Household Supplies Line Item Revealed
If you’ve ever wanted to see our “household supplies” line item illuminated item by mundane item, then this is the month for you! Due to the pandemic, we’ve curtailed our in-store shopping and now buy everything we possibly can via cyber space. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “wow, Mrs. Frugalwoods lives a life of glamour,” this month’s expenses back that up. 100%. Thanks to the specificity of online shopping, you now have the unique privilege (burden?) of seeing that we spent $4.66 on lip balm and $14.81 on scotch tape.
In what was either an excellent or moronic decision, we gave Kidwoods her own roll of scotch tape. A week later, I found myself on Amazon ordering 12 refill rolls in a house surrounded by artwork taped (with 19 pieces of tape each) to every wall surface accessible to a person who is four years old.
I also bought a spatula for $5.50. Because I snapped our previous spatula in half while closing the kitchen drawer with my foot. Yes, for some reason we only have one spatula in our home, I close drawers with feet, and we own four different whisks. Why is this? We do not know. But we do now know such things because we’ve been isolated in our home for 63 days.
Although, who is counting? Me. I am counting and I really thought it was going to be a larger number based on the fact that the month of April was 97 days long.
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.
Car-Related Purchases When You’re Driving Nowhere
Since we’re going nowhere, April was obviously the month to buy new carseats for the kids. And since we bought new carseats, I was compelled to clean out both cars (excavate might be more apt). It was my accomplishment of quarantine.
The car cleaning was prompted by the purchase of two new carseats; the two new carseats were prompted by the fact that one of my friends just had a baby and I gave her Littlewoods’ infant carseat.
Littlewoods–true to her moniker–is a righteous peanut of a two-year-old and still met the weight and height limitations of the infant bucket. Nevertheless, I wanted to offload the infant bucket because:
- It’s not yet expired and I wanted another family to get use out of it before it expires.
- I wanted to hand the carseat down to a family that can really use it–and use it right away!
- Littlewoods was not thrilled about her positioning in an infant bucket and declares that she is not a baby.
- Kidwoods’ carseat (a hand-me-down to us) recently expired.
- Why buy one super expensive thing when you can buy TWO?????!!!!
I’ve been playing the carseat rotation game since Kidwoods was born by sharing/swapping/handing down carseats with friends to avoid everyone spending $9,890 every few years on carseats. But the jig was finally up because:
I made a solemn vow to never switch carseats between our two cars.
We have two hand-me-down carseats installed in our truck, but I wanted–nay, required–two for the Prius too. Call me a profligate spendthrift, but I refuse to heft and swap carseats between our two cars.
After cleaning the cars, I was overcome with a desire to delay the need to ever clean them again, so we bought a backseat cover for the truck (already have one in the Prius) and kick-mats for the backs of the passenger seats.
I’ve also issued a decree that no one (no matter their age or hangry-ness) can ever eat food inside of our cars ever again.
Obvious Necessities: Two Used Power Wheels
I love my husband for many reasons: his sourdough bread baking, his intellect, his wit, charm, work ethic, chainsaw skills. But perhaps the number one reason I love him are his Saved Craigslist Searches. Never has a man set traps so carefully and waited so long for them to bear fruit.
My husband takes the 72-hour waiting period before buying to the next level. He once waited three years to buy a snow plow. He waited two years to buy a tree winch. What are those things? Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll tell you in a moment. His commitment to the used market surpasses perhaps even my own–profligate as I am in breaking and buying spatulas. His latest Saved Craigslist Search to come to fruition: two identical power wheels cars for the kids at a scant $70 total. That’d be $35 each. And they work.
A lover of vehicles and engineering, I believe his primary motivation for having kids was the ability to one day put them in power wheels and teach them to cruise around and tinker with the engines when they (inevitably and often) break down. Well, his parenting dream was realized in April. Power wheels are totally, obviously not a necessity, but wow are they cool.
Due to the lack of school, daycare, play dates, friends, summer camp, swim lessons, beach, travel, visitors, or really leaving our property at all, we felt like this was the summer to invest in outdoor play infrastructure for our kids. They seem to agree although Littlewoods does not seem to trust Kidwoods’ driving, but is too short to reach the pedal on her own. Thus they sometimes settle on a joint driving maneuver whereby Littlewoods steers and Kidwoods presses the gas pedal, even though that ends in–you guessed it–tears all around.
These things appear to retail new for the astronomical price of many hundreds of dollars, which I was not willing to spend. But $35? Sign me right on up. If you’re not shopping used, but I’ve piqued your interest, check out this post: How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting.
Ok here’s the stuff about the winch, plow, and other successful long-term 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.
- Two power wheels: purchased in April 2020 for $70 total; retail new for circa $400 each.
The Uber Frugal Week: A Pandemic-Style Series
As I’m sure you already know, I started an Uber Frugal Week series designed to help folks navigate their finances during the pandemic. The posts appear right here on the blog and you can start with Day 1 here.
So far in the series I’ve covered:
- Day 1: How to track your spending and establish a “time-of-crisis” savings goal.
- Day 2: What to do if you’ve lost your job. How to navigate pandemic-related benefits and services, such as unemployment, health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), loan forbearance programs, what the new CARES Act and coronavirus stimulus checks mean for you, and more.
- Day 3: Specific ideas on how to save more money in (almost) every category of your budget.
- Day 4: Make your money work for you: emergency funds, high-interest savings accounts, and using credit cards to your advantage
- Day 5: How to get on the same page with your partner about your money–and fast.
- Day 6: Figure out your full financial picture and set money goals. We’ll discuss pulling together information on your net income, debts, and assets.
- And finally, a special Reader Suggestions on how to make extra money working from home during the pandemic
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards because:
- It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a 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 listed at the end of each month. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking (and other stuff too).
- 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 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 two good options that don’t have annual fees:
1. The TD Cash Visa® Credit Card:
- This card gives you 3% cash back on dining, 2% cash back at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
- Plus, if you spend $500 within 90 days of opening an account, you’ll get $150 back.
- And, there’s no annual fee!
The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself; I have a guide to help you do just that: The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
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: $21.84
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 $1,091.80 on that card, which netted us $21.84.
Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love cash back credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links).
Yes, We Only Paid $31.54 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 paid $31.54 for both of our phones (that’s $15.77 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*
*the amount we pay fluctuates every month 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. 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). There are, of course, costs associated with maintaining these systems (such as having our septic system pumped and inspected) and those expenses show up in the months we pay them.
- 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 April:
|Raised Bed Supplies||$419.71||We (and by “we” I obviously mean Mr. FW… ) are building four new raised garden beds! Details in the next This Month On The Homestead post.|
|Two of these car seats||$292.54||The car seats (affiliate link). So far? I really like them. All two times I’ve used them…|
|Masks||$136.22||So many masks for so many faces. We didn’t buy masks when we should have (months ago) and so had to pay a premium. Yes, I tried to make homemade masks. No, it did not work. Yes, it would probably help if I knew how to sew…|
|Groceries||$118.24||Super duper low because we didn’t go to the grocery store in April. This was the total for several curbside pick-ups from a produce stand and other local farm stands.|
|Beer||$112.84||A total necessity. Purchased from a gas station, which is ideal because it’s a smaller space than the grocery store and so Mr. FW was able to be the only person inside (along with the one cashier).|
|Pair of work boots for Mr. FW||$105.00||Mr. FW’s work boots gave up the ghost, by which I mean the soles fell off and holes formed. So far, he really likes these Keen boots (affiliate link).|
|Kreg Jig (to replace cheaper broken one)||$104.94||A new Kreg Jig to replace our broken Kreg Jig (we bought a cheap one the first time around and, surprise, surprise, it broke).|
|100 Strawberry Plants||$74.45||We’re planting strawberries for the first time this year! These 100 plants will go in two of our new, built-by-Mr.FW raised beds.|
|Internet||$72.00||Love our Fiber internet|
|TWO power wheels||$70.00||Two preowned power wheels for our girls (and Mr. FW, if we’re being honest here).|
|Gasoline for cars||$68.50||Lower on account of limited driving.|
|Stamps||$56.80||For the mailing of things in the mail.|
|Seat cover for truck||$38.15||We bought this seat cover for the truck to prevent future apocalyptic clean-outs of the vehicles (affiliate link).|
|2 lbs of CO2 for seltzer||$34.25||This 20lb tank of food-grade CO2 will last us at least six months. Explanation of what this is here.|
|2 sets of kick mats for cars||$33.86||These kick mats are now installed in both cars (affiliate link). Kick all you want, children! Your dirt will be contained.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$31.54||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.
|Flour||$29.85||A curbside pick-up of flour from our local flour purveyor, King Arthur.|
|Row cover for plants||$29.67||We bought this row cover to cover our vegetable plants (affiliate link).|
|Training Wheels||$28.61||We’ve reached the era of training wheels for Kidwoods! She has a little bike that I found in a free pile by the side of the road last summer, but needed training wheels. Enter these wheels to the rescue.|
|Battery for power wheels||$27.55||The power wheels needed a new battery. This battery is working out great and was a lot cheaper than the batteries specifically made for power wheels (affiliate link).|
|Kneepads to aid in raised bed project and others||$26.36||Kneepads to wear while gardening/building stuff in the wood shop/trying to look cool while wearing overalls (affiliate link). You know, the usual.|
|Eggs!||$24.00||We buy two dozen eggs/week from our neighbor, courtesy of their chickens.|
|Utilities: Electricity||$19.64||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Banneton and shaper for sourdough||$16.95||True to quarantine cliche, Mr. FW is baking sourdough. And it is delicious. He required these two things and I have no idea what they are but I love him and also love sourdough (affiliate link).|
|12 refill roles of tape||$14.81||Tape (affiliate link). Aren’t you THRILLED to see that I bought tape? WOW. Much amaze. So tape.|
|Coloring books||$10.59||School is out, we need to color! The kids are loving this Coloring Book and also this Coloring book (affiliate links).|
|Pharmacy||$10.00||Finally figured out how to transfer our prescriptions to an online pharmacy and have them delivered to us. To maintain my dignity, I will not tell you how many hours this took me to accomplish.|
|Speed Square||$9.51||For when your squares just NEED more speed (affiliate link).|
|Spatula||$5.50||Yep, a spatula (affiliate link).|
|Blistex||$4.66||Oh yeah, some lip balm. Wow (affiliate link).|
How was your April?
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