We’re getting older. Or at least, Mr. Frugalwoods is getting older (I’m forever, uh, 30 right? 32? 33? Let’s stop there). My previously 20/20-visioned mountain man/computer engineer capitulated to needing corrective lenses (more commonly known as glasses) about three years ago.
Then this summer, he started having daily headaches and I, being a model of not overreacting, knew he had a brain tumor. Mr. FW–being a more rational individual (but it COULD be a brain tumor)–looked at the calendar and realized that what with having two kids and moving to our homestead and managing to bathe daily*, he’d forgotten to get an eye exam for several years.
*track record is not 100% on this one
Still suspecting a brain tumor, I made him an appointment and in he went only to learn that his prescription had changed. Indeed, his eyes are just a tad worse. The likely culprit for headaches, the ophthalmologist surmised. I realized I was derelict in my eye exams as well and made an appointment post haste, which confirmed that my 20/20 vision is holding up five years after my LASIK surgery.
Armed with a fresh prescription, Mr. FW does what we do in every situation requiring that we purchase something: he took to the internet. Even if we don’t end up buying whatever it is from the internet, we like to first research and compare prices so we’re making our purchases with eyes wide open (so to speak).
Fortunately, this was a quick search for him because several years ago, we discovered the miracle that is buying your glasses online. I know folks are suspicious of this approach, but we’ve now done it several times and been most pleased. The site we use is Eye Buy Direct (that’s an affiliate link) and we prefer their services for several reasons:
- It’s not the dirt cheapest site. I once ordered the dirt cheapest glasses I could find on the internet (back before I got LASIK surgery) and they were awful.
- It’s not the most expensive site. There are some pricey, fancy-pantsy sites out there vending pricey, fancy-pantsy glasses. No thanks.
- They let you upload a photo of your head to virtually “try on” glasses.
- They have a 14 day return policy allowing you to return or exchange your glasses within two weeks after receiving them.
- They also have a 365 day product guarantee that allows a one-time replacement of a pair of glasses, “if there are clear defects in material and workmanship.”
I wrote a full review of our experience with Eye Buy Direct a few years back and, all of it still holds true with our most recent purchase. Even better, Mr. FW was able to simply re-order the glasses and sunglasses he ordered last time, just with his new prescription. I think it took him all of five minutes.
His grand total was $62.16 for:
- One pair of prescription eyeglass frames + lenses with scratch and glare resistance (with an oleophobic coating)
- One pair of prescription sunglass frames + lenses with scratch and glare resistance (with an oleophobic coating)
Pretty good deal, I’d say!
A Truck Bed Cover
Another noteworthy/interesting expense this month was a cover for the bed of our pick-up truck. We were rocking it coverless all summer, but since we don’t have a garage, neither of us wanted to sign-up to shovel out the truck bed every time it snows this winter. And it snows every other day, so ya know. Bonus is that it’s keeping all of the fall leaves out too!
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards for several reasons:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where that random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. This prompts me to spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
- We get rewards. Who doesn’t like rewards? Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying things we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry any debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (which are fully paid off every month) has greatly helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty, dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years, however, does help your score.
If you’re interested in opening a credit card, I highly recommend using this site to search for a card that’ll best fit your needs. And if you’re interested in travel rewards cards specifically, check out this list curated by my friend Brad from Travel Miles 101. I respect Brad’s work in the travel rewards space and I trust his advice on which cards will reap the best benefits.
Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with using a debit card and/or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (these are affiliate links)
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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.
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. 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 in which we maximize efficiency.
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!). We’re not the most frugal people on earth (far from it) and we’re not spendthrifts either. We fall somewhere in between and I hope that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain some insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.
Interested in how we keep costs 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 central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer).
We also have solar panels, which account 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. Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
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 September:
|Preschool||$448.35||Babywoods goes to preschool four mornings a week and loves it! You can read more about our preschool decision here.|
|Truck bed cover||$249.99||We got this Tonneau bed cover for our truck, but we bought it on Ebay because it was cheaper there (affiliate link).|
|Home improvement supplies||$178.56||Final woodshed materials: Mr. FW needed shorter screws for the metal roofing, some additional 1x4x10 purlins, and more 5/4×8 PT decking for in between the bays.|
|Restaurants||$152.97||Several divine date nights for me and Mr. FW! My parents were visiting and offered to babysit for us and we took them up on it.|
|Doctor visit co-pays||$140.00||Eye doctor appointments for both of us + other misc. co-pays.|
|Household Supplies||$139.66||Thrilling non-food items, such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, vitamins, baby items, medications, and mouse traps (for the Prius! These freak of nature mice want to live inside our car SO BAD).|
|Propane (delivered by Suburban Propane)||$120.00||I shared the details on our propane usage–and the wisdom of switching providers in order to net the lowest price per gallon–in this post right here.|
|Gasoline for cars||$82.85||Higher than normal due to Mr. FW driving to Boston and back for work.|
|Internet||$74.00||Love our fiber internet!|
|Eye glasses (two pairs)||$62.16||From Eye Buy Direct (affiliate link)|
|Cell phone through BOOM Mobile||$19.99|
|Utilities: Electricity||$17.24||We have solar so this is the base price to keep us grid tied.|
|Vital wheat gluten (affiliate link)||$14.89||For use in baking my homemade bread (in my found-by-the-side-of-the-road bread machine). Here’s the recipe I use.|