Babywoods 1 assists with apple picking (more like takes 1 bite out of every apple… )

September 2017 just might go down in Frugalwoods history as our most expensive month. Ever. As fate would have it, a ton of one-time and annual expenses all lined up this month and tallied to an astronomical total. But you know what? It doesn’t matter and we didn’t sweat it. Not for a moment. Here’s why:

  • Mr. Frugalwoods and I are frugal every single day of the year. We don’t ever let up on our lifelong frugality, we don’t fall into our consumer culture’s ‘treat yourself’ trap, and we never, ever skate anywhere close to zero in our emergency fund. Thanks to our consistent frugality, ridiculously (and I do mean ridiculously) expensive months like this one don’t matter. They’re barely a blip on our otherwise supremely low spending trajectory. Consistent frugality grants you the freedom to spend a lot when you need to.
  • We only spend on what matters. There’s no buyer’s remorse, regret, or guilt around our spending this month because every single thing we purchased is consistent with our priorities. We carefully consider and discuss each purchase and we don’t buy stuff we don’t need. Simple as that. By not wasting money on items that aren’t in alignment with our longterm goals–and that don’t yield the life we want–we’re able to buy the things we truly do need and that will facilitate our aspirations.
  • We carefully track our spending. By using Personal Capital, we know exactly how much we spend every month. Doing this ensures that we understand what we’re buying, how much we’re spending, and how this impacts our longterm financial picture. Ignoring your spending is the fastest way to get into debt, fail to map out a financial future, overdraft your accounts, and otherwise stink at money management. But fear not, because it is super simple to start tracking your spending. It’s the first, best, and easiest way to get a handle on your finances. If you’re not tracking your spending, sign-up for Personal Capital today (hey, it’s free!).

So What DID We Buy??

Our property taxes cover our barn!

The biggest thing we “bought” this month were our property taxes. Paid once a year, our property taxes cover our entire 66-acre parcel, our home, and our barn. Taxes are high in Vermont, but we’re happy to pay them as they support things that are important to us, such as high quality public schools! We made a very conscious decision to live in the state of Vermont, which you can read all about here.

Next up were a slew of items I’ve dubbed the “winter-is-coming preparations list.” Before winter sets in, which is usually in October/November ’round these parts, it’s important to be prepared. One does not want to be caught cold. To that end, we purchased oil for our oil tank as well as propane for our propane tanks along with a wood splitter. All three of these items are what will keep us Frugalwoodses warm during the long, chilly Vermont winter. Since this is a meagre explanation for what is surely a topic generating endless curiosity, I’m going to provide a full-blown description of these three winter-preparedness items in my upcoming installment of This Month On The Homestead. So, you know, brace yourself for the thrill of hearing an in-depth conversation about our new wood splitter. Try not to salivate.

September was also the month for Frugal Hound’s annual houndy check-up at the veterinarian. This year, for the first time ever, she received a “senior canine check-up” as she’s reached the robust age of eight. For a greyhound, that counts as elderly. I’m delighted to report that Frugal Hound passed with a healthy hound certificate and is not found to be wanting in any health-related category.

I might be “senior,” but I look good

Planning for the longterm expenses related to owning a pet is a crucial element of deciding to bring an animal into your home and I will say that over the years, it adds up. For us, this is a worthy expense, but it’s important to recognize the inherent costs of pet ownership, even for extremely frugal pet owners, such as us, who insource everything from grooming to nail clipping to teeth brushing. For more on this topic, check out: Our Approach To Affordable, Responsible Dog Care.

Mr. FW–at my behest and urging–purchased a pair of chainsaw boots. Unfortunately, contrary to what the name might imply, these are not boots equipped with chainsaws; rather, they are safety boots for folks who use chainsaws. Our chainsaw is the most dangerous tool we own, which is why Mr. FW took a chainsaw safety course and why he wears A LOT of chainsaw safety gear, including saw-proof leg covers (called chainsaw chaps), gloves, a helmet with a mask, ear protection, and now these spiffy boots, which will repel a chainsaw blade. A great investment in his feet and toes! Hooray! Previously, he was wearing steel-toed boots, which are OK safety-wise, but these boots–specifically crafted for chainsaw use–are the ideal safety mechanism for protecting his lower extremities. PSA: Do not even THINK about using a chainsaw without the appropriate training and safety gear.

We also booked airline tickets for our last air travel trip ever/until our kids can carry their own suitcases before Babywoods 2’s birth. We’re headed down to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit my in-laws and then to Dallas, Texas for a personal finance conference (while Babywoods 1 hangs out with her grandparents!). Spending time with family is a priority, so we don’t bat an eye at booking the flights to make this possible.

In the farm and tools category, we stocked up this month in preparation for winter. Not a whole lot of outdoor work gets done while we’re covered in snow (except, naturally, snow clearing), so you’ll see a number of farm expenses related to preparing our equipment and land for the cold, cold months ahead.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Fall pond gets an A for colors

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. By the way, it’s a dirty, dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years, however, does help your score.


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!

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.

You’ve got to track your apples

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.

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 free Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is the method Mr. FW and I employ to sculpt our frugal lifestyle. Over 20,400 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. And if you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life


September garden w/photobomb of Mr. FW on tractor

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 tax.

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 September:

Item Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Vermont Property Taxes (annual total) $8,556.57 Paid once a year, our property taxes cover our full 66-acre parcel along with our home and barn
Vermont Mortgage $1,392.86
Wood Splitter $999.00
Airline flights for October $853.80 Flights for our trips to North Carolina and Texas
Oil (annual total) $602.79 For back-up heat in the winter
Propane (annual total) $522.05 For our hot water and gas stove
Groceries $399.91
Household and miscellaneous items $245.85
Mr. FW’s Chainsaw Boots $244.60
Frugal Hound’s annual vet check-up and shots $184.00
Gasoline for cars $107.34
Doctor visit co-pays $105.00 I’m pregnant! Hooray! Co-pays galore.
Three-point trailer hitch receiver and ball $82.95 Attaches to our tractor and allows us to move our wood splitter around.
Internet $74.00 LOVE our high-speed Fiber internet out here in the middle-o-nowhere
Utilities: Electricity $63.77
Farm work pants for Mr. FW $55.60 This man is HARD on work pants. Between splitting wood and digging in the garden and hauling things around, his pants meet untimely demises. We’re on the hunt for a pair that’ll last longer than a year or so. Hopefully these’ll do the trick!
Diesel for tractor $24.00
Cell phone $19.99 Through BOOM mobile
Tools for tractor fluids change $19.48
Ethanol-free gas for our small engines $18.11 Gas for the chainsaw, mower, and trimmer
TOTAL SPENT: $14,571.67  
MINUS MORTGAGE: $13,178.81

How was your September?

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  1. It always seems to happen that way, with a bunch of expenses coming in at the same time. But that’s the benefit of being debt free and living frugally, right? Even when that happens, it’s not a big deal. Just carrying on like a normal month. 🙂

    We had a great September! We saved around 53% of our (single) income. It ended up being our lowest expense month in quite some time. A combination of a few things, like being extra careful on groceries and a few expenses not happening at the planned time, caused us to come out really well. We are typically in the 48-50% range, so we were very excited to see it come out even higher.

    Hope y’all have a great trip!! I’m sure Babywoods is excited about seeing grandparents!

  2. I have to admit that I love/hate paying my property taxes for our home each year. I love it b/c it means I don’t have a mortgage anymore but I hate that it always sneaks up o me and there is a huge cash outflow.

    September for the most part was really good for us. We continued to see a positive month with our net worth increasing by 3%. It puts us on track to hopefully grow past my goal of a 25% net worth increase. Each day we’re getting a little bit closer to reaching FIRE.

  3. I always look forward to your expense reports! September was our month too for the annual vet appointment! I love how you are willing the spend money when it aligns with your values! We live by the same principles, but are still on the savings side of FI.

  4. I think it’s great that you paid your property taxes early so that you don’t have to worry about it for the whole year. We pay it monthly together with our mortgage.

    September was the most expensive month for us in terms of groceries. We paid over $1,000 for our food expenses for a family of 3 adults and one toddler >.<

  5. Reading your posts every time make me fell in love with country life. It is good to see that more and more people rediscover this type of living. I have only a small garden but I try to follow the path as much as I can. Oh, and I share the same apple biting problems, but I hope that the day will come when the gals will help me collecting the apples not just marking them 🙂

    1. Hi Wes, I live out here in the super expensive Bay Area. The people that purchased my Grandmothers house now pay around 33K for a 1/3 acre lot per year. Granted this is in one of the most expensive areas real estate wise in this area…Los Altos… and the folks that purchased it tore down the cute, small home and built a modern monstrosity in its place which is what people tend to do out here. My Grandparents only paid around $1300 per year for their property taxes. Back in the late 1970’s out here there was a proposition that was voted in that kept everyone’s property taxes down low at the expense of education funds (I was one of the lucky recipients of of this during my schooling). The property taxes stayed low as long as you lived in your home (my parents still only pay around $1500 per year as opposed to my postage stamp townhome where I pay around 4K. per year). The low property taxes will also stay with the home as long as it is inherited and not sold, in other words, when my parents pass, the property taxes on the home will stay the same as long as the home is not sold. Love you Frugalwoods…I took your advise and invested some money that was laying around…thanks!!

      1. Hi Wes – We’ve got a townhouse here in Seattle that’s approx. 1260 sq ft. Our property taxes are about $5100/year. I was surprised at their property tax number too!

    2. In a small town in North Central Massachusetts with 100 acres, a small house and a falling-down barn, apx $4,000 per year. A nice house (mid-size, maybe 2,500 SF) 12 miles north of Boston (1.5 miles from the highway exit), in a suburban neighborhood on 1/3 acre = just over $6,000 a year.

    3. Mine are like $20/ year in Pittsburgh! Housing costs vary widely by neighborhood and I live in a (very) slowly gentrifying neighborhood. My house is still assessed at a very low price and there’s a homestead exemption where you don’t pay taxes on the first $25k of assessed value.

  6. Wow, who knew a wood splitter would be so expensive! And those chainsaw boots! I didn’t see that price tag coming, either. I’m always shocked at how much money things cost. Everything. I think I’m stuck back in my childhood when a candy bar was $.045 😂 I’ll definitely be one of those old farts saying, “When I was a kid…”

    Nevertheless, congrats on your winter preparedness, despite the costs. I am really looking forward to another virtual winter on the homestead.

    Oh, and two thumbs up for Frugal Hound’s continued stamina and heath. Yay!

  7. Our taxes are really similar to yours in cost–I think New Hampshire and Vermont tax bills are pretty similar (but I do love that in NH we don’t pay state income or sales tax). Our town bills us twice a year. I’m always so impressed by your low grocery costs!! Like Mrs. FAF who commented above, our groceries come in more like triple your own for our family of four. Even though this cost has remained relatively steady for about 9 years, I’m still optimistic that we’ll eventually spend less on food. Optimism never dies; hooray! Hope you have lots of fun down South. I was just in Charlotte. Love that city! My family lives there, too, so it’s always doubly fun to be there.

  8. I can attest to Duluth firehose pants lasting for several years under very harsh conditions. My husband welds, works with concrete, and many other dirty, abrasive jobs. We did find that the Flex pants don’t last quite as long as the regular firehose pants, but still longer than any other pants had before. And they send out a 20% off coupon a couple of times each year so when he decides it’s time to replace a pair (one pair lasts about 3 years here), we just wait for the next coupon.

    1. I third Duluth. Major plus is that if you ever do have an issue with them, ie: a hole in an “un-sew-able” place or the zipper breaks or the pocket tears off etc, they will give you a replacement pair. We’ve done that 3 times for my husband; he is very hard on pants. Each time, we pay shipping/handling and have a brand new pair of pants. They are the best!!

      Welcome to NC (when you get here)! It’s a lovely state.

    2. my son wore out Duluth fire hose flex (on sale about $55.) in about 2 months of physical road work (the guy with the shovel). It’s ok, I patched them. Just like I patch every other pair of pants he owns.

  9. I envy your property taxes. We own a second home in VT, on 3/4 of an acre, and we pay almost $4k in taxes every Sept. Are you considered a working farm? Just curious.

  10. Ouch! Those taxes! I love your reports and am terrible impressed you found a wood splitter for only $999! Well done you! Duluth clothes wear well. All three of my full time farmers wear them and believe me they are tough on clothes. Carhart is great too.

  11. I love your three points at the beginning. Frugal everyday – check, buying what matters – check, tracking expenses…. on the to do list! But we made it to FIRE without that because of good habits! But I totally agree that people should start that as early as possible (like when they are still living with their parents/in college, etc.!) We are going to use Personal Capital to track expenses after we sell our house next week and when our rental house renovation (what we are moving into) is complete. Life will settle into a new normal (in our empty nest) and understand and tracking our money may allow us to spend a little more freely (or tighten up where needed!)
    We also pay our taxes once a year (not in escrow) – so some months are more “painful” than others! I appreciate your focus on safety with Mr. Frugalwoods. A little up front money can prevent a life changing (or worse) injury! Hoping to meet you at FinCon!

  12. Man, the taxes are no joke up there! I’m in a house in Florida here and taxes are around $1,500/yr.

    The $400 for groceries is about what we spend too, but we have an entire restaurant category on top of it too. Always amazed at the categories like that which you don’t even have!

  13. My property taxes were also due this month, but since I’m still in an escrow account I said to myself “gee that’d be expensive if I hadn’t saved up for it”. I’m very happy I have that arrangement right now as I had a high spending month too. House renovations, trips, and other expenses popped up. I’d say these months happen but this is like, the 4th month in a row of high spending. Sigh. Almost done though!

  14. Chainsaw boots? We have the chaps and helmet for Mr. Adventure Rich, but the boots sound like a necessary addition!

    I am glad you had a great September! Thank you for the encouragement to live frugally every day.

    1. Yeah, we decided we wanted that extra layer of protection that the boots provide. Mr. FW uses his chainsaw a lot, and feet and toes are worth keeping 🙂

  15. September was my highest month so far, this year, for expenses. However, at the start, I went on a family vacation with my kids and granddaughters. We did NOT have to pay lodging, thanks to my daughter-in-law’s dad’s boss who owns a nice cottage in the Outer Banks. But, we did have to purchase food and, eating out (which we did driving down, coming home and a few times while there), does add up. My car insurance came due, which I paid all at one time. And, at the end of the month, I attended a local Mennonite Relief Sale for both supper the first night (followed by ice cream) and breakfast the next morning (followed by home-made donuts), plus a purchase of fresh apples and a shoo-fly cake for an upcoming event that I would have bought, anyway. I write these off – in my mind – as charitable donations for a worthy cause. But, they do add up. I’m sure this next month will be much lower.

    1. Can’t comment on the ice cream and home-made donuts 🙂 but I feel no guilt over my charitable donations and like you count them as a worthy cause. Sounds like you vacationed very frugally.

  16. Hurray for Frugalhound’s clean bill of health! I had been wondering how she is doing. I had a very expensive cat who I adopted when he was 12. Sometimes I wonder if some of his health problems could have been prevented if I had gotten him earlier. He was still worth it though! I believe he greatly improved my quality of life.

  17. It’s like a universal law – when it comes to expensive months, one thing happens after another. Frugality makes it so much less stressful to deal with those months. I’m very grateful that we are in a good financial position because life happens. Frugality for me is the buffer between my family and “life happens.” It lets me sleep at night knowing I can cover big expenses that inevitably happen.

    When we first paid off our house, getting our taxes paid was stressful for me. I was so used to the bank’s monthly escrow that having to shell out so much money at once gave me heartburn, even though I know it’s the same thing in theory. So now I have my own escrow (savings) account for property taxes and home insurance and I have the money automatically put in there every month. That way, when the time comes to write a several thousand dollar check for our taxes and insurance, I feel better knowing all the money is already set aside.

  18. I pay about $6k for a niceish but not overly luxurious home in Houston area that nearly flooded in Harvey. My homeowners insurance is also high although there’s no state income tax. But since I’m taking a sabbatical, I’m doing it wrong since my income is very low but the property taxes keep going up.

  19. You will love, love, love your log splitter. Fortunately we are able to borrow one from my dad who lives 2 miles up the road. Also are 1/2 owners with him of our John Deere tractor, brush hog, blade and post hole augers. I like the idea of the chain saw boots. I have chaps. One of our friends recently engaged his chaps with his chain saw – would probably have lost his leg, but no injuries due to having the chaps on. They kick back – pretty scary. I’m going to check out a class – thanks! And congrats on your pregnancy!

    1. Nice deal on sharing the splitter! Yeah, we love it so far :). And glad to hear your friend had his chaps on–that safety gear is just imperative.

  20. It is good that your frugality enabled you to afford all of this in one month. Although, if you needed to, you could always fill the oil tank in August, buy the chainsaw-related items in September and space it out a bit. Sounds like you folks are getting ready to hunker down for winter! But first, wonderful fall in New England! I am in Massachusetts, but am still eager to see all of your foliage photos.

  21. Your taxes are actually amazing for the amount of land you own. We pay close to &10,000 in NJ for 1700 square feet on a quarter acre. I guess it is all relative!

  22. Mrs. FW, look around for Carhartt pants for Mr. FW. My DH swears by them. You could also try Duluth Trading (, which sells expensive but very long-wearing work pants, including pants made for lumberjacks (and jills)!

    I have a question for everyone: We have had a real spendy couple of months, including several pretty big car repair bills to keep our 3, fully-paid for, 10+ year old cars on the road. Our DD lives with us; she is on the autism spectrum and so far has only been able to find part-time work, although she does have a side hustle. Therefore, we helped her out with the $1200 repair on her Ford. I just feel like we’re not getting ahead. Although we have about 6 months’ in an emergency fund, and we only spent $125 in September on restaurant meals and takeout. What could I be doing wrong? Yes, I do write down every cent we spend! No “Where did that $20 go?” at The Chez. Thanks to anyone who can help!

    1. Hi Kate-Thank you for the Carhartt recommendation! The pants Mr. FW just purchased are from Duluth Trading, so hopefully they’ll work out :). To answer your question, have you taken my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge yet? If not, that’s where I highly recommend starting. You can sign up at any time here. Best of luck!

  23. You will love the log splitter. We inherited one from my dad (and remember him fondly every time we use it).
    My husband wears Carhart jeans and work pants and they seem to last really well. Our local farm store has a big sale every Black Friday and we usually buy one regular pair and one insulated pair (though this year we may not need to do that, as I think he has a good supply.) Amazon also often has good sale prices on these.

  24. The woodsplitter was expensive, but in the long run it’ll probably save Mr. Frugalwood’s back from some serious pain. That probably makes it an incredibly good investment .

    Good luck with the wood splitting!

  25. Point of correction: chainsaw chaps don’t repel the blade, they bind it. They are full of tiny fibers that get sucked in and jam the blade. This is why it is important to keep them clean and dry.

  26. Woodsplitters can be harder on your back, when you use a maul you just have to put the log on it’s end versus getting the entire weight onto the splitter. Used to work for a landscaper and split endless cords of wood (this was winter work)

  27. Your little apple biter cracks me up. Reminds me of a childhood book: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary …Ramona in the basement with a box of apples. She’s taking one bite out of each apple and then tossing them aside. Beezus orders her to stop and says, “You can’t eat one bite and then throw the rest away.” Ramona simply says, “But the first bite tastes best,” and picks up another apple.

  28. I’m curious how you breakout/differentiate btwn grocery expenses and household (misc.) expenses? ie -Groceries $399.91; Household and miscellaneous items $245.85. Do you count groceries only what you consume (food, milk, etc) and household expenses (cleansers, paper products, etc)?

    1. We do two transactions at the store, which allows us to keep groceries and household goods separate (we use the self check-out lanes, so this works very well). Groceries for us = all food and drinks (coffee, beer). Household = all non-food stuff, such as toilet paper, medications, etc.

  29. My husband came home early to finish up our new wood storage shelter. Our property tax bill came also and we pay ours all at once too. $1800 for our ranch house in a neighborhood here in California. Our house has redwood siding and is 53 years old. We live in the heart of the redwoods.

    Our frugal pet was put down 9/7/17. We had our shelter terrier for 12 years and I miss him so much. His renal failure was a shock. He was healthy at his checkup in March with normal blood work. The vet wanted to put him down when I took him in for continued vomiting after they gave me Reglan for him. They had me wait for test results. I couldn’t. It was my husband’s 59th birthday. She gave him fluids and I took him home to love him but the next day he was limp in my arms when I picked him up to take him out to potty. I knew she was right. I spent $300 to cremate him and I also got casted paw prints. So love frugal hound as much as you can. You will be happy when his time comes. My husband had a rule no dog in the bedroom but as he aged, his hearing was almost gone and he had trouble with vision, my husband changed and he slept with us the last six months.. I’m so glad we had those nightly rituals to getting to bed. Why am I going on and on about our sweet Landon………I miss him …..

    1. I too am so sorry for your loss. We also had to put our 8 year old cat to sleep on 9/18/17. The pain is sometimes unbearable. Ours also slept with us. Knowing they are no longer in pain does sometimes help. It will take time for both of us to heal from those losses.

  30. I was wondering how long it would be before you got a log splitter. Was this something you had in mind when you originally moved to the homestead and decided to wait on for a year? I have the $999 splitter from Tractor Supply and it has held up well and split everything I’ve thrown at it.

    Splitting wood is one of those chores that certainly can be done by hand, but when looking at the quantity you’ll need each winter and the number of winters you’ll likely need it you have to consider the time and labor investment required to do all that hand splitting and decide if that adds to or detracts from your enjoyment of life.

    Time spent hand splitting wood takes away from other chores/activities/parenting that might return greater enjoyment. Also, the physical labor involved in hand splitting wood provides great exercise, but you have to think about the impact on your body over the years. I think about this a lot as I get older and ask myself, can I do this task by hand? Yes/no? If yes, how am I likely to feel afterwards? Invigorated from physical exertion, or wrecked? Being injured or in chronic pain is not very frugal – at least not in this country. Given these factors I think a wood splitter is a great investment.

    1. With a maul and spikes and some practice it can be faster by hand. I’m not saying that everyone should do it this way but it’s not quite the no-brainer people make it out to be.

      1. I agree, waiting for the splitter cylinder to cycle back and forth can take longer than splitting by hand. But over how many cords and how many years can you keep up that pace?

    2. Agreed! I’ll be discussing the splitter at length in my upcoming This Month On The Homestead post, so stay tuned 🙂

  31. Even though we live in the country and are on a well and septic, I make sure we set aside “utilities payment”each month that goes to a capital reserve savings account. You never know when your leach field will fail or your well will need a repair. It also makes paying the every five year pump out fee a breeze…we just use the capital reserve account to draw from.

  32. I’m insanely impressed this is your most expensive month ever.
    I had a single medical bill that cost more than this once.

    Your property taxes also don’t seem that high at all.
    We pay $6,126 on 1/2 acre of land. That’s with a homestead credit and military exemption. And we still have a pretty high state and school district income tax. I need to move to Vermont (I have family there and it is gorgeous!)

  33. Hi there, Mrs. FW – I love your site!

    We have propane as a back-up for our geothermal system, but we also have a wood stove. I can second the notion of having the right training and the SAFE GEAR needed to cut wood! I need to look into those chainsaw boots for the hubster, as he also just wears steel-toes right now.

    As fellow homesteaders (not quite 100%) in WI, I wanted to share a money-saving tip with you. I’d call the companies from which you buy oil and propane, and ask them the cheapest month to buy/top off four tanks. Here we try to do it in June, July or August. It saves a bundle when we refill!

    Keep on living that awesome frugal lifestyle, you are truly an inspiration to us all. Enjoy the homestead and congratulations on Babywoods 2!!

    1. Haha, yes! I spent a great deal of time on the phone with oil and propane companies last month–a strategy I’ll be discussing in my upcoming This Month On the Homestead post.

  34. I absolutely love reading your expense reports! Don’t ask me why…I guess it’s just motivating and fun because it isn’t often we can see and discuss these kinds of financial details. I’m curious if you buy everything on credit cards why you don’t use reward points to pay for your flights…or do you choose cash back cards instead of points programs? We’ve really enjoyed using our points for frugal vacations these past couple of years. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. So the reason we don’t use rewards point for most of our flights is because the conversion rate is often not good. In other words, we’d be using more points to cover the flights than is valuable. Anytime we consider using our points, we investigate the conversion ratio and whether or not it’s a good deal. What we’ve found is that, for the most part, the best deal for our points are at hotels–and most especially at hotels abroad. But, it all depends on what cards you have. If you’re interested in travel hacking, I highly recommend the free Travel Miles 101 course.

  35. A wood splitter? That takes me back. My parents have a wood furnace and have since 1980. Growing up, my dad would NEVER use the backup propane system. Either we kept the fire going, or we layered blankets (on blankets on blankets, and maybe gloves). Eventually, I was charged with starting the fire when I got home from school. Kind of a neat thing to know how to do.

    Frugal life on your homestead reminds me a lot of my childhood. My dad was and is frugal to the core.

    P.S. Your UFM challenge helped me save hundreds on food last month!!!! 🙂 🙂

  36. My brother-in-law, who is a true Alaskan mountain man, loves the Duluth fire hose pants! I think they will be a winner for Mr FW.

    Also, I so so wish I could get my husband to use safety gear with his chainsaw. But as a born and bred country boy, he’s just not interested. He is very adept and safe in the way he uses it, but they’re just so dangerous.

  37. I cant believe how low your taxes are for 66 acres…we live on a little suburban lot outside of Dallas AND our property taxes are 3850. per year!!! And I am thankful you purchased all the protective gear…I know several people with some serious scars and who are miracles in reattachment surgery because they failed to purchase such protectivie gear. Will your conference be open to the public…I can use all the frugal back up I can get!!

  38. That property tax is so high! But I’m guessing it’s all the land 🙂 the irony is how slow our Comcast internet is in the city. Fiber… please come to us in Seattle. We hate Comcast!!!!

    Without the property tax, it looks like a very frugal month. And congrats on your pregnancy!!!

  39. I am wondering if you pay for your property taxes with your rewards credit card. I recall hearing someone on a podcast talking about doing that. I have been curious if others do this with success.

  40. I think you did a great job on your expenses. I am really impressed that your propane costs are so low. I do not use propane now, but at my previous home I did, and it was about $900 for the year!!! I used it to heat with also, and I lived in a very old, very drafty house with no insulation. I also think your property taxes are not so bad, considering you own 66 acres!. My property taxes at my current home are $250 a year, for a small town yard and house. My property taxes at my mom’s small house in a small city are $1,500!!!!

  41. Have you ever written about how you manage your trash when you don’t have city pickup? Do you haul refuse to the dump? Compost? Garbage heap in an un-Instagrammed corner? I know your lifestyle naturally leads to less waste, but curious what you do with the inevitable.

  42. I can’t believe I missed the pregnancy announcement! Congratulations!!

    Well, ok I can because we’ve spent half the year facing down huge expenses with our new house: buying a new place and making it liveable, selling our old place, juggling double mortgages and expenses throughout. I sweated it for a while because this was a 9 on a scale of 1-10 for expenses, 10 being total destruction of everything we own because of a massive earthquake, but we weathered it pretty well because we work hard at making sure that our lifestyle is normally frugal and well below our means.

    I’m ever so grateful for the end of September which heralded the end of the double homes, double expenses, and double risk! situation. We have our savings back up to normal and we’re more than ready to settle into a more boring and non-spendy routine. We do have some large expenses to space out across the year, like a generator for emergency situations, but you’ve got me wondering if we can get that in good condition but used. Our property taxes will be astronomical but I’ll be setting up an auto deposit that saves for that ahead of time next month as well.

  43. I was particularly interested in hearing about your credit card point number three– that carrying a small balance on credit cards DOES NOT improve credit. I had heard that before, but haven’t been able to verify. I like paying off every single cent of my credit card every month, so this is good news for me 🙂

  44. your property taxes are extremely low for such a large property so anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand real estate. If your schools are good AND your property taxes are that low, you are living in a great place!

    I was looking at getting a pole saw for some tree branches to prune our backyard birch tree. It has a small electric chain saw on the end. It’s nothing like a chain saw your husband uses, but have you heard horror stories of people using something like that? I would be wearing protective eye wear of course but I never even thought about needing to wear anything else extra outside of regular work gloves.

  45. August and September were filled with unexpected expenses like auto repairs and medical expenses, as well as expected, like our property tax. I am hoping October will let us catch our breath and build back up, but it started with a long trip for a funeral, so we are not off to a good start. As I review my budget, I see we’ve been going over steadily for the last few months, but never in the same category, which is confusing. I need to sit down and figure out what’s going on.
    I’m with you on the safety of chain saws, but my husband is not. There is no way I can get him to don heavy safety gear to go out and saw up storm-downed limbs in steamy 90+ degree heat and high humidity. I do the best I can to convince him to be careful.
    If we heated with wood, we’d use a log-splitter, and I’m glad to see you got one. We all get older eventually, and swinging an ax doesn’t get any easier as we do. We can still call it DIY even with a little mechanical help.
    One of the commenters brought up a good question — what do you do with your trash? We have to haul our own to the county roll-off site (the town has curbside pick up), and we have to pay a fee of $140 a year for access to the roll off site. I try to keep our trash down, but I’ll never be zero waste, unfortunately.

  46. It’s great that you pay the property taxes once a year, gets it out of the way with just one payment. But that looks pretty high for property taxes in Vermont, I would have assumed it would be lower than that. Looks like property taxes you pay here in California!!
    In the end, living in that homestead is worth it!

  47. When breaking down the Frugalwoods’ property taxes, they are around $129.65 per acre per year. Or, around $10.81 per acre per month. Is my math correct? Not good at math which is why I track expenses (religiously) via an accounting aid… When looking at these property taxes (or even other expenses) in a more drilled down way, they seem more reasonable for the value gained from the money spent than looking at the big ol’ hunk of money and thinking “what the hey-hey”! I did this with tires which are a pretty big and “UGH!” expense. So the average life of a set of 4 tires is 35,000 miles. The $1000 per set of four tires for 35,000 miles is $35.00 – not so bad! Break it down per tire and that is $8.75 per tire for 35,000 miles – even better! Is my math correct? My point (even if my math is off) is that sometimes the mental breakdown of the math involved with expenses makes expensive purchases seem more realistic for their value. For frugal folks, this technique can be calming when zipping that card (paid off each month!) a bit less stressful – it sure does for me! Also, if we feel the value is overpriced (as in property taxes for SURE) we do have a voice, pen, email, visit, etc. or VOTE to those who set the prices to make a positive change.

  48. I love that you guys are so aware and cognizant of investments. Investments in family, in time, in safety, and in tools that will contribute to improving those things. Making your money count when it’s spent is just as important (if not more so) than saving it. Thanks for posting these, I always love reading them.

  49. Wow! I think that’s insanely low property taxes. We pay over $7,000 for a 2,000sq ft house with a small yard. As you said though we don’t mind paying the taxes either because we live in one of the best school districts in our state.

  50. Do you guys have life insurance? Or disability insurance?

    I looked back at your August 2015 post, and did not see it there either.

  51. Our pups bills keep getting more expensive the older he gets too! Our little ones are lucky they’re so darn cute 🙂
    It’s great you guys don’t stress expensive months like this, really resonantes that a frugal life style creates a less stressed life! Very inspiring

  52. Hi! I’m wondering if you buy Babywoods 1 her own plane ticket? I’ll be traveling in March with my then 19 month old and she’s so squirmy and doesn’t like to be held unless she’s in the mood. I’m wondering if buying her a ticket will be worth it? Thanks!

    1. We don’t buy Babywoods 1 a ticket–we’ve been taking advantage of the under 2 flies free policy and this’ll be her last free flight! Every flight we’ve taken her on is different, but in general, it works out fine. On my last flight, I was with her alone and we were in a middle seat with people on either side of us and… it was great! She stood between my legs in the footwell and was very happy about it. And, we did lots of play-doh, coloring, and stories with her in my lap and the tray table down. You have to do what you’re comfortable with, but I’ve find it to work fine. Here’s my post on flying with a baby :): How To Fly With A Baby. On An Airplane. By Yourself. Good luck!

  53. Hi there! I have tried both of your links to Personal Capital in this post, and neither one seems to work. I am guessing it is a referral link, and given that you referred me, I would like for you to get the referral! I will try again from another computer later, but I wanted to just flag this as a possible issue to you.

  54. My husband has khaki Duluth fire hose pants that are at least 25 years old. He is an industrial arts teacher. Khakis “weather ” rather than “fade” so that helps. His pants still look perfectly fine for school.

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