Our kitchen faucet joined the ranks of the no longer living. As you might recall, Mr. Frugalwoods put in a herculean effort back in October to keep this faucet among that which is operational in our home. His plumbing fix worked. Until it didn’t. The valve in the faucet broke again–yielding a mind numbing drip, drip, driiiiiiiiiippppp–and this time it was beyond repair. We found a delightful “swan neck” (actual name) faucet at Home Depot for $88 and we are converts. It does the thing where it can spray OR shoot water and it has an extender AND a soap dispenser. If this isn’t luxury, buy me a pickle (which, please don’t, because we have 75 jars of homemade pickles in our basement… ).
Since I bathe our children in the kitchen sink (for reasons of convenience and the fact that the sole bathtub in our home is not operational), this new faucet has been met with GREAT excitement by Kidwoods. She is of the opinion (likely shared by three-year-olds everywhere) that “sprinkle faucets” are God’s gift to toddlers in baths.
The wonder and awe EVERY DAY at the sprinkle bath (“it’s just like a shower, mama!!!”) is paralleled only by her wonderment at the fire in the woodstove that Mr. FW makes EVERY MORNING. We live in an amusement park over here.
I share Kidwoods’ enthusiasm for this faucet as it’s attractive, swan neck-y, and doesn’t drip. We plan to–at some point–redo our entire kitchen, so we held off on buying a new faucet since we’ll be replacing the entire sink one day. But, at $88, this felt like a tenable price for the interim. We like it so much, though, that we’ll have to see if we can use it with our (future, eventual, someday) new sink.
I got NEW bedroom slippers (that’s an affiliate link). In other words: wow, I live an exciting life and I know you’re dripping with envy. Dripping like a faucet. My old bedroom slippers were on the job for the last, oh, ten years or so and were shot. Donezo. Pieces of the sole kept falling off and there was a hole clear through. Clear on through. I like to wear and use things until they’re dead and these puppies were at doornail status.
Since I work from home and since we don’t wear shoes inside our house, I put about 8,900 miles on my bedroom slippers every day. Up the stairs to get one child, down the stairs with that child, back up the stairs for the child’s sweater I forgot, back down the stairs, all around the house I go in slipper-clad feet.
I also like to stand up at the bar in our kitchen while I work on my computer (in fact that’s what I’m doing RIGHT NOW!!!!), equaling further pressure on my slippers. I needed something with support and coziness that would accommodate my long, narrow feet. I first went to FarmWay, our local has-everything-you-need store and tried on no less than 30 pairs of bedroom slippers.
I REALLY wanted to patronize a local business and I REALLY wanted to walk out with a new pair of slips (that’s slang for slippers, as all woke people know), but it wasn’t meant to be. Not a single pair fit my narrow feet. After this footwear flop, I turned to the internet and, specifically, to my mom’s group, the source of all good information in my life. Another mama with long, narrow feet recommended these slippers, so I bought them (that’s an affiliate link). And they are perfection. I was happy to pay $36.95 for something I wear all day every day. Plus they’re red, my shoe color of choice.
Littlewoods–who is living up to her name of being LITTLE–is a ferocious eater. Given this ferocity, she must be bibbed for all dining events. We had two bibs from Kidwoods’ days of bib-donning, but they both fell apart (likely from being subjected to the dishwasher 6,578 times). The internet recommended these bibs, which are working out excellently (that’s an affiliate link).
These bibs have an enormous pouch to catch all food remnants and Littlewoods can then dig her paw in the pouch to get all the tidbits she dropped! Perfect. These bibs are the first thing we’ve needed to buy new for Littlewoods. Apparently, bib lives don’t extend to two children. At least, not the way we use bibs. Which apparently is with ferocity.
An Ear Thermometer
As divulged in my recent All Things Infant post, we made the decision to buy this ear thermometer (that’s an affiliate link). I know (I know, I know, I know) that the rectal therms deliver a more accurate reading, and that is indeed the method we used for both of our kids when they were sub one-year-old However. I feel like I’ve done that enough in my life and I’m ready to move on. Also, undressing and poking an already-angry-because-they’re-sick child magnifies whatever problem we’re trying to address. I again polled the source of all wisdom and knowledge (my mom’s group) and they concurred that this thermometer is the best.
Luckily, the kids were struck by toddler plague this month and so we’ve had the opportunity to extensively test our new thermometer. Conclusion: it works great!
I like at least five things about it:
- It doesn’t go into anyone’s bum
- It registers the temperature in like 3 seconds (ideal for squirming babies)
- It can be used on a sleeping child (!!!!)
- It has removable cover-things so it can be used on all family members without fear of contamination
- It works on adults too!
Given our plague status this month, we regularly took temperatures in the round. Kidwoods decided that whoever was having their temperature taken should have their hand held, so we took turns holding one another’s hands while sticking this thing into our ears. Like I said, living in an amusement park over here.
Port and Gummies
When my in-laws came for Thanksgiving this year, they brought several bottles of port procured from Trader Joe’s (one of my favorite stores. In case you’re not familiar with TJ’s, it’s a grocery store. Again, my life is amazing and I have great taste). I’ve never been a port fan, so I dismissed the bottles without a glance. Then, I tried a sip. I was transformed. I was suddenly…. a person who loves port!!! It was jammy with notes of fig and wonderment. My senses opened, my mouth formed a curious shape resembling a heart. Then, of course, we had a sourcing issue seeing as we don’t have a Trader Joe’s close to our home.
Compounding my yearning for ye olde TJ’s is the fact that my awesome brother and his wife sent us what will go down in history as one of the best Christmastime packages. Ever. It was STUFFED with Trader Joe’s treats: candies, chocolates, pretzels galore! It was decadent, delightful, and divine. In that yuletide package were several bags of Scandinavian gummies, which I initially discounted in favor of the CHOCOLATE.
After I’d eaten all the chocolate, I turned my attention to these gummies. And a love affair began. I do not like things that are super sweet or fake, so I haven’t historically been a gummies consumer. Much like my port conversion, these were the gummies to rule them all. They didn’t taste of artificial dye. They tasted–I don’t know–like really good gummies! But alas, another sourcing issue.
Mr. FW went on a business trip to Boston in January and while there, unbeknownst to me, he made a run to TJ’s and stocked up on gummies and port. To show his enduring devotion: $53.89 worth of port and high-end gummies. Oh the love! The cashier gave him such a weird look (he didn’t buy anything else) that he finally blurted out, “it’s a surprise for my wife! She loves these!”
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 goal-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 it’s free!
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 take it to a transfer station once a week in bags that we purchase from our town), 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?
- 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. These expenses show up as the full annual amount in the month we pay them.
- We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgage) and we paid cash for our cars.
- Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
- Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
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 January:
|Home insurance (annual)||$762.00||Annual home insurance for our primary residence (in Vermont)|
|Preschool||$460.92||Kidwoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.|
|Car insurance (six months’ worth)||$278.20||Six months of car insurance through Geico for our 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Toyota Tundra. This is so low because we shopped around, we are both accident and ticket-free, we live in a rural area, we don’t commute to work, AND we don’t carry comprehensive insurance because we could easily replace both of our cars (in full with cash) if we needed to. However, we carry the maximum in liability coverage because we feel that with healthcare costs as they are, the risk of a large liability claim is one we don’t want to self-insure against. More here.|
|Router and Wireless Access Point||$240.98||Our router died this month and we bought this one to replace it as well as this Wireless Access Point (these are affiliate links).|
|Kitchen faucet, new valves and fittings, plus a soap dispenser||$162.53||Kitchen faucet (we got this one) along with new valves and fittings, plus a soap dispenser.|
|Household supplies||$103.11||Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, medications, dental floss, baby supplies, etc.|
|Date night!!!!||$77.44||Mr. FW and I went on our customary once-a-month date night (our adopted grandma neighbor comes over to babysit after we put the kids to bed!!! WE LOVE HER).|
|Internet||$74.00||Big fans of our fiber internet!!!!|
|Port and Gummies from Trader Joe’s||$53.89||Swoon. Mr. FW knows the way to my heart.|
|Gasoline for cars||$43.54|
|Ear thermometer||$39.99||An affiliate link|
|Bedroom slippers for Mrs. FW||$36.95||An affiliate link|
|Truck Headlights||$26.53||One of the headlights burned out on our truck and Mr. FW replaced it himself with these bulbs. An affiliate link.|
|Cell phone through BOOM Mobile||$19.99||BOOM is an MVNO cell provider, which is why it’s so cheap. If you’re not using an MVNO (such as BOOM, Ting, Mint, Republic Wireless), do some research as it’s likely you’ll be able to decrease your cell phone bill by A LOT.|
|Utilities: Electric||$19.60||We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Silicone baby bibs||$16.97||Let it go down in history: this is the first thing we’ve needed to buy for Littlewoods since her birth one year ago!! The bibs we bought for Kidwoods finally gave up the ghost and ripped in half. Boo. So we bought two new silicone bibs (affiliate link), which I like even better than the old ones! I find that silicone is the only reasonable bib to use for mealtimes. Cloth bibs just get saturated with food and do very little to keep a baby clean.|
|Extra phone handset||$15.85||We–GASP–have a landline (through VOIP.ms) because we don’t get reliable cell reception at our homestead. We finally bought another handset so that we have one upstairs and one downstairs. It’s the little things. An affiliate link.|
|Security Bits||$9.99||Sometimes the snow rips the fiber connection point off the side of our house. When that happens, the box needs to be opened to have the power reconnected to it. This process requires a strange security bit, which we purchased. An affiliate link.|