March 2019

Our emergence from winter crystallized in March with the purchase of lots of stuff for our vegetable garden! Don’t worry, we were still covered in snow alllllllllll month long, but we at least started buying things for our eventual, supposed, promised, ephemeral springtime.

Glamour shed: “Halp, I’m being swallowed by snow!”

I’m not sure I can emphasize just how much snow we had in March. I’ve included several photos, which do a far more descriptive job than my cabin-fevered ramblings.

You’d think it’d be cheap to grow your own food, but it’s not. We’re still in the start-up, infrastructure-building phase of gardening and so we’re optimistic that in a few years, we’ll own everything we need and the costs will indeed be minimal. but until that day, we proudly grow $687 tomatoes. Ok it’s not quite that bad…

I’ll detail our seed starting adventures in greater detail in my next installment of This Month On the Homestead, but the brief version is that we bought more expensive–and sturdier–seed starting trays and cells, which we hope to re-use for many years. Unfortunately, the cheaper trays we bought at Home Depot last year only lasted a single season (boo).

We also stocked up on a few more maple sugaring supplies and you know what that means–there’ll be another maple sugaring post coming your way soon!

Mrs. FW’s Birthday

I turned 35 in March and I celebrated by going out to dinner with my husband, which was glorious. Then I celebrated again by going out to dinner with two of my girlfriends, which was also glorious. We have five kids between the three of us and we brought none of them with us. All on our own, we ventured out on the town.

Snow piled on our back porch steps, about to meet with the snow falling off of the porch roof

This is the kind of thing that I wouldn’t have prioritized in the past. I would’ve been worried about spending an evening away from my family, I would’ve been worried about spending money on myself, I would’ve been worried that I wasn’t using my time productively. I would’ve been worried that I should stay home and clean or write or work instead. All of those fears and worries would’ve consumed me before I began taking medication to treat my postpartum depression and anxiety.

Now, with my anxiety at bay and my depression under control, I see the wisdom in going out with my friends. I wasn’t worried about wasted time, or money wasted–because it wasn’t wasted time or wasted money. It was a valuable investment in my friendships with other adult women. It’s an aspect of my life that I haven’t nurtured all that much in recent years and I realized that I miss having close girlfriends. I’m proud of myself for carving out this time to do nothing more than have fun. We had so much fun, in fact, that we’ve decided to do it every month!

Book Club!

When you are as tall as an icicle: a Kidwoods story

I also joined a book club, another effort for me to get out of the house alone, and procrastinated on getting the book and so had to buy it online. Whoops. This month we read The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, which includes fascinating data and an eye-opening look at income inequality (affiliate link).

However, it’s a bit like reading a textbook in that it’s dry and doesn’t deliver on many proposed solutions for all of the problems it articulates. Still a worthwhile read and I’m grateful for the women in my book club who like to get together and discuss deep societal issues.

The more entrenched I become in parenting and homesteading, the more I realize it’s nice to have a few breaks that don’t involve either of those things in the slightest. It’s a refreshing reset and it makes me realize how thankful I am to come back home to my homestead, my husband, and my kids.

Come Hang Out With Me In NYC!

Ok this is not at all related, but I am SO EXCITED to share that I’ll be speaking at The Financial Gym (134 W. 25th St., New York, NY) this Thursday, May 2nd from 6-8pm. The event is FREE and, naturally, boxed wine + snacks will be served. Space is limited and so you need to RSVP here in order to reserve your spot.

Shannon McLay (Founder and CEO of The Financial Gym, friend of mine, all-around excellent person) and I will discuss financial independence, other money-related topics, and likely quite a few topics that aren’t related to money at all… Then I’ll do a Q&A! Did I mention there’ll be wine?! I hope to see you there!!

If you can’t make the event, you can watch via The Financial Gym’s Facebook LIVE starting at 6:30pm on May 2nd. The Financial Gym is a personal financial services company that takes a fitness-inspired approach to their clients’ finances. By working one-on-one with a Certified Financial Trainer, each client learns to make smarter money decisions.

April is financial literacy month and The Financial Gym is hosting FREE educational events every single night this month. If you’re interested in working with a trainer at the Gym, Frugalwoods readers can sign-up for a free introductory phone call here and save 20% on a Gym membership.

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.

For more on our credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience.

Kidwoods summited the mountain of snow that built up next to our back porch

If you want to get a simple cash back credit card, then from my research, I think the Fidelity Rewards Visa (which is the card that I have) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are both excellent options. Both of these cards have no annual fee and offer good cash back percentages on your purchases.

The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for them yourself. Fortunately, there’s a website,, with a search function for this purpose that nicely aggregates information about tons of different credit cards.

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! (note: these credit card links are affiliate links)

Cash Back Earned This Month: $26.39

We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,319.82 on that card, which netted us $26.39. Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing. I will note that if we instead had the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, we would’ve earned 3% cash back, which would be $39.59!

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.

Le barn in le snow

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 manner, you might consider trying Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links 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 Cambridge, 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).

Snowy sunrise, as seen from our back porch

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.

If you’re wondering where to start with managing your money, or if you’d like to save more money every month, you might consider taking my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. You can sign-up at any time and you’ll start with Day One of the Challenge.

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.

The first melting hints of spring…

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?

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 March:

Item Amount Notes
Vermont Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries + Household Supplies $710.07 We forgot to purchase the household supplies in a separate transaction this month so they’re grouped in with the groceries.
Preschool $646.38 Kidwoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.
Gasoline for cars $175.68
Seed starting supplies for our vegetable garden $131.13 Seed starting supplies specifically these seedling trays along with this under-tray, which are so much sturdier than the regular trays we bought at Home Depot last year. I think they are awesome and would highly recommend them over the cheaper stuff.

We also got these nursery pots, which are OK (we ran out of empty yogurt containers and needed more pots and they were cheap).

Also these plant identification tags, which we plan to use to keep track of which tomato plant is which in the garden, since we’re trying out about 1,000 different tomato varieties this year (affiliate links).

Doctor visits (co-pays) $125.00
Household Supplies $97.11
Date night! $74.29
Fiber Internet $74.00
Maple sugaring supplies $61.99 12v pump for sugaring (affiliate link).
Craft beer $61.00 From Upper Pass Brewery. So local, so good.
Ladies’ Night dinner out!!!! $57.05
Curly Girl method attempts $38.11 As I shared in this post, I’ve chopped off (most of) my hair and started following the Curly Girl Method. In a fit of panic and confusion, I bought this super expensive conditioner and this sort-of expensive co-wash. I’ve already identified cheaper substitutes for both of these products for the future! Gah!!! Thanks to everyone who steered me to the CG subreddit! (affiliate links).
Shipping and stamps $24.25
Toner for our printer $20.99 Toner for our printer (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: electricity $19.96 We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Vegetable seeds $18.75
Maple sugaring supplies $15.95 Bulkhead fitting for sap barrel (affiliate link).
Metal garden tags $11.97 Metal tags for marking our fruit trees and bushes (affiliate link).
Whoops: sandwich at the hospital $8.71 I had to take Littlewoods to the hospital for an x-ray (she’s fine) and I forgot to pack lunch for myself! Hence, I required a sandwich. Failed to take my own advice!
Propane Tank Fill $6.66 For boiling down our maple sap into maple syrup
Book for my book club $6.35 Book club book: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (affiliate link).
Total: $3,798.25
Minus Mortgage: $2,405.39

How was your March? P.S. yes, I know it’s almost May, I’m just slooooooooooooow in getting this list assembled…

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  1. You mentioned that your groceries and household supplies were lumped into one category this month, but you actually did include two separate categories for each (unless I am reading something wrong….highly possible since I am still on my first cup of coffee).

    1. Hah! You are so right. I think this may be a result of some of the household goods being purchased from Walmart and some from BJ’s… usually Mr. FW is a rockstar at doing separate transactions (in the self check-out lane) for household supplies and food, but he forgot this month and so it’s all mushed together. The other issue is that a lot of gardening/tools/homestead equipment (such as oil for the tractor) gets lumped into the household supplies category. Bottom line: I clearly need to come up with a better system for separating this stuff out!

      1. I started using Personal Capital recently at your recommendation 🙂 since my Quicken services were expiring and I didn’t want to sign up for a yearly subscription. It seems a great program, but I am disappointed that it doesn’t let you ‘split’ a purchase into multiple categories, which is much simpler than separating your purchases into different transactions. Hopefully it be included in the future!

        I love reading about your adventures, experiences, and things you are learning. I’m at a different stage of life with grown children, still working full-time, and somewhat disconnected from who I am and what I love. I am inspired by the way you have created a life that is based on the things that mean the most to you. Maybe even this old dog can learn a new trick!

  2. Well done on going out with your friends and just having a ladies’ night out, away from home. I love the sound of your book club! The book club sound like my idea of heaven. With a 1 year old and almost 4 year old with my husband being at work long hours, I find it so hard to carve out time for myself. I recently said yes to a Mums’ night out and it was so much fun. We laughed a lot! It was a lot cheaper than therapy and made me realise that what I’m feeling in motherhood is normal! You can’t put a price on good, solid mental health. I think the dinners and the book club sounds like a fantastic investment 🙂

    1. P.S.- Do you have any tips on exercising/fitness posts once you have kids? I am finding it really hard to find the time, especially as my oldest is too big for the pram.

      1. I’m so glad you went on a Mums’ night out!!! It’s truly a worthy expense. In terms of exercising, I have two tactics: 1) I hike in our woods while the kids nap in the afternoon (but this is only possible because Mr. FW works from home and thus is inside in case one of the kids wakes up early). 2) I do yoga classes on YouTube after the kids are in bed at night. I’ve found some great 20 and 30 minute yoga workouts (I like high intensity yoga) that are awesome. I like following a YouTube class because if I do it on my own I just end up laying on the mat “stretching” ;). If you’re not a yoga person, there are tons of other free fitness classes on YouTube–just search for whatever type of exercise you like + the amount of time you have. So I usually search for “advanced vinyasa yoga 30 minutes,” for example. Good luck, mama!!

          1. I love Five Parks Yoga, Cat Meffan, and Yoga By Adrienne. I usually do Five Parks Yoga because she keeps her classes challenging and short, which is what I need!

          2. Boho Beautiful has nice yoga sessions. They shoot it beautifully in different locations around the world, so you get to enjoy a mini escape when watching them.

      2. If you prefer hiit start workouts I highly recommend fitness blender or popsugar fitness for lots of exercise videos

    2. “You can’t put a price on good, solid mental health.” Sooooo true! I used to feel SO GUILTY when I would take time for myself when my son was little…then I found a group of moms with young kids, too, and what started out as a weekly playgroup for the kids expanded into a mom’s evening out once a month at a nice restaurant (without the kids). I slowly let go of the guilt, and being around other moms helped me tremendously. (I didn’t judge them because they dared to have an evening out, so I quit being so hard on myself!) Fast forward fifteen years and I now take an annual beach trip without my son…and I don’t feel one bit guilty! Truthfully I think he enjoys having a break from me, too! (Imagine that!) It’s a win-win.

  3. I have two requests for future posts:

    1) “Convenience” buys and balancing time and money in small, every day ways. Your March spending is starting to show some changes in how and when you make purchases, even on non-kid-related expenses. The Curly Girl method where you strayed from your normal extensive-research-before-purchase practice to buy something you needed, and then after it arrived you found time, did the research, and found a substitute going forward. The hospital sandwich and buying the book club book outright showed times when you prioritized your time over your money. You’ve also started some spending that prioritizes adult time. I’d love to see a post about this – how you balance the trade off between maximizing the use of your $ vs. your time in small, every day ways, and how you course correct when you think you’ve veered too far in one direction or the other of this balance.

    The other thing I’d like to see a post about is FSAs. It looks like you do not use FSAs (or an HSA) for preschool or for medical co-pays. Just wondering if this is something you don’t have access to through Mr. Frugalwoods’s employer, or if it is a deliberate choice.

    Thank you!

    1. I too would love to see a post about this! We have 5 young kids, and while we invest, pay extra on our mortgage, don’t have cable, shop at Aldi, clean our own home etc. we also eat out sometimes, buy nicer shoes, I get my hair done at a salon every 3-4 months and we pay $$ for sports year round.
      There are also things I spend more money on for more time and sanity…preschool, ladies night out, date night just to name a few. It’s all about balance!

    2. Thank you for the request, Kristin! I love the idea of writing a post about that. You are totally right–I have started prioritizing my time over my money in some instances. Most of this is due to having two kids, something about having a second (so soon after my first!) really changed how I structure my (mostly lack of) time. And I have definitely started spending more in service of my sanity! A recent post that touches on this to some extent is this one: When Spending Money Equals Happiness: Why I Bought A Roomba. But let me mull this over and do a post on the topic in the future. I so appreciate you bringing this up! It’s always helpful to me to know what people are interested in reading.

    3. Another suggestion for you Mrs Frugalwoods…

      In your book (and in your blog) you write that you and Nate work because you choose, not because you have to. How do future college expenses factor into your FIRE calculation? Perhaps I’ve missed it but I don’t see any reference to saving for college, either in your recurring expense reports or any standalone posts. Do you budget nothing (kids will get scholarships or take out loans), the cost of in-state tuition (cheaper), or the full cost of private school (“worst” case scenario)? I’m hardly a FIRE expert but the handful of bloggers I’ve read seem to assume very low (if any) future college costs, which is risky or harsh on your kids, depending on your perspective.

      Obviously this question could be answered in one sentence but given the wide range of potential future costs (# kids, type of school, etc.) the answer reveals a lot about an individual’s FIRE philosophy / approach.

      1. Great question, Joel! We have 529 college savings accounts that we contribute to for both of our kids. You’ve inspired me to do a full post on 529s! Thank you for the idea.

  4. I tried winter sowing seeds for the first time this year and it’s been a great success so far. I still started my peppers, eggplants and tomatoes inside but it was great to start flowers, herbs and someone cool season veggies. And it’s very affordable. And as a mother of three young ones, yes, time away is enormously valuable. It keeps life running smoothly.

  5. I am trying Cowpots for my seedlings this year. They are compressed cow manure that you grow your seedlings in, then plant right in your garden. They decompose and fertilize in the garden. We will see how it goes!

      1. Jiffy pots do this as well. Very cheap and environmentally friendly. Check out the grow light from West Coast seeds too – to really get a start on seedlings when you’re still covered in snow in March. 🙂

        1. Jiffy pots don’t work well everyplace. I live in interior Alaska and our growing season is about 90 days. Peat pots do not disintegrate in our cold soils and the roots end up winding around and around in the confines of the small peat pot, dying or stunting instead of producing a good yield.

          1. I’m not a great gardener, but even in Missouri the jiffy pots don’t seem to disintegrate during the summer! However, if I use them, I tear away some of the bottom so the roots can get out, then I plant.

  6. I’m a summer girl through and through and can get a high on sitting by the window when the sun is out to watch the snow melt and the grass turn green and the trees start to blossom. BUT, those pictures of your homestead, specifically the back porch sunrise, are just magnificent! Well done to the photographer(s)!

  7. Love this! So glad you got time with your friends! I have a book recommendation for your book club…Johann Hari wrote a book called “Lost Connections” and it is about mental health. According to him, time with good friends is a kind of antidepressant! He is also on a lot of podcasts…his interviews on the Ezra Klein show and “Making Sense” with Sam Harris are my favorites.

  8. Am I the only one who is curious how the electric bill is so low? Mine costs at least $250/mo….

    1. Oh! It’s because we have solar! Did I forget to mention that? Sorry about that–I’ll update the post now 🙂

  9. Joining a book club was one of the best things I ever did for myself! I look forward to our get-togethers every month, and it’s a great chance to step outside of my reading comfort zone. (Plus, the treats are usually pretty amazing too, ha ha). A book along similar lines that is much more accessible (as it’s a memoir) and that would provide a TON of discussion material is Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. While I had issues with some of the ways the book was constructed (I thought the timeline was disjointed and confusing), there’s no doubt this would provide PLENTY to talk about together. Anyway, just a thought! (And I know for me, I would love to hear more about the books you’re reading, for book club or for yourself! I’m always on the lookout for recommendations.)

  10. I made newspaper pots this year for my seedlings and it went well-ish. They took about 30 seconds per pot to make, and they lasted until it was time to put them in the ground and then they properly disintegrated (I removed the tape before I stuck them in the ground). I put them in the disposable lasagna pans from the Dollar Tree to prevent them from leaking water all over the table. This was a frugal, easy option so long as you’re not planting thousands of things! In case anyone is interested:

    I’m glad to see that you’re taking care of yourself by joining a book club and going out with your friends. I’m a book club delinquent. I show up most months but rarely finish the book — except for May! I’ve already finished the book — and no one has yelled at me yet. You need to fill up your cup so that you can be the best writer, friend, momma, wife, and Mrs. FW that you can be.

    1. Another good seed start pot are the cardboard egg boxes. The little ‘egg cups’, for want of a better word, mulch up really well when planted. I do gently break open the soggy bottom before planting to allow the roots out more easily but most people don’t bother. I also use the plastic mushroom punnets as trays for salad leaves and other herbs. I’m always raiding my neighbours recycling bin. It’s a good thing she’s known me so long!

  11. Good for you for getting out! I joined our library book club and thus I have at least one night most months (next month there’s a scheduling conflict) where I can go and be ME, not Mom or Wife or Person Who Does All the Cleaning. It’s glorious. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with multiple nearby libraries that offer reciprocal borrowing, so if the book isn’t available in paper or electronically from my local library, there’s one nearby that will have it in stock (and fortunately, I’m a fast reader!). I look forward to those book club nights so very much. 🙂

  12. Hi from the state of wa. Do you have a wholesale nursery supply close. Out here we are able to get those planting trays for half of what you spent
    Also it’s a homesteaders and gardeners dream store.

  13. Let’s not gloss over the “time with other women” issue. It may well be a necessity, not a self-indulgent luxury. (Not that any of us are suggesting it is, but I want to highlight this issue.)

    The famous UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women suggests affiliation with other women is essential to our mental health. It found “fight or flight” is a man thing, whereas women’s thing is “tend and befriend”.

    In the “olden days” women had access to one another in multi-generational households and neighborhood and church communities. Today, our lives are structured to keep us apart from one another. So we MUST make opportunities to affiliate with other women.

    I’ve attached a link to the UCLA study.

  14. Yay for becoming a curly girl! My go to products in case you are curious:

    1) Kirkland Brand Salon Shampoo and Conditioner at Costco, sulfate free giant pump bottles that last me forever. Shampoo is a purple bottle, conditioner is white. I usually have to replace the conditioner sooner than the shampoo because I only shampoo a few times a week.

    2) Catwalk Curls Rock amplifier cream. It’s not technically curly girl approved because it has silicone, but I love it and don’t find that it builds up on my hair. Not that cheap ($14/bottle) but lasts me a long time and every time I try a cheaper alternative I don’t like it and end up having tons of half used bottles of hair gel that I hate.

    The time and money savings of embracing your curls will be amazing! I haven’t owned a hairbrush, hair dryer, curling iron, straightening iron, etc in decades. Just wash (or not!), put styling cream in, and let it air dry.

  15. Good for you for getting out without the kids. We hear it over and over again, “moms need to have their own life” but it is HARD to actually do it! The first time I left the house by myself after having a baby was to a counselor for PPD. There is so much irony in that statement but it makes a point. Kids need other adults in their lives, just like moms need other adults in their lives.

  16. I finally unpacked my gardening books and found the one I have been wanting to alert you too–it’s called “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener” by Niki Jabbour, published by Storey Publishing. Niki and her family live in Canada (specifically Nova Scotia) where they have an urban homestead in the middle of mountains of snow in the winter. A lot of her ideas were popularized by Eliot Coleman of Maine. His books are teriffic, but he spent most of his life growing organic produce as a business and Nik’s book is specifically aimed at a homestead level. Eliot harvests vegs every month but January for sale; Niki harvests vegs every month for her family. Can’t recommend it enough.

    Another person you might want to know is MI Gardener. He has a blog on You Tube and makes his cash by selling organic seeds for $1.00 a packet. You probably already know about Baker Creek seeds, but MI gardener is another source.

    1. Thanks for the book suggestion! I’m really interested in that topic and already have the book on hold from the library since reading your post two minutes ago 🙂 It sound super helpful!

  17. A belated Happy Birthday! to you! I am glad to hear about the Book Club and Mom’s Night Out. Sometimes it seems that when we are time-stressed, female friendships are the first things to be put on hold. Although my husband is my best friend, there are still times when I’ve yearned for the commonality of a female voice, or perhaps even more importantly, just the laughter.

    At any rate, good for you! I’ll be interested to hear more about the book club and the Frugalwoods Farm. Thank you so much for your timely, helpful and interesting information.

  18. Mrs. Frugalwoods, are you aware that many libraries have ebooks that you can check out? We have the Amazon Kindle app on our iPads ($0 cost) and we always use the Amazon app of the apps that our library’s ebook programs support. if not available on Amazon i usually dont’ do it. However I have subscribed to other library systems when I am in those towns to get access to a broader offering. and our library online gives us access to a ton of magazines through a separate app— you have to periodically sign up again since you have a limit under free membership but no problem rejoining. When I read a good review i immediately places an “e” hold from one of the libraries I use. Therefore when I to to a book club I am usually able to have the ebook several weeks in advance because I’d already signed up for it when it was first reviewed by NYT.

  19. Happy 35th! Glad you celebrated guiltlessly. Good luck with the seedlings. Question, why is there a minus mortgage amount at the end of expense report?

    1. I include that amount just to show what we spend on living expenses aside from housing. I stopped including it for awhile and folks asked me to put it back in, so voila, it’s there 🙂

  20. I’m so glad to read you joined a book club! I’ve been in one for years, it’s such an enjoyable aspect to life. Sometimes the books aren’t the greatest, but it’s just getting to sit with other readers and chat which is worth it’s weight.

  21. The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a foreign transaction fee unfortunately. That is the only thing that stops me from getting it.

  22. Congratulations on getting some well deserved time with friends! I would not be surviving, much less enjoying, mamahood without friend time. I don’t consider it a waste of money in any way. Our kids deserve to have happy parents and parents deserve in and of themselves to be happy. What is frugality for except to allow us to pursue our priorities?

    Btw I am a big fan of the As I Am products and find that a little goes a really long way. With healthy curly hair you often need to wash less frequently, and need less product when your hair has recovered from straightening. I also like Shea Moisture and just tried Cantu conditioner and found that good too. These are both at lower price points than the Deva and As I Am lines.

  23. Spending time away from kids when you are a young mom is essential. And probably good for the kids! They learn they can survive without you for a couple hours and that you’ll always come back.
    One question: why don’t you include your income and show how much you stash away or invest every month?

    1. Hi Terri! Good question! My husband and I decided at the outset of Frugalwoods (five years ago) that we wouldn’t be sharing our income or net worth amounts on the blog.

  24. Getting some adult female companionship is so important to a busy woman! I have long been part of groups of one kind or another that were made up of women, and they were such a blessing. They still are, even though the last kid has been gone from home for over a decade now. I don’t feel guilty about having taken that very little time away from my kids, either, because it made me a calmer, more confident parent; calmer because the time away refreshed and re-set me, and confident, because I could gather and share parenting knowledge with the other women who had kids.

    Let’s face it, too, after the kids get a little older, they often like the time away from mom! If their dad is available, this is a great time for him to spend some good times with the kids without everything running through the mom-filter first. My kids have some warm– and some hilarious– memories of time alone with their daddy. (Yeah, we’re southerners).

    Getting a start on gardening can be pretty expensive, I agree, but as a rule, you’ll use a lot of that stuff for years. Good luck on this year’s garden!

  25. Happy belated birthday, Mrs. Frugalwoods! I hope it was a great one!

    I’m happy to hear you’ve joined a book club and have spent time with friends — that’s so important, even as a mom! Maintain those friendships because you’ll need them. I’m single and childfree, but I see how much my friends with children need their female friends too. As much as they love being moms, they still need adult stimulation and to vent or laugh like any other human being. It never makes you less of a mom; it just reminds you that you’re human and need to have your own basic needs met as well.

    I had the blessing of being an English Lit major in college, and we read Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” which you and your group might find an interesting read. Not only is a great piece of American literature, but it pertains to the idea of woman’s identity, particularly after childbirth (I believe – it’s been 20 years since I’ve read it!! EEK!). The concept of always maintaining some semblance of identity post-childbirth has always stuck with me. I had planned to have kids, but that’s not in the cards. Even so, we all struggle to maintain our identities at time, with or without kids, so it’s a valuable topic regardless. I’ve been meaning to reread it, but it still stands on my shelf, waiting for me to select it once again. Anyway, enjoy it if you do cover it. And, if not, enjoy your book club and the friendships nonetheless!

  26. Thanks to you, I am attempting the Curly Girl method. What products did you identify as the cheaper substitutes for conditioner and co-wash? The number of options are overwhelming me!

    1. Yay for curly hair! So I’m still VERY much learning and testing things out and I recommend the Curly Hair subreddit as they have a list of “curly girl approved” products. That’s the reference list I’m using now! I just bought the Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Mousse (pretty cheap) as well as the Suave Essentials conditioner (very cheap). We’ll see how it goes :)! Good luck!!!

  27. Wow that is a lot of snow! I hope it has warmed up since this and you are starting to get some warmer sunshine 🙂

    Love the bit on credit card rewards. We finally took the leap and opened our first reward credit card last year and it has been amazing. 5% cash back on groceries and gas which is pretty much the two area we spend 3/4 of our monthly expenses on. Like you said, it MUST be paid off every month in FULL! Just one single interest payment will most likely offset any rewards you were striving to attain in the first place.

  28. Just wanted to be sure you both know about They have conferences with speakers and hands on training. You can join and have access online to all of it. The membership is on sale through May 12. Just thought it may be your jig.

  29. My husband and I really like the idea of working independently from home and being self-sufficient. However, we both have medical issues that require that we have medical insurance. I noticed on your monthly expense reports you mention doctors’ copays, so I assume you have medical insurance. I’ve tried to search through your past posts and haven’t been able to find anything on the subject of buying medical insurance. Can you point me to a post where you have covered this subject? If you haven’t written about it could you consider a post about it sometime soon? BTW, I stumbled across your book at the store and loved it! That’s how I found out about your blog. Thanks!

    1. Hope this helps — she has mentioned in the past that her husband has a full time (work from home) job with a company and they have benefits (medical included) through that.

      1. Shayna is correct! It’s noted up above under the header “But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????”

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