Tractor Pallet Forks And Other November 2017 Expenditures
November epitomized large unexpected expenses and semi-annual (or simply annual) expenses lining up and hitting us all at once. It was, as they say, one of those months. But we don’t sweat it because our overarching approach is to live frugally every month so that unexpected or infrequent expenses aren’t a burden. By not spending our money frivolously or out of alignment with our goals, we can always rest assured that pricier months aren’t a hardship. Lifelong frugality is, ultimately, a way to make your life easier and to ensure you never have to worry about money. So what’d we spend on this month?
I keep meaning to write an entire tome dedicated to this topic–and I will!–but, what I will say briefly is that the early years of living rurally (after living urban-ly) are extremely expensive. The start-up costs of getting our homestead outfitted and equipped continue to pile up, which fortunately, is exactly what we anticipated.
Before moving here, we knew there’d be a great deal of equipment and tools required to maintain one’s own 66 acres, grow one’s own food, plow one’s own quarter-mile long driveway, repair one’s own home, preserve (and store) one’s own food, and harvest one’s own wood for heat all winter long. If you’re interested in following along with our homesteading journey, check out my This Month On the Homestead series.
This month’s purchases in the vein of homestead start-up include:
- Pallet forks for our tractor, which allow us to use our tractor to move logs, pallets, and anything else that requires a forklift to maneuver.
- A smart plug for the tractor. Being a diesel engine, it’s good to warm the engine prior to turning it on when the temperature outside is below freezing. In order to do this, we use a block heater, which needs to be plugged in an hour before using the tractor. Warming the engine reduces wear and tear on the engine and ultimately extends its life. So, a good thing to do! This smart plug will allow Mr. FW to turn the block heater on from his phone an hour before he needs to use the tractor. A vast improvement over needing to trek out to the barn in the wee hours of the morning to perform the task. Technology!
A long measuring tape, which will be employed in plotting out next year’s garden beds and also a woodshed. Oddly enough, there’s no woodshed on our property, so Mr. FW has designs on building one himself.
- A ladder. Can you believe, we were so city before moving here that we didn’t even own a ladder! Not even a joke.
- Lights for the tractor… this after learning last year that it’s really hard to plow snow in the dark by headlamp…
- Two wildlife cameras. Longtime readers know that we have an unabashed obsession love of capturing wild creatures on our wildlife camera and so we decided to go ahead and buy two more since they were on sale and we have a lot of un-photographed woods. Here’s hoping we have many more animals-on-film to share with you in the coming months!
Each of these purchases drove home the point that we are still very much in the process of outfitting ourselves for years of homesteading bliss. And while we buy absolutely everything used that we possibly can, these are all items we were unable to find used over the course of the year. We search the used market (here’s how) for months on end and, if we cannot find what we need–and we truly need it–then and only then do we buy it new.
Frugal Hound, who turned 8 this summer, is getting up there in greyhound years and she had a frightening episode this month that left her partially paralyzed for a few hours. Being the concerned hound parents that we are, we rushed her to the vet for an emergency visit.
Our vet concluded that she likely had a small seizure, not uncommon at her age and for her breed. Fortunately, her partial paralysis only lasted a few hours and now, several weeks later, she appears to be back to her normal self. The vet did a full exam and blood work and nothing nefarious popped up, so we’re all hoping this was an isolated incident.
This expense is apropos as just last month I wrote about the imperative of planning for pet expenses before you even get a pet. Having an animal in your family will add expenses on a regular, expected basis (food, medications, vet visits) and an irregular, unexpected basis a la this dog seizure episode. We are so relieved that Frugal Hound is alright and I can report that, at present, she is happily basking next to the warm wood stove without a care in the world.
Babywoods 1 Started School!
Ok not “school” exactly, but preschool! Babywoods 1 turned two this month and is a bubbly, talkative, outgoing small person. She is endlessly curious about the world around her and craves engagement and “buddies” (what she has decided to call her friends). Given all this, and the impending arrival of her little sister (due in February!), Mr. Frugalwoods and I decided to see if we could find a preschool option for our daughter. In Vermont, public preschool is free for all children starting at age three and our school district offers full-time preschool for free while state-wide, ten hours per week are mandated for free.
However, Babywoods won’t be three for another year and even then, she’ll miss the cut-off for preschool and so won’t be able to start until she’s almost four. Babywoods, however, being wholly unaware of dates and ages, was ready to go to school now! On the recommendation of friends, we found a fantastic little Waldorf preschool that’s a mere four-minute drive from our house and signed Babywoods up. Babywoods loves it, we love it, and it’s a wonderful addition to our lives. She attended school one morning a week in November and, we’re all so happy with the arrangement that she’ll be attending two mornings a week starting in December. I plan to write more about this decision–which Mr. FW and I did not arrive at lightly–in an upcoming post. But for now, suffice it to say, we have a very happy preschool-going toddler!
November was also, apparently, the month for our bulk, semi-annual stock-ups. We go to Costco about twice a year, on account of the fact that it’s a 1.5 hour drive from our home, and so when we go, we stock up. WAY up. Primarily, we buy Frugal Hound’s food there as it’s the best deal we’ve found (after searching EVERYWHERE) on her grain-free Nature’s Domain kibble. We also adore their olive oil, garbanzo beans, almonds, crushed tomatoes, laundry detergent, and oats. That whopping $519.80 line item represents this massive stock-up, which should last us about six months.
Our 20lb CO2 tank also needed replenishing, another expense that crops up about once every six months. What, on earth, do we use a 20lb CO2 tank for? Oh I am so glad you asked. For our hacked Sodastream seltzer machine, of course!! I have several posts dedicated solely to this topic, so for any questions, curiosities and desires to replicate our massively cheap seltzer source, please refer to: How To: Cheap Homemade Seltzer with a Modified Sodastream and The Great Homemade Seltzer Discovery of 2015. Bubbly water: can’t live without it. No seriously, I can’t.
Brakes For Our Toyota Prius
Oh Prius, how I do love thee. We are huge fans of driving our hybrid Toyota Prius (which we purchased used for cash last year) as it costs us a paltry sum in gasoline every month. Plus, it’s better for the environment! Seeing as we live in our rural paradise, nothing is close to us except for the woods, so when we drive, we drive far, which makes a Prius an ideal vehicle for us. I will grant you that a Prius might not be the first car you think of when you think rural, but let me tell you, for the distances we drive out here, it is freaking ideal. Quite a few of our neighbors also sport a Prius for the same reason. And with studded snow tires? This baby can handle almost anything (sidenote: there is a limit to its snow capabilities and in deep winter, we sometimes require the AWD of our Subaru Outback, although much less frequently than we expected).
At any rate, we clearly drive this car a lot as it needed new brakes this month. We popped over to our local mechanic and he fixed them right up for us. What you will note in the below list of expenses is that we purchase our car parts separately from the mechanic’s labor as it’s much, much cheaper to do so. We do this at the advice of our mechanic as he doesn’t make any money from parts purchased through his parts supplier.
Mr. FW discusses the part needed with our mechanic, then locates the part online, and compares the price to the one the mechanic can get through his supplier. Every time we’ve done this, it’s been roughly 50% cheaper for us to purchase the part ourselves. I want to stress again that this doesn’t disadvantage our mechanic as he only makes money on the labor to repair the car, not on the parts. I’m not sure this approach would work with a dealership or other very large corporate mechanic, but with our hyper-local mechanic, it’s been a wonderful way to save a few hundred bucks every time we need a new part! And, another reason to shop local whenever you can. One thing I will note, in case you’re also interested in buying your own parts, is that we are responsible for managing any warranty issues with the part whereas if we bought parts through our mechanic’s supplier, our mechanic would then be responsible for managing the warranty. A small price to pay, in our minds, for saving many hundreds of dollars.
I Wrote A Book!
I really did! And I’m so excited! As I shared last month, my book, Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living, publishes on March 6, 2018 and is available to be pre-ordered now. If you do pre-order the book, I will mail you a signed bookplate! You can find all of the details here.
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards for several reasons:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where that random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. This prompts me to spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
- We get rewards. Who doesn’t like rewards? Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying things we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry any debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (which are fully paid off every month) has greatly helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty, dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years, however, does help your score.
If you’re interested in opening a credit card, I highly recommend using this site to search for a card that’ll best fit your needs. And if you’re interested in travel rewards cards specifically, check out this list curated by my friend Brad from Travel Miles 101. I respect Brad’s work in the travel rewards space and I trust his advice on which cards will reap the best benefits.
Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with using a debit card and/or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend!
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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.
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.
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 21,000 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
Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities and expenses 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 November:
|Household supplies and semi-annual Costco bulk stock-up||$519.80||We buy Frugal Hound’s food (grain-free Nature’s Domain) in bulk from Costco every six months, so this line item includes dog food and a bunch of other semi-annual bulk purchases such as: olive oil, oats, laundry detergent, and more.|
|Home improvement supplies||$715.98||Shelves and a ladder. We took advantage of Home Depot’s Black Friday sale to buy more shelving units for our basement and barn (more on that story here) as well as a ladder and some other home improvement supplies.|
|Emergency vet visit||$269.50||For Frugal Hound’s seizure|
|Pallet forks for the tractor||$265.05||Pallet forks for our tractor, which will allow us to haul around pallets and other pallet-shaped things|
|Wildlife cameras||$138.35||Two more wildlife cameras and their corresponding memory chips.|
|Preschool||$120.00||Babywoods 1’s first month of preschool! She absolutely loves it and so do we.|
|Wool socks and work gloves for Mr. FW||$119.64||Our locally-owned clothing store had a sale on locally-made Vermont Darn Tough wool socks and, given the state of Mr. FW’s current sock drawer (holes everywhere!), we decided to have him stock up on sale socks. Plus, he got a few pairs of insulated work gloves. Babywoods, for her part, had a marvelous time pushing a small shopping cart around the store and articulating what everyone in view was doing. At high volume. At one point I told her to “watch out for the people” and she parroted (loudly), “WATCH OUT PEOPLE!”|
|Parts for the Prius (purchased online from Rock Auto)||$100.36||Brake rotors and pads with anti-corrosion coating. Our mechanic advised us that it was important to get ceramic rotors with anti-corrosion coating and so that is what we did.|
|Gasoline for cars||$95.15|
|Labor for the Prius||$93.60||Labor to replace the brake rotors and pads.|
|Lights for our tractor||$79.33||Two different lighting systems for our tractor: this one and also this one. We decided to outfit the tractor’s lighting capabilities after learning last winter that it’s pretty difficult to plow snow in the dark by headlamp…|
|Dinner out for date night!!!||$74.72||Our fabulous, wonderful, amazing neighbor comes over to watch Babywoods one night a month so that we can go out on a date! This is the cost of our dinner at a restaurant (used to be less, but I am pregnant and ravenous and required more food… ).|
|Homestead stuff||$66.08||Smart plug for tractor pre-heating and a long measuring tape for planning out garden and wood shed layouts (projects for next summer!).|
|CO2 for seltzer||$42.87||This is the semi-annual exchange of our 20lb CO2 tank for our hacked Sodastream seltzer machine. Here’s the full story on how to perform this hack yourself and then enjoy super cheap bubbly water.|
|Christmas postcards from VistaPrint||$39.43||I availed myself of VistaPrint’s Black Friday sale to purchase our annual holiday postcards. I have several posts on this topic, including why it’s cheapest to send postcards (and which ones to send) and also how to take your own holiday family photos for free!|
|Diesel for tractor||$25.90|
|Doctor visit co-pay||$25.00||I’m pregnant, ergo, I go to the doctor a lot.|
|Cell phone||$19.99||Through Boom Mobile|
|Ethanol-free gasoline for chainsaw||$17.66||Mr. FW’s been busy felling trees for firewood before there’s too much snow on the ground to easily navigate the woods with a chainsaw. Hence, the saw needs gas!|
How was your November?
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