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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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 October:
|This was a delivery of 238 gallons at $2.79 per gallon from Rymes Propane & Oil Company.
|Babywoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.
|Gasoline for cars
|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
|Co-payments for doctor’s appointments. As noted above, our health insurance is covered by Mr. FW’s employer.
|Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, medications, dental floss, baby supplies, etc.
|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.
|LOVE our fiber internet!
|New valves for kitchen sink faucet
|Cell phone through BOOM Mobile
|We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied