October on the homestead: leaves like whoa

We’re just relieved that title isn’t “New Kitchen Sink.” Our kitchen faucet developed a resonant drip, drip…. drip, driiiiiip… you get the idea… and so handyman Mr. Frugalwoods set about fixing it. I had mixed feelings about this fix. On one hand, it’s always better (and cheaper) to fix what you already own.

But on the other hand, neither of us likes this sink. It’s a porcelain situation prone to chipping and, most offensive of all, staining. Excessive staining. My wonderful mom cleaned it while she was visiting in September (I think the stains grossed her out) and she brought it back to a color resembling white.

Not two weeks later, the stain was back. Yes, I could clean it weekly, but no, I’m not going to do that. And so with a stained sink we sit. Mr. FW set about dismantling the faucet to eliminate the drip and, lo and behold, a piece of faucet (the handle thingy?) broke off. Aha! I thought. Perhaps my new sink moment has arrived. But no, Mr. FW’s skills are too good and he managed to get the thing back together. Good for our budget, bad for our new sink desires.

Stained sink hiding over there in the corner

We have a complicated relationship, me and the sink, because on one hand, it’s large enough to bathe my children in (convenient!). But then on the other hand, it is chip- and stain-riddled. But on yet another hand, it’s the sink I have and I’m grateful to have a sink at all (and running water to boot). But on the other hand (maybe we’ve moved onto feet by now?), it’s an eyesore. But on the other foot, it functions and does its job. Beauty is not in its job description, am I right? And I’m pretty sure I’m the person who said not to have material possessions serve as stand-ins for human emotions. In other words, I am not defined by my kitchen sink. But then on the other foot, the thing is just plain ugly. We’ll get you someday, stained and chipped sink. Until then, stain on.

Update: just this morning another piece of the cold water handle broke off…

Heating Oil

October barn view!

Although we primarily heat our home via our woodstove (and firewood we harvest from our land), we have baseboard oil heat as a back-up. If for some reason we can’t feed our woodstove–for example, if we’re out of town during the winter or doing something time-consuming like having a baby–our oil baseboard heat comes to the rescue.

We can’t let the house get so cold that the pipes freeze and so oil is our security against that fate. Being people whose pipes DID freeze once, we have a healthy fear of this scenario. Particularly Mr. FW who had to crawl into the wall in order to re-plumb a goodly portion of our rental property (which at the time was our home).

At any rate, since we only use oil heat as a back-up, we don’t go through all that much oil in a year, but we used a bit more last winter since we had a baby and weren’t on top of our woodstove game while we were in the hospital and immediately after returning home. Given that, I went ahead and had our oil tank topped up to ensure we have more than we need for this coming winter. I called around to every oil company that delivers to our area to find the cheapest price per gallon, which this year turned out to be Rymes Propane & Oil Company at $2.79 per gallon. For more on my heating oil and propane price comparison exercise, check this out.


Bug 1 and Bug 2!

Not actually an expense as we spent $0 (we don’t get trick-or-treaters), but I had to include it so I’d have a plausible excuse for spamming you with Halloween photos. The ladybugs, pictured at right, were outfitted in entirely hand-me-down regalia. Older bug wore a hand-me-down bug suit (shell?) along with a headband and wings from a previous costume. The ladybug rainboots were my niece’s and worked perfectly for outdoor trekking. Younger bug wore a borrowed bug suit lent to us by a friend with a baby too tiny to be a bug and a toddler too big to be a bug.

Halloween is an easy-to-frugalize holiday, which is one of the reasons why I love it so much! Borrowed/handed down/homemade costumes coupled with reused decor (most of mine is stuff my mom and mother-in-law handed down to me) equals a cost-free extravaganza. Back when we lived in the city–and were graced with tons of trick-or-treaters–I bought bulk bags of candy from Costco and always had enough leftovers to take in and share with my office (by which I mean secretly eat at my desk… ahem). For our pumpkin this year (which I just now realized we forgot to carve), we swapped some kale and chard from our garden with a friend for a pumpkin she’d grown. Another neighbor gave us a few of his extra gourds and Babywoods brought home a pumpkin from preschool, which rounded out our festive display. Actually I’m thinking it was smart we didn’t carve our pumpkins as they can now seamlessly transition into Thanksgiving decor.

At the Trunk-or-Treat (pre-meltdown)

To mark the holiday itself, we moseyed over to our local elementary school’s Trunk-or-Treat, which was mercifully at 4:30pm on the Sunday before Halloween. This was my inaugural Trunk-or-Treat experience and, I must say, it was divine! Especially for a toddler and baby! Especially in a rural area! There’s no door-to-door trick-or-treating in our town because everyone lives so rurally, but there are lots of Halloween festivities. The only hitch is that we had to lie to our toddler and tell her that Sunday was Halloween… or I think I phrased it as “we’re celebrating Halloween today…” to make it a lower grade lie.

There were quite a few Halloween night events, including a potluck at our local library, a “haunted house” at a nearby town’s fire station/school/library, and more. But, with two small bugs who go to bed at 6:30pm, all of this was a bit late. And a bit cold. So the daylight trunk-or-treat was our speed. True to form, at precisely 5:12pm (after 40 minutes of Trunk-or-Treating), our children had a synchronized ladybug meltdown complete with *real tears,* red faces, and excessive screaming. We promptly loaded them into the car and jetted home.

On the drive home, Babywoods–having experienced a miraculous recovery from her *real tears*–piped up,”Are we having macaroni and cheese for dinner? That’s our special Halloween dinner, right?” Cue silence from the front seat. We’d both forgotten–until this interrogation–that we’d once, weeeeeeeeks and weeeeeks ago, mentioned that we should maybe, perhaps have a special family Halloween dinner tradition and that it’d be fun to make homemade baked mac-n-cheese. Great idea, right? Well, it would’ve been had we remembered to buy any (I mean even ONE) of those ingredients at the store the previous week. But we had not. We were without a single mac-n-cheese scrap.

The unadulterated glee of popping popcorn (pls ignore my laundry in the background… )

And so in a moment of parental genius (due most likely to the Reese’s peanut butter cups I’d surreptitiously stolen liberated from Babywoods’ stash and crammed into my mouth before getting into the car), I responded, “Actually, we’re going to have something even more special.” Mr. FW, our chef, gave me an alarmed side-eye. Undaunted, I suavely replied, “Oh yes, we’re going to pop… popcorn!” “POPCORN! WOW!” Babywoods replied breathlessly. And the non-existent mac-n-cheese was erased from her toddler brain, pushed out by the promise of popped corn. This is further evidence that toddlers are awesome at being easily and cheaply amused.

We used our 13-year-old air popper* (which I wrote an entire post about once… ), to pop up a giant bowl of “special Halloween popcorn.” And yes, Babywoods ate exclusively popcorn for dinner. And yes, everyone went to bed on time. Note to self: remember mac-n-cheese ingredients next year. Second note to self: alternately, enshrine “popcorn for dinner” as our Halloween tradition as is cheaper, easier, and fewer calories; however has no cheese… hmmm.

*Thanks to judicious record-keeping by Amazon.com, Mr. FW confirmed that he purchased our air popper on December 4, 2005 for $24 (that’s an affiliate link). Weirdly enough, it’s still that same price… which makes it even cheaper if you account for inflation!

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything


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.
October view from our back porch

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.

And we’re done…

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 October:

Item Amount Notes
Vermont Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $668.33
Heating Oil $666.80 This was a delivery of 238 gallons at $2.79 per gallon from Rymes Propane & Oil Company.
Preschool $538.35 Babywoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.
Gasoline for cars $144.33 This is higher than normal because I filled up our pick-up truck, which we rarely do! We primarily drive our hybrid Toyota Prius, which gets great gas mileage. The truck? Not so much…
Doctor visit co-pays $115.00 Co-payments for doctor’s appointments. As noted above, our health insurance is covered by Mr. FW’s employer.
Household Supplies $114.19 Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, medications, dental floss, baby supplies, etc.
Date night! $86.80 Dinner at a restaurant for date night! Mr. FW and I go out to dinner one night a month while our amazing adopted grandma neighbor (or as she clarified, she is the KIDS’ adopted grandma and my adopted mom) babysits for us! More on our date night decisions here.
Internet $74.00 LOVE our fiber internet!
New valves for kitchen sink faucet $26.63
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Utilities: Electricity $18.04 We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied
Total: $3,865.32
Minus mortgage: $2,472.46

How was your October?

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  1. I love that you mentioned the benefits of using a credit card and actually recommend it due to the benefits they can have. Now of course, as you said, you MUST pay your bill in full each month to really reap the rewards. I use personal capital as well but I use it mostly for investments to get a better understanding of my portfolio. I use Mint for all the spending and income tracking and it has been working great for me so far. That’s awesome that you had an amazing Halloween without spending anything! Great post, have a great day!

  2. So frugal for a beautiful family of 4! What cute Lady Bugs 😂 It’s refreshing to see kids enjoying Halloween! So many kids today just don’t participate anymore or barely dress up.

    Our October was pretty good too and we came under budget.

  3. I always love reading your blog posts and today’s was no different. I want to congratulate you on making it to my quote board! When I find quotes or sayings that really resonate with me, I copy them out on cue cards and post them in my home office and around my house. Your line about “I’m the person who said not to have material possessions serve as stand-ins for human emotions. In other words, I am not defined by my kitchen sink” really jumped out at me and is helping me to stay on track in decluttering 10 years of ‘stuff’. Your words now join my other cue cards by Maya Angelou, Jack Welch, etc. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation!

  4. Ha! The one thing I hated when we bought our house was the sink. It was a porcelain, double sink, so it wouldn’t fit the electric skillet we always cook with (our kids are bigger, so no trying to fit them in there!). And it always looked dirty, no matter how much I cleaned it. I also wasn’t a fan of the countertops, but could have lived with those. Like you said, though, it worked, so I didn’t do anything about it. Until the serendipitous day that my husband dropped something on our corian countertops and put a crack straight through it front to back, right over the dishwasher. Within a week, we had not only granite countertops but a new large single basin stainless sink that I LOVE and is so easy to get clean. So while I know you are not re-doing your kitchen just yet, if you ever do, I would highly recommend it!

    1. Oh darn, too bad he dropped something ;). We had granite countertops and a huge stainless steel sink in our first home (now our rental) and I LOVED them!!! We’re definitely going stainless when we replace this sink. I was secretly hoping something terrible would happen to the sink during this repair, but Mr. FW is too good of a DIY plumber these days… hah!

        1. I use bar keepers friend! Doesn’t keep colors and grey streaks from showing up, but gets the sink shiny white very easily. I chose a used double bowl porcelain sink – one bowl is extra deep, and I love it. The two bowls means there’s a spot for prep and a spot for dirty dishes, and for dish washing a basin for dishes being washed and a basin for dishes waiting to be rinsed. But I can understand why some would prefer a single basin sink.

  5. Been reading for a few months – just finished your Uber Frugal Challenge a couple weeks ago. Was nice to have a way to keep us focused and talking about where are money was going and where we want it to go.
    Few ideas to add to yours:
    Cook and puree your pumpkin. Freeze it and use it for pumpkin bread.
    Add parmesan cheese to your popcorn -gotta have cheese : ). Then add a kefir or milk based smoothie and you have a fairly balanced meal.

  6. Such adorable lady bugs!

    My husband is pretty handy too, which usually works out in my favor. He has on occasion, though, fixed something that I was really hoping was done for. Our bath tub also stains easily (discovered when using my homemade bath salts) so I can feel your pain. Do you have a Restore? They sell used household items. If not, we tend to wander the end caps at the hardware store to keep an eye for things that we want but don’t need.

    1. We buy Annie’s mac and cheese when it goes on sale and keep it for ’emergency’ food. Quick, easy and tasty. We stir in broccoli or greens to make it healthier.
      As for the sink — a stained, chipped sink is not improving your life or making it easier. You look at it every single day. I would also worry the chipped porcelain would trap bacteria. I vote for a new, stainless sink. (Or as someone suggested, check out Restore. You might find a good compromise.)

  7. We had a porcelain sink just like that… once a month I would spray it down with diluted bleach, and come back 30 minutes later. It didn’t get rid of ALL the stains, but it made a noticeable (and time-efficient) difference while we were in that rental.

    1. Yes, I keep an old spray bottle of bleach/water under the sink and when it (my old white porcelain sink) looks bad I spray it down (carefully so as not to spray my clothes) and a half hour later it’s mostly white. I give it a good scrubbing with (generic) scrub at least once a week and in the meantime the bleach keeps it sanitary and looking OK. I learned from my Mom, sho also taught me to wash babies in the sink!

  8. Stopgap for sink – do a search on “reglaze sink”. There are inexpensive DIY options, though I don’t know how long they’ll last. I’m with you on the stainless steel sink.

    You can also try the bleach part of this routine – http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/shine-sink/ I’m not invested in the shine part, and I have a stainless sink, so I don’t actually do the bleach part for the sink, but I have used a bleach soak on vinyl-coated dish drainers. If the stain is actually an iron stain, try ‘Iron Out’ – usually available in the laundry section.

    1. Oh, and Soft Scrub, or a no-name equivalent, can also do the trick. It will stick to the sink better than a bleach solution. I sometimes use it for stains on our Formica countertop and the like, and it will take grape juice right up, no overnight treatment needed. But a thin layer applied and left overnight on the sink would likely work well. Just smear it around a leave it, rinse off in the morning.

  9. Not sure if your area has one; we have a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. If you go often, you can find products in good shape for cheap. I saw a bathroom sink that I really wanted for $15, but it had a sold sign on it. Found out later, that my friend’s daughter got it. Glad her daughter is such a thrifty one!

  10. If you do end up having to replace your kitchen sink or faucet, overstock.com often has higher quality sinks and faucets than the hardware store for lower prices. I recently replaced mine and saved quite a lot by ordering through them.

  11. I enjoyed how you made popcorn into an amazing special dinner for Halloween. I’m betting she looks for popcorn next year and not mac & cheese. The simple things, that is what really matters. Your bugs are adorable! next year your little bug will be walking. How time flies. (I guess bugs do to lol)

  12. I get loads of tips from you and would benefit following some more of your ways of thinking. I have to skip past some of the house photos in blogs as I think differently about decor and feel uncomfortable keeping things just because they haven’t broken, when they don’t fit with the new room/house etc. All fine, each to their own, but if the state of the sink is annoying you, your family etc, don’t you think it reasonable to replace even though it still works as a sink? I’m conscious that thinking can quickly move to lifestyle inflation, which I am terrible for falling into! 😀 “Of course we need new xxx”. Is, ‘technically still works’ your only decision line, or do aesthetics come into play anywhere?

    This isn’t meant to be rude or judgey, I’m, I guess I allow my brain to switch off from some of the positives you promote because “I can’t be like them because I would have had to replace the side tables by now because they don’t go with the new coffee table”. That allows my brain to say that I couldn’t save like you. So if I can try to understand more about some of your decisions, I can tell my brain that’s it’s ok to take some of your recommendations even though we don’t agree on everything.

    Sorry, that got heavily philosophical, but I’m interested in how people feel about this, thanks

    1. This is a great question, Victoria, and a topic I think about a lot :)! I think that my post Deprivation Or Abundance? Turns Out, It’s Your Choice will provide you with my most in-depth answer. Briefly, one quote from that post is as follows: “When we choose–and it is very much a choice–to see the world through the lens of what we don’t have, we’re setting ourselves up for deep disappointment.”

  13. I love my stainless steel sink. We had an early acrylic sink years and a couple of houses back and I hated that puppy. Hubby picked it out. It stained and scratched badly. All those little scratches collected dirt and such. You couldn’t use it without scratching it more. Drove me nuts. Only thing that helped was chlorine bleach. So when we were selling it, as soon as we had a showing, first thing was add bleach to the sink and pull the plug when they showed up. Smelly but the house sold.
    As for the costumes, I used blanket fleece to make my kids costumes back then. I used a jogging suit pattern and went one size bigger than the kid to wear it normally wore. Had to leave room under for sweaters, jackets or snowsuits. After the big night, they wore them as Jammie’s for the winter. They loved them!! One year all 3 were Dalmatians for Halloween. This was when the first movie came out, so early 90’s. Got a couple of years out of those outfits. Plus the younger boy ended up wearing his older brothers costume later so extra usage!!! I had made hoods to go on their heads and little mittens for paws too. All that eventually went to work with my daughter at the daycare she worked at for those kids to have in the dress up bin. Got a lot of mileage out of those costumes!! I have a picture of my grandson wearing a bear costume I made for his uncle when his uncle was little!!

  14. Just a buy a new sink!! You can easily afford it and it will make you happy. And since you’re planning to stay in your house for the long haul, you’ll get years and years of enjoyment out of it. Sometimes it’s okay to care about aesthetics! As long as you keep it under control, which I know you will, it’s totally fine to give yourself permission once in a while to do something that would improve your quality of life. (Also thinking of your coat that doesn’t zip! At least take it to tailor to get it fixed!). I generally appreciate your perspective, but the importance of some level of aesthetics that correlate to personal joy are worth taking a think about.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. The tile countertops in our kitchen made me want to scream and were completely impractical for rolling out dough which made holiday cookie baking a sad, frustrating affair instead of a joy. I had tried stop gap solutions for two years but I just hated trying to use our kitchen. Fast forward to the decision to bite the bullet and get granite and I love my kitchen. Every day walking in there makes me happy. Sometimes you make the decision for peace of mind even when it’s not the best financial plan. Did I want to spend money on new countertops? Not really. Could I think of “better” things to do with that cash? Sure. Am I glad we did it? Absolutely.

      1. Definitely….buy the sink as a Christmas gift for yourselves. Life is too short to put up with that old one anymore!

  15. I thought our October would be pretty standard…until my husband broke his arm at the end of September, which filled our October with unexpected hospital bills (boo). And I’m ALLLLL about the hand-me-down, keep-it-simple Halloween! We actually didn’t put up a single Halloween decoration (to my daughter’s horror), and our only expense was candy for the trick-or-treaters (we usually get between about 100-150 here).

    Nice parental save on the popcorn idea! I did have to laugh a bit though that you didn’t have the two ingredients required for basic homemade mac and cheese—you must eat a LOT healthier than we do, lol! We eat an indecent amount of cheddar cheese, but I definitely understand that not everyone is as crazy as we are 🙂

    1. I thought the same! I always have cheese and pasta handy. Also have a couple of boxes of mac and cheese when I’m in a pinch. It’s my favorite! I eat it with a salad.

  16. Wow, girl have you changed from say three years ago! You actually want something new? You all are spending more money than I ever thought! Showing us that frugality is not always about penny-pinching, so that’s a good thing. So good to see you all eating out more, too. Dates are important. But I still miss the beans and rice blogs. 🙂

  17. My house has a porcelain sink. I regularly swear that I’m going to swap it out but 11 years later I haven’t because it works. But as soon as something goes wrong I’m all in to making the change. In the meantime Barkeepers Friend or Bon Ami are great for getting rid of stains and stuck on crap.

  18. What is Truck or Treat? Is that a Vermont thing? I’m thinking elephants, car trunks, tickle trunks…

    Way to sell the popcorn for dinner as a treat! When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally make “breakfast for dinner” and it was such a thrill to have pancakes or bacon and eggs at night! Later I realized that was all he knew how to cook at the time and that my Mom must have been having a rare evening out on those nights.

    1. It’s where folks park their cars in a parking lot and decorate the trunks and pass out candy to kids who are “trick-or-treating” around the parking lot. It’s great for us out here where there isn’t the possibility of door to door trick or treating :). I love breakfast for dinner! yum

  19. I use bar keeper’s friend on my porcelain sink and it gets the stains out easily. This sink is original to our 1962 house.

  20. The matching constumes are adorable! This was our son’s fourth Halloween and just second costume because the first got worn so many times since I first bought it. I love ones that are great easy dress up outfits outside of just trick or treating.

    We replaced just our faucet (not our sink) a few years back and it has made our kitchen SO much more enjoyable because it is functional now.

  21. Erin, Trunk or Treat is not just a Vermont thing. Our church in Southern California used to have it when our kids (now mostly in their 40’s) were young. A bunch of church members park their cars in a designated area of the church lot and set up their decorated car trunks where the kids would go from car to car in their costumes (no scary, gory characters allowed) and get their candy and treats. Fun for the kids & safer than random neighborhoods where parents didn’t know what would be given out.

  22. …..thanks for the report – get the new sink, stainless steel seems to tick most of the boxes!
    And in case you hadn’t heard, Florida voted out Greyhound Racing yesterday. and i’m thinking of Frugalhound here (RIP). Some argue this will end the breed, i think it will help move them from being exploited entertainers to being goofy, lovable family members. Cheers

  23. We have almost completed a kitchen reno that started with a leaky faucet and ended with a new corian countertop with built in seamless double corian sinks and new faucet. We still have to paint the cupboard and drawer fronts.

    Along the way DH discovered where the cold air had been coming in under the sink (a large hole in the gyproc and no insulation (we live in a 150 year old farmhouse) and was able to fix that and redo the plumbing.

    The old sink drove me crazy. It was a double but one side was huge enough to bathe kids in and the other side was so tiny as to be useless. It was also chipped and damaged, although it was acrylic. (We have to be careful about weight in a house this old – no cast iron, no granite, etc. , although I don’t like granite and it would definitely look odd in this old a house.)

    I never liked the old kitchen – the counters were tiled and the grout would stain and there were tiny gaps where dirt, crumbs etc. would accumulate and I could never get it clean enough for me. I’m not a fussy housekeeper but I am scrupulous about keeping the kitchen and bathroom clean.

    1. It’s where folks park their cars in a parking lot and decorate the trunks and pass out candy to kids who are “trick-or-treating” around the parking lot. It’s great for us out here where there isn’t the possibility of door to door trick or treating :).

  24. I agree with some of the commenters above. I love this blog and it has taught me SO much, but I think we all have different ways of spending and what we choose to spend on….it’s just not getting sucked into spending on every little thing because it adds up like crazy. I agree with Victoria, it’s ok to want a new sink because it will make your life a little easier and match a little better. Like when you didn’t eat out at all before, but now you have a much needed date night once a month. Nothing wrong with that!

    We have a cast iron apron kitchen sink and I LOVE it. Was it expensive? Yes! But no scratches like stainless, it’s heavy duty and it’s long lasting and several people told me you won’t find anything better long term. I use a cast iron sink cleaner on it or baking soda and both work fine.

    All that said, we have a much higher income than most, but we also have several kids and pay for things like ortho, sports and preschool. We built a house after 9 years and outgrowing our old one, BUT we put 50 percent down, and we don’t have cable, don’t go out to eat much, etc. To each his own and I love this blog for helping us stay on a fairly frugal path overall.

    I realized long ago though a few indulgences are ok, we are maxing out 401K’s, IRA’s, some extra investments and don’t carry debt normally except a mortgage. So I am in the camp of go ahead and buy the sink! 🙂

    Also is babywoods preschool free next year? We are spoiled as we have some of the best schools here and we also have a much lower cost of living not being in a big city, so low taxes and great housing prices with mostly great schools (we are in the Midwest.)

  25. I’ll be the lone wolf who says keep the sink even though it isn’t pretty. It’s functional and that’s the point. I’m convinced HGTV has trapped us into believing we need beautiful homes rather than functional homes. I was very inspired by the Thai homes I saw while I was there earlier this year. Many of them are function-driven.

    1. Totally agree about functional, it’s important. I just think even a new sink that will stand the test of time is a decent option. Unless you are going to redo the kitchen at some point, I would totally wait then! I think you can have a nice AND functional kitchen. It doesn’t have to be one or the other IF it’s within your budget.
      We have a pot filler, is it worth it for everyone? No. But for me cooking 2-3 meals a day for 7 people? Yes! Totally want to see some Thai homes now! 🙂

      1. Most of the kichens there were actually outdoors, because it’s so hot in Thailand.. They were not pretty whatsoever. The food being cranked out of them is off the charts delicious.

  26. I have a ceramic sink. No chips and cleans easily to new. I love it. I hate stainless steel because they always look dirty because it’s impossible to keep the water spots off them. They have to be polished to look good and any tiny thing left shows up glaringly. My sink is a soft cream with curved sides and it takes a lot of abuse and still looks great.

  27. We had a terrible bathroom for 25 years – with an even more terrible bathtub. We bought it that way and did everything to clean the rust stained, paint dripped, non draining bathtub. On Christmas, my very young niece was at our house. She went in to use the bathroom. When she came out she said, “We have a bathtub too but we clean ours.” We have laughed (and cringed) about that for years. Our kitchen, complete with baby blue laminate countertop that wasn’t attached to the counter, was also our friend for over 20 years. So many stories like those from our 130 year old house we redid slowly very slowly. We do enjoy the family lore and the remember when. . .

  28. Interesting indeed…and is that your beige-found-beside-the-road-coat??? Wow is that holding up well! You must be as my mom says, “easy on clothes”. Still looking great!

    1. Heck yes it’s the same coat :)!! Props to you for recognizing it. I love this coat–so cozy and warm and it has huge pockets and can wrap around a baby in a front carrier. It has sustained some damage (there are a few rips in the side), but overall it’s a great coat!

  29. You know, there’s a funny thing about the sink dilemma. We had a similar issue when we moved into our home. We did end up getting rid of the sink because it was ugly and it just wasn’t super functional in our kitchen.

    However! We hung on to the sink and used it to set up an outdoor mud room / grilling area of sorts. We did spend money on a new sink, but we gave our older, uglier sink a second life. If piece are breaking off and its utility is in question, I say bite the bullet for a new sink. 😉

    October was AWESOME on our homestead. I finally was able to quit my job and go into self-employment. Yeehaw! I’m not FIRE because I still rely very much on the income, but it feels like I’m living my ideal retired lifestyle. It’s very nice. 🙂

  30. Love the creative parenting of making popcorn for dinner sound like the most amazing thing ever. To a little kid, it totally is!

  31. Girl! You published a book! Get a sink! And a faucet! You look at it every day. Thinking “yuck” is not something you must do, and you don’t owe it to your readers to live frugally yet in despair. I want next months blog title to be “ I Bought Myself a Sink!” 😉

    1. Hahah! We are planning on totally redoing the kitchen in a few years, so we’re holding off on replacing the sink until then 🙂

  32. Use some left over scraps of project wood and cobble together a stand for the hated sink. Put sink in Stand and stick a bucket under drain and attach the hose to the sink and you have a much needed sink in the garden to rinse off just picked veggies before you bring them in the house. It’s not a problem (?) but an absolute necessity in your yard, so unfortunately you will have to replace it with a stainless steel sink of appropriate size in the house.

  33. Cleaning the sink must be a motherly thing. When I visit my daughter & grandchildren, I clean the sink…LOL!!! You’re funny wanting to get a new sink for a leaky faucet….LOL!!! You can get new faucets. We recently had to replace our faucets. Your sink looks an odd shape. If you got a new sink you might have to replace the countertop.

  34. lol…My husband HATES stainless steel sinks because they are hard to clean (my folks have always had a stainless steel sink). Granite countertops were removed from our list because a) my husband cooks with tomatoes A LOT and b) I did the math to figure out how many hours I’d have to work to pay for granite. For what it would have cost to do my kitchen in granite, I did the entire house (kitchen, two bathrooms, and laundry room) for less. I’d have rather had a farm sink but the “no lip under counter” dual sink we have is a compromise. Not stainless, not porcelain. IMHO, there is no perfect sink.

  35. I’m not sure what made me love this month’s expense report more…the sink story or the ridiculously cute ladybug photos!

  36. To chime in on the kitchen sink discussion, I wonder if you’ve read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up? (It’s the book about the Konmari method if that’s familiar to you). I appreciate the idea of only keeping items that “spark joy” doesn’t always work with frugal goals, and I’m still sorting out how to unite those ideals in my own life. But I have found sometimes that replacing a perfectly serviceable item with an alternative that sparks greater joy in my heart to be of real value. For me, it was our bathroom soap dispenser.

    We had a perfectly serviceable pump-style hand soap dispenser; a clear boxy acrylic item that was the cheapest one available from the nearby kitchen and bath store when our previous soap dispenser got a crack in it. You typically had to pump a couple times before it started dispensing soap, but it adequately performed its duty. I also low-key hated it.

    Perfectly serviceable, that acrylic soap dispenser easily got grimy, an appearance that wasn’t helped by being able to see the yellow-y sensitive-skin soap we’re able to buy in refill-sized bottles. While it had looked perfectly fine in the store display, for daily use it always looked dirty and the slow pump action never helped. My hands still got clean, but it always invoked a negative thought or emotion.

    I still had no plans to replace the serviceable but annoying soap dispenser, until I was at Marshalls buying towels and happened on a white, ceramic llama-shaped soap dispenser. I picked it up gleefully, and sent a photo of it to my fiance so that he could also see how cute it was. And then I put it back down on the shelf, and continued on my quest for towels. My fiance messaged back that I should buy the llama-shaped dispenser, and after reflecting on my simmering hatred for our existing soap dispenser versus the spark of joy I felt at holding the llama-shaped one, I bought it.

    Our existing soap dispenser got relegated to the kitchen, where we were were almost finished a gifted, seasonally scented bottle of hand soap. Now at the start and end of my days and several times between, I use our adorable ceramic llama dispenser (only one pump needed!), and sometimes smile to myself while washing my hands. It’s one of the best $10 I’ve probably spent in recent years.

    I’d encourage you to consider the impact the negativity the sink brings you has on its value. While I’m not advocating tying material wealth to your happiness, I think it’s certainly better that items you use several times daily bring you joy rather than negative emotions, be it a sink or soap dispenser.

  37. We have stainless steel sink – love it – won’t go to anything else. Grew up in a house with a Glazed iron sink – that thing is durable! But to clean the stainless steel – just use regular dish soap like once a week and a dish brush – and rinse. Looks great and shiny.

  38. Thinking about dental floss…couldn’t you ask for samples from your dentist to last the whole year? Our dentist single-handedly eliminated our need for floss, tooth paste, tooth brushes and mouth wash.

  39. Whenever I read your blog updates, I am not only thoroughly impressed by your frugality in all things, I am also impressed by your ability to get two kids to bed by 6:30 pm. Can you please write a blog about how you achieve that? I am mystified. I could never get my kids to bed that early even when they were Babywoods’ and Littlewoods’ age. I have night owls.

  40. When you do replace the sink consider a granite sink. I have lighter granite countertops and a darker grey sink. Shows no stains like corian does. Shows no scratches like stainless or dents/dings. So easy to take care of. A little more expensive but so worth it. Of course by the time you replace, there may even be another choice😀

  41. If you do decide to get a new sink, I recommend the Moen Brand. I bought a new faucet in 2012 and their lifetime warranty is fantastic. I just got a new free cartridge to fix my coldwater faucet, and they have been wonderful whenever I have had any kind of problem.

  42. Those are some pretty cute ladybugs you have on your hands! I grew up in a house where every single Halloween costume was handmade. Maybe not always the most cost-effective (though one year I was “a fancy lady” and just wore my mother’s mink stole and every. single. one. of her necklaces(!!!)), but definitely engrained in me a love for making things!


  43. Ha! The air popcorn popper! I bought my husband a used one (complete with butter melting tray) at a garage sale at least 15 years ago for 25 cents. He uses it constantly. Best kitchen gadget ever!

  44. Like the matching ladybug costumes!! We dressed our son as a garbageman and it didn’t cost a lot. We bought a vest from ebay for like $2 and since we didn’t have time to make a garbage truck from cardboard we simply borrowed one of those toy garbage trucks from the library. He also has a mini garbage can and he really liked it and played the part too. We torn up some paper into small pieces and he would collect them and put it into the his small garbage can then dump it into the garbage truck.

  45. My favorite family tradition is chili and mummy dogs (hot dogs wrapped in crescent role dough). It’s definitely fun to have a special meal for certain special nights of the year.

    also have you ever read ladybug girl to Babywoids, I’d bet she would like it

  46. Hi, I have a question about health insurance – I do not see it on your bill and I am having hard time to find GOOD but reasonable priced insurance. I already got burned with some “discount program” not really insurance – I need to make sure if something happen to me or I need to go to doctor my visit will be covered. How do you do it? I cannot find anything about health insurance on your pages.
    Thank you

  47. Love the ladybug pics! They look so very cute. Re: the sink- please get the stainless steel sink. You look at a sink several times a day and you are not enjoying it. Here’s my example: I had an old kitchen trashcan that worked – yes – but it was very irritating. You had to take the lid off and hold it each time you made a deposit. No fun, since my hands were always full. So yes, it did the job, but in a way that aggravated me daily, time after time. But we stayed with it. Then, one day, feeling reckless, we bought a new trash can with a swinging lid. The other was banished to recycling. Can one enjoy satisfaction from an efficient trash can? To my surprise, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” I smile when I discard a paper towel. I grin when I discard kitchen trash. I enjoy it everytime I use it, and sometimes I compliment it to my husband. I consider it a favorite purchase. So…sometimes it IS worth it in the service of “luxurious frugality.” On the other hand, learning luxurious frugality from you is exactly what taught me how to derive great satisfaction from an admittedly unglamorous (trashcan) purchase.

  48. Hey! Bar keepers friend (the soft cleanser – gold bottle) is the ONLY thing that will clean our white porcelain sink. It’s definetly worth checking out. Then you can scour the Cambridge craigslist for a new sink! We live here, and literally everything in our house is from Craigslist. Peeps of Boston get rid of everything! It’s unbelievable

  49. Good save on the Halloween dinner! We got our hot air popper in the early 80’s. We use it weekly and it still works great. Love the ladybugs. Our go to Halloween dinner was homemade pizza when the kiddos were of trick or treat age. Fun stuff.

  50. I would say to treat yourself to a new kitchen sink! I once splurged on a gorgeous functional sculptural kitchen faucet and every time I used it, it made me happy and thankful for the ease of use and beauty of design.

  51. When I received my first credit card, it said just make the minimum payment. How things have changed. I was just starting out and it was in the 90’s.

  52. A porcelain sink can be re-glazed, this would cover chips and stains, you could also change the colour (stains don’t show on black). As for faucets, we once bought a Moen kitchen faucet, years later it needed a new cartridge in it, and the company sent us a new one free. It is worth looking for one with a lifetime warranty.

  53. Rather than replace your kitchen sink, have you though about painting it? I visited one of my very dear friends a couple of years ago, visited the bathroom and exclaimed over her lovely new bath. Turns out she had painted it using a special tub and tile paint. It was terrific because it was a large capacious comfortable bath, but hideous. Years on it still looks great.
    Good luck with whatever you decide. 😊

  54. Try filling the sink with lemon juice and hot water. Leave it to soak overnight. It smells much better than bleach. Also stainless sinks are quite common on craigslist. I got an Elkay Gourmet sink- an 800 dollar sink- for 20 dollars.

  55. Glad you had a great Halloween with the kids! Your sink situation is entirely your business-but I will say I saved up for a soft kitchen renovation last year and it just makes me happy every time I am in the kitchen(which is 50% of my time). We moved in two years ago and the stove only had one working burner, the fridge was teeny tiny, and the dishwasher was on the fritz. The microwave made an eery noise when we used it and had a bad wire rack that made my mug tip over and spill. The sink was the same porcelain you have-it looked dirty no matter what I tried to clean it. The cabinets are white and not my favorite-but once we got a new granite countertop/under mount sink/new SS appliances, wow does my kitchen make me happy. While we kept the cabinets(which are still functional) we put new modern hardware on them and they look very nice now. It was a big chunk of change but nowhere near what a complete remodel would have cost us and the effect is equally as amazing. It literally only took 3 days to have the kitchen redone. For me, it was money well spent to have a functional kitchen that looks nice. Maybe a new sink might be the only thing you want-and that is very inexpensive to replace! Ours came free with our countertops too. Good luck!

  56. Dear Furgualwoods, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your posts! Growing up in VT your pictures make me miss it and strive to get back north. Having an 18-year-old kid – your sharing about the little ones brings it all back. Keep the faith its intensive work – but the best job you will ever have! I wish you all the best – thanks for your writing! Jenn

  57. Hey Frugalwoods,

    I love the idea of a “popcorn tradition”; it really is one of the best foods out there. Who doesn’t feel better after a bowl (butter or not)?
    You’re right about the credit cards – they’re great for tracking expenses and amount to free rewards/cash back if used appropriately.
    Thanks for sharing your expenses.

    Take care,

  58. I am still using an airpopper that I must have purchased in about 1982 because it was before my youngest child was born in 1984. I don’t know what it cost but crikey, I have gotten my money’s worth. I am 67 and my husband is 73 and my reply to my offspring when they note that we don’t have “the latest and the greatest” is that we don’t discard serviceable things just because they are old (as we are also old). It’s a family joke. I enjoy your blog very much!

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