Our snowy landscape

December rounded out my season of favorite months, with a stellar Christmas and even a New Year’s Eve celebration (by which I mean we stayed up until 9:30pm and managed to each drink a glass of champagne… ).

Mr. Frugalwoods and I delighted in our frugal Christmas and spent the holiday week alternating between snuggling by the wood stove and snowshoe hiking around our property. Mr. FW has opened up a trail that circumnavigates the boundaries of our property, which we’re absolutely loving. There’s a fair amount of elevation gain, but I’m pleased that Babywoods’ new game sled handles the trails beautifully.

Christmas Gifts

Our little Christmas gift

As you probably know, Mr. FW and I don’t give each other gifts for Christmas (or birthdays or anniversaries). And we decided not to get any presents for Babywoods this year either since, at one-year-old, she’s really too young to understand the holiday. Not to mention that she’s perfectly happy with an empty box… We figured we could take a pass this Christmas since she’s so young. No reason to start the Santa Claus tradition too early :)! When she is old enough to understand the holiday, we plan to give her just a few gifts (which we will absolutely buy used if at all possible!).

We do give gifts to our immediate families (parents, siblings, nieces, nephew) every year. We also decided to send gifts to our tenants as well as the teenagers who staff the nursery on Sundays at our church. We came in just under $200 for everyone, which I consider a resounding success. Most of our gifts were purchased locally, and we’re delighted to support our friends and neighbors who make delicious things like maple syrup, maple cream, teas, lip balm, and more! Everyone has opened their gifts by now, so I shouldn’t be ruining any surprises…

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Our snowy woodland trails

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Started the month with melted snow

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. Nearly 9,000 people are taking the challenge this month, and you can sign-up to start at any time!

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. If you’re curious about how we handle charitable contributions, check out How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in December:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $666.82 Ugh. Beyond bad. We splashed out for Christmas and New Year’s with fancy groceries and beer, wine, and champagne! But still.
Christmas Gifts $198.12 We gave gifts to our immediate families (parents, siblings, nieces/nephew), as well as our tenants and the teens who staff the Sunday nursery at our church. Mr. FW and I don’t exchange gifts and we also didn’t get Babywoods any gifts (at 1-year-old, she is happier with an empty box anyway).
Household supplies $173.61 All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, soap, and dental floss.
Gasoline for the cars $129.32 We took a day trip up to Burlington to see the Christmas lights and stroll around, so a bit more driving this month than usual.
Internet $74.00
Shipping $58.60 The cost of shipping gifts to our families and tenants.
Utilities: Electric $58.44
Home Improvement supplies $50.34 Mr. FW is going to build interior window insulation panels for our house. This was the cost of materials.
Stamps for Christmas postcards $40.80 Check out my cheap postcard hack here.
Babywoods’ Game Sled $39.97 As discussed here, we bought this game sled–on the recommendation of several Frugalwoods readers–to tow Babywoods on our hikes and snowshoe adventures around our property. It works fabulously!
Christmas Angel Tree Gift $37.87 We bought a few Christmas gifts for a child in need in our community.
O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet cream 3-pack $21.00 I’ve tried 1 million different lotions/creams/potions for my horrifically dry hands, and O’Keeffe’s For Healthy Feet is THE best. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every last penny. I don’t put it on my feet, but I bet it would work there too.
TOTAL SPENT: $2,941.75  
LESS MORTGAGE: $1,548.89

How was your December?

Similar Posts


  1. $200 is a huge success! My husband and I have opted to travel in lieu of gifts for the past few years. Except I just realized now that we canceled our trip (I’m sick), and I guess we really did nothing this year. Whoops! 🙂 I think it’s extra sweet that you thought of the teens at the nursery, too. Thanks for proving that frugality and thoughtfulness absolutely go hand in hand in so many ways!

  2. Not too shabby! I still had some bills from my last apartment trickle in, so spending was higher than I liked. Good news is those were the last ones and now I can focus on living cheaply whilst I save for the down payment on a to be purchased soon multi-family rental property!

  3. Ooh maple syrup is such a great gift!

    Our December was really nice. We traveled for most of the month and still spent just under $3,000 (including our $1,825 rent) so I’m pleased with how it went on both the financial front and the fun front!

    Happy New Year, Frugalwoods!

  4. What a great month. Good news is your favorite time of year doesn’t have to end. My guess if you’ll have snow til into February and beyond! Pretty impressive to keep all of your gifts under $200, well done. We are very similar in gift giving… nothing for each other and minimal for our son. He still doesn’t quite understand the whole Santa bringing gifts thing. Plus his grandparents provide plenty, he doesn’t want for anything. Cheers to 2017!

  5. I dare say that is quite an impressive December expense report. Mine is not so impressive and I cringe when I think of the money we spent on gift giving. And by all standard accounts, we keep it to a minimum and it still exceeded the $1,000 mark. Ugh. Awesome idea to take advantage of the youth of Babywoods and opt out of gift giving. I hadn’t even considered doing that when our Mini Monster experienced her first Christmas, although I certainly didn’t go wild. New goal for 2017 – decrease gift giving obligations. Thanks for the gift ideas!

    Your property is lovely and the idea of snowshoeing around a self-made trail sounds like true Heaven. I love experiencing the virtual homestead 🙂 Keep the visuals coming. Your blog is truly an inspiration and I look forward to rooting for you guys in the new year!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

  6. $200 for so many gifts isn’t bad at all! Especially considering you opted for hyper-local gifts. 🙂 We did DIY gifts to save moolah. In total we spent $350 on Christmas, but thanks to $300 of credit card rewards, we spent a cool $50. Not too shabby, especially when compared to last year’s $800 Christmas. Ahhh!!

    Also, way to go for getting a Christmas Angel! I meant to pick one up this year but I totally spaced on it. Ugh!

    We were over budget for December, but not how I thought we would be. We had a lot of home expenses like plumbing issues and appliance problems. Mr. Picky Pincher also has been doing little projects here and there that really add up. We also had an annual vet visit for Zap the Kitten that set us back $100 since he had a tummy bug. But he’s better now, so that’s what matters. 🙂

    December really wasn’t that bad, all things considered. Last year we were royally screwed after December, financially-speaking. We were really feeling the pain last January. But this year it hasn’t been bad at all!

    And thank to Uber Frugal Month, I’m hoping we can get our savings rate to 60% so we can pay more on our student loans this month. Let’s see how we do. 🙂

  7. Would love to hear more about the interior window insulation panels that Mr FW worked on. Hopefully this will be an upcoming blog post?

  8. I have been away from your site for about a year and am glad to partake in the Uber Frugal Month to become learn new tips and tricks. Do you and your husband still work or are you both retired now that you are in Vermont in your cabin? Recent experience by my son has taught him that using ONLY a debit card does not build credit and he needs to now obtain a credit card as well as pay off his car loan. The loan was difficult to obtain because he has no credit.

    I am interested in starting a file of recipes that are cost-effective and can be frozen when cooked in bulk. I do fairly well in other areas, but food is one place I spend a good bit of money. I stayed within our budget for Christmas this year – yeah! The greyhounds did not seem to miss not getting gifts at all. 🙂

    1. Hi Mary. How many in your family? I am asking because of your comments about food/menus. I have been enjoying doing that for many years & would love to be in communication with about a file of resources if you are interested. Let me know.

  9. At $1393 a month what type of mortgage did you take out on the homestead? Does this include taxes? Would you ever sell the rental property you own? Even with food $1500 a month family of 3 is an achievement!

  10. Can you do a follow up to Mr Frugal woods insulation panels for windows? I need to do the same thing at our new home that we will be moving to in the spring. Thank you!!!

  11. I have been thinking of getting an Amazon Rewards Card for the cash back and the points. However, I have read some mixed reviews about Chase bank, particularly that they have a sneaky way of charging interest on purchases when you’ve already paid your bill off in full for the month (apparently you should avoid making more purchases from the time you make a payment to when the billing cycle ends in order to avoid this). Does anyone have any advice or experience with this? I’d prefer the Amazon card for the rewards but I’d consider going with another card if the Frugalwood community has had poor experiences with Chase.

    1. I have had the Amazon rewards card for several years now and have never had the problem you mention. I just pay the bill in full once the statement has been issued.

        1. Hi Autumn – I’m also an Amazon rewards VISA cardholder (since…2005?) and I have not experienced this issue either. I have been very happy with it and the rewards are pretty great! 🙂

  12. Happy New Year!

    Ooh I was just pondering removable possibilities for my windows yesterday! This morning is nice and sunny so I’ve opened the 3 layers of curtains and can’t see out through the layer of ice 😉 (It is -8F with a -25F wind chill so I’m not surprised). In the past I’ve used heavy duty plastic instead of the shrink film and it works well, but in my living room and kitchen I like something removable to still get sunlight when I’m home.

  13. That sounds like a great month. We end up cashing out all our credit card rewards for gifts. Usually it just covers Christmas, but this year we had enough to cover the entire year of gifts AND prebuy some gift cards for the family for next year. It’s nice to just erase that line item from our budget. =) Even with 5 kids, we don’t do a lot of gifts. Mostly because the clutter gets overwhelming. We bought a few games for us to play during our family fun night each week. The rest of the family more than makes up for it!

  14. The immediate family gifts stress me out. I try to keep a log of ideas throughout the year, but there’s always one or two that cause me anxiety until the last minute. We celebrate by the old calendar, January 6/7th, so I have another day to figure it out 🙂 At least I get to cash in on the post xmas sales!

  15. First, thank you for providing all of this content – tips, advice, challenge – for free! It fits my frugal lifestyle. 🙂

    Second, I’d love to hear more about your frugal gift giving. It’s an area we’ve revamped over the past few years, but have much more room for improvement. Would you be comfortable sharing the average spent per person? Also, would love to hear more about your frugal, local finds.

  16. PLEASE post on Mr. Frugalwoods’ window insulation project, with instructions. I’ve been considering this for the windows in my home so I can stop making excuses (frugal month challenge!) about the difficulties of putting up the shrink-wrap variety. Thank you for considering this!

  17. I love your frugal Christmas gift giving! I tried this year with crocheting gifts for my nieces and nephews, which saved a ton, but then we gave a large cash gift to a relative which blew us out of the water with our budget this year. It was money well spent, though!

    Thank you for always inspiring, but I wish you’d change your RSS feed back to full-text instead of summaries 🙁

    1. Yeah, our RSS feeds broke when we converted to a new host and we haven’t been able to fix them yet–but they’re on the list :)! Our little team of 2 (me and Mr. FW) doesn’t always get things done quite as quickly as we might hope, especially with Babywoods on the scene :).

  18. Health Insurance? I’ve looked back for a few months and seen co-pays for ER visits, medications, and such but can’t seem to find anything about the actual costs of your health insurance program in any monthly expense reports. Perhaps a lot of us would like to know what your approach is to the whole health insurance issue. I would anyway.

    Stay warm and thank you for enriching us all with your experiences.

    1. Hi Bob–it’s a pretty boring answer actually :). Mr. FW receives health insurance through his employer and it’s a family plan that covers me and Babywoods too. We’re very grateful and fortunate to have good insurance!

  19. Good job on Christmas gifts! We try to be minimal but also have a relatively high income compared to most of our family – some of whom really struggle- so use this as an excuse to give cash to the hardworking young adults and buy clothes and a few toys for the kiddos. For the rest we try to stick to local “gourmet” type foods like the yummy maple cream! So we do go over $1000 but I plan for it and set up a separate savings account in January through SmartyPig so we have the extra cash on hand. Our little one is nearly two and more interested in wrapping paper than the toys so her present was some packages of stickers and a pad of paper to stick them on 🙂

  20. Your gift giving total was great! We’ve cut down on our costs even as our family grows — we now have two grown kids, 2 sons-in-law, three grandchildren and a step-grandchild, plus two siblings and a brother-in-law, so cutting back has been a necessity. I earned some gift cards and got some good discounts and managed to spend around $400 out of pocket. Do you find that people typically underestimate how much they spend on gifts at Christmas? I know I used to. A few years ago I saw a reporter asking people how much they normally spent on gifts during the holiday, and the answers were all in the range of $200-$500. I got curious, so for the first time ever, I added up what I’d spent and was shocked — I’d have said I spent about $500, only to realize I’d spent nearly $1000! Now I track what I spend on Christmas, but I wonder how many people are spending twice as much as they think, but don’t look at the totals — and probably don’t want to.

    1. I agree! A few years back I started keeping a spreadsheet and was shocked to see us over $1000. Now I track every year including any travel expenses and that was can 1) keep the expenses roughly the same each year and 2) plan for it ahead of time.

  21. I second the earlier question about health insurance. I can’t find any plans for less than several hundred a month, and Vermont is a pretty pricey state for healthcare. How, how are you doing it with ER?

    1. It’s a pretty boring answer actually :). Mr. FW receives health insurance through his employer and it’s a family plan that covers me and Babywoods too. We’re very grateful and fortunate to have good insurance!

      1. Hopefully I’ll get an update if and when he retires, but it sounds like he has a pretty sweet gig. Insurance issues are so limiting. Kills me…I can be as frugal as anyone, but it’s hard to argue with a monthly insurance payment of $1000.

        Open to any advice…I work only for the insurance.

  22. May I kindly suggest a frugal idea I followed for over 20 years. I would purchase all nieces and nephews and my own 3 daughters, Christmas ornaments for super cheap after each Christmas and held onto them for the next. I stopped when the kids turned 18, even my own. About 4 years ago in talking at Thanksgiving one year (when my three grown daughters, spouses and granddaughters are all together, my 37 year old eldest told me how much she looked forward to it when she was a child and could I start again?

    So I did and this year I spent $154 after Christmas for a ton of Christmas stuff including Santa head bakeware, Christmas crafts for granddaughters all at 70% off (I even got myself that 3 hanging bell set to put on our gate, who cares if it has red and white striped ribbon on it!)

    We do pay our credit cards in full every month, (2) that we also put our utilities on to get more cash back! You have convinced me to charge everything! I will charge anything over $5.

    We also save all our coins and put them through Coinstar and get a gift # to add to my Amazon account. I purchased books for the granddaughters from Christmas and use it for any other household items such as a new filter for our refrigerator, labels for my freezer containers (We freeze a lot of stuff!), new doggie dooley chemical or whatever that powdered stuff you put in the doggy septic tank, comic book boards to organize my fabric (I’m a quilter), essential oils, you get the idea!

    My goal for 2017 is $20,000 in the bank and max out our IRA, this will take much frugality since I retired unexpectedly 7/8/16 due to an increase in my chronic pain condition.

    Right now beans are in the crockpot, a 17 bean blend that was $3.97 at Costco about a month ago. We bought 2-5.5 pound bags and we now realize we should have bought more! Keeping our eyes out for frugal finds is a bit of a hobby for DH. Our business is 2 blocks from Costco so he is there quite a bit. We are the people who actually can spend less than $50 when we go there. We avoid the center aisles!

  23. Great idea to give local gifts! I gave a few empty gifts this year (such as amazon gift cards to my husband’s nieces and nephews) which I feel bad about but we were cramped for time with our wedding, finishing my masters, honeymoon and Xmas all in December. Next year I need to plan ahead.

    1. I don’t know about your nieces and nephews, but speaking for myself I love the Amazon gift cards. I am always finding things that I want to buy from Amazon, but I hate to spend my own money to do it. So the gift card gives me some leeway to do that.

  24. I think we spent somewhere between $800-900 for Christmas this year. This is somehow despite giving away homemade relish for many relatives, and Marge and I giving each other only small gifts. I don’t know how it happens, but it always does!

    I remember when Mr. Frugalwoods asked me to put up directions for my interior storm windows, and I never did because I never made them either! I have three from some years ago, but never made the new ones I was planning on. Still have those materials though! It’s not difficult to do, just finding the time is. I actually haven’t even installed the old ones yet this winter, so thanks for the reminder.

  25. The idea of snuggling next to a warm wood fire sounds amazing!
    Do you mind if I ask why you consider padding your credit score as a benefit to using credit cards? From what I gather, you bought your car with cash. And you already have your homestead. So out of pure curiosity, what might you need a credit score for? Future real estate purchases with a mortgage?

    1. It’s always wise to maintain a good credit score for the same reason I advocate for a large emergency fund (and frugality in general): you never know what’s going to happen in life and we don’t want to limit ourselves in any way by having low credit scores.

      1. Credit scores can also impact the amount you pay for insurances and many companies check your credit score before they hire you.

  26. Babywoods is freakin’ adorable. I just want to take her home every time I see a picture of her. I will definitely check out Personal Capital – I was giving YNAB a go but that costs money after the first month so maybe the frugal choice would actually be something like Mint or PC. Thanks for the suggestion!

  27. YES to local gifts! My parents gave us a gallon of maple syrup and a set of alpaca dryer balls. They were some of our favorite gifts – and both were made within 30 miles of their home in southern Ohio. Next year I’m going to try to find some local options because they really are a joy to give and open. Homemade gifts will still be a major component, but I’d like to aim for some local options for the gifts I don’t/can’t make.

  28. I am enjoying your posts. I have signed up for the Uber Frugal Month thinking I might get some points out of it as I read “Your Money or Your Life” 30 years ago. I have lead a simple life and live in a small home.
    I am pleasantly surprised to learn new things each day and I am doing the useful exercises and cutting back expenses that I didn’t know I could. So thank you all.
    I just wanted to let you know that the link for Personal Capital. Does not work for me , just a blank screen. i wonder if it is because I am in Canada? could you please recommend other programs that track your spending and expenses?

  29. I spent $372 on mortgage (In 2014, I bought a small 912 sq ft house, with decent sized yard, built in 1950, waaaay out in a very rural town in the deep South), $88 on electric (why our electric is sooo high in a warm state, I will never understand), $320 car payment, $150 gas, $70 phone, $320 insurance, $60 on water, $200 on food including Christmas, and it depends on how you calculate gifts. If I did just the “gifts only” it would be $220, BUT, I paid for some of my kid’s water ($188, he owed back bills), and another’s electric bill ($200, he also owed back bill). So, my gift would be $220, but with the bills factored in that I paid for “Christmas” my gift amount would be $608…ouch!!

  30. Love the local gifts idea. I managed to decrease my Christmas giving by $100. this year but plan to do better next year since I retired in 2016. Love all the left overs from Christmas though. Yummy and saves on the food bill for the week after Christmas. Thanks for all your suggestions online. You look like a lovely family.

  31. THANK YOU for the O’Keefe’s recommendation! My fiance and I have chronically dry hands and I also have tried just about anything on the market! Ordering from Amazon right now!

  32. Awesome work keeping your Christmas so frugal! $200 is a huge success. My little one is a little older than Babywoods – just under 2 now – and began to understand the idea of Christmas this year for the first time. As I noticed she started to need things throughout the fall (new toothbrush, hair clips, a new pair of shoes and underwear) I bought them and set them aside. I wrapped them and gave them to her on Christmas and she was thrilled! I swear, opening the presents was where 95% of her excitement came from this year.

      1. In my sister’s family, it was always a joke that the kids got new socks and new underwear at Christmas time. This year, my nephew, who is 25 years old, specifically mentioned that he “needed” new socks and underwear for Christmas! His job is not extremely high paying, so money is tight for him.

        1. I love getting socks and underwear for Christmas! I gave my partner socks for Christmas from Nice Laundry. My in-laws also got us both socks. One year I asked my mom for a giftcard so I could buy new underwear. It’s so nice to get things you NEED instead of junk that will just end up in the goodwill bin.

    1. We do the same, under the guise of “something you want, you need, to wear, to read” and one gift from Santa. He is about to turn four and (shh!) everything he got was actually something he needed except for the book. But I’m a librarian so I need to give books. 😉
      Also, the book he gets each year, is one that relates to an animal which we have chosen to give via Heifer International. He loves to help pick out what animal we are going to give someone and this year he even connected the book he got with the animal we gave on his own.
      All told, we spent less than $25 on his gifts and they were things we had to buy anyway so he got the joy of having presents under the tree and my budget stayed the same.
      Win Win Win in my book. :=)

  33. It may have already been asked but I would like to hear more about your interior window insulation panels. Think you could write up a post about it? Thanks!

  34. Wow-an impressive month for the Frugalwoods! I have been a hard studying student-somehow I ended Christmas & New Years with $300 extra in the bank! 😳 I did not short anyone on a gift, we had a great season, and frankly, I am shocked at my own savings. Here was my favorite gift, which delighted my long time friend’s mother. HomeGoods had a make your own cleaning products package, with 3 different bottles and a how to book for $5 on clearance. You would have thought that I got this woman a cashmere sweater! Which just proves you can make someone happy for very little cash. The spaniels got 2 Costco beds ($26 each) and everyone else provided toys-which they promptly destroyed.
    The new sled is terrific. It was priced right, works well, and has a future use as heavy duty hauler of wood. Sounds frugal to me!

  35. Thank you so much for introducing me to Personal Capital! What a useful tool. I am already seeing areas on which we can improve. Quick question… You said you took your expenses and created a spreadsheet. I am not seeing where I can do this on Personal Capital. I can’t find where to download or print it off. Am I missing something? Thanks for the help.

    Love your blog!!

  36. Great holiday frugality and generosity! I love getting local and/or homemade gifts, too. Jams, syrups, and other edibles are always great in our book!

  37. It sounds like you had a great December, Mrs. Frugalwoods! I decided that after this December (2016) I was not longer the cookie/candy maker of the family – I have passed the frosting on to another family member. I still have waaay too many left over bags of baking chips, etc. which will go into the freezer (I’m not sure of what use). As our children live out-of-state, we mailed their holiday money to them. We kept within our budget and spent nothing on ourselves (except for the homemade triple ginger Ginger Snaps). We had a very, very low key holiday, with each of us having flute of sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve. I love reading about everyone’s ideas! Thanks!

  38. This year we were able to stay on budget! I was so happy as last year we went over by a lot like 1k a lot. So it was nice to do a sort of year in review and see how far we’d come.

  39. Thanks for the great posting! My husband and I can relate to much of what you wrote – we too put all of our purchases on credit card (of course we pay it off in full each month) but it definitely makes things easier as we also track and categorize all of our purchases. I noticed you didn’t have any spending on things like property tax, house/car insurance and phone. We live in Ontario so not sure if it’s different where you are but we find that spending adds up to a lot too. We are still working on our minimalism journey!

  40. For your dry hands you might want to try using only products that are SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) free. SLS can be a skin irritant that strips moisture from your hands. I was in the same spot as you with super dry hands from the Canadian winter-they were so bad my knuckles were bleeding, they hurt and I couldn’t imagine washing my hands one more time. However with a 2 kids, one of them a 2 year old I am potty-training not washing my hands was not an option! I was desperate so I switched all of the products my hands come in contact with (hand soap, kid soap/shampoo, my shampoo, body wash, etc) to SLS free. Actually the only one I have not switched yet is my dish soap but I made a rule that my bare hands cannot come in contact with the dish soap so I use my rubber gloves for most kitchen tasks-even wiping the table and counters. I also make an effort to apply lotion after every time I wash my hands. Doing this has been life-changing for me.

  41. My kids (10 & 12) want my husband and I to have gifts to open Christmas morning but they know we value saving money above all else, so they have come up with a new strategy for Christmas – they go around the house and pick out a few of our things to wrap and give to us. We have gotten a stapler, socks, a book, etc. We all have so much fun laughing at what they chose and rediscovering an item we didn’t know we were missing! A frugal win-win in our house! Next year, I may turn it around on them… I will try and repurpose one of their neglected posessions and wrap it up for them to open Christmas morning!

  42. Just $200 for all your x-mas gifts is great! People just go nuts at this holiday and often for no reason. Way to go to you and Mr. Frugalwoods for going against the norm and doing what works for you. I recently wrote about our family pushing us into a secret Santa with a $300 limit. I thought it was crazy, but everyone else thought it was great. Sigh – maybe next year I can convince them otherwise…

    1. WOW. Our family does secret Santa $50 limit. People sometimes go over, but that at least keeps it in a reasonable range. Maybe your family will eventually be willing to lower it when they see how stressful it is to try to pick out a $300 gift – so much pressure to get the right thing!

  43. Our December was a bit stressy getting ready for travel and for taking a few days off but we did pretty well planning for the holidays in the end. Our total for gifts to family and friends this year came to about $300 though we were out of pocket a little less because we bought some gift cards at a discount.

    PiC and I don’t normally exchange gifts but he knows I’ve been looking for pants to replace the pair that are worn through for over a year without success so he found them for me. I’ll forgive this breach of our no-gifts agreement in favor of being able to walk around wearing pants instead of rags. 🙂

    Either for zir birthday or for Christmas, I’d like JuggerBaby to get in the habit of making a donation to something like Project NightNight as a reminder that we are absolutely overflowing with privilege and goodness already and we don’t need more things to be happy. We’re just coming up on age 2, I think it’s a good time to start this habit!

  44. It’s been fascinating following your expense reports. Do you think that ultimately the country will be cheaper? I know that’s not the reason you moved, but it seems like the city was cheaper, something I’ve always thought. As long as you manage to secure cheapish housing and avoid “entertainment”, the city offers freeish transportation, free exercise via walking and biking and cheaper groceries,

    Curious as to your thoughts…

    1. Yeah, we’ve always known the city was cheaper for those things. We moved to the country for the quality of life, the community, to live in nature, for the way we want to raise our daughter, etc, not because it’s cheaper. What we surmise is that, over time, it will become cheaper once we’ve dialed in more DIY prowess and own the tools and gear we need. But we knew that wouldn’t happen in the first year (or first few years). We definitely get plenty of free exercise, entertainment, and lowered stress out here though, which is worth quite a bit to us :). Plus, it’s also true that we’re generating revenue by renting out our city house and that our home out here has a much cheaper mortgage–in light of those factors, it is cheaper.

      1. All excellent points…I had forgotten how lucrative your rental is! I guess I wonder because I want to move home (NYC, hey, I can’t help where I was raised) and I’m desperately looking for a way to do it and some sort of silver financial lining. Unlikely, though…

  45. I’m with you on the credit cards. I used points from my cards to pay for all the materials for a new roof 4 years ago. This year they will be funding a trip to Hawaii for my wife and I for our 10 year anniversary. Definitely pay them in full each month. Credit card debt is not a path you want to go down! I once didn’t get my auto pay set up in time. One of those tricks where you set it up in between the statement date and the payment date, and they say it’s not effective until the next statement. I was so PO’d over that $35 charge. They will get you any way they can if you let them!

    Looks like you had a good month. I like that you don’t do gifts. My wife and I just do small stocking stuffers for each other every Christmas. We still buy my family gifts as they’re really into it. It’s stressful, though. What do you buy someone who can buy anything within reason that they want?

    Oh, and congrats on moving to your homestead this year!

  46. As he had promised, for Christmas gave me the gift of a 12 hours of labor day. He got up at 7, I gave him a breakfast of sausage and sourdough pancakes and then he spent the next 12 hours (I gave him half an hour for lunch!) knocking things off my chore list. He works around the house constantly, but doesn’t usually get to things like, “Finish the kitchen window sill so I can pull down the masking tape you put up 6 months ago” and “Tack down the bedroom baseboard that the dog has decided should be pulled off.” It was so much fun to make the list, rearranging things every day for a week as I decided what was most important to me to get done. Him doing the chores was almost anti-climactic! Absolutely the best gift he has ever given me and he has made or bought me some wonderful things, but to know that this was frugal and improved the house and involved no nagging (I try to avoid that but you know how hard it is to keep your mouth shut sometimes…) was terrific. I’ve already told him I want the same thing for my birthday. He is allowed to forget the gift of chores and get me chocolates for Valentine’s Day, however…I make his favorite pain in the rear bread for Valentine’s Day.

  47. I have many people to buy gifts for, including a new one from my brother in law but I only buy a book, and pajamas or socks. That is for everyone. And I wasn’t going to buy pajamas for my niece and nephew this year (they are getting older) but my sister told me they look forward to their “Kiki (that’s me!) Christmas PJs”. So they both got a book and a set of pajamas. For 12 people, I spent $400.00.

  48. I too am interested in how you will build those interior insulated window panels. I love following your blog and enjoy your pictures. I find myself telling others of your chosen lifestyle, and specific things you write about. You are an inspiration and you have really gotten me to think about how we spend money. I have to tell you though, we tried Costco frozen pizzas. They were not a hit at my house. Lol. Different tastebuds for different folks. My son went to school in Putney, so got to see Vermont 3 whole times. It’s a beautiful state. Keep on writing!

  49. Long time reader, first time commenter…
    For Christmas this year, I organised for all my family who were coming to lunch (22 people from age <1 to 91) to bring one gift for a dedicated person. We set the price limit at ~$30ish with no pressure to spend the whole limit. After lunch but before dessert, we all sat together and gave our gifts one by one. We started with the youngest giver and ended at the oldest. The whole gang watched as each person unwrapped their present and spontaneously started to clap when the unwrapping was done! It was a lovely way to teach kids about giving without ending up with a million crappy plastic things. It also made everyone think hard to choose a present that their recipient would treasure. Lots of the presents were second hand or home made which made them a even more special! We will be doing it again next year! X Frugal Aussie Gal

  50. I just wanted to say I found your blog a few months ago and I absolutely adore it! I have 3 kids that are all school age, and I definitely spend more on frivolity than when they were toddlers. It gets more difficult, but we still say “no” an awful lot! My kids are also learning the value of buying used vs. new and picking the dollar movie vs the expensive movie theatre. I want to be one of your first guests when you build your AirBnB cabin in the woods! Would love to visit Vermont in the fall.

  51. Thanks for this post! I love that you are both frugal and thoughtful with your gift giving. We do pretty good sticking to our financial goals, but the holiday can be a real struggle with all the extra parties, events, and gift expectations. It’s a struggle sometimes to stay true to our goals without feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to “buy, buy, buy” during this season. Again, thanks for the post and Happy New Year! 🙂

  52. I get horrifically dry skin in the winter as well, but the worst is my legs and arms. My dermatologist told me the key to preventing this is to get your lotion on within 30 seconds of getting out of the shower or in your case, washing your hands. During that 30 seconds after washing an invisible evaporation occurs from your pores- the lotion is most effective if it can seal in your skin’s natural moisture. This means the end of my shower is fairly frantic (and pure entertainment if my husband happens to be nearby), but it really works for me! However, I still have to use expensive lotion (Cetaphil)- no way around that for me unfortunately, and I’ve tried. Just thought I’d share!

  53. I am beginning to think this was a poor choice for me, at least this month. After spending a grand total of less than a thousand above rent last month, I’m struggling with painful decisions like not visiting my aging parents. It’s discretionary, right? I just can’t cut any further.

    I feel awful.

    1. Visit your parents as much as you can NOW…can’t do it “later…” I know it’s not always easy for sure…but…love em up while you have them…

  54. Frugal Woods, wondering if you have ever used Neutrogena hand cream (Norwegian Formula the tube says) and how that compares to O’Keefe. I really like it and its $4.00 a tube, you only need a bit.

  55. Snowcanyon please don’t feel bad. Spending on something like visiting an elderly or sick person should never be done to be frugal. Frugal is to try & not be wasteful but to save for what you enjoy. It will always mean different things to different people. In our case I spend more than the average person on this blog for Christmas gifts. I don’t feel guilty because we have it & enjoy giving it. it is always paid off before any interest & no one suffers for us doing it. When your folks are gone you will regret that you chose to save money instead of visiting in my humble opinion.

    I have both an Amazon & Chase freedom account & have never had any problem with either

  56. Quick comment about choosing not to give gifts to Baby FW….great idea! Since a sprig of spruce or a piece of tinsel can entertain her endlessly, you have made a wise decision. NOW…check out post-holiday sales and stash a few things away for birthday and next year. I have already purchased several holiday presents for next year and for birthdays that way…Yippee!!!

  57. another great month! your pictures are fabulous, btw.
    our December was not as frugal as previous months, as we broke our limited gifts promise. i tell myself it’s all good, since we never buy any clothes for ourselves throughout the year, so i guess what we did buy for each other was things we did need. oh who am i kidding, we succumbed to Christmas consumerism. next year, we’ll do better!

  58. $200 for Christmas is awesome! My sisters (I have 7 of them) don’t exchange gifts, but we get gifts for all of our kids, and now there are 11 of them. And some sisters haven’t had kids yet. Oh God.

    1. Maybe make each child a stocking and just buy a small gift that fits in the stocking. We do this with the grandchildren- all the family puts in a small gift or two, and they love it. You can find small useful items at the dollar stores so it does not have to cost much at all.

  59. Mrs. Frugalwoods, I want to tell you how much I look forward to both your monthly money wrap up and your homestead adventures. The beginning of each month I get so excited to read about your adventures. Thanks for sharing your lives with us. It brings me lots of joy! Happy New Year!

  60. This was our babies first Christmas too, and we didn’t really get her anything either, except for a set of bongo drums, which were for me as much as for her. Her grandparents, on the other hand, went a little overboard.

  61. I must tell you that I have just recently discovered your blog….and although our lifestyles could not be more polar (I am a divorced, retired teacher with no children)….I find what you write to be totally refreshing and positive and encouraging. I willl never live on a Vermont homestead, but I can incorporate many of your frugal ideas into my townhouse life. How wonderful of you both to be so accepting of differences. Know that I am spending way too many hours reading your many informative, happy posts

  62. When I saw the words “game sled’ I assumed it was a sled for hauling one’s elk or deer out of the woods. That would also be a much used
    function for this sled, I think, especially if one does not have a snowmobile, which we don’t! Perhaps you folks don’t eat game meat, though.
    Certainly, pulling the little girl through the woods is such fun and the sled looks like it could contain more than one child, too!
    On a homestead there would be countless ways to use such a sled, I think. Maybe I’ll show the photo to my hubby since he’s always hauling things like firewood, chicken feed, etc. and usually uses the wheelbarrow, which doesn’t work so well in the deep snow.

    1. Yes, you are correct–it’s a game sled for hauling animals out of the woods! Much cheaper than sleds designed for kiddos. And, it also works really well for hauling the chainsaw, etc (obviously not with the baby on board 😉 ).

  63. I’m so glad you spent your hard earned money on food for the holidays! Especially since you don’t give gifts to each other, food is a great way to feel festive and “connected!” And local gifts are a win! This year for my sister and sister(s?) in laws i made a donation through World Vision that corresponded to their interests…chickens in honor of Ginny (my chicken loving sis in law), a wheelchair for a disabled child (for my physical therapist sis in law), and fruit trees (for my green thumbed sister)! I also made a little something for their gift bags and printed up the card provided by WV for each of them which described their gift. We’re all at the “kids moving out and where did all this stuff in my house come from???!!!” stage so none of us need anything…so they all seemed to like the idea! BTW…I’ve declutter our entire house including the attic (empty aside from hubby’s backpacking duffel! Don’t touch!!) and basement! Marie Kondo Bug bit me this year…donated or “found a home” for everything and our home is happy… THANK YOU FOR YOUR GREAT BLOG!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *