Remember a few months ago when Mr. Frugalwoods, Babywoods, our friends, and I harvested all of our apples, pressed them into cider, and popped the cider into glass carboys to ferment? Well, the time has arrived to keg this cider up! These past few months our relatively massive quantity of cider has been fermenting away down in our (now clutter-free) basement and we posit it’s just about time to begin imbibing.
This month we purchased the necessary equipment to bring to fruition this final step in the homemade cider process: a keg, C02, a regulator, and tubing. Look for a full rundown of this jolly wintertime homestead activity (which we haven’t actually done yet and might end in disaster… ) in an upcoming installment of This Month On The Homestead. If we end up with carbonated vinegar and not hard apple cider, we’ll just mark that down as another lesson learned here on the Frugalwoods homestead of “we have no idea what we’re doing out here.” Funny how long that list is getting…
Buy It All USED
You will not be surprised to hear that we purchased our cider keg used online, further illustrating my longstanding rant that just about everything in life can be bought on the used market for tremendously less than new stuff. Here is a fun comparison sheet:
- New keg: $100
- Used keg: $45
- Savings: $55
Decision to buy used? No brainer. I hope you enjoyed this comparison sheet. If you too want to start buying just about everything used, check out my primer: How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting.
Littlewoods Preparedness Month
We’re about to have a baby! Like any day now! Our second daughter is due in mid-February and, being an inveterate over-preparer for, well, everything, I am ready for this kid. I mean, as ready as you can be for an infant, which isn’t actually all that ready when they arrive and you realize you’re now ruled by a seven pound, screaming dictator of all your time, emotional energy, and mental faculties. I mean, no, babies are awesome ;)!
They truly are and we are so excited! The carseat is installed, our hospital bag is packed, the itty bitty infant clothes are washed and folded and in her drawers and we are set. That being said, hopefully she hangs out in-womb for a few more weeks. You will note–and be impressed, I hope–that we spent precious little money preparing for this new tidbit arrival. She’ll be using all of her big sister’s hand-me-downs. Hooray!
So I initially thought–and wrote here on Frugalwoods–that we would call our second daughter Babywoods 2. However, after consulting census data I realized that’s not a recognized girls’ name and would likely lead to some challenges later in life, i.e. at college graduation “Babywoods 2 Frugalwoods” announced over the loudspeaker just doesn’t sound right.
And so… I’ve made the executive decision (I can do that!!!) that we shall refer to our second child here in Frugalwoods-land as Littlewoods. Hence, our first daughter (who is now two years old) shall retain her original moniker “Babywoods” and her little sister shall henceforth be known as “Littlewoods.” Hopefully this is less confusing than Babywoods 1 and Babywoods 2.
Also, I never remembered to actually use the 1 and 2, so clearly that designation was not among my better plans… Full disclosure, Littlewoods wasn’t even my idea–it is the brainchild of my friend Kate from Goodnight Debt who kindly told me that Babywoods 1 and 2 was weird and confusing-sounding. How right she was! We all need people in our lives to tell us when we are being weird and confusing. Probably I need more of that in my life…
A Very Sad Note
As you’ll see in this month’s expense list, we have our final veterinary bill for our beloved Frugal Hound, who passed away unexpectedly in January. We are heartbroken over her sudden death and I eulogized her in the most difficult post I’ve ever written: Remembering Frugal Hound. We miss our hound every day and still can’t believe she’s gone. I want to thank all of you for your tremendous outpouring of compassion, sympathy, and support in the wake of her death.
The over 600 comments on her eulogy post, the emails, the Facebook messages, the unbelievable outpouring on Instagram, the donations you made to Greyhound Options (where we adopted Frugal Hound from), and the sympathy cards and gifts that many of you mailed to us make me realize what an impact Frugal Hound had on this community. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to hear from so many of you that Frugal Hound is what brought you to Frugalwoods–and a frugal way of life–and that she’s the reason many of you have adopted greyhounds! Truly, the best legacy a dog could ever hope for! Thank you for helping me see the silver lining in this loss.
I Wrote A Book!
I really did! And I’m so excited! My book, Meet The Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living, publishes on March 6, 2018 from HarperCollins and is available to be pre-ordered.
If you do pre-order my book, I will mail you a signed bookplate! While you can receive a signed bookplate for any book order placed before March 13th, if you order by Monday, February 5, 2018, I will get your bookplate mailed out to you super fast before Littlewoods is born!!!
Orders placed after February 5th will receive bookplates in the final batch, which will be mailed sometime after March 13th.
Details on how to order my book, and get your bookplate, are 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. 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.
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 as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown.
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 Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in January:
|Preschool||$270.00||Babywoods LOVES the two mornings a week she spends at our local Waldorf preschool.|
|Car insurance for both cars (for six months) through Geico||$269.50||Six months of car insurance for both of our cars. This is so low because: we shopped around, we are both accident and ticket-free, we live in a rural area, we don’t commute to work, we have small cars, AND we don’t carry comprehensive insurance because we could easily replace both of our cars (in full with cash) if we needed to. However, we carry the maximum in liability coverage because we feel that with healthcare costs as they are, the risk of a large liability claim is one we don’t want to self-insure against. More here.|
|Cider kegging equipment||$227.17||Regulator and tubing, used keg, CO2 tank, and gas for kegging our apple cider|
|100 Town Trash Bags ($2/bag)||$200.00||Our town doesn’t provide trash or recycling pick-up, so we take our trash and recycling to the town transfer station once a week. We have to buy special trash bags, at $2 per bag, for this purpose. We use just 1 bag per week, so this stash should last us a few years!|
|Household supplies||$154.38||All non-food household items, including such thrilling things as toilet paper, laundry detergent, and toothpaste. Woohoo!|
|Gasoline for cars||$80.02|
|Restaurant dinner for date night||$74.29||We go out to dinner once a month on a date!|
|Internet||$74.00||LOVE our fiber internet|
|Boot Dryer||$31.75||Mr. FW and I both have these insulated muck boots, which we wear on a daily basis. We discovered that, due to us sweating in them while hiking, they weren’t drying out properly and were then making our feet cold. After experimenting with using a hairdryer and placing them by the woodstove–neither of which worked–we capitulated and purchased… this boot dryer! Works like a charm.|
|Doctor visit co-pay||$25.00|
|Cell phone through BOOM Mobile||$19.99|
|New cable for our GPS||$12.50||The cable on our (ancient) GPS broke and, happily, we were able to buy this new cable and thus didn’t need to replace the whole GPS.|
|Farm supplies||$11.56||Shear bolts for snow blower attachment on tractor|