While snow storms raged outside all March, inside we planted the seeds for this summer’s vegetable garden. In a cold climate like Vermont (we’re in plant hardiness zone 4 for all you gardening aficionados), it’s necessary to start growing vegetables from seeds indoors.
The reason for this is that it won’t be warm enough for a long enough period of time for the veggies to ripen if they’re planted outside. It’ll be too cold too late in the spring and too cold too early in the fall to allow them to fully mature. Thus we, and all of our vegetable-growing neighbors, start seeds indoors in early spring.
Since this is our first year starting a garden from seeds (as opposed to “starts,” which are tiny vegetable plants you buy from a garden store or farm stand), we had quite a few start-up costs. In the long run, it’s magnificently cheaper to start your garden from seeds than it is to buy the starts.
However, like so many other things this first year on the homestead, it’s more expensive up front. We take the long view of frugality and our approach is usually to invest in materials and tools we can use for decades to come that’ll yield a greater savings overall.
As you’ll see in this month’s expense rundown, we purchased: seeds, seed starting mix, trays, a grow lamp, and a plant heating pad. Mr. FW built a rack (featured in above photo) to suspend the grow lamp above the plants and we can adjust the height of the light as the veggies grow taller.
This month we started tomatoes and jalapeños, since they take the longest to ripen. In April, we’ll start a bevy of other vegetables. This first year, we’re not starting all that many plants–we’re dipping our toes in and then we’ll calibrate, gather data, and hopefully do more next year. Fingers crossed these babies germinates and we have healthy little starts to plant outside come June!
Plane Tickets and My Birthday!
We’re off to Orlando, Florida in April for a family wedding and purchased our plane tickets in March. Although we do have credit card points, the conversion ratio from points to flights wasn’t favorable, so we decided to pay cash for our tickets instead.
Mr. FW and I prioritize time with family; thus, these plane ticket expenditures that’ll facilitate togetherness are consistent with our frugal ethos of spending on our values. It’s yet another benefit of frugality that we don’t have to stress over the price of plane tickets.
March is my birthday month and we went out to dinner to celebrate! Our very kind and generous neighbor, who comes over to watch Babywoods every Monday morning for a few hours, gave us the wonderful gift of babysitting. Going out to dinner as a couple was a real treat and we’re enormously grateful to our neighbor for watching Babywoods free of charge! I can’t think of a better birthday gift!
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
Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Look no further than Our Low Cost, No Fuss, DIY Money Management System. 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? Up for some hardcore frugal adventuring? Sign-up to take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is the method Mr. FW and I employ to sculpt our frugal lifestyle. Over 11,900 people have already taken the Challenge–and saved thousands of dollars–and you can sign-up at any time. You’ll start with Day 1 so you won’t miss a frugal thing. P.S. It’s free! And if you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.
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 March:
|Airline tickets||$1,131.76||For our trip to Orlando for a family wedding in April|
|Household||$132.28||All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, laundry detergent, dog food, and dental floss.|
|Grow lights and a heating pad for our veggie garden starts||$96.91||For our seed starts for this year’s vegetable garden.|
|Four doctor visit co-pays||$95.00||Poor Babywoods had croup, many fevers, and a double ear infection. Fingers crossed April will be a healthier month!|
|Garden supplies||$62.43||Horticultural oil to spray on our apple trees; seeds for this year’s vegetable garden along with seed starting mix and trays.|
|Gasoline for the cars||$48.10|
|Restaurant meal||$36.34||My birthday dinner! Yum.|
|Diesel for the tractor||$26.26||Mr. FW uses the tractor to clear snow on our quarter-mile long driveway and we had a lot of snow in March!|
|Home improvement supplies||$22.88||Plumbing supplies for Mr. FW to fix a leaky valve in our basement.|
|Cell phone||$19.99||Through Boom Mobile|
|Identification tag for Frugal Hound||$8.85||An identification tag for Frugal Hound with our new Vermont address (whoops, this is long overdue!).|