Our pond in May

May was expensive. No mincing words, it was one of those pricey, pricey months. Heading up our expenses this month were the airline tickets we purchased for a trip to the west coast this August. My parents are celebrating their 50th!!!!!! wedding anniversary this summer and so my family is gathering at their home in San Diego for a celebration and family reunion. Then, I’ll fly from there up to Portland, Oregon to speak at the Lola Retreat (details on how you can join me there are below!). Airfare is almost always expensive, but it’s also an expense I never regret.

Traveling and spending time with family are both high priorities for me and Mr. Frugalwoods and if we need to drop some dough in order to do so? We don’t sweat it. It’s one of the beautiful things about living a consistently, longterm frugal lifestyle: expensive treats like plane tickets don’t make the slightest dent in our overall net worth. By always living way below our means, and by reaching financial independence, we’re able to spend on our priorities without any gnashing of teeth–financial or otherwise.

Friends! And Beer!

The MadFientist and Frugal Hound!

Speaking of priorities, we hosted a number of friends in May, including the wonderful MadFientist and his fantastic wife, Mrs. MadFientist! If you’re not familiar with his work, I highly recommend you check out his blog. And, if you’re in the mood for something auditory, Mr. Frugalwoods and I were interviewed on the MadFientist’s eponymous podcast awhile back. We had such a wonderful time showing the Fientists around the homestead and geeking out about all things personal finance, early retirement, and beer-related…

Speaking of beer, you’ll note our beer and grocery expenses were quite through the proverbial roof in May, attributable to the fact that we’ve been hosting a lot of dinner parties and going to a lot of potlucks! Also attributable to the fact that Babywoods is a fully fledged eating member of the family (and that kid can eat), coupled with our decision to purchase high-quality, and local, ingredients. Plus, Mr. FW made a sojourn to Costco (details below… ). Plus, life is way too short to drink subpar beer.

Car Parts

Our beloved 2010 Prius, Snowdrop, needed to have a wheel bearing and hub replaced this month as well as a routine oil change and an annual state inspection. We queried our friends and neighbors for their recommendation of a reliable, honest mechanic and everyone seemed to have the same answer. I am a huge proponent of crowd sourcing recommendations for things like mechanics because getting a good one will save you untold time, money, and hassle.

Alchemist brewery taste test line-up (photo credit: The MadFientist)

Prior to taking the Prius in for diagnostics, Mr. FW did some internet research to determine the cost of the part (he’d surmised what the problem was and he was right). With this knowledge, he asked our mechanic how much he would charge us for the part, to which the mechanic replied “$470.” And so, Mr. FW asked if it would be alright if we instead ordered the very same part off the internet for a cool $170 and then brought it in for the mechanic to replace. Our mechanic readily agreed and so we realized $300 in savings.

Next, Mr. FW brought in our own oil and filters–which we’d purchased on sale–for the mechanic to use in the oil change. By supplying our own oil and filters, we paid just $16 for the labor on the oil change. And before you point out the obvious–yes, we could’ve done the oil change ourselves and saved the $16–since the Prius was already in the shop, it was easier–yep, I said easier–to pay to have them do it. Sometimes, we don’t insource.

We’ve done this a number of times with car repairs and it’s an excellent way to save money on the mark-up that most auto parts suppliers levy. The power of the internet to save you money should never be underestimated, which brings me to my next story…

Frugal Hound and Her Houndy Needs

Frugal Hound: amenable to a baby barnacle and/or too lazy to move

Frugal Hound needed a top up of her flea/tick and heartworm prevention medications. I called our vet to ask their prices for these medications and then researched the same medications online. You can guess where they were cheapest. In the past, I’ve had good luck getting her prescriptions filled at Costco, but this time around I ordered her meds from Allivet for an absolute fraction of the price. Hooray!

As longtime readers know, we’ve been in a state of limbo vis-a-vis our relationship with the warehouse store known as Costco. You see, back in Cambridge, MA (where we lived until last May), we had a Costco near our home. But here in Vermont, the closest store is 1.5 hours away, each way.

This doesn’t represent a massive problem in any area of our lives except for one: Frugal Hound’s dog chow. Frugal Hound has a sensitive hound tummy and she does best on a grain-free diet of high-quality kibble. Naturally, there are scads of expensive options for such a kibble, but only–apparently–a single option for a generic, discount option: Costco. We’ve searched every single local store (from the Tractor Supply to the local country store) and found nary a knock-off with the right blend of ingredients.

View from the porch in May

We then took to the internet in a frenzied quest and, as you might recall, found the goods on Jet.com a few months back. We ordered a six-month supply from Jet and FH has been dining on that. Jet, however, raised their price on this kibble and so we were back to our original quandary. After much number-crunching and debate, we determined that the most economical solution would be to get a Costco membership and make a trek to the store every six months. And so, my knight in shining white Prius set off last week in search of Nature’s Domain Salmon & Sweet Potato dog kibble.

He returned several hours later with a six month supply of kibble, a newly minted Costco membership, and massive quantities of other stuff that’s cheaper at Costco: olive oil, oats, almonds, and garbanzo beans. Even with the cost of membership and the gas (in the hybrid Prius) to drive there, FH’s kibble is still cheaper from Costco. And so, there you have the resolution to our year-long hunt for sensitive dog stomach kibble.

With both the car and the dog, the moral of the story is that there’s almost always a cheaper option for the stuff of life. Even with expensive undertakings like car repairs, be dogged in your quest to find opportunities for discounts! We’re happy to support our local mechanic (a small business owner in our community) and so paying him for his labor is only fair. But our mechanic wouldn’t benefit from the mark-up of the parts supplier, so there’s no reason to pay such an exorbitant price. I joke that we’d rather have internet than indoor plumbing and it’s actually almost true.

Frugalwoods Updates: Ticket Giveaway and a Conference

Frugalwoods on Reddit!

Babywoods in an apple tree!

Mr. Frugalwoods and I did our first ever “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit earlier this week and had a blast! An “Ask Me Anything” is a real-time interview in which anyone can ask the interviewee (in this case, me!) any questions they’d like. If you’re interested in reading through all of the questions and my answers, you can do so on Reddit (no need to have a Reddit account in order to read it).

Mother Earth News Fair Ticket Giveaway!

I’m thrilled to announce I’m giving away a pair of tickets to the upcoming Mother Earth News Fair taking place in Burlington, Vermont on June 10-11, 2017! If you’re interested in winning the tickets, you can enter the drawing on the Frugalwoods Facebook page. I’ll use a random number generator to select a winner at 9:00am EST on Saturday, June 3, 2017 so be sure to comment on my Facebook post before then!

Meet Me In Portland!

I’m speaking on a panel this summer at a new financial conference just for women. I share this with you because it’s not a conference only for bloggers, it’s a conference for any woman who wants to expand, or begin, her journey to personal finance prowess.

It’s called the Lola Retreat, it’s taking place in Portland, Oregon August 18-20, 2017 and I will be there! It’s not free, but if you’re interested in attending, you can get $50 off your ticket if you enter the promo code “FRUGALWOODS.” I know there are a number of Frugalwoods readers planning to attend–let me know if you’ll be joining us and we’ll meet up!

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Babywoods running towards Daddywoods in the lawn

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.

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

Small baby, big barn

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 12,500 people have already taken the Challenge and saved thousands of dollars. You can sign-up at any time and 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 May:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Vermont Mortgage $1,392.86
Airfare $1,376.02 For our flights to San Diego, CA and my flight to Portland, OR
Groceries $692.23 Costco stock-up! Plus other foodstuffs
Household supplies $315.11 The infamous dog food along with the purchase of a Costco membership and a bevy of other household goods (toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc)
Farm and garden equipment and supplies $233.24 Tick clothing spray, spices, tire tread gauge, oil for our tractor and mower, garden supplies, a tractor oil filter
Prius part $170.78 Our discount online-purchased auto part, which was $300 cheaper than the part our mechanic would’ve ordered
Prius labor and annual Vermont inspection $168.00 Labor for replacing the Prius wheel bearing and hub as well as the car’s annual Vermont inspection
Gasoline $110.57
Alchemist beer $80.70 Heady Topper, Crusher, and Focal Banger! We’ve been treating our guests to taste tests of the three under the premise that life’s too short to drink bad beer
Internet $74.00
Utilities: Electric $63.72
Dog prescriptions $63.67 From Allivet. So much cheaper than our vet’s office or Costco!
Dinner date! $60.99 Mr. FW and I went on our customary one date night dinner out in May, while our wonderful neighbor watched Babywoods for free
Doctor visit co-pays $40.00
Cell phone through Boom Mobile $19.99
Oil change labor $16.00 We supplied the oil and filter, so this is just the cost of the labor (a price we were happy to pay instead of DIY-ing it)
Battery for the lawn mower $14.99
Buckwheat seed for cover crop planting $9.80 We’ve targeted a long neglected flower bed for transformation into a perennial food bed and were advised to plant a buckwheat cover crop for a year before planting our perennials. More details to come in next week’s This Month On The Homestead edition!
TOTAL SPENT: $4,902.67  

How was your May?

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  1. Wow between friends, a trip to Costco and getting your car fixed you had a busy May. But more importantly it sounds like you enjoyed it. Plus getting to look forward to celebrating with your family for the 50th anniversary of your parents plus a family reunion. That sounds awesome. I’m sure you’re going to have a blast.

    I don’t know if frugalwoods jr. is like my son, who just turned 19 months, but it’s amazing how much food they can pack away. We made a pizza the other day and he ate more slices than both me and my wife. Hopefully his appetite doesn’t continue to grow like that into his teenage years otherwise we’ll never be able to retire 🙂

  2. I was really looking forward to your expense report. It helps me adjust our expenses to save more money. Thank you for sharing!

    I’m glad you had such an exciting month. I actually listened to your podcast episode on Mad Fiendtist and though it was amazing. I hope I’ll be able to network with other PF bloggers in person one day. Happy Friday!

  3. We feed our dog the same food! How many bags is a 6 month supply?

    Now, if only there was a Market Basket in your area, you’d be all set!

  4. I love the phrase: “there’s almost always a cheaper option for the stuff of life”. It’s really so true. We have found it with a lot of things, haircuts, and braces being some of the less typical. I know it’s true for almost everything, but sometimes I just don’t have the time to get it all figured out, but thanks for the reminder, it has re-challenged me!

  5. Sounds like a great month! Alchemist beer is totally worth the cost, imho. Do you mind sharing more info on the tick spray? We just moved to a rural area and the ticks around us are out of control — I found one in my child’s hair last night *shudder*!

    1. We got this Permethrin solution to spray on our clothes. However, we won’t be spraying it on Babywoods’ clothes as her pediatrician advised she’s too young. My solution is to always wear long pants, long sleeves, and hats outside and to do thorough tick checks every single night.

      1. If it’s at all helpful, I bought this last summer to use on a Camino de Santiago trek and planned to mix it myself. The trip abruptly cancelled and I haven’t tried it yet but seems like simple math to mix to the proper ratio. It was cheaper than buying a pre-mixed type.

      2. Please don’t use products containing permethrin if you have cats. It is toxic for them. For dogs it’s no problem, but a cat could get sick.

      3. This is why I can’t leave the West for Vermont! Well, and our lower taxes. No Lyme or Powassan out here, thank god, and very few ticks. I’ve noticed that after a year or two, many FIRE folk spend a bit more. Do you think this month was an aberration, or the start of a trend? Do you travel hack for airfares? Have you incorporated as a business so you can take the fare as a deduction.

  6. Love hearing about Frugal Hound the most as we have a dog ourselves. Perhaps you could find a friend or kind soul that would be half way between the Costco and yourselves to get the dog food on your behalf? You’d save gas and you wouldn’t need a membership next year!

  7. Sounds like such a fun month!!! I agree that if you’re celebrating with friends, hosting dinners, going to potlucks, etc., it’s totally OK to splurge a bit more! Love that you spent $80 on beer!! Shows you’ve been having a great time!! I don’t drink too often (well, really ever haha) but I sure love my coffee!!! Life’s too short to drink bad coffee haha! 🙂

    My May was pretty good. We have family coming into town in June, so this will probably be a more expensive month. But I love having visitors so this works for me!

    Hope you have a great June!!!


  8. Yay for your parents celebrating 50 years of marriage! How sweet! Sorry that May was a spendy month, but it looks like that’s just how the stars aligned. I hate when that happens. We just dropped $500 on truck repairs, so there goes June for us already. 😉

  9. The spend-y months do happen, don’t they? Spring is just an expensive time of year for us. Homeowners insurance, car insurance, property taxes, six birthdays, Mother’s Day, Easter, gardening set up, and the start of some yard/home upkeep projects. Add this year’s mission trip I am taking (and had to finish paying for this week), and it’s been lots of outgoing cash. We also had some expenses for one of our pets that were not expected, and oh, yes, we need new tires! Living frugally is the only way we get through it!
    It’s great to be able to do things like fly to family events. Frugality is truly empowering.

  10. Living rural has its perks and costs, our month of May expenses included a lot of farm/garden expenses. You are correct, life is too short to drink subpar beer. Hubby has been making his own for years and his cost is about $.75 per pint for excellent home brew. He started with a batch of bees this spring to polinate the garden and it helped as I can see alot of fruit setting on the trees and bushes. A lot of frends have asked when we will be selling local honey, so hubby will be expanding his apiary and creating new hives so we can produce enough to make it a home based small business. All organic gardening and we know what we are getting in the food we eat from the homestead, or should I say we know what is not in it. And being hubby makes mead as well, he will have a very local source for his honey needs. I take a tablespoon each morning. It is great for allergies and my asthma.

  11. I tend to agree with Mitch but if your mechanic installed the part, he should have vetted it. My husband does side work as a mechanic and he does “mark up” the parts he buys but his total rates are typically half of what a shop would cost. My husband also gets the parts cheaper from a professional store so sometimes the cost evens out to what an everyday consumer would buy at Autozone. Prius’s are also notorious for expensive parts and depending on where your mechanic’s source was, it could be a difference between a dealer and a secondary market part, which are usually fine.

    If you are really ambitious, you can check “pick and pull” junkyards and get used parts. My parents’ Volvo dealer does this a lot because the parts are so expensive. If a car gets totalled, there are many parts not impacted. For example, smash the front of the car but the tail gate still works fine. If you talk to the mechanic, he may be able to source used parts for you so you don’t have to do the leg work (and wonder if the part works or is worth it). When my husband worked as a mechanic in a shop, he would give his customers options – especially those who were trying to fix their car in the most frugal way but were loyal and nice customers.

    If someone asked him to buy the part, he would probably let them and then raise his labor rates to counter any lost markup. He’s done this with classic cars or really expensive parts. Actually – now that I’m thinking of it -he did the classic car work for fun and beer so there was no markup. 😉 He does a lot of side work and diagnostics for free (as well as “delivery” and emergency/weekend “service” for our friends) so I think it is ethical for him to charge a mark up for his experience. If someone tried to buy a cheap part or a bad brand, he would definitely warn them so they wouldn’t have any issues. He is also totally open to bartering and negotiating with people – he just charges what he feels is a fair rate for his time and experience, regardless of the part source.

    Side note: if you ever need to butter up your mechanic, figure out what food they like for the holidays. My husband used to get bombarded with homemade treats and those customers got way better service (if they were also nice and paid their bills). His favorite was the woman who would make them turkey pot pie for lunch the Monday after Thanksgiving. He told me about it every year and it was just a dish from her leftovers!

    1. Oh and my husband just realized his own truck needs repairs -$400 in parts alone! Even mechanics get to spend money! 😉

  12. Have you tried Chewy.com for dog food? I love their company, they are so friendly and great prices. Also, it ships next day. Not sure if that’s an option to send to your area, but might be worth a look.

  13. Our closest Costco is 5 hours away — yet we still keep our membership because approximately 4 times a year business takes me in that direction and I’m able to stock up on the things that are the best deal there. (Or that we simply love — I’m looking at you, big bricks of Tillamook cheddar.)
    But — Costco will deliver some items right to your door — including dog food, I believe. Shipping is included in the price — currently the Nature’s Domain Salmon and Sweet Potato is listed (for me, at least) as $35.49 for 35 pounds, shipped.

  14. We sometimes have items shipped to us from Costco (not Google Express but actually old fashioned shipping) if we just can’t make it over to our Costco in a timely manner. Possibly you could use your Costco membership that way? They don’t offer everything online that they sell in the store but perhaps it’s another option for getting more out of your Costco membership. Although I do have to say an occasional road trip to Costco could be enjoyable!

  15. Thanks for the credit card links! I see so many frugal and minimalist blogs that condemn credit cards for making money “easier” to blow through, but I’m just like you – I see exactly what I spend and don’t wonder where that $20 I thought I had in my wallet has gone. My partner and I have low wage jobs and we want to be able to travel one day, and those travel credit cards could be our ticket (quite literally) to doing so! Your blog in general has helped me to see that my hope of making my living on art income in the near future may not he so farfetched. Aiming for a small old house in the Berkshires or southern Vermont ourselves, hope to join the Frugalwoods lifestyle soon!

    1. That’s wonderful! I agree with you on credit cards–I find it so much easier to track my spending! And, the rewards points are awesome for travel hacking.

  16. I love that although you guys are frugal, you still have fun and don’t scrimp on the important things (like healthy food for baby and hound). I feed my dog Coscto’s Nature’s Domain too, and I splurge on their Kirkland brand dog biscuits because she loves them – the one thing that she truly drools for and my dog is not much of a drooler. I think if you can manage a Costco trip 2-3 times a year it’s worth it. You can stock up on what you need, and the products they have are great quality and generally at a good price.

    I’m impressed you are quickly on top of your expenses for May already even with all the stuff you have going on. Great job!

  17. Does Allivet cover the cost of treatment if your dog does end up with heartworm despite the preventative? Our vet does but only if we buy from her which costs us $100 for a year supply. It’s a little pricier than online but I appreciate the insurance that comes with it.

    1. So my vet actually encouraged us to order it online since she said it was cheaper that way! And, since it’s a prescription medication, my vet had to fax our dog’s Rx in to Allivet in order for it to be filled.

  18. Since you guys rejoined Costco, with your purchases there and your monthly gas and occasional dining out, you should look into the Costco credit card. It would at least cover the cost of your annual membership in cash back, which would be nice. 4% cash back on gas, 3% cash back on dining out, and 2% cash back on Costco purchases means it’s easy to get at least $60 bucks back each year (and the card has no fee except for membership). And while you only get the cash back voucher once a year, you can cash it in at customer service so you don’t have to spend it all at Costco. For us, Costco isn’t always the cheapest, but on certain things, it really can’t be beat (like whole milk, which is literally 25% cheaper at Costco than any other grocery store).

    Also, I agree to finding a local mechanic you can trust! We got so lucky and there’s one right around the corner from our house so it’s perfect walking distance. I already had to replace two brake calipers (car has 100k+ miles) and rear rotors and pads. My FIL is great with cars although he’s a bit of a drive but he’s going to help us replace the spark plugs this weekend when we visit the in-laws (saves us about $100-$150 in labor for spark plug replacement). For things that the FIL CAN do and the repair coincides with a visit, we like to do-it-ourselves, but for heavy duty repairs, we love using the local mechanic. I will see about bringing in our own parts–that might save us some more dough.

  19. May ended up being a spendy month for us too. We moved back to the uk from New York and consequently had a lot of goodbyes to make with friends. But I don’t begrudge a single cent spent as we had a wonderful last month in America doing some wonderful things!

  20. I checked out your AMA w/Reddit. It was quite interesting–thanks to you and Mr. FW for sharing with all of us.

    I would have loved to enter the contest & take a little weekend away. Alas, I am scheduled to work and need to request time off in advance. Maybe I will check out a similar gathering in the future or next year.

    Wise decision to check out the apple trees with babywoods. I lived in the country when I was little and spent many a day in trees. Although my father begged me to get out of the apple trees. He didn’t think they’d support me.

    Happy spring to you in Vt. The photos are always so lovely!

  21. I love your monthly breakdowns and find that my husband and I can relate most to you and Mr. FW in the FI community because we place high value in recreation, homesteading, and the love of our fur baby. I know other FIers consider some of those things money pits, but the joy that our dog brings us is worth the extra expense (although we do look towards taking a break between her and the next hound!) Cheers from a fellow Upper Valley resident, too 🙂

  22. Costco FTW! I love that place. I love the purchase guarantee. If Big Brother blows out the knees of his uniform pants, REFUND. No longer own a double bed? Refund on double-bed sheets I ordered online.

    For me, the cheapest place to get oats is Sprouts when they go on sale for 49 cents a pound. But last time, I got carried away, forgetting that we don’t actually eat oatmeal as a dish. Oops. I sure have made a lot of homemade granola with it, though!

  23. If you want to save on that drive to Costco they have that dog food online and shipping is included in the price. If you’re only going every 6 months that’s a different story but in a pinch it’s nice to know it’s available online.

  24. There is a total solar eclipse 2 hours drive from Portland on August 21! You should stay an extra day to see something incredible. P.s. My fiancé loves you guys. My name is Nate, her name is Liz, her dog was Gracie, I drive a Prius, and we live in San Diego, whoa.

      1. I was going to chime in about the eclipse too. You should see about meeting up with Mr RetireBy40, he lives in Portland and has a campsite reserved for the eclipse already:


        We’re road tripping to Nashville for the eclipse and staying with one of my friends from high school (but renting an RV, TOTALLY not a cheap trip but something my husband has wanted to do for a while).

  25. I bought new tires for middle son and paid for an alignment for a total of $270. That was not cheap, but he has a new part-time weekend job, delivering pizza, and his tires were toast, so I do not mind helping my kids out if they are trying. His regular full time job just does not seem to cover the bills very well, but hey, it is a job. My oldest son has a brand new job on the river and I paid for the $125 for his TWIC certificate. I am so excited for him, and I was happy to do this, as an early birthday present. My youngest son is working and appears to be medically stable at the moment, which is a miracle in itself. His medical bills are outrageous, after insurance but I just plug along, paying a little as I can and I am grateful he is still alive. My only daughter is completely self supporting, owns her own house, is a follower of Dave Ramsey, in school, and working full time. However, she has a birthday, so I will probably send her a card with a $100 in it. So, June is expensive for me, but I am just happy everyone is medically stable and working. I will cut back on my $100 I spend a month on food because I have a six months supply of food. I will probably spend about $75 this month, so that will be $25 extra. I budgeted $150 for electric, and I spent only $50, so that is a hundred extra. I budgeted $50 for pets and toiletries, but I probably only need to spend $20, so that is $30 extra. I budgeted $200 for gas, but probably only need to spend $175, so that is $25 extra there. I also gave my secretary $20 for her birthday on June 1st. I will also get my oil changed. I do it at a certain place, and they do a good job. So, yes, I have many extras for June, but I have planned for them. May was paying down medical bills. I am totally excited about my Total Wireless $20 flip phone. I can hear so much better out of it, and I get good coverage where I live, which is always an issue. I pay $25 a month for service.

  26. Battery for the lawn mower? Did I miss where you wrote about using a battery powered lawn mower? I would be interested in knowing more about that.

    1. We bought one for our Troy Bllt mulching d ck mower last month, cost $21. It has electric start as does our professional grade snowblower with a 32″ cut.

  27. A coworker just came back from VT with two 4-packs of Heady Topper for me. I have to say: best reason to blow your beer budget EVER

  28. I’ll be at the retreat in August! I have been following your blog since almost the beginning and that is how I heard about the happy hour podcast and the retreat. I hope to meet you!

  29. Darn, I always seem to miss the AMAs that I’m interested in, while they’re live. Definitely been enjoying the sessions that r/financialIndependence has been putting together, though, and looking forward to reading yours!

  30. I hear you on May being an expensive month. Our car was totaled in one of the infamous hail storms that Colorado has every May. If it had just been dents then we would have bought the car back, but the car couldn’t be driven and wouldn’t have been able to be fixed for months due to all the auto body shops being overrun with a backlog of customers. The local mall is closed down until November from all the damage! So we had to unexpectedly buy a new to us car. We previously had a car loan, but decided we would pay cash for the new vehicle. We had to say good bye to $10k but I am so happy not to have a car loan. I’m so grateful we are frugal and had savings because while the situation was annoying and frustrating, we didn’t stress too much because we had the money set aside for such an occurrence.

  31. It seems like a lot of people have unusual spendings in May. We bought airline tickets and paid extra insurance for my mother (she’s visiting us this summer). And you’re absolutely right saying that by living way below our means, and by reaching financial independence, we’re able to spend on our priorities without any gnashing of teeth–financial or otherwise.

    I found a really good online store where I buy parts for my car. Recently I’ve bought a windshield blades, 2 front and 1 rear, for $9.78. + $5 delivery. It’s almost 5 times cheaper that at any stores in our area. I am not even mentioning dealerships, they are the worst.

  32. Ii second the shipping for Costco, if you want to avoid the drive. Their grain-free kibble is the best! Our pooch also suffers with tummy and skin sensitivities.

    About beer: where we live, hubs can do high quality U-brew, made in copper kettles, local honey, hops grown and dried on our own property, but our back up is growler refills – good for the planet, and the best local brews!

  33. Costco is where I buy my pup and kitty food too! My vet, who is a family friend, recommended it to me as the best, high-quality and low-cost food. So far my tiny zoo has remained totally healthy on it!

  34. I just refilled my dog’s arthritis prescriptions last month too and found Costco cheapest for one and Allivet cheapest for the other too.

  35. Is the nature’s domain salmon and sweet potato the only green free product in that line? I did do turkey and sweet potato previously. Then I switched to pro pack which is not cheap at all thanks

    1. That I do not know… we started with the Salmon & Sweet Potato, so we’ve stuck with it, but I’m not sure if they offer other varieties.

      1. They do beef and sweet potato and turkey and sweet potato. I sometimes get the beef and sweet potato variety because it is often $5-6 cheaper (once it was on sale for $19.99! They have the same nutritional content.

  36. Great talking to you on reddit the other day! AMA’s are so cool. I’m in the process of learning to code, so heopfully one day I can get my frugal dating app, Frugal Finder, up and running! lol

    I ran into the same problem with my cat, who turned out to be a bit more expensive of an animal than I expected. Feed him the cheap stuff and it’s gas-o-rama! I started with an expensive food and eventually worked my way down to one that’s a balance of budget-friendly and easy on his little kitty tummy.

    I like this little tip about buying the stuff for oil changing online. It’s gotten incredibly expensive! Sounds like this mechanic was pretty cool with it, but have you ever encountered mechanics who were funny about it, or flat out refused? Just curious – I have one shop I trust but I don’t know if they would be open to it or not. I hope so, it’s a great little tip!

    I liked your comments about the family stuff for lack of a better word. My sister’s wedding put my usual frugality way out of whack for a month, but hey, it’s my sister’s wedding! Anyway, thanks for the great post!

    1. So far, we’ve never had a mechanic refuse our request to bring in a part. We always use local mechanics who aren’t beholden to a large corporation and we never go to dealerships (I imagine they would refuse). In our experience, our mechanics are totally fine with us bringing in our own parts (and in fact they’ve suggested it to us) because they don’t benefit monetarily from buying their own parts–only the parts supplier makes money. And from the mechanic’s perspective, letting us bring our own parts–and being cool about it–means they have us as a customer for life and ensures we will refer friends to them. We love supporting local businesses and we love when they are cool about helping us save money when it doesn’t cut into their bottom line (which is the case with both our mechanic and our local vet’s office). Hope this helps and thanks for joining the Reddit AMA :)!

      1. That’s great, I will have to look into this for my next oil change. I know the oil has gotten more expensive lately, and the newer synthetic oil lasts much longer than regular oil, but still the last trip to the mechanic raised an eyebrow! Thanks for the advice!

    2. Are oil changes much more expensive in rural areas? In the suburbs on chicago you can get an oil change for about $25 total with parts/labor/tax and fees. I think its crazy to buy your own oil and do your own oil change because that will cost you at least $15 in oil parts and then your time and finding a way to dispose of it. Saving $10 just isnt’ worth it. Especially with the 10 min oil change places. I’m just wondering how much the auto shop would have charged you to use his oil and installation if you hadn’t brought your own. Thanks!!

  37. Thank you for sharing!
    I have a Costco tip that might help everyone (I’ve been a member for years and worked there seasonally this year too).
    You do NOT have to have a Costco membership to shop there – you just need a Costco Cash Card, which you can buy online. Yes, you need a member to buy it for you, or you can pre-buy a boatload of cash cards before your membership expires. Also, we use our Discover card for extra rewards, which you can’t use in the store.
    Also not well known: you don’t need a membership (or cash card) to buy alcohol or prescriptions at Costco. Just tell them at the door what you’re getting and you’re good to go.

  38. Love reading all of the posts. Things are quite different here in UK. I am 64 and DH is 70, so we are in a different stage of life, but still interested in living a good life on minimal expenditure. I have never been parted from my money easily, but I have a 9 month old granddaughter and I just want to spend, spend, spend! So many pretty things to buy!

  39. Hi Mrs Wood,
    What are the websites you visit for your car parts to get a reasonable price for each part.
    Keep up the good work.
    My greetings to the whole FrugalWoods family.

  40. I haven’t read through all the comments, so somebody else may have already suggested that you look into buying your dog food at Costco.com and have them deliver it to you. I did a quick check and it looked like that would be an option to avoid the long drive (if you are only going for the dog food).

    1. We decided to stock up on a bunch of other stuff we love from Costco (olive oil, garbanzo beans, almonds, and oats), so the shipping would outweigh the cost of driving there.

  41. I am always so excited when a new Frugalwoods piece comes up, as I know that I will learn a lot! First off, I am shocked at how cheap Costco’s natural dog food is. I have been buying Orijen, which is a wonderful food, but it costs me almost $4 a pound! I think that I may try my spaniels on some of your Costco brand and see how they like it. I had no idea that you could actually order a repair part and have your mechanic install it. Usually, I get the hair raising price and just suck it up. In the future, I will try this. I am a big fan of Personal Capital. It worked fine for me the first few months-then I started getting zero dollars, no graph, etc. So I wrote them and I recieved a very nice reply on how to correct my problem! They are just great.(For what it is worth, my bank must have done an update or something, but that was the one that had to be deleted and resubmitted.) I always enjoy a new Frugalwoods post!

  42. Beer is life! Our lowest cost and lowest carbon footprint option for beer is to refill growlers at a local brew pub. It saves so much on our recycling efforts and is part of our new Zero Waste initiative. To save money on expensive kibbles we feed our dog the BARF diet, which is Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. He eats less food and his sensitive tummy is never compromised. But, we have a low-cost supply of free range poultry, bison, and venison locally, then supplement with a small amount of raw veggies from our garden. A local bison herder gives us bones, organs, and some meat in exchange for vegetables we grow, and we hunt for venison. Rural living has many advantages.

  43. As another commenter mentioned, if you’re only going to Costco once every six months, buying a membership probably isn’t the best idea. It’s better to grab a Costco cash card online and then do your shopping without a membership.

    I’m seriously thinking about canceling my Costco membership and just going this route. It’s certainly less convenient though.

  44. You and Mr. Frugalwoods do such a good job of analyzing costs! I think a 6-month Costco run makes a lot of sense! But as Mr. Tako said, maybe a membership isn’t worth it. Do you drive up to Burlington?

    That’s awesome that you splurged on Alchemist! We have been so spoiled with good beer in NH because neighbors always share their delicious brews with us!

  45. Portland!!! I live there, and will unfortunately be working during the retreat, but would love to give you tips for beers and delicious food :). I’m a grad student, so frugal beer drinking has become my favorite thing. Maybe we can connect by email?

  46. Rose geranium oil works GREAT for ticks, is an essential oil, can be diluted for kids. (And it’s cheap, b/c a bottle lasts forever b/c you dilute it….) We went camping in heavy tick country, our neighbors complained they kept getting ticks all over, and we didn’t get ONE single one (not even our woods-roaming kids). Just in case you want something in addition/instead of the permethrin. We ordered ours from Sun Essentials on Amazon.

      1. Well, for me I use it undiluted, and just drop one drop on my pulse points at my wrist. Works for dogs too, one drop between their shoulder blades. For the kids, I dilute it with water and vinegar and spray it on their clothes, and skin if exposed (we also do the long sleeves and pants.) I do re-spray after say three hours, as it doesn’t last as long as the DEET/permethrin. But for kids, three hours is usually long enough for them to want to come back inside anyway, so sometimes I don’t need to re-spray it.

  47. Someone else may have mentioned this, but do you have an Aldi near you? The one near me (St Louis) carries a salmon and sweet potato blend dog food. Their prices on most food items are very affordable, so the dog food might be worth a perusal. Frugal Hound has such a sweet face. I love seeing her dress up pictures. Our fur baby would never tolerate that. Best wishes!

  48. Our Fluffster’s had similar quandaries recently. His normal medication for his liver was discontinued, so our locked-in monthly subscription of $80/mo (he’s no frugal hind, that’s for sure) was coming to an end. We’re paying $95/mo for a different product now, but it’s still better than the $120+ through the vet. Of course, for more generic things like glucosamine, the human versions are much cheaper and identical in composition. 😃

  49. Great post! It’s always interesting to see other bloggers’ expenses to get an idea of where else we might be able to save.

    We love Costco as well! We recently switched over from Acme and I estimate we are able to save over $100 a week!

    I also agree that life is wayyyyy too short to drink bad beer 🙂

  50. Good work on May expenditures! I agree with your saving mentality- we say it:

    “We save to live, not live to save”

    The focus on frugality should be on living life the way you design, not living only to save money.

  51. Most the auto part stores have free rental tools, so a bearing puller would have cost nothing! Youtube will show Mr. Frugalwoods exactly what to do. I use these “Free” tools all the time, you pay for them they get refunded when returned, it’s great!

  52. Looks like a nice month and definitely a plus that you don’t have to pay for utilities. It sounds the great outdoors and indoors :-). It’ll be nice I bet to not have the Costco expense in the next few months too.

  53. Hi, Mrs. FW,
    Another option to eliminate fleas and ticks is food grade diatomaceous earth. It is safe for humans. We have been using it for 25 years with our English mastiffs, just sprinkle it on their bedding. It will kill all insects, so I do not use it for gardening or outdoor pest control. Be sure you get food grade DE, not pool grade (which is toxic).

    I would respectfully suggest being very aware of expiration dates, food quality, and handling and storage practices when buying kibble from places like Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. One episode with spoiled or damaged food can cost you far more in vet bills than you save on the food. It could also cost your pet’s life, and unless you know for sure that your dog food source is keeping up with recalls and pulling affected food off their shelves, the same applies.

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