Oatmeal And Other October 2020 Expenses

Littlewoods: living her best life with LEAVES

The pandemic, the election, rising Covid cases and deaths, intonations of entering a dark winter… shall we talk about that today? Nah. In a world that’s (potentially) spiraling out of control, let’s focus on the things we can control. I can’t control politics, I can’t control the coronavirus, I can’t control what other people do or don’t do.

All I can control is myself (and my success rate there is only about 60%). I’ve known this for approximately 36 years, but WOW does it feel relevant right about now.

My mother-in-law once distilled this into a phrase that’s stuck with me for going on twelve years, “My job is to manage what happens inside this house because I can’t control what happens outside of it.” She wasn’t talking about the pandemic, but I recall her words DAILY as I doom-scroll and doom-listen to the news.

So today I inhale, I exhale, I eat my morning oatmeal (yep, still eating oatmeal every day) and I present to you something I can control, something we can all control: OUR EXPENSES!!! Come on, you KNEW I was going to say that.

The Principle of Shop Around

I shop around for everything. Not just for stuff you’d imagine, like toothpaste and dishwashers, but for stuff you might not imagine like my cell phone service and–last month–my heating oil. We heat our home primarily via our wood stove (fed with wood Mr. Frugalwoods harvests from our land), but we have oil as a back-up in case of emergency, or really cold nights, so the pipes don’t freeze.

October on the homestead

Every fall, I order an oil delivery to top off our oil tank so we’re ready for winter. We typically use about half the tank each winter, but I like to have it full before going into the coldest 12 months of the year. And every fall, I call every single company that delivers oil to my area and ask their price per gallon. I do the same thing with our propane, which we use for cooking.

I was talking about this with friends recently and they looked at me (over Zoom) and said, “but aren’t things like oil and propane just based on the market price and thus the same at every company?” After my 25-minute long response, WOW do they wish they hadn’t asked. The short answer is: NO! The long answer is that while yes, there’s a market rate for things like oil and propane, companies mark up this rate at different levels.

Plus, there’s often a new customer discount, which incentivizes shopping around and, if needed, switching companies every year. Yes, you can do that!!! I’m not a fan of long-term contracts or automatically renewing memberships for anything–I like to make my own decisions every year because often, I find a better deal by switching companies. I’m very much a pay-as-I-go-gal, which, side note often nets me a deeper discount. Paying in full and upfront has saved me money on everything from my LASIK eye surgery (really, folks, I cannot make this stuff up) to my solar panels to my propane delivery.

And now, I present the results of my fall 2020 comparison shopping, sorted two ways to reflect cheapest by propane and cheapest by oil:

Cheapest By Propane

Company Propane Price Per Gallon Oil Price Per Gallon
Suburban $2.19 $2.45
West Leb Feed & Supply $2.22 N/A
Fuel Club $2.46 $1.63
Bob’s Service Center in WRJ $2.65 N/A
Tractor Supply $2.70 N/A
Dead River $2.99 $1.99
Irving $3.15 $2.02
Perry $3.32 $1.99
Rymes $4.00 1.99
Gillespie $4.05 $1.93
Eastern $5.69 $1.94

I want to point out that the difference between the cheapest and most expensive propane company is $3.50 PER GALLON!!!!! Depending on how much propane you use, that’s hundreds or THOUSANDS of dollars every year.

Cheapest By Oil

Company Propane Price Per Gallon Oil Price Per Gallon
Fuel Club $2.46 $1.63
Gillespie $4.05 $1.93
Eastern $5.69 $1.94
Dead River $2.99 $1.99
Perry $3.32 $1.99
Rymes $4.00 $1.99
Irving $3.15 $2.02
Suburban $2.19 $2.45
West Leb Feed & Supply $2.22 N/A
Bob’s Service Center in WRJ $2.65 N/A
Tractor Supply $2.70 N/A

I sort the spreadsheet two ways because there’s no law saying you have to use the same company for oil and propane–you don’t!!!! Also I really wanted to use those spreadsheets for something other than myself. If you live locally, I hope this helps!!! This year, based on a tip from my good friend R, I joined a local fuel club to get the cheapest price on oil. If you have fuel clubs in your area, it’s worth checking out their rates.

Bottom Line

Loving that leaf life

The bottom line is to shop around. There are deals to be had on pretty much everything and, when you’re talking about vast quantities–such as oil and propane–the difference between the cheapest and most expensive is actually quite a lot of money.

I’m not terribly interested in saving 0.35 cents on shampoo, but boy howdy am I interested in saving $247.32 on my oil and $321.52 on my propane.

I bring this up because people often assume it takes a lot of time to be frugal. To which I reply, well, kinda, but also kinda not. I don’t sweat the teensy expenses–the 0.35 coupons of the world–instead, I focus on stuff that’s:

  1. Expensive, which means the potential savings are tremendous (i.e. buying a used car)
  2. A recurring monthly expense, which means the savings accrue significantly over time (i.e. using an MVNO for cell phone service)

Bringing intention to everything in your budget that falls into those two categories is a fabulous first step to savings tons of money every year. Yeah, it’ll take some work upfront, but then, you’ll just rake* in the savings month after month, year after year.

*yes, that is a leaf pun

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: our spending, our net worth, our investments, our retirement–everything!

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). 

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Glamour Shed rocking October

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 mortgage, 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:

1) 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.
  • Plus, if you spend $500 in the first three months of having this card, you’ll get $150.

As seen on a fall hike I took

2) The Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • Also offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases–with no categories or restrictions–which makes it super simple to use.
  • You can earn up to 5% cash back in specific categories as well, which makes it really attractive to folks who can track their spending carefully.
  • This card also offers you $200 if you spend $500 in the first three months of having it.

3) 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!

4) 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.

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: $53.77

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 $2,688.63 on that card, which netted us $53.77.

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.

Yes, We Only Paid $29.58 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)

Kidwoods: chief carrot harvester

Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $29.58 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.

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.
  • Don’t you have a rental property? Yes! We own a rental property (formerly known as our first house) 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.
  • Why don’t you buy everything locally? We do our best to support our local community and we buy as much of our food as possible directly from our farmer neighbors. Our town doesn’t have any stores, so we do rely on online ordering and larger big box stores for necessities like toilet paper. The closest stores are 45 minutes away and Mr. FW goes once a month to stock up on what we can’t get from our neighbors or online.

But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z???

Littlewoods: lighting the way with a lantern that doesn’t work. Appropriate for 2020.

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 October:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $787.38
Utilities: heating oil (annual supply) $495.03 303 gallons at $1.63 per gallon. This’ll last us all year.
Household supplies $467.10 This category’s been really lumpy since the pandemic hit and we started ordering more household supplies online. Some months this line item is $0 and other months, it’s pretty high.

This includes everything from toilet paper to laundry detergent to light bulbs to craft supplies for the kids.

Fancy craft beer $240.34 This is not a typo. Priorities, people!
Clothing $186.12 A stock-up on things like socks, long underwear, jammies, dresses for me, etc.

I can write a whole post on this if folks are interested?

Winter boots for Mr. FW $154.95 Mr. FW’s previous winter boots, Muck Boots, developed rips along the top of the shoe (where you bend your foot) and he patched them with a patching compound last winter. But, they ripped again. And so, he’s trying out a new brand this year: DryShod. They’re rated for -50F, so hopefully they’ll be warm enough.

He has discovered that his feet stay plenty warm when he’s hiking or working, but when he’s stationary in the freezing cold (like when he’s plowing our driveway on the tractor), his feet ice up. Hopefully these boots’ll help!

Organic Oats: 50lbs $93.98 Another 50lb installment of oats!
Utilities: Internet $72.00
BJ’s Membership $55.00 Pre-pandemic we considered letting our BJ’s membership lapse, but its been awesome in pandemic-land. Mr. FW’s able to go once a month and come home with massive quantities of everything from organic quinoa to onions.

I’ve been storing all the produce in our cold basement, which seems to work! Bananas, apples, lemons, limes, avocados, etc—they all do just fine down there in the cold and last the whole month.

Local pizza take-out! $48.00 Our town did a few pizza fundraisers from our town wood-fired pizza oven and, of course, I had to participate. I mean, it was for a good cause AND IT WAS PIZZA!!!
Annual Vermont Woodlands Association Dues $40.00 Dues for our forestry association
Annual Fuel Club Dues $30.00 Dues for our oil & propane fuel club (it’s still a savings even with these dues!)
Hose pliers $29.58 Knipex long-nose pliers (affiliate link).
Cell phone service for two phones $29.58 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.

Amazon $24.38
Vital Wheat Gluten and Diastatic Malt Powder used for baking our own bread (affiliate link).
Utilities: Electric $22.76 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Gasoline for cars $20.63 Clearly we’re not going many places these days…
Caramel Vodka $11.80 Worthy of its own line item. Mr. FW found pumpkin-spice egg nog for me and I have to say, caramel vodka mixed with pumpkin-spice egg nog is where you’ll find me in heaven. Let’s hope egg nog is only sold seasonally…
TOTAL: $4,201.49
MINUS MORTGAGE: $2,808.63

How was your October?

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93 Responses

  1. Caroline Bowman says:

    Isn’t it incredible how loyalty as a customer is just Not a Thing, or if it is, very rarely? It’s so where we are too, where faithfully insuring for years and years through Whoever means they just gouge and gouge, but the moment you even remotely think of switching, then they can match the best offer. It winds me up! I know that of course places have to try and attract new business, so I can understand certain ”buy today and get 20% off for your first month / sticker price” type promotions, I really can, but surely the bread-and-butter should count too?

    Apparently not, as you have found with your fuel purchase machinations…

  2. Samantha says:

    We rent our propone tank from the company who fills it – can another company fill this propane tank if we find a better price?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We rent our propane tank too and if you switch companies, the new company will uninstall the previous company’s tank and install their tank. Then, you call your former company to come pick up their tank. I’ve done this every year we’ve lived here and never had an issue. They install and un-install the tanks at no charge. Just call to confirm this ahead of time. Good luck!!

      • Samantha says:

        Oh, my goodness! That sounds so resource intensive on all parties involved – haha. Good on you for making that project happen year after year!
        What has your experience been in regards to leveraging the idea of a tank removal against the current propane supplier? For instance, have you had success with mentioning that you want them to remove the existing tank just because you are seeking a lower price? I would imagine that the cost of removal would be greater than reducing their prices to match another suppliers prices and the current supplier would be motivated to just reduce the price…but perhaps not?

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I thought that would be a motivator too, but turns out, the companies don’t seem to care. I’ve never had a company quote me a lower price because of it. But, who knows, that could be different in different areas, so it’s certainly worth asking when you call around!

    • Jayne says:

      No as you have a contract with that company and they own the tank

    • Marianne says:

      No not in New Mexico. You’d have to buy your tank if they will sell it to you. Make sure the tank is good repair based on age

  3. cyranodefalabrac says:

    coldest *12* months of the year? That sounds like a pretty cold place 🙂

    Jpking aside, I’m looking around for ideas to manage my budget. Your blog (and others I started to follow) is proving very useful. Thanks.

    • Linda S. says:

      LOL! Having previously lived in the Midwest for over 50 years, I can attest to the fact that in the winter months it does, indeed, seem to be 12 months of cold!!

  4. Victoria says:

    I have a question.

    Were you very, very cold as you wrote this or is that an inside joke? “I like to have it full before going into the coldest 12 months of the year,” had me laughing so hard.

    Nothing but Love from sunny California!

  5. Brooke says:

    Please share your clothing purchases :)))

    • Vivien Yip says:

      I would like to second this as well! Very interested!

      • Jess says:

        Same! I’m guessing that yard sale clothing shopping is not an option during the pandemic.

        I have been really lucking out with getting hand-me-downs from friends though! I gave birth to a baby boy in May and I haven’t had to buy a single outfit for him this year. It’s definitely a privilege of having a lot of friends with small children who are happy to give away their clothes!

    • Rebecca says:

      Yeah! I’m not a big shopper, in general, and am thankful to be able to continue to wfh, so my clothing needs have changed… and some things I used to buy in stores, I just don’t want to anymore! I loved the clothes buying ban posts and am sure I would love this too.

  6. “And my success rate there is only 60%.” Oh, I needed that giggle. I recently found your blog and I’m loving following your adventures. Your kids are adorable, and your take on their antics is so real!

  7. Jessica G says:

    We live in the North East too (rural upstate NY, far far away from NYC). I shop around for oil prices and even if I use the same provider as last year if its been over 1 year they give me the new customer price. After learning that I now wait 53 weeks after last fill up to call around for prices. We own our oil tank.

    However with propane our local providers won’t fill up an owned tank and they want you to set up an account and then they bring you a tank, currently we have a propane tank from a fuel company and are stuck with only being allowed to use them to fill it.

    We need a larger tank (dryer and kitchen stove are propane). Any ideas on how we can save money at home on propane?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So we rent our propane tank and if you switch companies, the new company will uninstall the previous company’s tank and install their tank. Then, you call your former company to come pick up their tank. I’ve done this every year we’ve lived here and never had an issue. They install and un-install the tanks at no charge. Just call to confirm this ahead of time. Good luck!!

      • Jill says:

        Thanks for the propane/oil information — very valuable info! I have a few questions for you: Is your service on a Keep Full fill or a Will Call fill? Do you know if you get a discount for Keep Full fill with any of the companies you called? Did any of these companies offer you a tank monitor so you and they could keep track of the volume in your tank?

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I’m on Will Call (meaning I call them whenever we need more fuel). I check the tank myself to see how full it is–you just open the top of the propane tank and read the gauge. Same thing for our oil tank–it has a gauge on the top that I check. There wasn’t a discount for doing Keep Full, but it’s certainly worth asking when you call since I feel like that could vary by region/month of the year! The first year I did this, it took me a long time to figure out which companies delivered to my area and what questions to ask, but now I just keep it all in a Google doc and Google spreadsheet and refer to it every year. Good luck!!!

    • Pam says:

      We are in NY as well. We use Mirabito, they provide the tank. I locked in my prepaid rate of $1.89 during the summer. That purchase also adds points to our Mirabito rewards card for discounts at the gas station.

    • Bonnie says:

      We purchased our 500 gallon propane tank and had it buried. We can use any company and get a quantity discount as well.

  8. Abigail says:

    And I thought I had a lot of oatmeal when I accidentally bought two Costco packs instead of one! Oats, yum.

  9. M says:

    A stock-up on things like socks, long underwear, jammies, dresses for me, etc.
    I can write a whole post on this if folks are interested?

    Yes, please!!! Before online xmas ordering?

    • Linda S. says:

      Yes please — let’s see an entire post on this!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Thank you for letting me know you’re interested! I’ll write one up 🙂

        • Suzy says:

          I agree, would love to see a post on clothing purchases!

        • Josie says:

          Yes, please!

        • Sam says:

          Yes, clothing post please. I learned a lot from the earlier one you did where you accepted that you liked leggings and dresses and to heck with other things; that led to me accepting that I like jeans and sweaters and NOT exercise leggings like everyone else seems to. But, my kids’ legs grow 0.5 inches longer each day, and no number of thrift store trips or hand-me-down windfalls seem to get us through; I am constantly buying clothing for them.

        • Tracy says:

          Yes please!

        • Anonymous says:

          A post on clothing, yes, please! I am specially interested in wool thermal base layers. I keep m thermostat at 55 F and so need warm layers. I find the lower temps are better for my body (less dryness in winter months, which give me headaches), the environment, and my wallet. So this winter I al looking to invest in some good base layers. Comes in handy when hiking too.

          • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

            Ahhh yes, I am all about the base layer! Sadly, I’m allergic to wool, so I’ve found some great synthetic tops and leggings that work really well for me.

  10. Melissa says:

    Would love a clothing post! And need to go search your back catalogue for your bread recipe (assuming it’s there), as I haven’t found my ultimate everyday bread recipe yet and I bet yours is great.

  11. Julie says:

    We have oil heat and use the same people every year. There are perks. They service our system annually. They’ll do emergency fill ups on weekends if we need it (thankfully we haven’t needed this. I’m going off of many desperate Facebook posts where people who don’t use the same person each year have trouble finding someone). Last December when we were out of town (remember travel? Lol!), our thermostat broke. My disabled father was home and called me. I couldn’t get an electrician since it was a small job. I called the oil company and someone came over on a Saturday evening to install a new one. So yes, if it is your main heating element, I recommend staying with the same folks. I don’t have to make many phone calls every year either!

  12. Mary says:

    A few months ago, I applied for the Chase Freedom card that you recommended. I pay the balance in full every month, and have earned over $300 cash back so far (including the one-time $200 bonus). Thank you for this recommendation! Hope you got a “finder’s fee” since I clicked through the link in your blog to apply for it.

    • Kathy E says:

      Bank of America Signature Visa has a 3% cash back Gas category that can be used for petroleum products such as propane. 3% back on a couple of thousand dollars of propane adds up quickly.

  13. Peggy Innamorato says:

    I am new to reading your blog and I truly enjoy it, you have taught me a few things in my 51 years on this planet. I must admit your home and land is dreamy and really a blessing. I need to look into Ting for my cell phones, we pay $117.00 for 4 phones which is not much, but to us who save and have no mortgage payment anymore it is something to look into, we live in SW Florida near Tampa and have never been to Vermont, my husband has but I have never, one day we will venture up that way after all the craziness subsides. Reading your post made me giggle when you said “the coldest 12 months of the year” I grew up in NY so I know cold but I am sure Vermont is way colder, have a great weekend :0)

  14. JD says:

    Propane is outrageously expensive here, and we have only two suppliers, so the price shopping is quick and dismal. We gave up on it and moved to all electric. We live rurally with no gas lines, too, so natural gas is not an option, although I live just 3/4 of a mile from a huge interstate natural gas pipeline. Which got quite interesting a few years ago when lightning hit the open valve as they were releasing pressure.

    No line for Christmas shopping? How is that coming this year, since, at least in this area since Covid, yard sales are next to never and second hand shops have been closed more and had fewer goods when open. I know you prefer second hand gifts, but are you finding any? Will we get a holiday post? “How to Have Holidays in a Pandemic.” I’m up for that.

  15. Alyssa says:

    How do you store your bulk oats? I would like to buy bulk but have concerns about bugs and rodents finding their way into it.

  16. Gloria Anderson says:

    Yes! Please let us know about your shopping for jammies, long underwear, socks & dresses! Thank you in advance…always look forward to what you have to say about money and your family

  17. Jill says:

    I hope this only helps, but in my experience knowing how to make the BEST eggnog at home is both a blessing and a curse!

    https://www.davidlebovitz.com/jeffrey-morgenthalers-eggnog-recipe/

  18. Marie says:

    Your comment about priorities really resonates with me. I merrily give up all alcohol, but some consumer loyalty works for me even if it costs more. I keep my heating oil on keep-fill status with the same company because their customer service is outstanding (and we only have 3 fuel options, and every time I check their prices are very similar). I tried changing my phone carrier to a less expensive service and it was a timesuck debacle – so many hours spent trying to fix their problems (with awful customer service) and then I switched back and all is right in the world – and actually I didn’t even save money with the other service because they tacked on taxes and fees. (I have to have a phone that works right all the time because of my on-call duty with local police)

    So while I am usually very careful about especially big expenditures and getting the best prices, reducing frustration is a really key priority for me as well. That’s the quality I will spend for and I will happily cut costs in other ways.

    • Nora says:

      Same – we love our oil company! We are on keep-full and they are amazing when our furnace has broken down. We get immediate service vs. our neighborhood community page posts 2-3 day waits during cold weather for people with broken furnaces.

  19. Helen Graham says:

    Have a question
    maybe folks can weigh in, we own our home, and every year the house insurance comes due (over 1,000 a year) and we debate whether to renew it.
    Our thoughts are well if the house burnt down we could rebuild it with money in the bank, which is all the insurance would give us. So why do we need it?
    Do we legally need it.?

    • Elizabeth Whitmore says:

      I would never go without house insurance. It costs a lot to remove the debris of a fire, put up fencing around the hole, live somewhere else and then rebuild and replace everything.

    • Kathryn says:

      I believe legally you have to have liability of some kind and I believe it varies per state. But I would look into how much it would cost to rebuild your home, it is often MUCH higher then the price you would sell it for. If you would be happy moving, that’s a different story. And don’t forget about replacing everything you own, all at once.

    • Karyn Semple says:

      You’d have to check your area to be sure, but you would still need some amount of liability insurance for things like if a mail carrier slipped on your walkway and sued you

    • Sharyn Whiting says:

      Hi. I live in Australia so things might be different here. Over the last 3 years bushfires have burnt out over 2000 homes in my area. Many people had little or no home and contents insurance. In one town , now 2 years since their fire, only 15 out of 84 houses have been rebuilt. Not all, but many people have just not been able to afford to rebuild because of no insurance or under insurance. Local building regulations have also changed to make stricter bushfire resistant housing mandatory. I know it is expensive but I always have home and contents insurance.
      I can’t imagine the devastation to our life of not only losing everything but not being able to rebuild.

    • Laura says:

      Homeowners doesn’t just cover if your house burns down, it covers you if someone gets hurt on your property and sues you. I would never cancel it.

    • Sally says:

      If you have a mortgage, you will be required to have Homeowners insurance. Believe me, they will let your mortgage holder know the minute you drop it and the mortgage company will put insurance on it that covers them, not you. They don’t shop around for the best price either. Shop around for the best deal you can get. If your home is paid in full, you are still at high risk for a law suit if someone is injured on your property or, of course, if a catastrophe occurs.

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      I’m not in the same country as you, but I think it’s quite standard that if you have a mortgage, insurance of some sort is a legal requirement. If your home is paid off it may be different and I do get what you’re saying, especially given how stingy and borderline-criminal lots of these insurance companies can be when the time comes to claim (not just house insurance, generally), that you can pay faithfully for decades, but just at the moment you need them, oh dear, no… there’s some tiny clause that let’s them wriggle.

      But I digress. Some basic structural and liability (especially) insurance, in the event that the house is destroyed would be a good idea, even if not legally required. There are more basic, simple types of insurance that are less costly, and this could be what works for you IF you are certain and sure you have money in the bank enough to cover all or most of the worst type of catastrophe that could possibly happen. If I had that wherewithal, that’s what I’d do, I mean, why not grow that money while you aren’t directly needing it, and then it’s there for any and every eventuality.

      But liability can be virtually limitless, so you really should have that!

    • MEM says:

      As someone whose house burned to the ground five years ago and it and everything in it was a total loss, insurance is well worth it. We live in a HCOLA outside of Boston and had “replacement value insurance” on our home. That meant the insurance paid for us to rebuild the same size home we had – it was over $900,000 to rebuild. It also paid the rent and utilities on the townhome we lived in while the house was being rebuilt – 15 months – as well as the cost of new furniture, clothing, etc. $1,000 a year sounds like a bargain to me. We pay more than that.

    • Rebecca Janzen says:

      You definitely need it in my state if you have a mortgage. I would not go without. This year I called around and went with the second cheapest option. Easily saved $300.

  20. Nora says:

    We have used our oil company faithfully – their prices are reasonable but their customer service cannot be beat. If our furnace goes out and my husband cannot fix it, we get same day non-emergency pricing. This has happened two times and it was worth it to us. However you have a wood stove for backup so probably not as important. I see many winter posts on our community page about broken furnaces (most use oil heat in our area) and it can be a multi-day wait if you do not have a service contract. We do not have a service contract but we pay for an annual tune up ($100 or less) which my husband could probably do himself but it has been worth it for the emergency tune up protection.

  21. Jessica says:

    I wish my lasik provider would give a discount for paying up front.
    Alas, they incentivize using their financing- because they make more money that way. So we plan to use it as a payment for credit card churning.

  22. MS Barb says:

    Hi Mrs Frugalwoods! I love your posts! Thank you for sharing your frugal tips! Q: HOW BIG IS YOUR FUEL OIL TANK? (or, do you have more than one tank?) Mine is about 275 gallons; The local suppliers in my county in NE Ohio require a minimum order of at least 150 gallons… I fill in the late summer/early fall & again in late January…YES, it pays to comparison shop between the suppliers! When I bought my house 27 years ago, I ordered from the company the previous owners had used. Then my daughter got a temporary office job w/ another supplier, and asked me how much I was paying–turns out her company was cheaper! And, then, I found an even less expensive company!

  23. Ann S says:

    Did you price out Simple Energy? They are our favorite around this area. Sometimes they are not the cheapest but their excellent customer service and repair team make it worth it for us to pay a bit more for the oil.

  24. While we don’t have the option to shop around for gas and electric, I have figured on a few hacks to save the tiniest bit of money on utilities. I CAN wash my face with cold water, not waiting for the hot water to come from the basement. I CAN use a single light to brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, and bathe without turning on the 6 lights above the mirror. I CAN wash my dishes by hand with very little water, by filling a small pot with soapy warm water and rinsing quickly. I’m on a mission-using every extra cent to pay off 14,000 on my car in the next 5 (maybe 4?) months. Now that we’re remote, I don’t have to spend as much on gas either!

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      If you want warm water for face washing – and sometimes it is what’s needed to get the cleanser to work properly – just warm a cup in the microwave for about 30 seconds. That’s what I do. Works brilliantly.

  25. Edit says:

    Yes, please write a post on the clothing purchases! I am very happy that most of our purchases are moving online, but I would find it helpful to know what sources others use to decide on items for longevity, price, fit/brand, or potential serial shopping (leggings, socks, jeans, etc)

  26. Holly says:

    Has Mr. FW tried putting his socked feet in plastic bags before putting his boots on? The price is right!

  27. Carey says:

    Just curious, how much wood does your wood stove burn every day when you’re heating your whole house? We just bought a home with a stove that we are using more like a fireplace, but it seems to burn through the wood at an alarmingly fast pace.

  28. Kathryn says:

    You know we want a post on clothes!! I bought very little cloths (much like you after to much thrifting in my youth) and then I quit to stay home with my daughter and made what I had work for a time. Then I bought some clothes. Not a ton but I found the clothes I liked at home were very different from the clothes I bought work at my lab job!! It is hard to do, but I was so happy with what I got and how it worked for me!

  29. Elise says:

    yes, i am interested in a whole post on the clothing!

  30. A says:

    I’d be interested in a post on clothes! My pre-pandemic methods of kid consignment sales, thrifting, and clothing swaps with friends are out the door this year. I’ve been really enjoying shopping on eBay for clothes for myself and my partner (if you know some typical brands/sizes that work well for you and you stick to clothes that don’t require an extremely exact fit you can find some cool stuff for cheap! Plus you can set up alerts and saved searches for brands/sizes you typically go for.) I’ve also shopped in “lots” for some toddler clothes on eBay for my daughter, (which is a bit more competitive and isn’t nearly as cheap as thrifting or consignment sales, but you can still find a good deal.) I also LOVE clothes, and when I’ve tried to omit incorporating new-to-me clothes into my life during frugal challenges and the like, it has always made the cut as still important.

  31. Dianne says:

    Yes to clothing. Would love to hear your frugal clothes hacks.

  32. Ashley says:

    Would love to know where you buy your organic oats. 50 lbs is something I can get behind.

  33. Sandra says:

    Do you buy oats in bulk because it’s cheap or convienent? I live in Scandinavia and when I do the math price of your oats seem so expensive?

  34. Katherine says:

    I have a Frugal Find I need to share with everyone. Check out PlutoTV. There’s an app for it or you can watch it online. It has a LOT of channels including one each for 80s & 90s movies & one for James Bond movies. Each channel has a theme or has one show they repeat like the Amazing Race channel. Hulu just announced ANOTHER price increase so we’re looking at turning it off while we enjoy what Pluto has to offer.

  35. Sarah Fisk says:

    Suburban Propane is one of the very worst companies I have ever dealt with in my life. DO NOT TRUST whatever they quote you. That may be the price for the first month or two, but then they will jack up the price, and they are absolutely TERRIBLE to deal with. Look up their reviews and complaints all over the Internet – they’re professional scammers.
    My furnace was broken for a month in the middle of winter in Vermont, and they kept scheduling days that they swore the repairman would come – for which I would take off the day from work – only to have nobody show up. The only way that I finally got them to come was by telling them that I was going to call the state utilities board and the local tv news.
    When I switched to another company Suburban did not pick up their tanks for 11 months. They were sitting in my yard despite at least 6 separate promises to collect them within the next week, until, again, I told them I was calling the news – and then, poof! Gone the next day!
    No matter how low their teaser rate is, please do not fall for it and do not risk the aggravation of doing business with this company.

  36. JP says:

    Quick note on the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. In addition to the benefits noted above, Chase is also offering 5% back on groceries for the first year up to 12K in purchases. Nice card!

  37. Cate says:

    Please, do a clothing post. And what is your oat source? We go through them so quickly….

  38. Anne says:

    If Mr FW is still having cold toes with his new boots, it can help to wear hiking socks (inner layer that wicks away sweat and outer wool layer) and to make sure the socks he is putting on are completely dry before going out (don’t keep on socks from the night before for an early-morning snow plow). He can also put a hot water bottle over his feet in the tractor.

  39. Abbie says:

    Thank you for the suggestion that I should shop around for a better deal on propane. I only use propane for my cooking range. My oven is electric. My last propane delivery of 25.5 gals #7 Propane cost $6.86/gallon plus a Hazardous Materials Safety and Compliance Fee of $11.62. On top of that I am being charged an annual minimum usage charge of $64.

  40. Ellen McCarthy says:

    Just want to say… your girls are SO CUTE…

  41. Magdalena Mausolf says:

    Would love to hear about your clothing stock up. I might live on the other side of the world in tropical Northern Australia, but I still find it interesting and ver helpful!
    Cheers, Lele

  42. S. says:

    I live in New Hampshire, about 20 minutes from the Upper Valley, so not far from you. I love reading your posts and feel like I have a kindred sister! I, too, have 2 children.
    I really enjoy your recommendations and follow them! We, too, have a wood stove. Would love a post on base layers (please include smart wool), as I would really like to try them. What do you do for a filter (if you have one) in the winter when the wood stove leaves a fine layer on everything?
    Thank you again for your posts. So enjoyable!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey neighbor! In non-Covid times, we should meet up for a playground date in Norwich/Hanover/West Leb! So our woodstove doesn’t emit any smoke/debris because it’s a newer stove that’s super efficient (it’s the Fireview model from Woodstock Soapstone stoves in West Leb) and it is amazing. We can heat our whole home all winter with just 3-4 cords of wood. Clearly I love this stove ;). Unfortunately, I’m allergic to wool, so I won’t be of help to you with Smart Wool, although my husband loves Smart Wool socks. I have to do synthetic base layers, which totally work (if a bit stinky when I hike).

  43. Those fall pictures are awesome. Exactly right about controlling what you can control. It’s easier said than done but I’ve really embraced that mantra myself over this last year.

  44. Laura says:

    I’m so damn nosey about other people’s wardrobes cause mine is sorely lacking and mostly comes from goodwill. BUT I’d like to try a capsule wardrobe for 2021. And, I’m just plain damn nosey.

  45. McKenzie says:

    Hi, I absolutely love following your blog! I recently found a finance blogger who talks about Cash Back Apps. Have you used these or recommend them? I think on she mentioned was called “Pei”. You link your credit card to the cash back app and literally just get cash back based on qualified merchants. Do you recommend this or any cashback apps? (In addition to credit cards). Thanks!

  46. Linda says:

    Yes, please do an updated clothing post.

  47. Isa says:

    YES on the clothing post!! Please!

    I decluttered this weekend and since I find selling stuff time consuming and often frustrating, I decided to just give everything away. I have SO-MUCH-STUFF to give (and to throw out, yuck) it’s soooooooo frustrating to see all that wasted money! Some high quality clothing items with tags still on because it never fit quite right, some never worn boots paid 120$, an expensive watch that I don’t wear anymore, some kitchen stuff barely ever used, etc, etc, etc. It’s ridiculous!!!!! It’s just throwing money out the window. I’ve always considered myself frugal and tending towards minimalist (in my head at least!), but the amount of stuff given and the amount of stuff still in the house is baffling to me. You better believe that from now on I’ll only buy stuff that:
    1- Is needed and will be used regularly
    3- Fits (all those “clothes for when I lose 10 pounds? Gone!)
    4- Fit my actual lifestyle and not the version of a lifestyle I wish I lived (example? All those service dishes that I love so much? Yeah, never use it. I’m introverted, I don’t really have people over, and now less than never. Those cute high heels boots? Nope, I live in flats and running shoes)

    Live and learn!

  48. Viv says:

    Your little ones are SO ADORABLE!!

  49. Amanda says:

    Out of curiosity, would you share more about your grocery expenses? It’s a lot higher than mine and, honestly I’m wondering what y’all are enjoying that we’re not haha! Or if the prices in your part of world are much higher. Or maybe having 2 young kids makes a bigger difference than I thought!! How much do you think your garden vegetables and fruits helps with this line item? Also yes to the clothing expense details 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hmmm, I will say that prices here are higher than they were when we lived in the Boston area. I will also say that it’s more expensive because both of our kids are now full eaters (they eat about as much as I do every day–if not more!!!!). We’re also only going to the store once a month, which means my husband is stocking up more than normal during each trip. Pre-pandemic, he went every week. Now, he’ll buy stuff we wouldn’t normally buy–such as non-generic stuff just because it’s what’s available in the store and he doesn’t want to go back. We also greatly expanded our stock of food just because things have dipped in and out of availability during the pandemic. So, we have a lot more dried beans, rice, quinoa, etc on hand than we would normally.

  50. Jacinta says:

    I haven’t decided if 2020 was a good year financially yet. I made alot of good moves and some bad. We will see. I just blogged about it and how i intend to save more money next year (im not going to say moving forward because i hate that phrase haha) Please drop by and let me know if you have any tips for not shopping online so much haha Im also going to reread the Frugalwoods tips so i can get all motivated again https://www.steppingback.com.au/2020/11/2021-frugal-finances.html

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