I do not like wearing shorts. Even in the smolder of summer, I detest short pants. Do you know what I do like to wear when it’s hot? Dresses. I like to wear loose, breezy, dresses. Dresses with pockets are a particular favorite. Cotton is also good. I do not like sleeveless, or backless, or tank-topped dresses.
I like short-sleeved dresses so that I can wear a normal, comfortable bra and so that I don’t have to douse my entire upper torso with sunscreen. The problem with dresses is that I have two small children. With two small children, I am forever bending over to pick one of them up, crawling under tables at the library to retrieve tossed cheerios, crouching to put on tiny shoes, and sitting on the ground so that they can climb into my lap.
You may be surprised to hear that, unlike my three-year-old, I prefer not to flash my undies around. In light of this preference, I wore shorts all of last summer. And the summer before. And the summer before that. I hate-wore those shorts. They were bunchy and hot. They were ugly and uncomfortable. My legs itched.
I’m too old and too tired to wear itchy, bunchy, hot things and so I turned to my source for divine inspiration–my mom’s group–and asked what I should do. They responded in unison: “BUY SKIMMIES!”
Since I don’t shop for clothes and don’t like to shop for clothes and don’t even like to THINK about shopping for clothes, I had no clue what Skimmies were and no idea that some genius at Jockey solved my shorts-hate/flashing-hate issue with what are essentially nylon bike shorts. But they are so much more comfortable, loose, and breathable than actual bike shorts.
My woes are over. I wear these $20 shorts under dresses purchased for $0.25 cents at a rummage sale, and so yes, I see the irony (affiliate link). However, I care so little about that irony that I bought a second pair. Skimmies are not shapewear, which was my fear. I’m too old, too tired, and have too many children to wear something that’s going to slim and trim me–marketing speak for “squeeze your hips in a spandex vise that inverts your stomach fat, creating: 1) areas for sweat to pool; 2) extreme discomfort; 3) itching; 4) inability to breathe deeply.” Fabulous. The Skimmies are more like leggings–they’re snug against my skin, but not constricting (affiliate link).
I can report I’ve worn my Skimmies with dresses on more than one occasion, thus far, and been flash and discomfort-free. Sorry (not sorry) that I don’t have any photos of me wearing the Skimmies. Laugh all you want at my $20 under-shorts, but I love them. I might even buy a third pair.
Other Stuff We Bought
We did buy things other than my under-shorts this month, but really, those were all I wanted to talk about. OK fine, I’ll talk about the other stuff. But not with as much enthusiasm.
My man also got some new clothes in the form of work overalls. Attempt to contain your jealousy over our fashionable-ness. Mr. FW is also too old, too tired, and has too many children to wear uncomfortable clothing. He wore bib snowpants all winter for outdoor work and liked the flex and utility of wearing overalls. Now that our snow has melted, he finds himself unable to reasonably wear snowpants and so, he got this pair of canvas-like summertime work overalls (affiliate link).
He reports these are excellent for outdoor labor because they have tons of pockets for tools-n-such, they don’t slide around like pants do (especially when bending over in the garden or to buck logs with a chainsaw), they don’t require a belt (which makes it easier to put chainsaw chaps on top of them), and his shirt never rides up (ideal to prevent bug and ticks bites). 10 out of 10, would recommend.
He’s considering buying a second pair because my once-a-week laundry regime is not quite cutting it for how filthy these things get. We’re talking filth-y.
Seed Starting Heat Mats
Relevant to our melted snow, we got a few more seed starting heat mats (affiliate link). These are essentially heating pads for infant vegetable plants. We put these underneath our vegetable seed starts (which we start indoors) to keep them toasty, which encourages germination and growth.
Vicious-Looking Spear-Like Weeder
Further relevant to the advent of spring, Mr. FW found this weeder, which is designed to root out weeds with deep taproots (affiliate link). Just such a weed–Common Mallow–took up residence in our blueberry patch and we were having trouble digging it out.
This weeder (which resembles a miniature, spiked pitchfork) is, in Mr. FW’s words, “freaking awesome” at pulling out the Common Mallow.
It was time for a reload of our 20lb C02 tank, which powers our hacked Sodastream system, which delivers sparkling water (aka seltzer) on tap. I have several write-ups on our system, in case you’re a fellow sparkling water devotee. Here’s the math on how much money this saves us, based on our consumption rate of 42oz of CO2 a month (3 traditional Sodastream cartridges worth):
- Traditional Sodastream cartridge: $44.94/month
- Frugal newbie system with homebrew store-sourced C02 tank: $9.24/month
- Frugal boss system with welding store-sourced C02 tank: $4.62/month
Additionally, for those of you embarking on this project, I have a new link for the adaptor kit and hose (that’s an affiliate link).
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.
For more on our credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience.
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, CardRatings.com, 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: $29.24
We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $1,462.05 on that card, which netted us $29.24. 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 $43.86!
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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 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).
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.
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 mortgages) 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 April:
|Groceries, household supplies, wine, beer, caramel vodka||$877.47||Ugh. Forgot to separate out the groceries from the alcohol and the household supplies (toilet paper, laundry detergent, vitamins, etc) and so it’s all lumped together. Read here for how the caramel vodka was used.|
|Preschool||$534.56||Kidwoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.|
|Truck Registration (for 2 years)||$140.00||Two years’ worth of registration for our truck|
|Garden and farm supplies||$120.45|
|Gasoline for cars||$92.34|
|Date night!!!!!!||$74.29||Mr. FW and I go out to dinner once a month without our kids!!! Our fabulous adopted grandma neighbor comes over to watch the kids. We put the girls to bed before we leave, just to make it all the easier on everyone involved.|
|Ladies Night!!!!!!||$49.24||I go out to dinner once a month with a group of ladies. We go without our kids, without our partners, and it is wonderful. More on why this is important to me here.|
|Diesel for tractor||$47.17|
|Seed Starting Heat Mats||$38.97||We purchased these seed starting heat mats for our vegetables (affiliate link).|
|Overalls for Mr. FW||$34.29||Summer work overalls for Mr. FW (affiliate link).|
|C02 for Seltzer||$34.25||20lb tank of food-grade C02 for our hacked Sodastream system|
|Skimmies for Mrs. FW||$20.00||The magic Skimmies (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.|
|Weeder||$18.90||“Freaking awesome” weeder for rooting out the Common Mallow invading our blueberry patch (affiliate link).|
|Utilities: Electricity||$18.48||We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Yellow Curry Paste||$11.93||Yellow Curry Paste. Oddly enough, our local market sells both green curry paste and red curry paste, but not yellow. We’ve tried all three and prefer the yellow curry paste. And so, we buy it online… This quantity makes two weeks worth of dinners for us (affiliate link).|