June on the homestead

I write to you from the depths of an epic heatwave here in Vermont. With temperatures cresting 90 most days, we are officially on swelter alert, which is highly aberrational for us–our summers are usually much more temperate with only sporadic forays into the 80s or, at worst, 90s.

Given this sustained heat, our two very small children (not to mention our own hatred of hot), and our absence of central air, we bought two window air conditioning units in June to bring our indoor temps down to reasonable. I’m usually all for toughing out temperatures–be they hot or cold–but I confess I met my match with an 85+ degree bedroom. I’m a weakling for a cool bedroom and, in ardent refusal to bake ourselves, we are pretty darn happy with our window units. Ahh, chilled air, oh balm of this ungodly heat.

The Month of Cars!!!

The girls and I beating the heat

Goodness gracious we spent a lot on our cars this month! For those of you following along with the Frugalwoods Fleet-o-Vehicles saga, we recently purchased a used truck (full story here) and plan to sell our Subaru Outback. We’ll keep our Toyota Prius and thus have one of the largest and one of the smallest vehicles Toyota makes. The truck and Prius look hilarious parked side by side, but they’re the perfect combo of vehicles for our rural lifestyle.

The truck hauls lumber, materials, and tools while the Prius gets superb gas mileage on our long rural drives. Since we plan to sell the Subaru, we took it into our mechanic for an all-around check-up, which resulted in a discovery that it needed new brakes and a new oil pan. Both the Subaru and Prius were also due for their state inspections and registrations, plus, we needed to get the Prius’s new summer tires mounted and balanced.

Now that the summer tires are set on rims, Mr. FW will be able to change them out each season (from snow to summer and vice versa), which’ll save on this expense. Even though we buy our cars used and in cash, it’s still expensive to own and maintain vehicles, which is why we’re planning to divest ourselves of the Subaru as soon as possible. Never own more car than you need!

And Restaurants!

Mr. Frugalwoods’ parents visited us for the month of June and offered to babysit while we went out to dinner… and so we did…  A LOT. Free childcare is the greatest gift imaginable for us right now. The ability to go out alone together as a couple was such a wonderful thing. Having the freedom to do something without our kids was lovely for these sleep-deprived, exhausted parents.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Butterfly spotted near our creek

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.

Our pond in June

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 Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is the method Mr. FW and I employ to sculpt our frugal lifestyle. You can sign-up at any time and you’ll start with Day 1 so you won’t miss a frugal thing. P.S. It’s free! And if you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life

Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities 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 June:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $634.04
Brakes and oil pan parts for Subaru $599.31
Restaurants $249.84
Air conditioners $232.00 Two window unit air conditioners
Household supplies $166.42 This includes thrilling items such as toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, soap, sunscreen, medications, baby items, etc.
Car repairs for Toyota Prius $166.00 Inspection, oil change, mount and balance of new summer tires for Prius
Home improvement supplies $156.22
DMV: car registration $140.00 Two years of registration for our Toyota Prius
Massage for mama! $135.00 I got a massage for the first time in… a very long time! Lovely for my exhausted mama muscles.
Woodshed building supplies $120.31 Foundation layout supplies for the woodshed Mr. FW’s planning to build
Gasoline for cars $86.68
DMV: car registration $76.00 One year of registration for our Subaru Outback (which we plan to sell soon)
Internet $74.00 We have Fiber internet out here in the middle of nowhere, and we LOVE it.
Preschool registration fee $35.00 Babywoods will start preschool again two mornings a week in the fall; this was the registration fee.
Ethanol-free gasoline for small engines $33.41
Doctor visit co-pay $25.00
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Electricity $16.29 We have solar, which is why our electric bill is so low.
Prescription medication $5.60
Total: $4,363.97
Minus Mortgage: $2,971.11

How was your June?

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  1. Out of curiosity, why don’t you show the mortgage on your other house anymore? Aren’t there expenses associated with it? Do you leave it out because it’s more of passive income/an asset now?

    1. Since it’s a rental property, I believe they track it separately along with all of its income and expenses. This is what I do with our two rental properties. I think of it as a standalone business so I can track how it’s doing, separate from how we’re doing personally.

  2. We were considering buying a used car for me to take our son to a pre k which is not within walking distance from our house and realized that we would have to pay hundreds of dollars each month to keep it.

    We are a one car family and have saved a lot of money thanks to that fact alone.

    I’m glad you and Mr. Frugalwoods got to go on dates and spend time together! 🙂

  3. That epic heat wave hit us here in Michigan as well. I can’t remember a summer so consistently hot, with temps above 90 degrees for weeks at a time. I mean, seriously, we’re in Michigan… just how much further north must we go for some heat relief? The good news is that just this past week, temps have backed off a bit into the high 70’s and low 80’s. Forecast calling for the same next week. That may mean a respite is on its way for you!

    I’m a sucker for a cool bedroom as well, so don’t feel bad. I can’t sleep if it’s much above 74 or so, a habit formed dating back to when I used to skimp on winter heat as a poor college student due to outrageous propane costs. I used to keep my entire house at 55 in winter, unless company was coming over. I think it was at that point that I evolved into part Eskimo. I’m now permanently (very) warm-blooded!

    We don’t have central air ourselves, but rely on a mammoth window AC unit to cool the whole house. Biggest and baddest unit you can buy without going to 220V power supply. We’ve never had an issue with it not being able to keep up before, but this last month or two it certainly met its match. Have you checked the power draw / monthly cost of the two window units you installed? Curious what difference they will make to your electric bill.

    In regard to the $599.31 line item of brakes and oil pan parts for the Subaru, was this in fact parts only, or mechanic labor as well? Seems awfully high for just parts, though I’ve never owned a Subaru and have heard parts can be expensive. I would expect something more in along the lines of $200 for parts on a total DIY brake replacement job + new oil pan on our Toyota-made Pontiac Vibe.

    Does Mr. FW perform any of his own automotive maintenance or repair? I’ve found that this is not only an incredibly helpful DIY skill to obtain, but one of the most lucrative as well. I became a self-taught mechanic out of necessity myself, due largely to dating a woman (the future Mrs. FFP) who had perpetual car trouble when I first met her and not enough funds to pay a mechanic. Since then my abilities under the hood have continued to grow with each mechanical gremlin encountered over the years.

    Savings add up quickly when you consider that the average mechanic charges $50-$90/hour, and that’s without the mark-up on parts. A car repair manual made by Chilton’s or Haynes, the official Toyota DIY repair forums dedicated to your vehicles, car ramps, and a basic socket set is all you need to get started. We’ve been able to save thousands by performing our own mechanical and electrical automotive repairs, but draw the line at body work. I also don’t have a tire mounting machine, so am happy to pay to have rims installed.

    I sourced replacement parts from local auto stores like AutoZone, Advanced Auto, or NAPA for years, but stumbled across http://www.RockAuto.com a few years ago and will never go anywhere else again. They provide parts at 33-50% the price of those of typical retail stores, and have a far larger selection to boot. Check ’em out, if you haven’t already!

    I’m glad you two had the opportunity to escape for some together time, sans baby. Incredibly important, and something Mrs. FFP and I (mostly I!) need to do better at prioritizing on our own behalf. Enjoy it. Wishing some cool weather your way!

    1. My husband is making a grand scheme for his own tire mounting machine. He is a mechanic and we barter for labor. Our friend is a great yard worker so he installed our summer garden while my husband worked on his car. He took out all of our pool furniture and cleaned up the yard while he got his brakes done.

      1. A DIY tire mounting machine? Ambitious indeed! Bartering is something we haven’t done much of, but need to do more. It’s one of our goals now that we have the time to live life more intentionally. Sounds like you guys are doing a great job of it!

      2. Oooo, I would like to hear how the DIY tire mounting machine goes! Once our tires are on rims, Mr. FW changes them himself, but we don’t have a way of getting them mounted on our own.

    2. You can calculate the cost of any tools +parts and almost every time will come out ahead. Brakes are one of the easiest maintenance items to replace just need a few wrenches and a c-clamp and you can get disks and a set of pads from ebay for ~100$. There are youtube tutorials for just about any kind of repair you can think of.

    3. The cost is for the parts (which we buy ourselves from Rock Auto) as well as the labor by our mechanic. Mr. FW is comfortable doing some auto repairs himself, but since we’re selling the Subaru, we wanted this repair to be done by our mechanic for the prospective buyer’s peace of mind. Fortunately, our mechanic is in favor of us buying the parts ourselves and then paying him for the labor (he actually suggested that arrangement to us). Works well for all involved!

  4. We installed central AC 9 years ago. Worth every dime, especially since we live on a busy street! Mr. FFP, I think $566-ish for a brake job is very reasonable. What we’ve noticed with our older cars is that a lot depends on how easy it is to access the part that needs to be worked on. We just put $1600 into our 2001 Volvo & $1100 into our 2005 Ford, so I’m feeling the Frugalwoods’ pain!!

    1. Nice. We have plans to install a central AC system ourselves, but it’s downstream of water softener install and water heater replacement projects on the ‘ole to-do list. We’re looking forward to better regulating temps across the entire house now that we’ve moved our young son out of our bedroom to one of the spare bedrooms at the other end of the house.

      In my area, $566 would be a reasonable price to pay for a total brake job (four rotors, four sets of pads, new pins), oil pan replacement, and the associated oil change if you paid for both parts and labor rather than doing the work yourself. In the expense report, I couldn’t ascertain whether or not the FW’s paid this amount for parts alone (assuming Mr. FW played grease monkey), or for parts and labor both. If that was the cost of parts alone, it’s quite high, at least for our area.

      There’s definitely a repair cost X-factor based on year, make, and model though, as you say. Our Pontiac Vibe was designed far better for ease of access when performing maintenance than was our Chevy Aveo or the old Ford Tempo my wife used to drive in her college years.

      1. $566 would be a steal for all the parts you just listed, rotors alone are 65-100 each shop cost! New pads and machining the rotors all the way around could easily be $250 at a shop, replacing rotors would likely make the job more like $600 at a shop, and the oil pan replacement could easily be another $350, those jobs aren’t super time consuming but the parts kill you!

  5. I definitely hear you on the going out alone as adults! I can count on one hand the number of times my husband and I have gone out alone since my daughter was born…and she turned four in April! I’m trying to view it as just the season of life that we’re in, but it does make those times when we *do* get to go out alone that much sweeter!

    Going to check out some of the things you linked to, thank you! 🙂

  6. I’m impressed you lasted as long as you did without an A/C unit of any kind! I also don’t tolerate heat well (and I also love to be frugal), but keeping our house at a reasonable temp during the day/night (which is around 76-77 for us) is a MUST. It’s like you’re always saying–how it’s not bad to spend money, but that we should just be spending our money where our priorities are! And one of my priorities is definitely to not feel like I’m being slowly cooked!

  7. I’m on the coast of Maine and June was hot here too but not so that we need window AC units, which I’m thankful for.
    I just had front brake pads and rotors put on my Corolla–$260. It was actually $263 but since I always pay my mechanic in cash, they charged me $260. Love those guys.

    So glad you guys were able to get some time to yourselves. Did you discuss the kids the whole time? That’s what we always ended up doing!

    1. Haha, we were actually pretty good about only discussing the kids about half of the time ;)!

  8. The end of June brought the end of our beloved dog Maeby, who had to be put down because of osteosarcoma. She had 8 good years with us, and a couple bad months. It was hard to say goodbye, but I’m glad we did it. Since she hated the vet, we had a vet come to our home to do the deed. I’d highly recommend that to anybody who doesn’t want to put their pet through a final traumatic vet experience. I remember crying through reading about FrugalHound’s end in January because I knew our greyhound was just about there, too.

    The heat wave followed us all the way to western NY on our visit to the in-laws’. I remember when it finally broke, we were all sitting on the porch at night and it started to rain, and I just stood out there in the rain, welcome for any kind of relief.

    I just had my own ridiculous car expense, too. The annual inspection found that the little light over the license plate was out. I said I could replace the bulb myself, but then I’d have to get the inspection completed another time, so I just had them do it for $32 Then it turned out the new bulbs didn’t work, because it was an electrical problem, and it ended up costing over $300. Just for that little damn license plate light.

    1. Sorry to hear about your fur kid, we too put our summer girl to sleep at home last month, still not over it.

    2. I am so sorry to hear about Maeby!! Poor thing!! I hope that she and Frugal Hound are running around together in Doggie Heaven (or more likely, lounging around like lazy greyhounds ;)… ). I’m so sorry for your loss.

      1. Thank you, Mrs. Frugalwoods and everyone! The only bad thing about having a pet is you have to be there for the end. Napping was definitely her favorite thing, so I’m glad that in the end she got to take the ultimate nap on her bed.

        1. So sorry for your loss, Norm. We had to put our retriever down for the same reason–only 5! But she lived with dignity and grace and had a raucous good time on vacation, so she went out with a bang.

          Hope that all three of our friends are together, napping, playing and being happy.

  9. I love these monthly synopses. I noticed your prescription cost of $5.60 and wondered if you’d ever written a post on the best way to save as much money as possible on prescription drugs. I switched employers and have been shocked at the coverage of which drugs are covered and which are not; a prescription formerly covered now costs me $343 a month! I’ve done some research but so much of the information is conflicting at best. Thanks — enjoy your posts and enjoyed your book!

  10. I was happy that last month we finally got our expenses (sans mortgage) below $5000 for our family of five (kids 10,15,17). We don’t eat out, drive fancy cars, etc. I drool over your low expenses, even as I remind myself that this phase of life that I am in is temporarily quite expensive.

  11. Love your reports! We got an new a/c too. Summers got nothing on us!

    Most of the time we’re glad we don’t have a car, they’re on the expensive side. Plus we are used to rentals which is a good thing about city living but I totally want the charm of the wide big openness like you guys have. Can driverless rentable cars come around already!

  12. Does it cool off overnight in your area? I have a lot of success keeping a cool house without AC here in the Boston area by running window fans blowing in overnight and Vornados to circulate the cool air (only in occupied rooms). I don’t turn on the window fans until the sun is off the windows. I am trying to hold off on buying AC until I’m a little older and it could be a health issue. I do live in a first floor apartment, and our house is surrounded by trees. If I were upstairs I’d probably have bought one for the bedroom by now.

    1. Yes indeed–that’s how we cool our house most of the time! With this latest heatwave, the issue is that it wasn’t cooling off at night, which is when we typically rely on natural cool air. So, we had to succuumb to the AC units, but weren’t running them non-stop.

  13. Ack! Expensive months for your frugal mobiles. Sally, our Civic, has a slow leak in one of her tires that I’m taking to the shop to get investigated this morning. Hopefully, it’s not quite as painful as your brakes!

    I may have missed it, but did you recently get solar? I would love to see our electric bill that low! We have a 25-year-old central a/c unit that desperately needs to be replaced as it’s a greedy electricity grabber. The summers are much warmer here in the PNW than they used to be so A/C is a necessity (for us), but a minimum price tag of $8-10k for a replacement central air and furnace makes me feel sick. Any tips for replacement, frugal peeps? Husband has done a ton of insulating in our house so that’s helped a bit, but we’ll be lucky if our system doesn’t kick the bucket this year.

  14. I know you probably have a super long to-do list, but I am eagerly awaiting your blogpost breaking down your solar purchase 🙂 I live on a farm in the South and want to purchase solar in the near future. I really enjoy reading your posts!

    1. Thank you! And yes!!! I know everyone is eager to read about our decision to install solar and I am eager to write it!! (just tell my kids they need to nap at the same time so I can finish writing it up :)!!! ).

  15. Hi! Love reading your blog, Mrs Frugalwoods:) This time it was really interesting reading about the heatwave hitting your part of the US. I live in Norway myself, which is in northern Europe, and we’re experiencing the same phenomenon. We actually bought an electric fan yesterday, to use in our bedroom – that’s something I never thought I’d have to buy to get some sleep in this uasually quite cold little corner of the world. I can’t help but to think that this enourmous heatwave might have domething to do with global warming. If so, I’m hoping many more will jump onto the frugal bandwagon in the years to come, because it is also an environmentally sound lifestyle.

    1. I love your comment addressing the need to pay heed to environmental issues and reducing our carbon foot print. Personally, money is only but part of the concern when I consider whether to use heat, A/C, or drive the car. Yes, I too am hoping that many more will jump on the frugal bandwagon and lead more environmentally sound lifestyles.

        1. This was my first time commenting, though I wanted to for some time. Ms Deer, your comment made this silent reader speak up. 🙂

  16. This is awesome, I love to see the detailed breakdown of expense reports. No kidding, you guys spent a lot on cars this month, i guess it is just one of those months! This is why it is so important to have emergency money saved up to pay off those unexpected costs. Also, I liked how you put in that you use credit cards a lot (not like other bloggers who say credit cards are horrible, while they can be, they also have some good benefits that you listed). Careful spending and tracking is the way to go and I also use Personal Capital, I love them, I use them along with Mint for a great overview of all my finances.

  17. On the subject of cars – do you know of any way to rent cars at a reasonable rate in VT? I’ll be there for a couple of months and realising that being without one is very difficult – but trying to avoid having to buy and sell for a short time.

    1. Hmmm, that’s a good question. I don’t have any experience with it, but I imagine the airport in Burlington, VT likely offers something. Additionally,Hanover, NH (where Dartmouth College is located) likely also has a rental agency. Good luck!

    2. Have you heard of Turo? It’s like AirBnb for cars! We rented a car last month in Minnesota that way and it was MUCH cheaper than other options. My husband heard about it through one of his car YouTubers. (He’s a petrol-head.) If you DO want to sign up, I have a link for $25 off: https://turo.com/c/meganp285

  18. Did I miss the news about the solar panels? Would like to hear more about that – does Vermont offer a rebate, do you sell back to the grid for a profit, etc.?

    1. I haven’t written the post about them yet :)! I’m way behind on needing to do that…. somehow having two little kiddos means less time to write 😉

  19. You mentioned you guys have solar. Do you have a post on that or can you tell me what panels and parts you recommend?
    Thank you so much!

  20. I’m glad to see you got some space AC during all this heat. You really need it for the kids, and incidentally you too. Congrats on your solar. Can’t wait to read the whole story.

    My 19 year old Buick is still running like a top–crossed fingers, toes, etc.. She obtained an owie on her front side thanks to somebody at Costco running into it in the parking lot and then I assume scooting away, probably post haste. Oh well, it’s not the end of the world. Like you, I self insure on repairs as the car, no matter how well she is behaving, is worth less than the cost of the repair. She’ll just have to grin and bear it.

    I do have AC but I keep it set at 80 degrees F. Having come to the Northwest from a hot climate (which was miserable) many years ago I tell myself that it isn’t hot at my house under 80%. Saves on the electric, but I do have to turn it on for a couple of days (usually in August) when it soars into the 90’s.

    My electric bill last month was less than $20 for the first time in history. I like to brag that it is my frugalizing and the fact that the farther north you go, the longer the days that did it, but the truth was the electric company gave everyone a credit refund out of excess savings. Score!

    How is your garden doing in all this heat?

    1. Garden seems to be doing OK so far! The tomatoes and hot peppers seem to love this heat and thankfully the greens are surviving!

  21. It was indeed miserably hot, and if we were looking at many months of that, I think we would install a heat pump. (Major expense, I know.) But for now, we sleep downstairs on the worst nights, have awnings/window shades to keep the direct sun out, and close up all the windows when it’s the coolest part of the morning. The other thing we do is use cool water and fans — I find long wet hair (with cold water, of course) and moving air (a fan of some kind) makes for great personal AC! Or if I’m seated for a while, I’ll use an icepack on the back of my neck or resting on my stomach. Not to say we wouldn’t also get AC if we felt it necessary, but so far this has worked for us… it’s also how we got through West Virginia summers without AC. Anyway, just some other ideas.

    1. Yes! We tried very hard to get the kids to sleep in our cool basement (in travel cribs) in order to avoid using AC, but it did NOT work :). Maybe when they’re older! We also have fans and do strategic opening/closing of doors and windows, etc, but alas, still upwards of 85/90 degrees in the kids’ bedrooms, which is just too hot for an infant and toddler.

  22. We also have a couple of window units. We use them in the smallest rooms of the house. My dad is visiting, so he turns his on during the day in his room to keep the dog cool. He tends to not use it at night since he’s from Georgia and thinks the New England nights are nice. My husband and I will run the other one at night. The increase in our electric bill was minimal. I can’t sleep if I am hot (we’ll keep it on energy saving mode set to 74) and I also don’t want my dog to be hot during the day since she’s got a coat of fur!

    1. Forgot to add that we were lucky that the people who lived in our house before us left two window units. I guess they moved to a place with central air. We have a smaller one that we used when we lived in an apartment. When we bought it we didn’t have a car, so my husband carried it on the bus from the Cambridgeside Galleria to our place in Somerville!

  23. How have I missed the fact you have solar panels?! That is awesome! Did they come with the house/property?

    I also wanted to put a thank you in here – I borrowed your book from the library earlier this month, devoured it in under a day (I could not put it down!), and gave it to my partner to read. I think it helped the whole FI/RE concept sink in for him (I don’t explain things so well..) so after years of my trying & failing..we’re finally getting somewhere: we’re doing the UFM challenge for our first time, we’ve increased our savings (will continue to do so until it hurts), and getting our lives together in general so we’re working toward a common goal *while* being on the same page. Your book was a much-needed catalyst, as we wouldn’t really be here right now without your help via the book. It has started a chain reaction, has already altered our way of thinking/approaching things, and it can only get better from here. So a big THANK YOU for all your efforts!!! (and hey – maybe he’ll see this if he ever gets to reading the blog!)

    We also suffered through some heat waves here in WI so I finally agreed that we could turn the A/C on and set it to 80. Otherwise it’s been a low a/c unit use summer so far. I hope you have some relief soon, because I, too, love having all the windows wide open!!

    1. Thank you so much! Glad to hear you enjoyed the book :). We had solar installed late in 2017 and I haven’t had the time to write up a post about it yet, but I really need to :)!!!

  24. Maybe you should look into adding more insulation/shading strategies/undereave vents/whole house fans to add value to your homes infrastructure? And more comfort year round.

    I live in Northern California where it routinely gets into the 90s and 100s even into October. We do not have AC. We do have something like R-44 in the attic, windows with low solar heat gain coefficient, shade trees on west side of house. There are some occassional days the hose gets stuffy by 5 pm, but I just cook dinner with a wet tshirt and box fan on those days. We have solar, and our electric bills are 30 a month. Our neighbor who runs her AC daily says her PGE bills average around $700 in summer. Yikes!

    Extra insulation will save you on the winter heating bills too. And lower carbon footprint.

  25. I am so looking forward to the blog on your epic solar situation! No rush, I don’t mean to be pushy. I’m enjoying the anticipation actually! We have one small panel on our van and it’s been terrific to have power even with the engine off. I just think solar is the neatest. Stay cool.

  26. Sacramento area has been 100+ for the past 2 weeks. Horrid weather! My neighbors are stupified that I run fans until the house is 90 degrees. Then and only then does my AC get turned on. It is so expensive to cool houses in Nor Cal, and with single pane windows and little insulation, it isn’t worth it to me. I’m selling this place in February, so I will not be doing anything extra. I do miss my Sierras-no matter how hot the day got, by 5 pm cold air was rushing through the mountains. My friends put solar on their house. Yes, their electric bills with PG&E are like $45 every month, however, the solar cost $36,000 to install! No thanks.

  27. We’ve had some brutally hot days in the Boston area as well, and since I also have no central air or AC, I’ve been thinking of taking the leap. Wondering what air conditioner units you purchased?

    1. Hi. I’m in Boston. We have some bigger window units left behind my the previous occupants. Also have a smaller 5000 BTU Frigidaire that I got at Sears 6 or so years ago for $115. I just use it in the bedroom to keep a smaller place cool. My electric bill hasn’t increased much, maybe ~$10-15. SO WORTH IT

  28. I live in the deep South (south central Alabama) and my electric bill in my all electric 912 sq ft house is typically $50 or under during the summer months. I have one window unit in my living room. I sleep in there and shut off the doors to the two bedrooms. My house is also three fourths shaded all day. I have a white metal roof that reflects the rays of the sun. I try not to cook very much in the summer, I usually eat a lot of tomato sandwiches…lol. I turn the air on very briefly when I come home from work, when the afternoon rays are the strongest and hitting my big “picture” window in front. I have plastic on my windows, and thermal curtains. Even in the deep South it is possible to stay cool, IF your house is shaded by large trees. It also helps that I do well in warm weather. Not having shade can be dangerous.

    1. I’m in north Alabama, but we’re wimps that use the AC. Humidity at +85% and +95 F heat makes “air you can wear”; leading to mold, mildew, and making the wood flooring buckle. So I got a dehumidifier and Love it! Keeping the indoor humidity around 40% we are fine setting the AC at 78 F. Wish we had one sooner!

  29. Grandparents who babysit are the best! My kids are the same age as yours, and I also can’t think of any better gift than the ability to go out on a date with my husband with no children in tow. It’s SO necessary for my relationship and mental health, as much as I love my kids. You can’t put a price on that.

  30. Hang in there. The Little Years are tough but they do end 🙂 take any break you can! My kids are 7 and almost 5 now and I’m beginning to feel like a person again!

  31. So glad you guys got some dates in there! How lovely. It seems like a good idea to have the truck and sell the Outback. Probably a lot more useful on the farm. Our June (and July) have been so spendy. There are so many things to buy and pay for when you move. I’m hoping August slows way down and we can adjust to life more slowly. This has been a crazy summer for sure.

  32. Can you do a post sometime on your solar power? I don’t remember reading about it, so I assuming it was already installed when you bought your house? Thanks.

    1. Oops, I just read where you replied about this to someone else’s comment. I would love to do this as an investment. My husband, for the time being, thinks it would be too expensive. I’ve heard you can actually sell power back to the electric company, eventually.

  33. Hubby and I also go out to eat as a way to keep our sanity and our marriage alive. We ask for restaurant gift cards so when we have to pay a sitter we can save on the price of the meal, and if we have my parents watch the kids for free then we can justify paying for the meal out at a new restaurant we want to try. So important to keep our love alive while we’re basically run dry by the lovely(& needy) children.
    Then we can remember how those children came to be ;).
    Anyway-we has a car maintenance month as well and yes-it’s expensive. We need 3 cars, and thank goodness they are all paid off. I’d hate to she’ll out for maintenance while we still had a car payment:/… but the way we see it, if you want to keep cars for a long time, keeping them tuned up and running is the way to go! And girl, I’m glad you got those A/C units. Heatstroke is real!

  34. We had warmer temps (and higher humidity) both summers when I was pregnant (decades ago). Nothing better than being pregnant without A/C during July and August in the Midwest! We didn’t have A/C until the kids were 12 & 9 – in true frugal fashion, we posed the question to the kids “would you rather have central A/C and less gifts at Xmas?” (Santa still gave gifts). Both kids were in agreement. To this day I still handle the heat/humidity better than my spouse. However appliances and computers don’t work as hard when the A/C is on so a small victory. Solar panels are on my radar. While they likely won’t generate enough KWH to negate the A/C cost (electricity is not cheap where I live), it will help none the less. And also should be most welcome when the power goes out (trees are nice but tend to cause havoc when near power lines).

  35. As usual I forgot something! Mr. Money Mustache has 2 posts on insulation. He recommends R-50 or R-53 in the attic depending on which post you read. Like your hubby he has a ton of numbers, etc. so your nerd may want to take a gander at that. Apparently it has solved MMM’s cold as well as the heat problem. It appears what this means in English is that you add about 12″ inches of blown over what you already have. Just a thought. It’s not all that costly (surely less than A/C) and I’m going to do that in my next house if I ever find one. On month 6, 7 or 8 at least of looking in this crazy real estate market.

    Hi Jana!

    1. Yeah, we already have blown-in insulation. The major energy problem in our house are the windows, of which there are a ton! Unfortunately, it would be ridiculously expensive to replace them all, although it’s something we’re considering!

      1. While you’re considering changing your windows …. we replaced three 25 year old large windows and a door with locally-made timber double-glazed units. This cost just over $A16K, for the removal and installation of the windows and door, plus repair of a corner section that had rotted out (which we discovered during the installation process 😮). The new units don’t have sections like the old ones and we no longer need the ugly blinds, so we can make the most of the views – part of the reason we did it. The difference has been amazing: warmer (it’s winter here!); quieter; and they are easier to clean.
        We are used to warm summers in Australia, but ours have been steadily getting hotter earlier and nighttime temperatures are staying higher.
        A couple of other posts mentioned shade from trees, and there’s plenty of research backing this up. If this is not possible, or you can’t wait for them to grow, another option is to install external blinds/awnings or shutters. The aim is to stop the sun before it hits the glass and heat transfers inside. Curtains help, but they battle against the heat that’s already made it through the glass. Of course shutters help in winter, too, so you’re probably well familiar with them!
        The awnings we use here fold back against the wall at the top of the window when not in use. There are also electric shutters which sit close to the window, but for me, their ugliness outweighs their practicality! And they cost money to run…
        Hope it’s cooler now and good luck with your window choices.

  36. I enjoy reading your blog even though I am old retired widower who lives alone in my homestead (townhouse in the Chicago suburbs LOL) and get a lot of good frugal ideas from you plus I enjoy pictures of your kids as the look just like my grandchildren. Just curious, why did you put that much money into the Subaru? Why not sell it “as is”?

  37. Interesting tidbit re: solar. In our homeowners renewal policy under property not covered: “under item #.x, language has been revised to provide that systems and equipment used to generate electrical power exceeding 125% of actual power usage by the residence premise in the 12-month period prior to the date of the loss are not covered property”. I expect this language to become standard across P&C insurers. What it doesn’t spell out is how the insurer will determine which equipment is covered (the 125% or less) versus which isn’t (the 125% greater). Just a heads up for those who may sell back to their power company.

  38. I would also love to hear more about your decision to use solar power. I live in SoCal near the desert and it is regularly 100 and above in the summers and early fall. We waited until it was in the 90s before turning on our AC, but it’s on for good now until late September or so. This is our first summer here in this house; I am anticipating a GIANT electric bill this month, even with the excellent windows that the previous owners thankfully installed.

    Kudos to you Liz for getting a massage! I am a busy working mama too, and I find occasional massages to be a necessity for health maintenance, not simply a luxury.

    I am also glad to read that you and Mr. F got some date nights in. My husband and I don’t have family nearby who can take care of our young son, but our local YMCA has a monthly Friday Parents’ Night Out: pay $20 for your child to participate in crafts, storytime, highly-supervised swimming, dinner and snacks, for a full 4 hours, while Mama and Daddy can have a break, dinner and uninterrupted adult conversation! We did this in July for the first time, and plan to do so monthly from now on. Way cheaper than marriage counseling! 🙂

  39. Glad you are keeping comfy out in the woods. Lovely picture of you three. It’s killer hot in Montreal too, and I am so thankful we have central air in our small condo.

  40. I would love to hear about how you store your bulk chickpeas. We are trying hard to reduce plastic packaging and have the space to store 25+ lbs of things like flour and dried beans in the basement but I am not sure how to go about actually doing it!

    1. Depending on your geographic location, you may want to consider a dehumidifier. Not only does it help with food storage, it helps with all items in the basement. You should also see some savings on your A/C (if applicable) and it also makes spending time in the basement more pleasurable. We wish we could have ours drain in the sump pump basket but logistics prevents it. We do clean the filter on regular basis and adjust the settings during the winter.

  41. Can you post a list of what you buy at the grocery store and/or what the inside of your fridge looks like? Curious as to what you purchase each week and what things you keep on hand in the fridge (perishables) to eat each week.

      1. Oh, I’ve read those numerous times :)! Was more interested in your food and maybe the fridge photo could be an idea for new photos! Also, I’m hungry…

  42. Living in sunny Florida, we have considered solar, but the price has so far held us back, plus the fact that we are older, so our payback time is maybe not that long.
    What I was going to ask about is, our power companies already tried to sneak a bill through legislature that would force those who have solar to pay some fees to the electric companies just for having solar — whether annual or monthly, I don’t remember. The bill started out with language saying that it would guarantee everyone the right to have solar…. as though we didn’t already have that right. We do. The fine print later in the bill was where the “gotcha” was, but luckily, it was voted down, in a fairly close vote. Most people didn’t read past the first few innocuous sentences, I feel. That’s given us pause. I read another blogger saying that they are not getting solar because it would actually end up costing them money due to their state regulations similar to what was attempted in Florida. Does anyone have any information on this problem? Is it common?

    1. This, what power companies want, is absurd. So they are hell bent on selfishly keeping this global warming continue. Makes me glad that I stubbornly refuse to use A/C (only ONCE for couple of hours even with the heat wave), no or very low heat (set between 55-60 F) etc. Thanks for pointing this out. I will now check this out in our state.

      Love that I learn so much from comments here.

  43. I’m jealous of your vehicle registration costs. 🙂 In Melbourne Australia, it costs about $900 for car registration, per car, per year. Out of the $900, $200 are the actual registration cost, there’s taxes, and a large chunk of it $500 goes to TAC – Transport accident commission- they pay for medical expenses for people who are affected by road accidents- though I heard it is hard to get money from them.

  44. One pro to replacing windows in bedrooms–more than likely if your windows are old, you don’t have double-hung windows. Having double-hung windows in rooms where you need window air conditioning units means that you can still open your windows from the top (you move the screen to the top too) even when you have an a/c in the window, which helps with air-flow when you don’t need a/c (especially helpful if the room is an interior room with only one wall for window(s)). So when the time comes to piecemeal window replacements, be sure you get double-hung. 🙂

    strangely in PA, car registration is crazy affordable–only $37 a year, and even cheaper for seniors. This is why in our parts, you get people with 10 cars in their driveway, lol!

    PS- I noticed you don’t have SSL encryption on your site. I only am aware of this as I work for a non-profit and we had to add SSLencryption to our site in order to host the donation page “frame” on our website. I know you’re not selling things, but SSL encryption can be obtained for free (some try to charge but there’s free options out there too–ours was free), and it’s just one more thing to make your website safer. Good luck staying cool!

  45. I’ve been trying to use the link in your blog to Personal Capital but it doesn’t seem to work. Could it be because I’m in Canada?
    Love your blog, you really are a fantastic inspiration for people wanting to live and save within their means.

  46. Sounds like another fantastic month, and it’s nice to see you were able to treat yourself as well. That gives me the idea to get my wife a massage. I’m sure it’s been a while and I think she would enjoy it

  47. Since you already have solar (and it looks like a pretty substantially sized array) you should consider mini-splits (ductless air-source heat pumps) for both heating AND cooling, as well as dehumidification. They are extremely efficient, much more so than central air or window units. And your smaller, daily use vehicle should be either a plug-in hybrid or all electric (EV). For the EV, no more fossil fuel and almost no maintenance. Yes, these can be expensive up front, though in Massachusetts there are zero down, low interest rate options, along with subsidies which make for very reasonable payback periods. I have all three.

    1. You’ve read our minds :)! We already have a hybrid (Toyota Prius) and have looked into an EV, although at present out here in rural Vermont, our driving ranges are too far. One of the reasons we got such a large solar array is that we’re thinking of getting an EV at some point in the future. We are also considering mini-splits–definitely in our plans for the future! And, alas, we no longer live in MA :).

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