I dub August “leaning into the pandemic.” No longer in denial, no longer hoping for a swift conclusion, no longer deluding myself that school and daycare will resume anytime soon, I am leaning in baby.

Leaning In Actually Looks Really Boring. Sorry About That.

Me leaning in primarily manifests as really, really boring expenses, but since you’re already reading this, I’ll do my best:

1) Educational Posters.

Our version of homeschool

In acknowledgment of our new role as “homeschoolers,” I bought this set of educational posters (affiliate link). My hope is that my kids will periodically glance at these during breaks from stealing toys from one another (the latest coveted toy being a compost bucket… ). They will then absorb the lessons these saccharine colors and shapes wish to impart.

Of course, in order for this educational model to work (let’s call it “passive learning”), I would need to actually hang the posters on the wall. For they sit, lofted atop a filing cabinet, unopened, un-hung, and ignored. But I WILL hang them up, we WILL commence passive learning, and we WILL be glad that school will re-open at some point before my kids reach high school (right? RIGHT?!?!?!?).

2) Garden hose sprayer.

We spent most of August outside, running through the garden, exploring the creek and woods, breaking my garden hose sprayer (another casualty of being a coveted “toy”). Now, I have this new garden hose sprayer (affiliate link). I am very cool and interesting.

3) No household supplies.

As I illuminated in this post, we’ve transitioned to ordering our household supplies from the internet, which means we’re not buying them every month. As I write this, I realize I probably need to put in another order lest we find ourselves without hand soap and bereft.

4) The internet.

We continue to pay for internet, how remarkable. But hold on, I do have an actual money tip here: in the past month, I’ve helped several friends reduce their monthly spending by converting to web-based services. I feel a new section coming on….

How To Save Money with the Internet, on the Internet

Littlewoods learns the finer points of operating the tractor bucket

1) Check the level of internet service you’re paying for. Some providers offer different tiers of service (with higher and lower bandwidth levels) and they will 100% make you think you need to pay for the highest tier–and hey, maybe you do! But for many use cases, the lowest tier is just fine. As a long-standing work-from-home team, my husband and I use a lot of internet (we’re talking simultaneous video conferencing in different rooms!!!!) and we have the lowest level of bandwidth.

2) Beware the bundle! Many internet providers attempt to hoodwink you into a bundled package with home phone, cable, and internet. Very rarely is this a good idea (although do your research!). Very often, it is cheaper to divide and conquer. Shop around and see if you can finagle lower prices through a diversity of providers. If your internet provider feigns it’s not possible to unbundle, tell them you’ll be cancelling your service and see what they come up with. Is it annoying to do this? Absolutely. Does it have the potential to save you money every month forever and ever? Absolutely.

3) Use yon internet. If you’re paying for the internet, use your internet. I don’t mean use your internet for some things some of the time, I mean use it for everything. Here’s what I mean:

  • Phone calls and conferencing: Do not use your cell phone (or home phone) minutes. Use free, web-based, internet services for calling, such as Skype (audio or video), Google Meet (audio or video), FaceTime (for iPhone users), and on and on and on….
    • Don’t tell me you can’t do this. I HAD to convert to all-internet all the time when we moved to our homestead because we have no cell reception. And you know what? It’s totally fine.
    • My elderly (but very active, young-looking) parents use free web-based services, my friends, my in-laws, reporters who interview me, all of my work-related conference calls, my nonprofit board meetings… it’s all done online for free. Because guess what? OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO SAVE MONEY TOO. I know, contain yourself.
  • Blackberries for Little Sal

    Texting: Do not use your data plan to text. Use free, web-based services, such as What’s App, iMessage, etc, etc and so forth. Sometimes, I have to use data and that’s ok. But 95% of the time? There’s another option. And that option is the internet.

  • Home phone: If you, like me, live somewhere without cell reception, you too might have a home phone. I know, people in cities think we’re nutso, but it’s a real thing. The cheapest way to home phone is through a VOIP service. VOIP stands for “voice over internet protocol” and it’s another way to leverage the internet to get something for cheap.
  • Your cell phone: Always Be WiFi-ing. Repeat after me: I will not use data on my phone, I will use WiFi. WiFi is the internet and the internet is everywhere (except out here where I live, but you know what? I’ve discovered I don’t always have to be available or in touch).
    • My phone is often a glorified camera since I have no WiFi and no cell reception and no one has died as a result. I rarely use WiFi when I’m out and about (for example at the dentist’s office) because I’m uncertain of their WiFi security protocols. But at my house, at friend’s houses, etc, I always, always, always connect to the WiFi. When I worked in an office? Always on the WiFi.
    • Start training yourself to look for the WiFi option first and the data second. Save beaucoup bucks and be happy.
  • Entertainment: Movies and TV are on the internet, my friends. Web-based services are taking over the world and all you have to do is pick one (or two!). Here’s a rundown excerpted from this post:

Free (and cheap) Entertainment Options:

Lots of streaming services offer a free trial period. If you sign-up for one free trial at a time, you could have MONTHS of free TV and movies. Here’s how:

Once you’ve run through all the free trials (which will take you a long time), sign-up for a super cheap streaming subscription, such as Hulu’s $5.99/month plan.

Explore Other Totally Free Entertainment Options:

  • And blueberries for Little Sal

    Investigate your local public library’s DVDs, books, and videos.

  • PBS is always free! And PBS Kids is–bar none–the best. My girls watch PBS Kids exclusively and it is fabulous.
    • Their favorite shows right now: Daniel Tiger (social emotional learning for the youngest toddlers); Sesame Street (the OG); Nature Cat (science and environment lessons); Super Why (letters, spelling, and reading!); and Peg + Cat (a legit math class; we now sing “one hundred is one-zero-zero” on the regular)
  • Check out the many, many, many free events and activities happening all over the internet right now. This post has a bunch of ideas.
  • Watch videos of your children/grandchildren dressed as dinosaurs running into each other while singing “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Just, for example.
  • Teach your cats to jump through a hula hoop (hat tip to my parents–and their cats–for that one).

Summary of Why You Should Do This

There are free (or dirt cheap) online, web-based services for just about everything. If you have a high cell phone bill every month, if you’re paying for cable, if you’re paying for an expensive home phone or any other entertainment or communication methods, try transferring everything to the internet. And yes, I do all of this on the lowest, cheapest tier of internet service. Remember: ABW (Always Be WiFi-ing).

I am a huge fan of this type of frugality because you get exactly the same end product at a lower price. And you only have to do the work once! Yes, it’s annoying to transfer companies and change your service level and figure out web-based alternatives, but you only have to do it ONE TIME. Then, you get to sit back and save money every month. Same goes for transferring your cell phone service to an MVNO. Oooooo I feel another section coming on!!!

Yes, We Only Paid $29.57 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)

Kidwoods on carrot harvesting detail

Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $22.57 for both of our phones (that’s $14.79 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 the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, but A LOT cheaper. If you’re not already using an MVNO, switching to one is easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-away 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.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards because:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 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:

Our sunflowers grew so well this year!!!

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!

2. The Citi® Double Cash Card:

  • Gives you a total of 2% cash back (1% at the time of purchase and 1% when you pay your credit card bill).
  • This is a really good cash back percentage and it means that if you spent, for example, $2,000 on this card in a month, you’d get $40 back, just for using the card! Not bad.
  • I also like this card because there are no categories for purchases–anything you buy with the card is eligible for the 2% cash back, which makes is super simple to use.

3. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi:

  • If you already have a Costco membership, this card is a pretty good deal.
  • You get 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter.
  • You also get 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases and 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com.
  • And finally, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • This is a lot of categories to keep track of, but, those are some really high cash back percentages, so might be worth it if you’re a Costco member (side note: this makes me miss our Costco!!!!).
  • There’s no annual fee if you’re a Costco member.

If you’re more interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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 using credit cards might prompt you to spend more, then 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: $20.90

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 $1,045.13 on that card, which netted us $20.90

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.

August on the homestead

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 write-up.

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 CapitalHere’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links). 

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?

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 August:

Item Amount Notes
VT mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $393.24 All the foods
Wood splitter repair $165.00 Rebuild of the wood splitter’s hydraulic cylinder. We’re back to splitting in style!
Gifts $144.95 Five members of my family have August birthdays! I usually don’t send birthday gifts, but it’s a pandemic and I thought folks might appreciate a little lift via a gift.
Fancy craft beer $112.20 Real fancy
Gas for cars $77.01
Utilities: Internet $72.00
Ethanol-free gas $52.58 For our small farm engines
Standing desk anti-fatigue mat $39.17 I’ve transitioned to using a standing desk in my home office and bought this anti-fatigue mat to stand on (affiliate link). So far, I love it!
20lb canister of CO2 for our hacked Sodastream system $34.25 CO2 for seltzer
Cell phone service for two phones $29.57 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 the TJ Maxx of cell phone service. If you’re not using an MVNOcheck out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.

Garden hose sprayer $28.61 Our previous garden hose sprayer bit the dust (literally) and we bought this one online–works great so far (affiliate link).
Utilities: Electricity $25.93 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
External keyboard $24.37 In order to achieve ergonomic mastery in my new standing desk set-up, I needed an external keyboard.

I bought this super cheap knock-off bluetooth keyboard, which is tremendously cheaper than the name brand external Apple keyboard and, so far, works really well (affiliate link)!

Educational Posters! $19.07 I swear I will actually hang these posters up… (affiliate link)!
Organic oats $14.37 More organic oats for our daily breakfast oatmeal (affiliate link).
 Za`atar seasoning $11.30 Za`atar seasoning, which I use primarily on my homemade roasted chickpeas (affiliate link).
Local fruit $10.40 Peaches and nectarines from a local farm
Local flour $5.25 Locally milled flour
Total: $2,652.13
Minus Mortgage: $1,259.27

How was your August?

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    1. Sorry, but felt the need to come to Mrs. FW defense here. She & her husband are home all day with two little ones. They are both trying to work & be there for their kids. I think they already spend quite a lot of time with their kids considering it’s you know, a global pandemic, and they don’t have child care options right now. They are doing their best & your post seems to suggest that she’s not doing enough. She is doing more than enough right now & I’m sure she doesn’t need to add another art project to her already long list of homeschooling activities! Mrs. FW – buy all the dang posters (and fancy beer!) you need to survive this crazy time!

      1. Sorry if my comment is seen as offensive – that was absolutely not my intention! I’m totally fine with Mrs. FW buying these posters. Who am I to judge her?
        I’m more a MMM and Early Retirement Extreme guy, so buying such posters looked not really frugal at the first sight. I immediately saw opportunity to save a few bucks . That’s why I created my post. Maybe there was some reasoning behind which I can not see. But I totally get your point that Mrs. FW isbalready spending lots of time with her children and that she probably enjoys at least some time savings. Sorry once again for anyone I’ve offended with my first post!

        1. I didn’t think you came off as offensive. I too agree it would be a way to not only spend time with the kids but as a kids project. Myself I could see this as an ongoing project – season, finds/observations in the garden, yard, woods, kitchen.

        2. Hi Patrick! I didn’t find you offensive either–to me, it came off as making a suggestion for a fun project for the kids. Most kids love drawing and painting. It will keep them busy and happy, and encourage any artistic talent they may have. Art is important!

  1. I’m sorry to hear that your daycare/preschool is not back. Ours in MA opened back up in early July and it’s been great. What is your plan for the next year? I hope you can write another pandemic parenting post update.

  2. Hello! Long time reader chiming in to say that after *years* of thinking about it, I finally switched my phone and my spouse’s phone from AT&T over to Ting (since we never leave the house anymore, I figured we could survive a few days without working phones). If you’re hesitating because you’re worried it will be hard or create problems, don’t! Even with a small hiccup requiring a customer service call (an issue with my partner’s phone’s serial number), it was really straightforward, it took an hour, and EVEN WITH a two-day power failure that led to me preparing for the college courses I teach using my phone’s data plan, the first month’s bill was less than half our typical AT&T bill. Thanks, Frugalwoods!

  3. Hi Mrs. F!
    Our spending went out of control in August. Lots of emotional and necessary spending on our end. We got a puppy, which cost us money because we were turned down from Pomeranian rescue groups due to having a 3 year old. We’ve owned a Pomeranian for 13 years who had special needs and apparently this didn’t help our case in the Pom rescue world. Poms get rescued pretty quickly though so we were not too worried-and one day I’m pretty sure I’ll be running a Pom rescue of my own. We didn’t want to use most of our deceased Pomeranian’s stuff so we bought new gear/toys/beds/carriers for our little guy Bear.
    Now that we all feel 100% better having a dog back in our family, I started my own UFM for September. Using gift cards for Friday funday treats (which includes getting icecream/donuts/cupcakes). Using gift cards for any needed expenses or just not buying anything. I used a coupon and a gift card for some fall shoes and boots I found on clearance on a rare shopping trip for my 3 kids growing feet. I swear I always buy a size up and they still find a way to grow right out of them! At least having two girls one can always benefit from her older sisters hand downs!
    We’ve saved up $$$ to finish our basement and we’re finally going to get started in October!! So the UFM September is helping me curb my spending before opening the floodgates so to speak while we finish the basement!
    And I’m thinking of getting those posters of which you speak! We have world/US map placemats and those are super awesome! Learning while you eat is a great way to teach my kids lol.
    Take care!

    1. We, too, got a pandemic rescue puppy. We lost our chi in April, 19 yrs old, and just wanted another. We adopted a rescue chi mix. Did not plan on a puppy but I had asked God to help us make the right decision and this little 7 month old just spoke to me. She is wonderful and we feel complete again as a family. I also agree with the poster purchase. Heck, we bought a treadmill too. We walk 2 miles each day but in south fla it is 95 degrees and feels like 105. Miserable plus crazy rainy season. I still walk the puppy though. Am trying to teach her to use treadmill too😂😂. I feel for families having to home school, my daughter, thankfully, is an adult.

  4. you’re doing great in terms of child entertaining in pandemic times. I’ve seen myself spending buckloads of money in art materials -for myself and my 5 year- old…

  5. Mrs. FW, this is an excellent post in so many ways. Your wordsmithing is especially delightful today. Thanks for making the mundane (for some of us, anyway) engrossing.

    Oh, and a reader reminder – if you go through that awesome chain of free streaming trials, be sure to set reminders to decouple yourself in time, or the consequences could be expensive. #askmehowiknow

    1. For anyone who’s signing up for trials, gyms (probably not right now), or anything that’s a recurring subscription – use a one time card number! I don’t know how many cards offer it, but I use Citi and it’s very easy to do. The tool generates a credit card number that isn’t yours, so it’s harder for the vendor to charge you again because they don’t have your permanent card number.
      That comes in handy when the vendor keeps “forgetting” to cancel your subscription!

  6. I have the posters and my kids (pre-K and first) play “teacher”. They do spark some convos we pretend are deeply educational (sometimes they are!) My Texan kids do want to know why winter has snow on the poster…..

  7. Could you weigh in more specifically on the lowest level of bandwidth you use that allows for simultaneous video conferencing? My husband and I are in process of moving from the burbs to a more rural setting and I’m having trouble verifying what level will work if we drop down from the 25 Mbps that we are used to in the suburbs.

  8. Our oldest started high school in August…from her bedroom 🙁 I’m so sad for her. I remember how exciting 9th grade was for me. I’ve received 3 positive notices in the past 4 days from her principal though (some families chose to send their kids in person) so I don’t doubt our decision. It’s just a weird time for all of us.

    On the one hand, your kids are young and won’t really remember this time. On the other hand, your kids are young! That’s a ton of work during a pandemic (or any other time really). Right now I really think you can consider gardening and nature walks as sufficiently educational and call it good. Honestly just making it through the day with your kids still looking as content as they do in the pictures is a win.

    1. My son is spending his senior year (so far) “going to school” at home. I’m holding out hope that maybe- just maybe- he can have a prom and graduation…

      1. My heart breaks for the seniors most of all 🙁 I am optimistic that we’ll have a vaccine by spring so your son can have a prom and graduation in person.

    2. Oh I am so sorry–my heart breaks for high school and college kids right now. My kids are young, won’t remember this, and don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything. I am really grateful my kids are so young and my heart goes out to the older kids. Best of luck to you and your daughter!

      1. For high school kids, I see the pandemic as a life lesson. Life is not always easy. To quote the song, you don’t always get what you want. No one, and I mean no one is going to suffer life long ill effects by not having prom or a graduation ceremony.
        Part of becoming a mature , responsible adult is learning how to deal with disappointment. Call me a curmudgeon – we are in the midst of a disease for which we have no vaccine and are treating by trial and error. Ask your parents or grandparents what it was like during the polio scares of the 40s and 50s. I know a family who lost two high school aged children to polio, one child who survived but the effects of the disease eventually caused her death, two more children who have life long effects, AND were quarantined when it hit (1950s – 13 children in the family).
        Whether you have kids at home or not, it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy when you have aging parents – underlying health issues or not. I commend those who are taking COVID-19 seriously. Sadly those who don’t are not only making it harder, they are making the situation harder. Off my soapbox.

        1. I’m so sad for my little one whose Kindergarten experience is (at least starting) online. And for myself – we had carefully crafted a plan for me to start working less this year based on not needing childcare, and I started to work less, and now there is no way through but to pay a nanny 2-3 days a week even with my reduced hours. So we’re paying more than we did before for child care. I’m grateful that we can, and even if we dip into our emergency savings to do it, I guess this is the emergency, but boy does it stink!

        2. Each of my young adult children have been negatively impacted due to Covid. My youngest didn’t have a college graduation ceremony or a 21st birthday party. She will be stronger for it. As of four weeks ago, she is an ICU nurse treating Covid patients. This is not her dream job of being a Labor and Delivery nurse, but she knows she is lucky to have a job at all. Most of her classmates from one of the most prestigious nursing schools in Southern California have not landed a job since there is a hiring freeze at most hospitals. We can turn our kids into victims by having excessive sympathy for them as they experience life’s disappointments, or we can teach them to be thankful because things could be a lot worse. Not everyone really deserves a trophy. As far as taking Covid seriously, there is a balance. It is one things to be cautious, it is another thing to be phobic/paranoid. Unfortunately we have people operating on both ends of the spectrum with no tolerance for a differing viewpoint.

          1. PS. Prestigious doesn’t translate into expensive in Southern California nursing schools. The Cal-State systems are the highest rated.

        3. Yes- very important to keep things in perspective! I often think of my father’s generation, when young men were drafted into the Vietnam War straight out of high school, and suddenly my son spending his senior year and possibly starting his college education online doesn’t seem so bad…

      2. Thanks. I don’t think she’ll be damaged for life and the upside is that I am getting to spend much more time with my growing girls than I otherwise would have been able to right now. It’s just a bummer and a logistical nightmare. We opted for the state virtual school since it seems like the most stable option, but we are finding course selection a nightmare. We’re on our FOURTH guidance counselor since August through her actual high school since they keep quitting (don’t blame them!), and figuring out how to meet requirements without cheating my child out of in-class experiences that would be beneficial has been interesting to say the least. I’m hoping that everything will be back to normal-ish by next fall so she can have 3 years of normal high school at least. It’s definitely a weird weird time for all of us.

        1. I agree with you, Christine- don’t think our high-schoolers will be damaged for life, and they probably will learn some valuable life lessons from all of this….but it IS a bummer nevertheless! And while I do try to keep things in perspective and realize that things could be much, much worse, I think it’s perfectly okay to allow myself to feel bummed out (as long as I don’t wallow in it)!

          I wonder if there will be a decrease in enrollment for online college classes post-COVID? I know online classes have been all the rage for several years (I did 80% of my master’s degree online), but I wonder if K-12 kids will be burned out going to school online and want in-person college? Will be interesting to see….

    3. Do you have a Covid bubble? A friend of your high schooler who you trust will not socialize with other people?

      Most of the online high schoolers I know are doing high school in pairs- so they have a friend with them all day, just like at school

  9. My grandkids’ daycare never closed. There has been zero illness there, and the same at other day care centers locally, for which we are all very grateful. I’m sure your daycare will re-open soon and I’m sure when it does your kids will run screaming delightedly for their friends at day care and declare how HORRIBLE it was to have to be home all the time, leaving you and Mr. FG standing there, feeling forlorn and used, because that’s HOW KIDS DO IT. No harm, no foul, it’s just that they find parents suddenly become expendable when it comes to seeing their friends, teachers, and classrooms again after a long absence.

    Take another swig of that fancy beer, pull up on your boots, and carry on with writing wonderful posts that have lovely pictures of Vermont in late summer and darling kids dressed mostly in dirt. We all love it.

  10. Just me writing my regular comment about the library having more than just physical resources–your local library probably has plenty of free access to streaming audio/media as well!

    Also, I learned the hard way that using a standing desk regularly while barefoot (even with an anti-fatigue mat) can be bad for feet (plantar fasciitis for the lose…) so I recommend supportive footwear as well!

    Thanks for all of the frugal internet tips!

    1. Good Afternoon! I just wanted to add on to this tip, libraries also have digital learning! Here in DC, we have free access to tons of classes, Lynda.com learning, Great Courses online (thru Kanopy), Mango (to learn languages), Khan academy, etc. They also have the aforementioned Kanopy to watch movies, the Criterion Collection, free music downloads thru Sony, and don’t forget free audio and eBooks thru Libby!
      https://www.dclibrary.org/godigital if anyone is interested who lives in the DMV region. (I love to share my library’s resources!)

    2. I second this! I use the Hoopla app (free through my library) and love the audiobooks and movies I’m able to stream easily and for free.

      1. Yes – I watch Hoopla and Acorn TV for free through our local public library (library card needed) and now check out and read magazines on my iPad (canceled my expensive Oprah Magazine subscription and now read it through the library download).

        You have to “check out” Acorn TV every 7 days through another app/service provider called RB Digital and it’s a little fiddly to set up but not terrible (create an Acorn TV account, create and RB Digital account, etc.). Our library has many more online streaming services I haven’t accessed yet. If the pandemic continues another year I may well do so … and not to mention other free e-resources like Consumer Reports, etc.

  11. Those posters are great – my sis homeschooled kids for years (like 30 years) – and you will use the posters all the time. I hope you get out to civilization soon.

  12. I love this series! This month my extra spending included:

    –$30 to a few go fund me’s for people who lost their homes in the Oregon Fires–you can see a list here that a kind college student put together of ones that are having a hard time getting donations. I picked a few random and gave a little to two.


    –$50 to https://wegotthevote.org/finesandfees/ They pay off fines of voters in Florida, formerly incarcerated people who are barred from voting until their fines are paid.

    –$80 on baby supplies I needed for my 9 month old that I couldn’t find on Facebook Marketplace from https://shophappymango.com/ which is a Black-owned Baby/maternity store! I did a large purchase so I could get free shipping and it was all things I needed for my son as he transitions to solids and away from bottles/nursing. And to get the free shipping I added a book for him: I will never feel bad about purchasing books as long as I can meet my other spending and savings needs!

    –Like you I also spent about $40 on books for myself and since Obama’s memoir dropped yesterday I will absolutely be buying that as preorder. I am buying my books online from https://bookshop.org/shop/rosecafe which helps a Black bookseller here in Chicago. I get a lot of my books from the library but there are SO. MANY. GOOD. BOOKS. out lately that I feel the desire to add them to my permanent collection. You have really inspired me to read this Phillipa Gregory stuff soon though!

    –and even more books for my son: https://www.51stwardbooks.com/ has little bilingual children’s book collections, so I will be getting one for him.

    I can see in your spending, getting more stuff locally, that you are spending money according to your values and I just love it. So much of frugality is focused on FIRE or die but really it’s about living the best life you want and that might not mean FIRE!

  13. We homeschooled 2 girls outside of Boston for 18 years plus we both worked from home for all these years. It worked for all of us and we loved it all the way through! Good luck with everything. P.S. You never mention your Cambridge property, hopefully, you have found a way to manage it remotely. Agents never worked for us to bring in quality tenants.

  14. Love your blog and wanted to offer an alternative to your wifi/phone plan. We have unlimited data on a traditional phone plan plus the cheapest wifi possible. We use the same concept of Always Be Wifi-ing except flipped; we use our data for everything and wifi only when necessary. Our wifi is $20/month and for 2 phones with unlimited data including phone payments, we pay $110 total. Just a different spin on the same concept!

  15. I have been ordering staples from Azure since April. They are considering delivery routes into the NE and I have been shocked at how much I can get for so little. It’s definitely best to buy in bulk but having a winters worth of oatmeal or chickpeas doesn’t bother me.

  16. Ha ha, the “passive learning” concept—love it! (Plus it’s true, really—kids are always learning, whether we’re actively wanting them to be or not!) Since I’m able to stay at home with my kids, we chose to homeschool our oldest this year rather than send her to kindergarten, just because the only option available was a hybrid in-person/online option, and if I was going to be in charge of monitoring the majority of her learning anyway, I wanted to set the curriculum, ha ha 🙂

    Homeschooling is something you can spend a ton on, but just like you mentioned in this, you don’t have to—the Internet is obviously a wealth of information, and there are also many homeschool options that have free trials, so you could just do the full-on rotation like your Netflix/Hulu/Sling train above, but with homeschool stuff. Anyway, here’s hoping that someday in the next few years, we’re all able to have the option to send our kids to school full-time!

  17. As a retired librarian, I’m compelled to mention many libraries subscribe to hoopla and/or Kanopy, allowing patrons to access free streaming videos. This is in addition to databases, which may also be available to you. Even if you don’t want to physically go into a library building, you may be able to use these, as well as downloadable ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more. In addition, some libraries allow you to apply for and use an e-card, which allows use of electronic services and may later be able to be transitioned to a card for physical items.

    Sorry if you’ve mentioned these before, I’m relatively new to your blog.

  18. Some of us who live rurally do not have easy and frugal access to the internet (although my rural electric co-op has spun off a rural broadband co-op that is laying fiber as I type! Every metered location in the County will have access to truly high-speed internet within 18 months. Yay, co-ops!)

    In the meanwhile, I totally recommend Visible, Verizon’s cut-rate sibling. $40/ month for truly unlimited talk, text, data, which can be lowered to $25/ month by banding together with three other people, friends or strangers. (There’s a FB group that will match you up with groups that need more members.) The only restriction is that you can only tether one device at a time. Sometimes I lose signal, or if the tower is busy, audio/video may buffer, but it has been more than adequate for my needs. It is the opposite of your “WiFi always” advice, but works for me until broadband becomes available.

  19. Oh man, I wish we could switch everything to internet but we have to be REAL careful with it. We’re so rural that all we have access to is satellite internet, which is very expensive and with limited bandwidth. That’s the data we have to monitor so that we don’t go over and get subjected to even slower internet (throttled). Maybe someday the richest country on earth will have broadband available everywhere, but we’re nowhere close now. You’re so lucky to have fast internet on your homestead!

    1. I feel your pain! Our only option for internet is satellite- we live in VT but in the most rural part of the biggest town in the state. Forget video calls or streaming Netflix! We’re holding out a shred of hope for Starlink though!

  20. Even in a metro area, my wifi is terrible. New router and modem didn’t fix the issue and I face several (usually brief, sometimes not…) outages a day. My neighborhood all seems in a similar situation, so I know it’s not my equipment. I’d LOVE to be all WiFi, all the time, but unlimited data is my lifesaver these days. Any internet tips for those who don’t have fiber as an option are welcome!

  21. Likely you should point out that most or all of those trial subscriptions want a credit card and will automatically make you a subscriber when the trial runs out. You need to put on your calendar the date you need to unsubscribe by. If you follow the HBO post, there are comments where people didn’t want to do it because they asked for a credit card.

  22. We did something recently that may not be for others, but we got rid of our internet and cable (used to be $120/month) completely. We switched to the cell phone provider, Visible, which offers hot spot capability and unlimited data. Now we have two phones with unlimited data every month (we used to have Verizon w/ 2 GB for $85 per month and always ran out!) and unlimited internet. We turn on our hotspots (or leave them on) and our tv or laptops can use the internet from our phones. Our phones basically act like a router. We tried fiber internet before, but it actually wasn’t as good as our hotspots and cost us $55/month on top of our phones. So, we now only pay $60 per month for awesome phone service, unlimited data, and all the internet and streaming we need! Plus, Visible gave us $150 per phone to switch over to them, and we added my mom to our “party” to save $10 per month. Comparing our total costs this from last year, this switch will save us $1,753 every year. It is sometimes annoying to have to sync up to our hotspot, but it’s a small price to pay for almost a couple grand a year.

  23. I wanted to add to Mrs. Frugalwoods’s list of free ways to stream many libraries offer streaming services through Kanopy or Hoopla. Mine has hoopla which I can watch on my phone through their app, on a computer through the website or on my tv through the roku app all for free over WiFi! Also many networks still offer their content for free on the websites/apps usually a week after it airs. There are commercials but those exist on live tv too!

  24. I’ve been homeschooling for 20 years (my oldest is 23) and have about 13 left until my youngest is 18. Can’t remember how old kidwoods is but we don’t even start ours in “official” school until they are 6. Then it’s mostly focusing on learning to read, write and do basic math. Everything else comes from good books (glad to hear you mention Blueberries for Sal – love that book) and living live. You are doing awesome with your kids!!! They are learning so much just being with you out on your farm and property! Great job, mama!

  25. I have not read all the comments, but 1) I have to say I love the picture of Little Woods and her partially eaten cucumber (Do they eat them like corn on the cob?) and 2) How do you make roasted chick peas? Does it take long to hydrate the chick peas and then roast them, or do you use canned?

  26. Just came to say IMDB has a completely FREE streaming service now, with popular (and some oldies but goodies) on it. There are commercials every once in a while, but they are not overwhelming like with cable. It’s a great FREE service for watching FREE TV!

  27. I love your writing. You are so humourous! Mid-paragraph, I hopped over to my internet portal, changed my plan and saved $30/month! Bam! Thanks Mrs Frugalwoods!! As a teacher, I love what you do with your kids! They have the best classroom and 2 teachers in the world 🙂 Lots of love and respect from Alberta 🙂

  28. I would love to know what your home schooling day entails. I think it is very wise to keep kids home if you can. Beautiful photos.

  29. Thanks, Frugalwoods! I called and canceled the cable TV portion of our bill today and lowered our Internet speed. A savings of $50 a month!

  30. I love all your tips on saving money and utilizing what you do pay for to the max. It is amazing how it’s so easy to just go with the bundle and complain about the cost versus doing that extra step to maximize the savings. Every year we go through the same struggle but instead of switching service providers, we switch the account holder to the other persons name. Then it opens up first timer deals.

    Chris and I recently took similar advice setting up a Donor Advised Fund to start making donations as well. We are trying a slightly different approach to who is the recipients by taking a reader poll each month.

    Best of luck with the back to school distance learning. Don’t worry too much when they are this young and YES we will be back to whatever normal will be soon.

  31. Silly tip… I have two little ones. I hang up posters across from the toilet in the bathroom that the kids use most. It is amazing how many facts they share just from those little posters! Captive audience!

  32. One thing you haven’t considered/mentioned, though, is that switching to “everything via the internet” is far less secure or private than using a phone company, for example. Sure, AT&T can see all the numbers of people you called, but that’s about it and they won’t turn the info over to anyone else without a court order. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, and it’s not just a hobby but actually their business model to scrutinize, log, analyze, and then sell your data to third party companies you have never heard of. Similarly, with google voice… It’s free, yes, and owned by a giant Silicon Valley corporation, and that’s how you know it’s probably collecting, mining , and selling your personal data including the content of your calls (not just metadata, like who you called and at what time).

    If people do want to switch to an all internet system, I would suggest Signal or any other truly private, encrypted messaging service.

    Another good option for those who want a home phone and cell is Republic Wireless, which can give you both (same phone #) for around $17 a month.

  33. I’m sorry if I missed this in a previous installment, but what happened to your Cambridge mortgage? If I remember correctly, you usually include it in your monthly costs. Did you sell the house or do you just count it separately now since the cost is taken care of by the rental income?

  34. I really enjoy your blog. It makes me simultaneously miss my kiddos being little and so very thankful they are NOT little anymore!

  35. Love this post! We are incredibly lucky that Daycare and Schools have recommenced in New South Wales, Australia. These early childhood teachers deserve a huge pay rise! So glad you are all going well (well as could be) and are ‘leaning’ in. Is there possibility of updating your About Us Pic? My daughters love seeing your daughters feature in your posts and Instagram.

    Sending all our love from Down Under,


  36. Unless I’m missing something, at this time HBO only seems to be offering the first/pilot episodes of their television series to watch for free without a subscription or free trial. I was very excited to see the free HBO mentioned here because I was part-way through a series when it stopped being available for free on Amazon Prime and I thought this was the solution. Sadly, it appears not.

  37. Don’t hang your posters! Laminate them!!!!! Use them for table cloths, floor cloths, whatever. They’ll probably look at them more if they’re constantly in the mix of everything. Also being able to trace & wipe off is a bonus.

  38. Surly someone else must have noticed, but I did not see it in the comments (meaning my search page on key words came out empty).
    Unless I missed a joke (though I like the irony), the “typ0” sentence has a typo in it with a $22.57 instead of a $29.57 “…only paid $22.57 for both of our phones (that’s $14.79 per person … )”. I am not sure if Math like irony. 😀

  39. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods! How did you go about frugally acquiring a standing desk? I’m in the market, but the price tags I’ve seen have me dragging my heels.

  40. What service do you have for a backup landline phone service and what equipment do you use for it? I remember, you posted a blog some time ago about it.

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