When October rolls around, I know it’s time for one thing and one thing only: purchasing an entire pound of Allspice (affiliate link). I know I’m not alone in this. Perhaps you favor ginger or nutmeg in such quantities, but I adore the versatile, flavorful zest of Allspice.
Advertiser Disclosure: Frugalwoods partners with CardRatings for coverage of credit card products. Frugalwoods and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers at no extra cost to you. Here’s a boring (but important) explanation of how Frugalwoods makes money
Fun fact: Allspice does not contain all spices; it’s made from the dried, unripened berries of the Pimenta dioica plant. I feel better for knowing this and I’m sure you do too.
It won’t escape your notice that we bought this generator–and 1,000 generator parts–in October (affiliate link). But alas, you shall have to wait for a full rendering of this tale, which I promise to deliver in a separate post.
Wood Stove Catalyst
We bought a new catalyst for our wood stove as well as some furnace cement–not to mention new gaskets–items surely on everyone’s holiday shopping list. Our wood stove–which we use to heat our home with wood Mr. FW harvests from our land–is a highly efficient catalytic stove, which means it utilizes a catalyst to burn the smoke particles. This makes the stove efficient, allows it to use less wood, and provides a long, even burn time. Additionally, since it burns the smoke, the emissions from our stove are minimal, making it environmentally-friendly and better for our indoor air quality. Catalysts themselves last a number of years–hopefully around six or more–before requiring replacement. This catalyst (and stove) was here when we moved in four years ago and this is our first replacement purchase.
It was time to swap out our 20lb tank of CO2, which we use to fuel our addiction to bubbly water. Our devotion to seltzer water is well-known, well-documented, and very, very cheap. Folks, never pay full price when you too could have a 20lb tank of CO2 in your kitchen. Here’s how:
- How To: Cheap Homemade Seltzer with a Modified Sodastream
- The Great Homemade Seltzer Discovery of 2015
- Hacked SodaStream Seltzer Reload And Other December 2018 Expenditures
Boot Repair Glue
Mr. FW bought this boot repair glue to mend his winter Muck Boots (affiliate links). We each have a pair of insulated Muck Boots for the icy months and they are miraculous at keeping our feet warm in severely sub-zero temperatures.
However, they are only miraculous provided they are hole-less. Mr. FW’s boots began to tear along the seams so he’s going to try repairing them with this glue to see if he can stave off buying a new pair of boots.
Yes, We Only Paid $29.50 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)
Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only pay $29.50 for both of our phones (that’s $14.75 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link). What’s an MVNO? Glad you asked because I was going to tell you anyway. It’s a cell phone service re-seller. MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, just A LOT cheaper. If you’re not already using an MVNO, switching to one is an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-now way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*
*and yes, the dollar amount we pay every month fluctuates slightly because it’s calibrated on what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.
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.
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. I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
- We get 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 debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (that are fully paid off every month) has helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a 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 does help your score.
For more on my credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience. I also wrote this guide on how to find the best credit card for you.
If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are a few good options that don’t have annual fees:
- The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. This one’s good because it offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There are no categories to keep track of, you just get a straightforward 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Nice, easy, and fee-free! What this means is that if you spend, for example, $1,000 on this card in a month, you’ll get $15 back just for using the card.
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited is also excellent and also offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases–with no categories or restrictions–which makes it super simple to use.
- The Fidelity Rewards Visa (which is the card that I have) offers 2% cash back on all purchases, with no categories or restrictions, but the downside is that it requires you to have a Fidelity account. If you’re already banking with Fidelity, then I think it’s a great deal, but if you’re not (and you don’t want to open a Fidelity account), I’d go with either the Capital One Quicksilver or the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself. Fortunately, there’s a website, CardRatings.com, with a search function that 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: the credit card links are affiliate links).
Cash Back Earned This Month: $58.56
The silver lining to all our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $2,928.33 on that card, which netted us $58.56. Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway!
This is why I love credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$
Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to 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.
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 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, 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.
How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report
Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out 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 give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget.
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 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 every month, you might consider taking my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in 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 different from traditional urban and suburban homes.
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 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 common expenses 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 October:
|Daycare||$960||For Littlewoods so that my husband and I can work (which makes us happier, more balanced parents). Kidwoods goes to free preschool at our public elementary school.|
|Generator||$859||The generator itself (affiliate link). I will note that we bought our generator from Walmart, but it’s currently out of stock there, so I’ve linked to the exact generator we bought on Amazon (I will note that the price is higher on Amazon right now).|
|Groceries, household supplies, prescription medication||$682.43||Whoops… once again we accidentally lumped all this stuff together, so, this total is for all of our food, plus our household supplies (such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc), as well as our prescription medications|
|Generator supplies||$277.74||10/3 wire, 30 amp breaker, conduit and fittings|
|Wood stove supplies||$178.95||New catalyst, gaskets, and furnace cement|
|Farm, tractor, and garden supplies||$153.36||Filters and oil for the tractor along with other farm-like stuff|
|Gasoline for cars||$114.29|
|Doctor visit co-pays||$105.00||Mr. FW and I both had our annual exams plus eye appointments plus the kids went to the pediatrician for some malady or other…|
|Beer (good beer, that is)||$94.00||Life is too short to drink bad beer. We patronize several of our local craft breweries, including River Roost (our favorite of theirs is Mas Verde) and Upper Pass (our favorite of theirs is Cloud Drop).|
|Propane||$89.79||One final tank top off before the snow flies. We use propane for cooking.|
|Massage for mama||$80.00||A massage for moi! So decadent and wonderful.|
|My disastrous co-op run||$78.59||Full story here.|
|Date night||$71.12||Our monthly kid-free dinner out, facilitated by our amazing adopted grandma neighbor who stays at our house. We put the kids to bed before we leave.|
|Interlock kit for the Generator||$69||We got this interlock kit.|
|Tire inflator||$49.08||For all your tire inflation needs: a tire inflator with gauge (affiliate link).|
|Cord for the generator and a boot repair kit||$44.21||Generator cord and boot repair glue (affiliate links).|
|Power back detector for generator||$37.65||Power back detector (affiliate link).|
|SodaStream C02||$34.25||This 20lb tank of food-grade Co2 will last us at least six months.|
|Service for two cell phones||$29.50||This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service). MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of cell phone service.
If you’re not using an MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.
|Utilities: Electric||$19.06||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Allspice||$15.10||It’s holiday baking season, so I got a commercial-sized Allspice (affiliate link). It was SO MUCH CHEAPER to get this enormous vat than the teensy little bottles sold in the grocery store.|
|Lunch||$11.31||Whoops… I bought lunch at the hospital while waiting for my eyes to un-dilate after my annual ophthalmology exam.|
How was your October?
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