Boatloads of snow

Our November 2018 is best summed up by the following:

  1. Lots of celebrations
  2. Loads of snow

I hope you enjoyed this detailed explanation of our month.

Fiestas x 2

As I shared in This Month On The Homestead, in November we hosted Mr. FW’s parents and sister for Thanksgiving week and also had a little birthday party for Kidwoods’ third circle around the sun. The primary cost category for these two events: groceries!! Mr. FW and my mother-in-law cooked both the Thanksgiving and birthday party feasts from scratch (and I baked the birthday cake!), so our costs were for raw ingredients. We do hand-me-down/used gifts (and not too many) for our kiddos, so birthday gift expenses were negligible.

Tractor Chains

Our new tractor chains

In light of our excessive snow situation, it’s a stroke of good fortune that this is the year we decided to buy chains for the front tires of our tractor. Our tractor (which we purchased from the previous owners as part of the property sale) came with rear tire chains, which aren’t amazing, but did a good enough job.

The problem with not having front tire chains is that the tractor has no steering ability on any sort of slope because the front tires slide as opposed to gripping. Not helpful since our entire property is sloped.

Without front chains, Mr. FW was always able to move the tractor, but he couldn’t always control the direction in which the tractor was going. Sometimes he would drive in reverse and use the front tires as rudders in order to get out of tough spots. Not exactly what you’d hope for in a vehicle you’re using to clear snow and move firewood around.

Mr. FW hauling wood

We purchased these Eko Ice Pick chains, which are made in Finland, and which Mr. FW is very pleased with. The chains were expensive, but they should last a lifetime and make winter tractor operation much safer.

Mr. FW describes them as velcro on snow and ice. Thanks to the front chains, he can now drive forward and control the direction he’s going in. It’s the little things, really.

The Eko Ice Pick are aggressive chains and you wouldn’t want to run them on a hard surface because in 4WD, the front tires move a little faster than the rear tires and you always want there to be some slippage between the two tires. Given this, he’ll need to take the front chains off when the snow melts. Mr. FW installed the chains himself, which he reports “wasn’t too tough,” (that’s a direct quote), although he did have to buy an angle grinder in order to shorten some of the chain components to get them on the tires.

Darn Tough Socks

This year’s holiday card (which is actually a business postcard) from VistaPrint

Darn Tough is a Vermont sock maker extraordinaire. The company makes super soft, super warm wool socks that are, well, darn tough. These socks are not cheap–in fact they’re pretty expensive–but they’re worth it. And every fall, the Darn Tough sock factory hosts a sale of “seconds.” These are socks that have some sort of sockly defect: perhaps the pattern is lopsided, or one sock is slightly longer than the other, or the Darn Tough logo wasn’t stitched on properly.

All in all, usually minor cosmetic defects. Darn Tough marks these socks down–waaay, waaay down–and it’s a Vermont tradition to go stock up on socks at the Darn Tough sale. So that’s just what Mr. FW did! He bought socks as gifts, socks for me, socks for Kidwoods, and socks for himself. And now, we have toasty toes.

Holiday Cards

For the first time ever, I had my act in gear and ordered our holiday cards on Cyber Monday in order to avail myself of VistaPrint‘s Black Friday/Cyber Monday mega sale (that’s an affiliate link). You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not traditionally a Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopper, but since I buy holiday cards every year anyway, I made a note last year to try and do it in conjunction with this much-hyped sale date. I ordered 150 full-color photos cards (pictured above and at right) for $39.43, which included shipping.

Back side of this year’s card

I’ve written about my holiday card strategy in several different posts (listed below), so I won’t rehash the entire thing…. but I’ll give you the brief rundown:

  • I buy business postcards from VistaPrint, which are less expensive than regular old holiday cards (that’s an affiliate link).
  • No need to use envelopes, which saves both time and money.
  • Postcards are less expensive to mail as postcard stamps are cheaper than regular stamps.

More here:

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything


Kidwoods living it up with her found-at-the-dump sled

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.


Snowy, snowy glamour shed (so called because it’s not used for anything other than me photographing it… )

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).

Kidwoods snuggled up doing her favorite thing: reading books in the “big brown chair”

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. We’re taking the Challenge as a group in January 2019 and you can still sign-up to join us! P.S. It’s free!

If you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life


November snowscape

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 other common expenses that you don’t see listed below?

If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask me in the comments section!

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in November:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $769.04 Higher on account of us hosting Thanksgiving and Kidwoods’ third birthday party
Tractor chains $477.00 Purchased locally from Reed Supply Company in St. Johnsbury, VT
Preschool $400.92 Kidwoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which both we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.
Costco stock-up $388.88 We decided to let our Costco membership expire this month since the nearest Costco is 1.5 hours away and, without the purchase of dog food, there’s no reason to maintain the membership. We did one final trip before our membership expired and purchased our favorite Costco supplies: olive oil, almonds, crushed tomatoes, oats, and some over-the-counter medications.
Household supplies $171.94 Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, medications, dental floss, baby supplies, etc.
Beer, wine, & alcohol for Thanksgiving $123.40 When we host, we host for real. And yes, I served gin-and-tonics at Kidwoods’ party (for adults only!)
Farm and home improvement supplies $113.75 Tube Sand, Table Saw Blade, Laser Distance Measure
Gasoline for cars $75.35
Internet $74.00
Darn Tough Vermont Factory sock sale $59.00 Socks!
Diesel For Tractor $41.89
Holiday Cards (quantity: 150) $39.43 From VistaPrint (affiliate link)
Local handmade gifts from local shop $25.00 Christmas gifts for family
Doctor visit co-pay $25.00
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Utilities: Electricity $17.67 We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied
Emergency Pizza $12.74 Emergency take-out pizza from the gas station down the road during our epic snow-related power outage experience
TOTAL: $4,227.86

How was your November?

P.S. The free Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge is BACK! Sign-up here to join us starting January 1, 2019.

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  1. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Mrs. Frugalwoods!

    I think the grocery bill for Nov looks pretty good, considering there were more family members to feed and it’s the holiday season. I had no idea about the chain for tractors until I read this post. It looks like there’s a lot of snow in Vermont though. I don’t fare very well in cold weather, and I’m secretly hoping for the summer already. @_@

  2. Darn Tough socks were under our Christmas tree in NC this year. They do make for happy feet.

    I have been on a tractor that was being steered by forces other than operator input. It’s not a good feeling. Stay warm and safe.

      1. I know Honey was a beloved family member and of course cannot be replaced, might there not be room for another, equally frugal furry friend in the mix in the near future? You have such fantastic accommodation for doggies…

  3. I tried, tried, tried very hard to like Darn Tough socks based on your recommendation. I ordered a pair apiece for the fam, and I’ve noticed that they tend to be the last socks used before I finally break down and match our socks. They’re just not super comfy or fluffy. Maybe I picked a bad style?

  4. I have Darn Tough socks to wear to work and I LOVE THEM. They’re wool, so they don’t get stinky as long as you let them dry out when you take them off. Now that I’m located on the East Coast, I might have to take a gander up to the sale next year!

  5. I love your Christmas cards! Many people are stopping this practice but I am so blessed to receive them myself that I continue to send them out. Lots of postage can be saved by taking them to neighbors on my street and handing them out at church.

  6. Too low of a budget for Beer, wine and alcohol, etc.! 🙂 We really tried drinking $10 bottles from Shaws, but the fact is, such wine is akin to processed foods made in a factory. Most of the wines you see on the shelves of every supermarket are from one or two large companies who try to connect with consumers through folksy or cute labels. But don’t be fooled. This is a mass produced “wine-like” beverage that is engineered to hit certain taste profiles–and they have more chemicals and garbage than natural wines. So we cut down the number of nights we drink and basically doubled what we spend per bottle. What a difference! You can get great organic/ biodynamic, low-sulfite natural wines starting at about $18-20.

    1. Interesting! As a Pennsylvania resident, it’s a new thing to purchase wine and beer in the grocery stores. We’ve always had to purchase these things at designated stores like beer distributors or wine & spirits stores. Out of habit, I always purchase wine from the wine & spirits stores, and I usually aim for what’s called the Chairman’s Select, unless there’s a brand I’ve sampled at a winery in CA and know I like. The grocery stores have limited options (those options are generally the ones you’re referring to) and they’re at least $1 more. Do you know if the lesser known CA wineries contain fewer junk than the mass produced ones? For example, the smaller wineries in Sonoma aren’t often found in all wine & spirits stores, much less in grocery stores, whereas you can always find the same Napa wines everywhere. I’m hoping that’s a good sign????

      Mrs. FW, beautiful pictures! And, even though this is delayed, my condolences over Frugalhound. When I first started reading your blog earlier this year, I always enjoyed seeing her in the posts. It’s such an incredibly painful experience to lose a beloved pet because they’re more than just pets – they’re family members.

  7. Costco Hack: Buy (or have a friend buy you) a Costco gift certificate for $20.00. If you have one, you can go shop at Costco without a membership.

    1. Well, how does that Costco Hack work? You can only buy $20 of stuff? Then you buy yourself another gift certificate each time, or what?

  8. Front tire changes worked better for you? We had exactly the opposite experience. The dealer recommended putting tire chains only on the front as he claimed you get better steering and traction. We have a long inclined gravel driveway with turns. Result my husband experienced was that the large rear tires would spin and the front tires that steer would torque the chains causing them to snap and catch under the drive axel. He repaired them several times and was not pleased. Last winter he bought an expensive pair of diamond tread for the rear tires and has not been happier. They stay on, do not snap or cause problems with the steering. Because we have a sloped driveway, he knows when you have snow in the front bucket you can not do a 90 degree turn or the tractor will turn over. So he has to use shallow angles when scooping then dumping the snow. While he had rear tire weights, he added a plastic barrel he filled with water allowing space for expansion due to freezing to add additional weight over the rear tires. This added weight helps with the center of balance weight issue. So between the excellent gripping rear tire chains, the added rear weight and his experience using the tractor, he has not gotten the tractor stuck like he did many times with the front chains. He also put a 20” LED light bar on the front of rollover bar and another smaller rear facing light which provides excellent lighting for clearing snow in the dark on our unlit driveway. Another point is when you put the bucket down to get a scoop of snow, it reduces the weight on the front tires to grip, so their traction is virtually nil. With a snowblower setup, it would be different, but using a bucket, we have found the rear tire chains were the better route. He didn’t even put the front chains on as they torque when turning, break and causes him to have to stop and repair them, prolonging the clearing job.

  9. I lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan before we moved to Alabama (left the snow shovel behind!) and I see all the snow I want in your lovely photo of the ‘glamour shed’! Wondering…..could it become a playhouse for Kidwoods next summer?

  10. Mrs, Frugalwoods, I’m curious where you will do your grocery shopping after taking Costco out of the picture. I have three little kids myself and we shop at Costco often, granted it’s only 5 minutes away from us.

    1. We haven’t lived near a Costco since moving to Vermont, so we shifted our primary shopping to BJ’s and Hannaford’s after moving here 3 years ago. We really prefer Costco, but a 3 hour roundtrip drive is just too much for us :)!

    1. You must live somewhere warm =) People will put tube sand in the trunks of their cars and trucks for more traction in the winter. We also use it for slippery walkways.

      1. Alysia is correct! We have the tube sand in the bed of our truck for increased traction on snow and ice 🙂

        1. I’m in Canada and drive a truck too. We have a cover over the bed. Under that cover every winter is 4 big bags of water softener salt. We have hard water, lots of minerals and such in it, so we have a water softener. We did a stock up when the local hardware store was offering 20X the points on their rewards card. Four bags came inside for the softener now and the other 4 stayed in the truck over the back axle for traction. Come spring, those bags will be our summer supply. I live in town but have a lot of medical appts in the large city near us. Road conditions can be nasty some days! The salt and snow tires are a big help!!

  11. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods – This is a bit off topic for this blog post but I’ve been curious, have you considered investing in the Fidelity’s socially conscious ETFS? I’m just getting started with ETF’s and am considering the pros and cons.

  12. I like Darn Tough as well as Smartwool, both are wool socks that are not itchy. After I discovered these socks, I threw out all my old cotton socks. The “investment” was worth it, and I found some good online sales/prices. Never pay full price!!😉

  13. I used Vistaprint for our wedding invites – it would have been cheaper to do an evite, but a lot of my family is not tech savvy. We did the business postcards for our save the date, and our thank yous. Do you actually put the return address on the card?

    1. Yes, I put our return address right on the card, which saves me from needing to write it out or use a sticker 🙂

  14. My husband wears through 10-15 pairs of socks every year, so we started getting him Darn Tough socks. They are expensive and it’s additionally difficult to ship them to Poland where we are located but so far so good! No holes! We will keep adding a pair every few months, an hopefully stop the need to throw away socks!

  15. I know Honey was a beloved family member and of course cannot be replaced, might there not be room for another, equally frugal furry friend in the mix in the near future? You have such fantastic accommodation for doggies…

  16. Hi Ms. Frugalwoods- A question for you to address here or in the future (or maybe you have and I’ve missed it!)..

    I don’t think I’ve seen life insurance paid in a lump sum. Maybe that’s not necessary given your assets? Or maybe it’s ER provided? We’ve shopped around and I’m still frustrated by the cost we’re paying per month. Thanks!

    1. Hmmm, I’m not sure. I think it might be an in-store only type of thing, but it’s certainly worth checking! Good luck 🙂

    2. I live near Atlanta. TJ Maxx and Marshall’s both sell discounted Smart wool and Darn Tough during the winter here. It’s probably not as cheap as Frugalwoods get but they’re less than $10.

  17. I Love your pics! I’m actually looking for some tire chains for my Kubota. I will have to look into the Echo Ice Picks! You have a beautiful farm!

    1. We take it to the town transfer station once a week where it’s then transferred to the dump. That’s also where we take our recycling. And we do our own compost.

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