We bought blueberry bushes! And cherry and currant and Saskatoon and honeyberry bushes! Lots and lots of perennial berry bushes found a home on our homestead this month, as you’ll see in the below expense report. Garden fencing, fertilizer, the notorious flame weeder, and soil test kits rounded out our garden-palooza of spending. I’m going to give the full rundown on how all of these berry beasts were planted in my next installment of This Month On The Homestead, so consider this your sneak peek at our new berry-land. The flame weeder does exactly what its name would imply: it weeds your garden with the power of FIRE! Don’t worry, I’ll write extensively about this thing once we actually use it (which’ll likely happen in early June). It’s not often I can work “flame” into one of my titles, so you understand I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
The Holy Grail Of Frugality: A PRESSURE COOKER
You people have been after me, for oh about four years now, to buy a freaking pressure cooker. You all noted how much easier and faster it is to cook large batch meals with one of these babies and, chiefly, you highlighted the delight it is to cook dried beans in a pressure cooker. I should say that your pleas did not fall on deaf ears. However, we were loathe to buy a pressure cooker new since they run on the pricey side.
And so, following my regimen of attempting to source the majority of our stuff second-hand, we’ve been scanning the used market for a pressure cooker for oh about four years now. And this month our valiant scanning paid off!! Our resident chef–that’d be Mr. Frugalwoods–spied an excellent pressure cooker at a thrift store for the thrifty price of $14.99!!! Woohoo!!! This is the model we got, which looks like it retails for $239 on Amazon. He’s already used the thing about 19 times so I’d say it was $14.99 very well spent indeed.
The best part about life APC (that’s After Pressure Cooker) is Mr. FW’s ability to cook dried beans quickly. In ye olden days of BPC, he had to soak dried beans overnight before cooking them, which isn’t a hardship, but was a hassle when he wanted to whip something up that he hadn’t planned several days in advance for. He tries to do his cooking on rainy days (since there’s less outside labor to do when it’s raining) and he hates to waste a sunny day in the kitchen. Given this, it wasn’t always working out to know when to soak the beans. He doesn’t cook every day but prefers to cook once a week for reasons of efficiency and then we freeze the leftovers–I have a complete post on this process if you’re curious about the foodie deets.
Beans are a staple in our diet because they hit that awesome trifecta of cheap, tasty, and healthy!! They’re the base of most of Mr. FW’s dishes. Even if he adds in meat, beans and veggies form the base since it’s a cheap (and healthy and tasty!) way of stretching a meal and boosting the protein content. And dried beans are cheaper than canned beans which are cheaper than just about anything else. Dried beans are essentially the cornerstone of frugal cooking, but I’ll tell ya that for years we’ve been buying canned beans in addition to dried beans just because of the timing thing with the soaking. Well. Those days are gone. Now that we’ve entered the epoch of APC, we are rolling in dried beans. Picture Scrooge McDuck languishing in his dolla dolla bills—that’s pretty much what we’re doing with our dried beans (who says rural life is devoid of entertainment?!). Emboldened by the heady days of APC, we bought a monstrous amount of dried chickpeas–25 pounds!!–which we’ll use in both homemade hummus and one of our favorite meals, Chana Masala. And hey, probably a lot of other things too now! They’ve already made their way into a Moroccan Red Lentil Stew (coined “Maraca Stew”by Babywoods). We couldn’t find dried chickpeas in any of our local grocery stores (not even the local Co-op!) so we resorted to ordering them online for $1.79/pound.
Tires, Boots, Pants, Paint!
Upon taking the snow tires off of our Prius this month, Mr. FW discovered that the Prius’ summer tires (aka regular tires) were due for a replacement, so four tires made the expense rundown. Mr. FW also desperately–I do not use that word hyperbolically–needed a new pair of work boots. The entire sole had come off of his old boots, which was additional to the previous holes that’d worn into the sides. We looked into having them repaired, but they were sadly beyond repair.
He settled on this pair for his replacement, which he bought from a local store (Farm-Way) that we like to support. While there, he picked up another pair of work pants. For those of you following his work pants saga (and by “work pants” I mean “outdoor labor pants” not “dress slacks”) he’s tried Duluth and Carhartt and reports that he likes the Duluth a bit better but that the Carhartts are cheaper and almost as good. This is the pair he got (although we bought them from Farm-Way, so if you’re local and need some pants, check them out!).
I continue on in my clothes-buying-ban (four years strong with one deviation for a pair of winter boots) and am cobbling together some–ahem–interesting outfits for this time period of post-pregnancy, still-nursing-a-baby, trying-to-lose-the-weight-after-having-two-children-in-three-years. You know, that phase of life. Fair warning, if you see me, I look dead sexy in my mismatched leggings (which I recently discovered have holes), maternity skirt and nursing tops (all hand-me-downs to begin with). Feel free to compliment me and show your jealously for my spit-up-adorned, hole-y attire. I mean really, try not to be too dazzled when you see me roll up.
Babywoods (who is actually a toddler and not a baby at all) racked up one of the first expenses she’s ever had in her 2.5 years of life: paint and paintbrushes!! She is SUPER into painting right now (recently painted a whale, a wolf, and “a mountain climber” in one painting–not sure what ecosystem these dudes were living in, but she was adamant) and so we got her some real paints. Not real in the Van Gogh sense of the word, but real to a person who is two. I had a set of watercolors that were a hand-me-down, but she was craving more painting adventures after learning to paint at preschool, so we indulged her. We’ve gotten actual HOURS of entertainment out of these paints and brushes, so it was $10.28 well spent. I picked up an easel at a thrift store a year ago and also have a hand-me-down smock, so that’s Babywoods all sorted every afternoon.
We also got this mattress bag to cover the twin mattress and box spring that used to live in our second guest room. That room is now Babywoods’ room, but I want to keep the mattress and box spring in good condition since it’ll be Babywoods’ once she graduates out of her crib/toddler bed combo. I bought that mattress, box spring, and frame used on Craigslist for $50 about five years ago and it’s a great bed! Served us well as the second guest bed for many years and now it’ll spend a few years in the basement (in its mattress bag) before a reincarnation as a big girl bed. I’m honestly not sure if a mattress bag is even necessary, but since it’ll be stored in our basement (where I have seen signs of rodentia in the past), I REALLY do not want a rodent to make a home in there. Worth it to me to try and keep it dry and critter-free.
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 May:
|Groceries||$636.17||Uh, I am really hungry while nursing a baby and Mr. FW is really hungry after working outside all the time and Babywoods eats a lot. The end.|
|Garden fencing supplies, mailbox post and house numbers, other garden stuff||$369.29||Our mailbox met an inglorious end via a snowplow this winter, so now that the ground’s thawed, we put in a new one (and new post and house numbers).|
|Summer tires for the Prius||$279.92||Purchased from Simple Tire|
|Berry bushes||$277.90||28 blueberry bushes purchased from Indiana Berry|
|MORE berry bushes!||$259.00||Cherries, Saskatoons, Honeyberries, Currants (all bushes) from Honey Berry USA|
|Mulch||$173.17||LOTS of mulch required these days|
|Household supplies||$155.71||This includes thrilling items such as toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, sunscreen, medications, baby items, etc|
|Gasoline for cars||$124.73|
|Boots and pants for Mr. FW||$123.43||These boots and these pants|
|Internet||$74.00||We have fiber internet out here in the middle of nowhere and we LOVE it|
|Car insurance||$61.92||An additional payment to add our new-to-us used truck to our car insurance (which is through Geico)|
|Flame Weeder||$51.35||Behold: one Flame Weeder|
|Chickpeas||$44.95||25 lbs of dried chickpeas from Palousebrand|
|Diesel for tractor||$44.00|
|Doctor visit co-pay||$25.00|
|Cell phone through BOOM Mobile||$19.99|
|Utilities: Electricity||$16.36||We have solar panels, which accounts for our low bill. I swear to all dogs in the world that I WILL finally write a post about our solar panels in June.|
|Pressure Cooker||$14.99||From a thrift store. All hail the APC epoch. Here’s the model new, in case you’re curious.|
|Soil Test Kit||$14.73||Soil Test Kit for our garden|
|Mattress Bag||$12.99||We got this mattress bag to store our twin mattress and box spring|
|Paint and paintbrushes||$10.28||For Babywoods’ creations|