2h7HDde
The cheapest in my area is $1.99/gal. but considering wholesale costs are under a dollar that’s still a huge markup.
I have a 2008 Prius and put (unstudded) snow tires on it in the winter and have found it to handle quite well in the snow. Its only issue is that due to its low ground clearance it can’t go through anything deep.
Personal Capital is amazing! Thank you for telling us about it. I have already put in my information and know so much more about my situation.
Ah, tires! I also had to get tires last month from BJ’s – fortunately they were a good deal but that always pains me. I was looking for a good snow tire but ended up getting all-seasons again. I’ll see how they work this winter and get them next season if I need to. I live in CT, so we get a decent amount of snow, but I haven’t needed snow tires yet (knock on wood!)
I notice you dont have any website related expenses (are these tracked separately?) Would it be possible for you to do a post on how you managed to make your blog profitable?
There’s something special about leaving the house when you have a baby! Free babysitting is the best!
I also spent a ton in November thanks in part to the markup on 16 inch wheels. Steelies were a hundred each! But I had an adventure tracking down used OEM alloy wheels at a junkyard. $300 for the set with a little negotiating. Tires and TPMS sensors were included in the negotiations when I bought the car.
Meant to comment on your holiday cards post, but this reminded me as well: eBates is a great website for cash back! Sites like Vistaprint, Jet.com, and Amazon (select categories) are all on there. Every penny helps!
I bought my daughter one of those snack cups and she immediately folded the prongs inward and dumped her snack everywhere. It was a crushing disappointment because I was so ridiculously excited about that thing!
A few years back the BBC did a series called Britain’s Spending Secrets about how people managed their money. Everything from the the working poor to the ultra wealth. What struck me was even the working poor had their “habits” in one case ordering take away ever week. Most fascinating was the dirt poor immigrant gypsy who made it big, worth 100s of millions of £s. Yet when presenter Ann Robinson noticed the lack of staff in his 50 room mansion he quiped “that’s what I got a wife for” lol. His 200,000£ Rolls, bought used at a great discount. Original art on the wall all bought at great discounts! To him money was precious and not to be wasted!
On the other hand those in the upper income portion of the middle class typically spent a fortune on gadgets, expensive cable phone subscriptions along with, a sometimes twice daily, starbucks! Most sad was the pressure the parents felt for the kids to have the latest gadgets, not even a 1 gen older iphone but the latest model bought new!
Unfortunately I can’t seem to find it on youtube
You may have said this already, but does your mortgage include taxes and homeowner’s insurance? Or do you pay those items separately?
Those are paid separately once a year (we just pay the full amount in the month they come due)
I just wanted to write to say that I’m absolutely loving Frugalwoods! My sister-in-law (who has long been into personal finance and frugality) recently showed it to me, and I’ve been quoting choice sentences at my husband ever since. As this was my first inkling of the fact there even was a wider lifestyle called frugality, I was pleased to find that we’re already naturally quite frugal (and actually have very similar goals/preferences to you guys!). We too have a rescue dog (who ended up having many medical issues and costing many a pretty penny, but what can you do?), most of our furniture was found on the side of the road, we naturally don’t buy clothes or material goods, we love hiking and the outdoors, and we one day want to live on a homestead. I actually think that most of our frugality has resulted from our interest in having a small ecological footprint–the whole concept of reduce, reuse, recycle lends itself nicely to saving money. And the whole locavore/make it from scratch movement has inspired us to make our own bread and pasta, hunt instead of purchase meat, grow our own veggies, etc etc. Anyway, it’s wonderful to find a community of like-minded people, and I’m so excited to read more!
Yay! So happy to have your voice in the conversation here :)! And, I very much agree with you on the many non-monetary benefits of frugality–it’s one of my favorite aspects of this lifestyle (more on that here if you’re interested: 11 Benefits of Frugality That Have Nothing To Do With Money).
Propane prices are highly seasonal, and correlated to the cost of oil. It tends to bottom out in late July/early August. We figured out how much we needed for a year and then bought a tank big enough so we could fill it once a year when the prices are lowest. $700-$800 a year fills our 1000 gallon tank and we don’t have to worry about it again till the next summer.
Nice post, as always 🙂
Just to give some credit to what I consider one of the best blogger around, I’d like to bring to your attention his credit cards site (cards.madfientist.com). It’s really really cool and you can immediately check plus and minus of all of them.
I also put everything on my credit card and pay it off in full at the end of the month. It’s a card with airline miles, so that’s great, but I don’t like the annual fee. I keep looking for one without the fee, but no luck yet.
When I was reading through the list I thought the last item was a “Snake Catcher”. I was thinking to my self why do they need a snake catcher. Turns out (quite obviously) it was a snack catcher.
Saw this over at Quora what is your income and how do you allocate it. Fascinating!!!
(Longtime lurker, first time commenter) You mention that you are paying $50 for 8 months of phone VoIP service. 2 years ago after getting fed up with a $20/month Verizon bill, I tried Magic Jack. http://www.magicjack.com/magicJackGO.html
For $60 ($35 on sale now) you get a small device that plugs into your home network and adapts your regular phone to VoIP. You can transfer your number easily, and you, your callers, and your house’s phones never know the difference.
The best part is that it comes with 1 year of unlimited calling in the US, and additional years are $35. It worked so well for us after the first year that I did the 5-year renewal for $100, which works out to less than $2/month. Take that, Verizon!
It has tons of features like voicemail, a smartphone app that lets you answer your “landline” number when away from home, etc. and a 30-day money back guarantee. I really can’t say enough good about it!
Likewise, I can’t say enough good about your your blog. I share some posts with my 19-year-old daughter because I think young adults can benefit so much from your philosophy. (Plus, your daughter is a cutie!)
I am so happy that you guys are making your dream happen.
Quick question: is charitable giving frugal? We have a few causes that we give to monthly (plus the occasional special cause throughout the year) even though we are on an otherwise very tight budget. We could save thousands of dollars a year by not giving, but we’re having a hard time justifying dropping those items from the budget. Thoughts from a frugal perspective?
P.S. I recently came across your blog and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I appreciate how candid you guys are and the fact that you are never judgmental in your posts. And I’m going to participate in the uber frugal month!
I had the option of getting a free turkey for buying a spiral sliced ham. Checking the price per pound of the spiral sliced ham ($3.98-$5.98 per pound!) caused me to almost go into shock! Instead I bought the turkey for $0.78 per pound (total cost was for a 10 lb turkey) and bought a regular ham for $1.35 per pound for 10 pounds. I don’t like the spiral hams with honey-glaze, chili season, etc., so just plain ham is better for us. We went to our step daughter’s and came home with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, turkey, sliced ham, pumpkin pie and apple pie! Our store bought turkey and ham went into the chest freezer to eat in 2017.
Maybe for a future topic, but I would love to get your thoughts on stocking up (i.e. the dog food purchase) versus putting off for a future expense.
Sometimes it is a no-brainer, which sounds like the case with the dog food. But often I find that the price differential between buying in a bulk-package versus finding the same type product (could be a brand-name on sale or a generic) is minimal or none. At these moments I wonder if forcing my husband to use the same deodorant for two years (it was an 8-pack!) is worth it. Perhaps delaying purchases makes more sense? Storage space, of course, might be the determinant, but if that is not an issue? Love to hear your musings.
That’s a great question. Hmmm, for me it depends on two things: 1) how significant are the savings; and 2) is it something we know we’re going to use. In the case of the dog food, both #1 and #2 were met, so it made sense for us.
I love reading your blog…beautifully written and inspiring. I was glad to compare your food costs to our family’s I spend about the same each month. Made me feel good. Regarding your expense of $50 per month for VOIP phone calls, may I suggest using Facebook Messenger for FREE! If you have internet service, you can use Messenger while on wifi and make voice calls for video calls for FREE. I call my daughter when she travels in Europe this way and now I only use Facebook Messenger calling because the sound quality is superior to cell. If you are making business calls, that may be a deterrent. You’d have to ask your client/boss to sign on to Facebook and open Messenger. You can make calls from your laptop or use your cell phone after adding the Messenger app. Just a thought. $50 per month is a lot….hope you can save a little more and others read this tip!!!
Hi Nancy: It’s actually $50 for 8 months of service, so a much better deal :). I definitely wouldn’t be paying $50 per month. But thank you for the tips!
I have been scrolling through your expense reports and i just don’t understand how you keep your utilities so low? And what about water and garbage?
Hi Courtney! We live in a very rural area and have a well for our water (so, no bill there) and a septic system (again, no bill) and there’s no trash or recycling pick-up in our town–we take it to a transfer station (town dump) once a week. Also, we heat our home with a woodstove using wood we harvest from our land. For more on our rural life, you can check out my series on homesteading. Hope this clears things up :)!
Just found your blog.. My phone (cell) costs are pretty high… Verizon post-paid for 2 flip phones, $65/mo. What would you recommend for the cell service and where do you buy equipment? Also, I see you have a VOIP, what service and how did you set-it up, is there a tutorial?
One more question, where do you your equipment for the VoIP?