Due to our excessive snow situation here in Vermont, we are a family in need of multiple methods of clearing snow. Due to our quarter-mile long dirt driveway, we need both a snowblower and a snow plow. Due to the excessive expense of a new plow, we’ve been plow-less since moving here. But we are plow-less no more, thanks to a saved Craigslist search.
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Saved Craigslist Searches: Your Friend in Shopping Used
Do you ever need to buy things? Do you like to buy things used and get a good deal? Do you not enjoy scanning Craigslist every three minutes when you need something? Then a saved Craigslist search is for you!
When we moved here in 2016, we realized pretty quickly there was a pretty long list of farm-esque things we were going to need in order to live out our dream of becoming the world’s worst homesteaders. Four years later, we have cleared hiking/snowshoeing trails, a fruit orchard planted, vegetable gardens tended, maple trees tapped for syrup, a woodshed built, three years’ worth of firewood stacked, mowed fields, and a well-maintained driveway to show for it. Not bad! New farm-type-things are super duper expensive. Used farm-type-things are a great alternative; however, very few Vermont farmers ever sell their stuff.
People around here are of the buy, keep, repair, and keep some more mentality. Given that, it’s taking us quite some time to build out our farm-type-stuff entourage. To help us in our procurement quests, Mr. Frugalwoods set up a number of saved Cragislist searches.
So far, we’ve successfully purchased the following from saved Craigslist searches:
- Logging winch (attaches to tractor): purchased in July 2018 in excellent used condition for $1,900. Brand is a Norse 350 and it retails new for $2,600. Wondering what a logging winch is? Here you go.
- Sawstop table saw: purchased in April 2018 in good used condition for $1,200. Retails new for $1,800+.
- Snow plow (attaches to tractor): purchased in January 2020 in excellent used condition for $430. It’s a 7-foot, quick-attach, trip-edge plow with manual angle. If purchased new, these plows run anywhere from $1,800-$2,500.
The common thread between these purchases is that they’re fairly expensive, specialized items. I usually don’t find it worthwhile to bother with Craigslist for smaller, less expensive things (such as kids’ clothing), but I think the return on investment is well worth it for bigger ticket items. For the cheaper stuff of life, I prefer garage sales, thrift stores, and hand-me-downs (more about how I buy almost everything used here).
Why A Snow Plow?
Attentive readers know that we already own a snow blower attachment for our tractor, which is the primary method Mr. FW uses to keep our driveway clear in the winter.
However, the snowblower doesn’t like thick slushy snow because the snow gets jammed up inside the snowblower. For those types of storms–known in our house as “peanut butter snow”–the plow will be employed to scrape the slush up and the snowblower will be spared a mangling.
It is also convenient that the snow blower attaches to the rear of the tractor, while the snow plow attaches to the front.
Our Date Night is: Luxurious Frugality, Spending on Priorities, and a Scheduled Treat
My husband and I go out to dinner together exactly once every month. Our fabulous adopted grandma neighbor comes to stay at our house after we put our kids to bed, and we head out for an evening at a restaurant.
This monthly date night is an example of our luxurious frugality. We don’t need to spend this money, but we want to. We love good food and this night out lets us explore and enjoy our local restaurant scene.
This monthly date night is an example of spending on our priorities. Our marriage–and time alone together–is a vital aspect of our lives. Spending money to strengthen and sustain our relationship is in alignment with our values.
This monthly date night is an example of scheduling our treats–and keeping those treats somewhat rare. Since it only happens once a month, it’s rare enough to be exciting and exotic! If we ate out every night of the week, it’d lose the magic. Since it happens predictably every month, we look forward to it and we don’t feel deprived eating at home all the other nights of the month–we know we have our scheduled treat to look forward to.
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. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking.
- 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 stuff 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) helps 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. 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.
- 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 a debit card 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: $46.93
The silver lining to 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 $2,346.52 on that card, which netted us $46.93.
Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$
Mr. Frugalwoods and I use a free, online service called Personal Capital to keep track of our money.
Tracking expenses is one of the best–and easiest–ways 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. If you’d like to know more about how Personal Capital works, check out my full review.
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.
Yes, We Only Paid $29.40 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 $29.40 for both of our phones (that’s $14.70 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 monthly dollar amount we pay 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 sleeping. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.
Expense Report FAQs
- Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out How We Manage Our Money: Behind The Scenes of The Frugalwoods Family Accounts. We also own a rental property in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here.
- 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.
- Are we the most frugal frugal people on earth? Absolutely not. My hope is 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.
- Wondering where to start with managing your money? Take my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.
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 (or bi-annual, etc) 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.
- Here’s an overview of how we save for our kids’ higher education: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College
- We live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, so 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 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.
If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in January:
|Groceries and household supplies||$815.95|
|Part-time Daycare||$720||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.
|Home insurance (annual)||$706||The annual cost of insurance for our Vermont home and property|
|Plow for the front of our tractor (purchased used off Craigslist)||$430||A 7-foot, quick-attach, trip-edge plow with manual angle. If purchased new, these plows run anywhere from $1,800-$2,500, so we were thrilled to find this one used for such a great price!|
|Car repairs for Prius||$411.11||Repairs on our 2010 Toyota Prius: left rear wheel bearing, ABS sensor, and exhaust rattle|
|Car insurance (six months for two vehicles)||$250.20||Six months of car insurance (through Geico) for our 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Toyota Tundra.
This is 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.
|Gas for cars||$219.17||We had to drive the truck more than usual while the Prius was in the shop and our gas bill shows it!|
|Household, farm, garden and miscellaneous supplies||$146.21|
|Doctor’s appointments||$130.00||Sick kids. Sooooooo many sick kids…|
|Date night!!!||$94.57||Given the above line item, I think you can see why our monthly date night was more expensive than normal ;).|
|Tree House Brewing Co.||$79.89||Beer purchased from Treehouse Brewing Co (highly recommend it if you’re in the area!)|
|Diesel for tractor||$52.95|
|CO2 tank refill||$34.25||For our hacked Sodastream system, delivering fresh seltzer to our kitchen daily. This 20lb tank will last us about six months.|
|Headlamp||$30.20||I needed a new headlamp, useful for walking around outside in the dark (affiliate link).|
|Cell phone service (two phones)||$29.40||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.
|Ladies’ night out!||$18.35||Ladies night out with a few of my girlfriends. A lovely chance to chat and bond with no kids in attendance.|
|Gin||$10.99||For our weekend gin-and-tonics!|
|Prescription medication||$8.79||For the kids, both of whom were sick 🙁|
How was your January?
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