August 2018 Expenses

All other line items were dwarfed by our annual property tax bill, which we paid in full in August. It’s a whopper since it covers our 66 acres along with our house and barn. However, it’s a bill we’re happy to pay because property taxes are what fund crucial public services such as schools! Vermont has high income tax, a fact that many folks cited when Mr. Frugalwoods and I announced our decision to move to Vermont and make it our permanent home. But we moved to Vermont will full knowledge of this fact and also full knowledge of how Vermont utilizes these taxes. We’re thrilled to be in a fabulous public school district and in a vibrant little town in a great little state that funds things that are priorities for me and my family.

Our homestead in the woods

I don’t mind paying taxes so that I (and my neighbors) can reap the benefits of a good school system that offers–for example–free preschool for all children ages three and older. I don’t mind paying taxes so that I (and my neighbors) can enjoy well-maintained roads and pristine Vermont landscapes. It’s all part of being in a community and so it’s a check I happily write every year. Last year, a number of readers asked why I choose to pay big bills (such as our property taxes) in full, as opposed to meting the payments out (in the case of property tax, there’s an option to pay half now and half in the spring).

So why not keep that other half invested and earning interest? Well, quite frankly, it’s easier. And, I wouldn’t have that dollar amount invested anyway because I don’t invest anything I know I’m going to need in the near future. Since the nature of the stock market is to rise and fall, I keep liquid (in a savings account) enough cash to cover payments such as our property tax bill. I find it more straightforward to pay the full amount and thus remove the need for me to remember to pay the second half in the spring. Plus, I always figure its easier for my town to receive the full amount all at once and thus deploy that money to municipal services that need it.

Woodshed Mania

The completed shed with one year’s worth of wood stacked in the first bay! We have wood to fill most of the rest, but haven’t had time to stack it yet…

The other mega line items in August were for woodshed materials! Mr. FW completed construction of our wood palace in early September and I detailed (exhaustively) the process here.

We are SO GLAD (I mean, it borders on elated) to have this thing built and stocked with firewood before the first snow flies.

Also, SO glad to be done with paying for the lumber and screws and nails and clamps and ratchets and gravel and…

Also, Mr. FW noted that he purposely overbought on lumber and fasteners so that he wouldn’t have to trek back and forth to the store during the project. Hence, he plans to return what he estimates is around $300 of lumber and supplies, which will reduce the “woodshed materials” line items.

Preschool IS BACK! (and the parents doth rejoiceth)

I know I just said that preschool is free in Vermont*, but Babywoods isn’t old enough to qualify yet. One must be precisely three years old on September 1st in order to attend free preschool and our oldest daughter won’t be three until November. And yes, I 100% called the school (and spoke to the principal) just to check and see if maybe they could squeak Babywoods in, but nope. Rules are rules and I respect that. Given this, we’ve chosen to pay for Babywoods to attend private preschool this year (as she did last spring) because this child is READY for school.

Babywoods: massive fan of school and unripe apples…

All summer long, she played school and every single morning, she’d ask me, “mama, can I go to school this day?” (I don’t know why she says ‘this day’ instead of ‘today,’ but it cracks me up so I don’t correct her). And every time we drove past her school this summer, she’d pipe up from the backseat, “that’s my school! I love my teacher!!!”

So uh, yeah, she’s a school lover. And thank goodness since home schooling is NOT in our future and would NOT be my or Mr. FW’s forte. We’ve found two different preschools for Babywoods to attend this year, which means she’s able to go to school Monday through Thursday mornings. This month’s line item reflects the tuition for just one of her schools since the other check wasn’t deposited in August. Hence, the normal monthly total for her school will be about double what’s listed below.

Babywoods observing a sudden rainstorm that sent us scampering from the blackberry patch onto our porch

It’s not cheap, but it’s also very worthwhile for us. Babywoods adores going to school and it’s clear she’s thriving in these environments. Would I rather not pay? Of course! But on that same token, I’m happy to save money in other areas (for example by sourcing all of her clothes, gear, toys, and books as hand-me-downs or from garage sales) in order to pay for something I value greatly: early childhood education. In addition to the benefits Babywoods derives from school, it gives me and Mr. FW a break from parenting and lets us work on projects we need and want to do (such as building a woodshed and writing this post!!!).

It also provides Littlewoods (who is a newly minted seven-month-old) some solo time with the parents (when she’s not napping, of course). All in all, preschool is a boon for our little family and I am a deep well of gratitude for our preschool teachers–they are true miracle workers. I mean seriously you guys, they bake and cook and paint and garden and craft (shudder) with TODDLERS. Miracle workers I tell you. And let’s not forget the bonus that we’re now the proud displayers of a multitude of toddler-generated works of art: there’s currently a dragon nose (??) on my counter and a stick-and-fuzzy ball caterpillar on my kitchen window sill…

*Fellow Vermonters, you read that right! The state provides ten hours per week of free preschool for all 3-5 year olds. Our school district offers free all-day preschool in addition to this ten hour mandate (woohoo!!!). Check out the details here!

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Littlewoods: now a food-eating member of the fam. I haf no teefs, but I eats anyway!

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! (these are affiliate links)

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.

Every day I’m applin’ featuring apples on our Red Duchess tree

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. (these are affiliate links) 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.

Good view of the fruit trees in late summer: apples, cherries, and plums!

Why do we allocate our money like we do? 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 prudent financial management and 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.

Why do I share our expenses? To help give you a sense of how we use our money in a goals-oriented manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget (perfection does not exist!). But I hope that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain some insights into your spending as well and might be inspired to take proactive control of your money.

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

Babywoods stalking our vegetable garden, looking for something to snack on…

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. We also have solar panels, which accounts for our low electricity bill.

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 August:

Item Amount Notes
Property Taxes $8,664.06 The total annual amount for our 66 acre property, which includes our home and barn
Woodshed supplies $1,801.40 Lumber and metal roofing, which were ordered from Poulin Lumber (and delivered for free!).
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $703.94 I have no defense for why this is so high other than that I’m really hungry. Hah!
Woodshed materials $378.10 Lots of clamps, a big extension cord, fasteners, joist hangers, hurricane ties, etc…
Woodshed materials $290.00 14 yards of crushed 1 inch minus stone (also known as gravel, which was used as the base for the woodshed)
Preschool for Babywoods $272.40 Morning preschool started back up for Babywoods and she is one happy camper!
Gasoline for cars $155.62
Woodshed: more lumber $139.08 Mr. FW miscalculated and needed to go buy more lumber… whoops! Good thing we own a pick-up truck!
Household supplies (including sunglasses) $123.76 Thrilling non-food items, such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, vitamins, baby items, medications, and several pairs of cheap sunglasses for yours truly (I’ve lost/broken at least three pairs this summer… I imagine there are bears roaming around wearing them in our woods somewhere… )
Date night dinner out! $79.88 Mr. FW and I go out to dinner once a month and our wonderful neighbor stays with the kids. Hooray!
50lbs of dried chickpeas from Palousebrand $78.26 After our last purchase of bulk dried beans, a bunch of readers suggested cheaper online sources and we researched them all and found that, unfortunately, none of them deliver here. Boo.
Internet $74.00 Fiber internet! Woohoo!
Doctor appointment co-pays $65.00
Non-Ethanol Gas for small engines $36.49 For powering our chainsaw and lawnmower
CO2 Refill $34.25 Semi-annual refill of our 20lb tank of CO2, which powers our hacked Sodastream
Diesel $29.41 For our tractor
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Prenatal Vitamins (this is an affiliate link) $19.49 No, I am NOT pregnant, but I am breastfeeding 7-month-old Littlewoods, so I continue to take prenatal vitamins.
Utilities: Electricity $16.07 We have solar so this is the base price to keep us grid tied.
Mustard Seeds for Making Pickles (this is an affiliate link) $12.55 A key ingredient for pickling the 9 million cucumbers from our garden.
Total: $14,386.61

How was your August?

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  1. J thought it said preschool is free for ages 3 and under… is it like a nursery? What about the ten hours plus you said your district does all day? Is that everyday?

    1. The state of Vermont offers 10 hours of free preschool per week for all children over three years old (not under 🙂 ). And then our school district offers free full-time preschool for all children who are three by September 1st. You can read more on the state of Vermont website. It’s a wonderful program!

  2. I love your attitude about taxes. I feel the same way. We live in an area with fairly high taxes, but we get a LOT for them. I’m a seriously heavy library user and as someone who has lived in a ton of different areas and states, this is the best library I’ve ever had the privilege of using (and I’ve told them that, and they were very grateful to hear it). The roads are pretty nice, our snowplowers work really hard when it snows, we have a ton of parks and green spaces that are well-maintained. Our schools are phenomenal and I’m reminded of this every time I go to one of my son’s choir concerts. We’re SO lucky to be able to live where we do, and I’m happy to contribute to making this area such a great place to live. (We moved here from an area with low taxes, and, uh, one year the schools didn’t open for about two weeks because they didn’t have the money to run, and the teachers and aids and other workers there were criminally underpaid, and that was just the start of the issues in that area, so we have no problem with what we pay here.)

    Hurray for Babywoods going back to school! My daughter, who is about 4.5, has been SO excited to go back to preschool. She attends the program that goes through the Early Childhood Education classes at my son’s high school and she adores it (and gets angry when it’s not a school day), so I completely understand Babywoods’ enthusiasm. Her program is only 1.5 hours, 3 days a week, but it’s a nice break for me and super fun for her. How cool that Vermont understands the importance of early childhood education! That’s going to be awesome for you guys next year.

    1. Do you mind if I ask where you live? My husband will retire in a few years, and we are thinking about where we want to be. I love everything about Vermont except the WINTERS!

    2. It sounds like you live in Minnesota! My husband and I moved here recently from a state that is is much worse shape and the difference is astonishing. I wish we’d done this years ago, so our kids could have attended a decent school.

      1. We live in Minnesota too. We love this state. I am so concerned because a lot of people are fighting to reduce our taxes (especially in my town, which is out state and on the conservative side). I am always reminding people that taxes pay for things like our fabulous state. I am a transplant from another state, and I love Minnesota so much.

    3. We feel the same way about living in a fairly small urban space on the North Shore of Boston. We have an entire town of free activities to do, plus a public school system that provides free breakfast and lunch to every kid, no book-bag lists, and a YMCA after school program at the school. Its not cheap to live where we are, but our “backyard” is the town common, complete with playground. We have forest to hike in, historical sites to see, and the best show in town every October! (Full disclosure its Salem…. oh…. Salem). Its a trade off, but we find we get a lot of bang for our housing buck with our family! (Plus great job opportunities as I’m in healthcare and my partner is in insurance.)

      1. We are from Canada and visited Salem a few weeks ago. I took the kids to the park in the common and I think it was their fav part of the trip (packed our snacks and enjoyed a very frugal morning!). You live in a beautiful town!

  3. I also want to commend you about your civic minded attitude towards taxes. So refreshing! We live in the WUI, the wildland urban interface. And among our many taxes is a $200 fee for fighting wildfire. Well, after paying that for year and everyone in our neighborhood complaining about it, Calfire saved our neighborhood from the devastating Tubbs fire last year. Money well spent! Now, we are budgeting for making our property more fire safe…cutting down trees, replacing wood fences with masonry, etc. I wish more people understood we need to pay taxes to fund basic infrastructure maitainence . But I also wish tax dollars went to that basic infrastructure rather than surface looks. Seriously some of the local schools and libraries look like high end resorts while our roads are terrible and need repaving. A clean, well lit library with lots of reading material is all I need. The fountain filled atriums, granite and original art just frills.

  4. Interesting that you pay property taxes directly to you locality even though you have a mortgage on the property. Most mortgages make you pay the property taxes to the mortgage company and then using an escrow account pay the town/city. Usually, this is to ensure that you pay your taxes and the City doesn’t foreclose on the mortgage companies collateral.

    No worries. Just an interesting (to me!) tidbit.

    1. You have a choice when you apply for your mortgage. We have had 4 mortgages from Wells Fargo to our local credit union(s). We always choose to pay quarterly rather than have the mortgage co hold our money! We are better with our money that they are lol.

    2. I think most mortgages leave it up to buyers whether to have Taxes and insurance withheld each month into Escrow a YEAR in advance. It definitely makes more sense, if you have the option, to pay your bills once a month in full when they become due. Otherwise escrow agents collect a year in Advance so that they have enough to pay the following year. It’s not the interest I think about as much as the control over our budget…we definitely pay our taxes twice a year!! That’s a lot of money!

    3. My last mortgage let me pay my property taxes and insurance myself. Current mortgage has me only paying homeowners myself, didn’t have a choice about the taxes this time around, automatic escrow only.

      I MUCH prefer to pay each of these things on my own, in full, at the time the bill is due. I’m not one for monthly payments, just want to pay it all and be done with it.

    4. From what I learned,Often the choice to pay separately depends how much equity you have. Usually a minimum 20% (plus)down payment is required for independent payment of taxes & insurance.

      1. Some lenders insist on escrow. Despite RESPRA, escrow is still profitable for lenders. I won’t finance with lender who requires escrow when LTV is 80/20 or less. One thing one NEVER wants is force placed insurance – basically loansharking insurance IMHO (and I work in the financial sector).

  5. I agree about taxes; I would love to move someplace where tax dollars better the community, and I’d be happy to may much more in taxes for that to happen. I have no idea where the taxes we pay currently go. I know may teachers who have left teaching becuase after they deduct all that they pay for school supplies, they end up qualfying for government assistance. How sad. As a social worker I see every day what happens when communities don’t support themselves. It’s my dream to move someplace like Vermont where you get great services.

    As a former preschool teacher, I can say that if it’s something you love, you get great joy from it. I ADORED teaching toddlers; they are my favorite age. I only stopped because making minimum wage with a college degree, with no benefits and no hope of ever hitting $12 an hour, was unsustainable. I miss it some days. Glad that Babywoods enjoys school so much.

  6. Regarding the big bills like taxes, I understand the desire to pay in full because it’s easier. I also get that it’s money that if you split up the bills you’d still need them liquid to pay the rest of the bill later on. However, there is something to be said about having that money work for you, while I agree the stock market doesn’t make sense there are savings accounts that pay interest, I currently have a savings account that pays 2% interest up to 100k. My checking account is with the same company, so basically I keep all my bill money is savings earning interest and can in a few click transfer whatever money I need to checking to pay the big bills. Just a thought.

  7. I can’t believe summer is over! *crying* I didn’t adore the heat, but summer was so much fun with so many activities, picnics, and free food! It makes me a bit sad to think that it will snow soon *crying again*

    I can’t wait for Baby FAF to go to pre-K for free. Pre-K is open to kids aged 5 and above where we live, so we have about 1.5 years to go. 3 yrs sounds awesome! It’s a bummer Babywoods missed it by 2 months, but I can imagine how parents of kids born in late August (like our 2nd baby) would feel >_<

    Happy September!

  8. I want to echo the comments applauding you for your attitude about taxes. A functioning society is very important, and you absolutely get what you pay for regarding local funding for schools, infrastructure, community programs like libraries, etc. The ‘taxation is theft’ idea is absolute nonsense because we all benefit from having an educated and properly supported population.

  9. Thanks for sharing your take on taxes, I fully agree. Taxes and homeowners insurance almost double our mortgage payments, but I love our trails, library, roads, wastewater treatment, schools, etc. In a past job I developed rates for communities public utilities and it was difficult work realizing that increases would burden many residents. But having functioning and maintained systems is key to building safe communities.

    Our August involved a camping trip, lots of time preserving food, asks major bathroom renovation progress.

  10. Every time you say your property taxes are expensive it makes me laugh a little. Considering how large your property is, that is a pretty small expense!

      1. Here in Derry, NH we live one lane off of a lake. (No we do not have a view 🙂 ). We have a 1,000 square foot cottage with no attic or basement that is 80 years old and our taxes are about 4K per year. I happily pay them as both my children require special education services and they both get their individual needs met and then some. Thank you for your stories!

  11. This was a heavy-hitting month for the Frugalwoods family, but I can see it was worth it.

    The state’s pre-school thing is pretty neat, and I can picture Babywoods being so excited to go — so cute. Our county has a pre-school (VPK) run by the school system. It used to be that they ran Head Start, which takes infants as well, but the state decided to take that away from our schools after 18 successful years, and gave the contract to a woman two counties away, who had no local building, no local employees to run it, and ended up spending her start up money on herself. So…. the school stepped in with its own VPK, which helps the working poor especially.

    I don’t enjoy paying taxes, but I realize that we needs infrastructure, schools, a library, the animal shelter (which is striving to become 100% no-kill) and more. I get a little aggravated at some older people who say they don’t have kids in school anymore, so why should they have to pay taxes for the schools. I don’t have kids in school anymore either, but really, how short-sighted can a person be?

    1. Very – taxes are used to serve all of us. A well-educated and employed population should be the goal of taxpayers. Help the folks who need a hand up.

  12. This is a very minor grammatical point in an otherwise excellent piece, but since you have two daughters the one born first would be your older daughter. Oldest would only apply if you have three or more.

  13. It is refreshing to hear the positives of paying taxes. I moved back to my home town 5 years ago due to a health diagnosis. My taxes for my house and 2.5 acres in central Virginia was more than 3x what I currently pay for my house, garage, sheds and 4 acres in northern West Virginia. The school system I am in is deplorable and the roads are even worse! There have been several new schools built in the last decade; however, they don’t even have the money to maintain them. They are currently having meeting to determine if it is best to close 2 elementary schools. There is only 1 high school in the ENTIRE county and has been that way since the early 1990s. The residents of the county where I live refuse to pass any levy’s that the school board suggests, yet complain about the declining population, industries, and why kids are “running amuck”. We live in a rural and not so prosperous area and parents have to pay for ANYTHING their kids do besides going to school. Some of the schools don’t even have enough texts books for each student!! It makes my blood boil just thinking about it. God bless the educators to work VERY hard for hardly any pay to try to educate the children here. My daughter is 2.5 and I have been trying to get her into a preschool in the county where I work but have not had any success yet. Thoughts of moving when she gets ready to start school full time is on my radar. However, my house is paid for (and connected to our family farm) and my parents are my child care (at a MUCH cheaper rate than daycare) so I can work outside the home to support myself and my daughter. The help and farm living are so nice, but the value on education is definitely not a priority for the majority of people in my county. And then there are the roads…. the state is REALLY good at putting “band-aids” on the roads. It would be nice if they would value doing it correctly the first time and have a higher upfront cost and routine maintenance then an astronomical repair bill.

  14. Really interesting piece, as always. And I completely agree with our view on taxes. I live in the UK where we are working hard to preserve and protect our excellent paid-for-by-taxes National Health Service, which benefits everyone and is paid for by those who earn enough to pay taxes. Many of us would happily pay higher taxes if we knew that the extra money would pay for everyone’s health care, education, and all the infrastructure costs etc that benefit the whole of our society.

  15. So glad to see that you’re prioritizing date nights out—after years of being super frugal (mostly be sheer necessity, not just wanting to be), my husband and I can REALLY see that date nights out are one of our first priorities now that we have a tiny bit more wiggle room—it’s strengthening our marriage, and it’s definitely helping our sanity (as we also have two small children, one of whom is only 3 months old). I’ve always liked that you’re an advocate for not cutting EVERYTHING out of the budget just for the sake of cutting it, but rather in prioritizing what you spend your money on.

    1. Yes!! Date nights out have become sacred to us now that we have kiddos. It wasn’t such an issue pre-kids, but now it feels miraculous to be able to get away for an evening. It’s such a wonderful thing for our marriage and our sanity! Glad to hear you’re getting those dates in too 🙂

  16. Personally I do have a problem with high taxes, We live in small Massachusetts town and pay over $10000.00. No street lights, no trash pick up. Schools are good but a big part of that is parent education level and parent involvement. I am better with my money than the government is but what is there to do? A big part of the high taxes is the payout to pensions and lack of funding that most towns do for future pension payouts. People are living longer and more money taken out of coffers that are not filled. It would be more reasonable to pay the local jobs a bit higher and no more pensions offered like most of commercial businesses.

    1. Commercial businesses can afford to offer jobs without pensions, although I would like to point out that many of those same businesses pay such shabby wages that their employees qualify for public assistance—which my taxes pay for, so I am indirectly subsidizing the profit being earned by those businesses. Pensions are essential to attracting employees to some very high risk professions. If you want people to run into rather than away from burning buildings, go into rather than run from meth houses, go into homes where children are being brutalized rather than running from those situations, you have to compensate them. I live in a state where teachers are hired to go into incredibly tiny villages, isolated and unable to leave except on an airplane since there are no road connections, dealing with extremely harsh weather and sometimes living in danger because there are no police in the village and the alcohol abuse rate is quite high and leads people to do stupid and aggressive things. As our pensions have been reduced, we have had trouble attracting teachers.

  17. Wow, the cost of that woodshed really added up! It seems expensive, but I guess that’s about the same as a couple years of electric heat. Over time I guess you’ll recoup the costs from savings using wood to heat your home.

    Still, I can see why you call it the wood palace.

  18. I love reading these posts every month! Personal Capital – I note their comment that they link to most US banks. Does anyone know if you can manually import from non-US financial institutions? I am not in the US…

  19. What a great looking woodshed! Long may it serve you!

    Many decades ago, my Mom read an inspirational monthly magazine called “This Day”. The words have a certain deliberateness or intention to them, a living in the moment crucial to childhood. Adjusting to child-time is such a big part of parenting, and of pre-school teaching.

  20. While I don’t agree about taxes, be grateful that you live in a state that uses its taxes to benefit the citizens. In California, our taxes have been hijacked for larger salaries, more benefits, and perks for the powerful elites. When I was growing up in California, we had beautiful roads, fantastic schools, and incredible talent pouring into the state. Now? The pensions of everyday workers-including state workers, who do work hard-are in danger because contributions from the state are way behind. Our roads are full of potholes, closed due to damage, or dangerously behind in design for modern traffic, yet CalTrans begs for money to do their job. So bless Vermont for caring about their citizens!
    I love how you state: “we live a luxuriously frugal existence”. That is what I aim for everyday. And everyday is another day to make that luxuriously frugal decision. Before reading your blog, I would love shopping at HomeGoods buying mindlessly. Now? I leave empty handed and usually go back the next day, if that object is REALLY that important! The good news is my kitchen has been pared down and I now use what I have and have what I use!!

    1. I don’t live in California, but I’m interested to hear what exact benefits and salary you are talking about that goes to “powerful elites”? Are you saying your taxes go towards the salary of people who work in Silicon Valley? How much money do you think state employees actually make?

      1. I am a state employee in CA…my salary is $55k, so fairly moderate. I believe the average state worker in CA makes something like $65k. As state employees, all salaries are public information, so it is easy to see who are the highest paid state employees (they tend to be physicians working at teaching hospitals in the UC system). California has high state taxes, but very low property taxes. Much of what Sandra describes in growing up in CA vs. now has to do with Proposition 13 (1978), which had a significant impact on the tax base in the state.

  21. I had a student once who would say “lasterday” instead of “yesterday” and no one (including his parents) had the heart to correct him because it was so adorable!

  22. Property taxes. Ouch. $772/month paid to get to pay your mortgage. Whew. What a country.

    $14k month. Good thing not a typical month at “Frugal”-woods. 🙂

    Thanks for your open/honest posts and messages

  23. I spent more hours on the phone with the School District/Department of Education trying to get my little one into Kindergarten than the number of hours she missed the cut off by in Missouri 🙁 Oh well, at least I tried.

  24. Just wanted to chime in that I love Palouse chick peas! So much better than stop bought canned. They can up beautifully in the pressure canner too. And I’m glad we don’t have your property taxes! You have a great attitude about them, but I don’t think I could stomach it.

  25. Do you ever have a line item for toddler clothes? Or does that fall under household?

    I love buying used clothing for my just but I have to be vigilant in not overspending when I can get a good deal at consignment shops.

    1. I don’t because I really don’t buy much clothing for my kids. I am very fortunate to be the recipient of lots and lots of hand-me-downs for my girls. Sometimes I do pick up a few items at yard sales/thrift stores for them, but that’s usually in the arena of $5 or less per month, which gets lumped into household. I will say that sometimes my kids are dressed, uh, eclectically (and with stains and holes!), but we really rock the hand-me-downs as much as we can. And then, we hand down the stuff we’ve outgrown :).

  26. Hi, I’m curious about the savings account you are using to pay taxes. Are you using a money market account or something else? My savings account pays basically nothing and I’m looking for alternatives. Thx!

  27. Living in a high tax country the tax, paying 30-50% of our incomes, the property tax has actually gone done to a fraction of what you pay. It used to be much higher but since it was a terrible unequal tax, making “poor” retirees move out because they couldn’t pay the tax, it was lowered to reasonable levels. However the tax, wherever it comes from pays for our schools (all are free) and daycare (equal the amount given by the state every month to every child in the country). Hi from Ane in Sweden

  28. Our little girl (5) wears that same combination, at least every other day: Pink and Purple! And if there’s hearts or stars, bonus!

    We don’t escrow our property taxes, and the payments are due 2x annually. But this year we paid ahead to gain the tax advantage that went away with the “tax reform” bill. I still pay our P-taxes with credit cards to generate spend for miles.

  29. I love that you live off the grid in a way! Love that you heat your home with firewood. And you probably find ways to compost/reuse/recycle stuff instead of throwing stuff away. I’d get a few chickens, my chicken-raising friends have told me they eat all kinds of food leftovers! Loved when my first was old enough to finally go to pre-k, my life started changing after that! Now I’ve got two in grade school and it’s like I have an only child during the day(my baby who keeps me company). Once he’s in preschool I look forward to some hours of baby free freedom again!

  30. Hi Liz:

    It’s great to hear that you’re feeling better. I have fought depression since my wife passed away so I think I understand some of how you feel.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the value of preschool and your willingness to give up other material things to pay the tuition. If your daughter loves school that much, she is obviously getting a lot out of it. It’s your best investment.

    Finally, I pay my taxes and insurance the same way you do for the same reasons you do and my friends ask me the same questions. Keep it up.

  31. I so enjoy your journaling about your financial life journey. But can I throw a little life experience your way? First up, I’m not a psychologist and have never taken child development classes, so please bear that in mind when you read this. I am a mother and grandmother of many, so I do have some experience *raising* children. What I have observed is that when small children are put in preschool at such a young age… instead of that *consistent* parent/child bonding continuing to grow and develop (at such a time of critical brain development), it is interrupted by other entities (such as preschool on this case) where the teachers are the ones meeting the physical and emotional needs instead of mommy and daddy. Albeit just a few hours here and there, these small precious bundles learn detachment at an age when it shouldn’t be (yet). I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND mommy needing a break (call Grandma!!), and I TOTALLY GET that many older toddlers are wanting to go to preschool and LOVE IT. My concern is that it isn’t good for *them* in the long run. Too soon, mommy and daddy are replaced with outside people that can do just as well or even better. OF COURSE they still love Mom and Dad, they always will. However, I’ve seen the difference between older children and young adults who were sent off to preschool too young and those that were “preschooled” at home by mom and dad. It’s recognizable in the relationships later. Yes, it’s hard, tiring, and we don’t get enough sleep and can’t ever go to the bathroom without a little one following us in, etc. But the years we have them are SHORT compared to the years we don’t. In my experience, nothing is “free”, and the cost such as in this case can possibly be paid through the close relationships and respect that are forever altered, and all because we allowed others (professionals) to take care of our babies when it should have been us. I hate to break it to anybody, but these professionals do not love your children like you do. They may love children in general, but they are a poor substitute for the real love that the babies so desperately need from their parents, especially during this early time. Understandably, not all children are affected in this way and some thrive just fine. The problem is that EVERYONE thinks their child is the one that will thrive and have no problems. Please don’t take this as someone trying to lay a guilt trip on someone else.
    Just reading your entry about the preschool attendance brought up the regret in raising my own family. Would you believe that when I placed my youngest in preschool at age 3, the teacher actually asked me if I was sure that was what I wanted to do! “He’s too young,” she said. I (privately) thought she was crazy, but I assured her that my 3 yr old had been eagerly looking forward to going for a long time already, “he’ll be fine.” Well, he was happy and excited everyday I took him, but it wasn’t ok, and it took many years and then the later comparisons to figure that out. Anyway, this is my experience and I hope this will prevent someone else from missing out on everything a parent/child relationship ought to be, and to give it every chance of being the rock solid foundation that every kid deserves and is entitled to. For your consideration I humbly submit…

  32. I don’t have a problem paying taxes, but I have a big problem with paying as much for school taxes as people with children pay. I fully support paying for education, and feel a base tax is just, but if others choose to have children, I think they should pay a greater share of school taxes because they’re using more of those resources.

    If you drive a car that gets great mileage you pay less is gas taxes.
    I expect this opinion will be slammed, but I’m posting it.

    1. Definitely not slamming. Admittedly though, this line of thought has always confused me. We all benefit from and “use” an educated society. The people collect our trash, maintain our roads, build our bridges, fix our cars, perform our surgeries, research new technologies, and on and on. I don’t believe the same can be said about gas taxes. I have a young child (no school yet) and have always gladly paid taxes; it’s my hope that a student before or after my child will do great things for our world and selfishly me and my family!

    2. I’m happy to slam this opinion. We pay taxes for plenty of services we don’t use. Are you using Medicaid? Are you using every single road in your town, do you visit the Senior Center? no? well, according to your logic, why should your taxes go to those items as well.

      Sorry, but if you live in a society, you have a responsibility (yes, responsibility) to support the community on a proportional basis to you means. That includes services that support the greater good (i.e. schools etc) whether you use them or not.

      On a more practical basis, quality of schools typically factor into real estate prices. So if you don’t benefit directly by having school age children, you benefit indirectly in real estate values that are in part supported by living in an area with quality schools.

      Feel free to move to a location where school taxes are lower. I’m sure it is not as nice an area as those places with higher quality schools (an unfortunate fact that isn’t something this comment is meant to address).

      1. I don’t have any problems with taxes for the services you mention. Please note that I didn’t say I objected to paying school taxes, just to paying the same as people with children do. I do not mean to insult anyone with the analogy when I say that I also believe those who do not recycle, do not compost and create more waste should also pay more in taxes. I believe in a consumption tax.

        Having children is a choice that already garners a tax advantage that I also consider unfair. Increased population heightens the pressures on our environment; even frugal families with children use resources. don’t believe people who choose not to increase environmental pressures should pay the same as those who have made a different choice. As a committed environmentaIist who clearly sees the damages from increased consumption that goes with increased population, I believe it is those who do not have children who deserve a tax advantage.

        1. I guess it’s a slippery slope, when discussing who pays what/when and why.
          I don’t have kids, and I’m not currently needing medical aid, but I’m happy to pay my share with the expectation that it will increase my enjoyment of society as a whole in the area that I live.
          As my life changes, I’ll be glad that I paid to support teachers, police, public service workers (garbage collectors/recycling services etc etc) as they all enrich my life even if I can’t see the direct benefit.
          I hope this makes sense. Mind, I’m in Canada, and so paying for our health care system that I’m not currently using could feel impactful to me right now, but I’m just glad it’s there when (hopefully no time soon) I or my family need it.

        2. Having children is 100% a choice! Can’t disagree with that at all.

          You didn’t address my point that we all benefit from some else’s choice of having a child. The doctor you (hopefully!) see is someone’s child. Should I (being one with a child and paying more of a tax) be able to reap more from her (the doctor’s) knowledge than you? Of course, not!

          1. Laurie,
            I agree that there is much value in supporting public services with taxes.

            Lisa, I apologize, but I really don’t understand your analogy. Are you saying that you only enjoy your child for the benefit she’ll confer upon you in the future?

            If I use a doctor’s services, even if I pay for insurance, there is a fee. I can choose not to see a doctor and not pay a fee, if I keep myself healthy. I still pay the basic cost. That’s what I’m advocating: a basic cost for all because I value education. I just think your decision to have children should be somewhat borne by you, not me.

            Do you really think it’s fair that people that choose to have children should not pay a bit more ?

          2. Lisa is not saying that, she’s saying that having children (those one can afford to support of course) is something that happens as part of society as a whole. There are expenses parents face – and only parents – that the child-free do not face, never mind how much or how little tax they pay. Nappies, orthodontics, any other auxillary medical stuff, like OT (a LOT of kids need this), all the sports… and yes, these are all to some extent entirely choice-based and / or can be minimised, but these costs are part of the choice to be a parent. I think most of these costs are indeed borne by the people having the children. Education, to a basic level, is important for society as a whole, for community, regardless of socio-economic group. Surely expecting all contributors to have a part of their tax going towards this is fairly uncontroversial?

            The idea that because one doesn’t have a child, one should pay less tax is a bit odd. Did you not benefit from whatever tax pays for when you were growing up? I view tax in part as something one pays for what one has received already in a decent society.

  33. My 3.5 year old says “this day” also and I have wondered if it’s because “today” sounds very similar to “Tuesday.” He is just starting to pay attention to the days of the week and what happens on which day, so to differentiate between the two is important!

    1. Wow, Germany sure is great! I guess you don’t pay taxes at all there…(heavy sarcasm). The pre-school and kindergarten are not free of course, you do pay for them, it is just that they are covered in your taxes. In the US, these items are not not standard (well, kindergarten is available for free to everyone 5 or older). Not better or worse, just different.

      1. Good point, although we would have to compare our tax levels! Otherwise it’s hard to say whether it’s free compared to the states.

        1. Europe has heavy tax by comparison to the States, but a higher percentage goes to things like medical care, education and similar than to, say… heavy military equipment and war.

  34. Vermont seems like a great place to live- we have some friends moving up there soon.
    I feel the way you do about taxes- our town does an amazing job at snow removal, and it snows for almost half the year… then they spend the other half fixing the torn up roads and the whole cycle starts over again. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in the winter.
    I also agree with Mr. Frugalwoods- we always overbuy materials, especially fasteners. It’s really frustrating to run out of nails mid-project! The woodshed looks great!

  35. Hello,
    I just read half of your book and I L❤️VE your way of thinking!! I live in Texas and was visiting a friend in Maine and she checked your book out at the library and I started reading it a day ago (that is why I didn’t get to finish) so I am on the plane back to Dallas and will finish the book when I can get a copy either at the library or I might just buy a copy to share with anyone who wants to be more frugal. I grew up the oldest of seven kids in South Dakota -so we did a lot of the things you talked about in the book. It is so refreshing to hear a younger person embracing a debt free life! Thanks for being so transparent and honest. Peace, nikki

  36. I too have no issue paying my property taxes (not quite as much as yours but we have less acreage). The schools are good. Older daughter graduated college in 3 1/2 years due to AP credits. Younger daughter had to go 4 years due to a required major class only offered in the spring. Both got scholarships (one more than the other due to the economy) but “we all” graduated debt free. I do miss being in my library district (honestly, $100 a year in property taxes barely buys 3 hard cover books these days). I have no issue paying $120 a year for an out-of-district card. And I know there is no way our township will ever vote to join the library district. They vote against any tax increase yet complain about our roads. I’d best stop now lol..
    My state has the “must be 5 by September 1” to start kindergarten. My older daughter just made the cut-off but I took a lot of grief for starting her (large influx of students in our district). She too talked about going to school. I sat thru the “but she’ll be the youngest in her class” spiel. To which I replied “but she’ll be the oldest in her class if we hold her back”. If the school had refused to let her start, I’d have put her in a local private (secular) school for a year then enrolled her in our local district.
    Do have Mr. Frugalwoods take an objective look at the excess woodshed materials BEFORE he returns it. Nothing wrong with having a “bone yard” of material on hand. It could save time and money in the future. You have a place to store the materials so that is not an issue.

  37. As a retired preschool teacher, I love that your daughter loves school and that you appreciate her teachers. I was paid minimum wage at a private, not for profit preschool to raise our future generations – it’s a job you do for the love and not the money. Here’s to a great school year for her – and you!

  38. Thanks for sharing so much detail — I’m not a handy person (I grew up and still live in NYC) so I only live on the homestead vicariously through blogs like this! I love how you are fully independent on the utilities and even source your own wood. We hope to plant fruit trees on our lot in Costa Rica, and that will be one small step towards a more DIY lifestyle.

  39. Not sure about your thoughts on TAXES!! They always go up NEVER down..that includes the 6-7 on phones,internet, cable…water, gas,electric., real estate,car registration , sales taxes state taxes ..etc Depending on the state u choose to live in the taxes can take out 60-68% of your income.. If you pay taxes the school system and teachers union …the education and school is not FREE??

  40. Hi Frugalwoods, avid reader here who just wanted to let you know that this months (October) expense report isn’t showing up on the homepage. Not sure if this is intentional or not, but I thought you might appreciate the heads up. Keep up the good work!

    Fellow Vermonter

    1. Thank you! Not intentional–it’s an issue we’ve been having with the site recently and something we need to fix!

  41. We all have things we cannot give up. Yours is seltzer water and mine is Fuzzy Socks.
    I did a no spend couple of weeks I went back to my mildly frugal ways this week when I bought birthday gifts and gifts for good grades. “A couple of the gifts were used books.” The toy was new though.
    I am planning to buy stuff for the garden soon. I probably should go back on a no spend in a week or two.
    I do understand my frugality is a choice.

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