As the snow receded from our land, allowing bare earth and grass to take its place, we quickly realized we’d need a new outdoor baby conveyance solution. All winter long, Mr. Frugalwoods and I snowshoe hiked by towing Babywoods behind us in this game sled, which sailed over pillows of snow, up mountains, and across frozen streams with ease. I tested the game sled out on mud and grass and that was a non-starter. Literally.
Backpacking A Baby
Last summer, we carried Babywoods on hikes in our hand-me-down Ergo, and despite the fact that she still fits in there, the toll is too heavy for my back. Next, we tested out a hand-me-down hiking pack, which Mr. FW likes to use but which hurts my lower back something fierce. After doing test hikes with both the Ergo and the hiking pack, I realized there’s no way I can go on long hikes with my child attached to me anymore–she’s just too heavy for my back.
While it works for Mr. FW to carry her in the pack when we hike together, I take Babywoods out by myself for a pre-dinner hike every day while Mr. FW works on our land or cooks dinner. I also tried out the hand-me-down stroller we have, which operates well on flat, packed earth, but is no match for the brambly woods trails that bisect our property.
The Jogging Stroller Quest
I didn’t want to sacrifice my daily hikes and so the time had come: we needed a jogging stroller. And not just any jogging stroller. We needed enormous, durable wheels capable of summiting mountains, rolling over rocks, and fording shallow streams. My initial research revealed that these beasts are $900 brand new, which is a dollar amount my frugal nature cannot abide. And so, I turned to my old friend, my stalwart companion in my campaign to spend less than conventional wisdom says is possible: the used market.
I started by asking friends and neighbors if anyone had an old stroller we could buy or borrow. No dice. Next, Mr. FW presented the results of his Craigslist saved searches–in anticipation of this need, he’s been scanning Craigslist for about a year for a jogging stroller. In that time frame, there’ve been exactly two jogging strollers (with gigantic wheels) available in all of Vermont, neither of which returned his inquiry emails. Things were looking bleak. Next, I turned to my Buy Nothing Group as well as one of my local Facebook groups for swapping and selling baby stuff. No luck.
Finally, I posted to my town’s listserve and lo, someone responded with a hot tip: they’d seen jogging strollers for sale at a thrift shop for $5. I called the shop, confirmed they had such a stroller, and Mr. FW and I decided we’d better go investigate right away–as in, that day.
My Frugal Gem
As we pulled into the thrift store parking lot, I spied my dream stroller sitting out front. Resplendent with 20 inch wheels, there it sat. I leapt out of the car and rushed over to claim it (I forget that I no longer live in the city and there aren’t mobs of people everywhere… ). I happily paid the $5 sticker price and was awash in joy. This stroller is a true frugal gem.
The next day Mr. FW and I put the stroller through the Frugalwoods paces: we took it on the full circuit hike around our property, which includes diverse terrain, hills, rocks, logs, and brushy trails. It performed like a champ. I’ve used it every day since we bought it, Babywoods loves it, I love it, and I like to think the stroller loves us. Even better than the $5 price tag is the fact that this stroller’s got to be at least 10 years old and we’ve given it a new lease on life. A good reminder to never throw out stuff that someone else will be thrilled to pick up on the used marked.
Since the thrift store was a 40 minute drive from our house, we decided to make it an impromptu day trip in our ongoing quest to learn more about our new home state. After netting our fabulous stroller, we took Babywoods to lunch at a BBQ spot we’d heard was good and for which we had a coupon. Verdict: delicious and very kid-friendly, so we’ll be back.
Then, we strolled across the street to River Roost, a local brewery rumored to have innovative, superb beer. We tasted the beers on tap and can confirm, it’s stupendous. Deciding that we should do further research, we bought some beer to take home for additional experimentation…
Since we rarely eat out or buy treats for ourselves, the occasional day trip doesn’t constitute a dramatic hit to our budget. I prefer to save money on the quotidian things of life–for example, we don’t have cable–in order to easily afford the occasional spontaneous jaunt.
Other April Expenses Of Note
- Wedding Trip! As you might recall from last month’s expense report, we flew to Florida for a family wedding in April. We had a fabulous time with Mr. FW’s family and incurred what I consider a reasonable level of expense. Our philosophy is to spend on what matters to us (in this case, time with family) and save money on the less important facets of life. For example, while we did pay for flights and a hotel, we didn’t buy any new clothes for this trip or go get our hair cut at a salon (home haircuts for the win!). There’s a way to apply the lessons of frugality to every aspect of life.
- Date Night! Our fabulous neighbor has offered to watch Babywoods for one evening a month (free of charge!) to allow us to go out on a date. This is such an incredible gift and a true exemplification of the community-oriented spirit of our tiny town.
- Mr. FW’s Glasses! As chronicled last week, Mr. Frugalwoods is the proud wearer of brand new prescription glasses and sunglasses from Eye Buy Direct.
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 2016).
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 12,200 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.
A Note On Rural Life
Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities are slightly different from traditional urban and suburban dwellings. We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up, we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have air conditioning. For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead.
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 April:
|Wedding-related expenses||$693.03||Hotel, wedding gift, airport parking, food, etc for the family wedding we attended in Florida.|
|Household supplies||$154.93||All non-food household and farm supplies, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, laundry detergent, dog food, dental floss, and more.|
|Garden and farm equipment||$110.84||Window screens, hoses, flagging tape, duct tape, rakes, fertilizer, etc.|
|Glasses for Mr. FW||$79.35||Mr. FW is thrilled with his new prescription glasses and sunglasses from Eye Buy Direct. Check out our full review here.|
|Gasoline for cars||$78.74||LOVE our fuel efficient Prius|
|Date night||$42.22||Dinner out for Mr. and Mrs. FW|
|Lunch out||$26.00||Lunch out for the whole family|
|Cell phone||$19.99||Through BOOM mobile|
|Beer||$16.00||Beer from River Roost, a new local brewery we visited that’s making delicious beer!|
|Glasses cases||$11.92||Hard sided cases for Mr. FW’s new glasses|
|Jogging stroller||$5.00||The thrift store jogging stroller of wonder|