Christmas Lights, Lightbulbs, a Headlamp and other November 2020 Expenses

Let there be LIGHT!!!!

I’ve surrendered all restraint and decorum with regard to Christmas decorations. This year, we are lit. It’s dark, it’s cold, there’s nowhere to go and so I transformed the interior of our house into a beacon of light/some might call it tacky. Up to this point, we’ve used hand-me-down and garage-sale-purchased strands of Christmas lights which, while cheap at the outset, were not cheap from an energy use perspective.

LET THERE BE LIGHT!!!

This year, we “invested” (quotations because you don’t invest in something that’s certain to depreciate over time) in ten strands of white LED Christmas lights. And I am not sorry.

We didn’t get the cheapest, we went with the slightly-more-expensive option at $11.07 per 26-foot strand because of their long lifespan, warmer color temperature of 2700k and high color rendering index (CRI).

A few years ago, we bought a strand of white LED lights that are so bright and blue-tinged we don’t even use them. But let me tell you, 2020 has one good thing going for it: they’ve invented WARM white LED lights. In a highly scientific test whereby I plugged in an old, non-LED strand next to one of my new LED strands, I will report that the LED lights are slightly less warm than the regular lights. But they’re nothing like the old-school LED blue light special. So take heart, not everything in the world is falling apart.

My plan/hope is to use these ten strands for the next six decades, at which point I’ll bequeath them to my children who will roll their eyes and inform me that no one decorates with white lights anymore. Happily, I will keep them and continue decorating with them until I die, at which point my last will and testament will stipulate the lights are to be buried with me. Grandma Frugalwoods always was a little odd, but darn it if she didn’t make Christmas magical (is what they’ll say).

Hope for Elderly Pre-Lit Christmas Trees

Despite living in a woods of ten thousand fir trees, we have an artificial Christmas tree. For so many reasons. Firstly, we bought it ten years ago when we lived in Washington, DC where real trees are like $100. Secondly, Mr. FW has seasonal allergies that are aggravated anytime we bring foliage into the house. Thirdly, pine needles and pine sap in my house: not something I need. Fourthly, I like my fake tree. We bought this ersatz shrub in 2010 (for about $200 from Lowe’s) and it still looks fantastic. I mean, what do you need from a fake tree? It’s not like it’s going to go out of style.

Ten-year-old Christmas tree looking spry!

The only problem is that it was a pre-lit tree, meaning it came with a million strands of white lights wrapped around its every little branch. This arrangement looked gorgeous for the first seven years. Then, bulbs started to burn out culminating in last year’s final insult: all the top and bottom strands burnt out leaving only the mid-section lit. Not a good look.

But, as I said, the thing still looks like a tree and I wasn’t going to trash it and buy a new one. Solution? We don’t plug in the pre-lit lights. Instead, we draped it in five strands of our new, highly efficient, warmly white LED bulbs. FIXED IT.

If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t buy a pre-lit tree in the first place, but I have to say, this solution totally works and it looks great. The major upside is that we are using far less electricity this year while lighting with far more strands of light. Let there be peace on earth indeed!

House Lightbulbs

We didn’t stop at Christmas lights. We replaced our kitchen lightbulbs with these LED filament bulbs. As a closet hipster, I’ve always wanted exposed filament bulbs but was unwilling to go the non-LED route. But lo and behold, 2020 delivered another incredible gift: LED filaments. Hipsters everywhere may rejoice with glad exaltations.

One Headlamp

Tractorin’

A crucial element of our “maintaining sanity during a pandemic” regimen is hiking every single day. I hike in the mornings and Mr. FW hikes in the late afternoon. This worked great until it started getting dark at 4pm. The solution? A wicked bright headlamp. It’s still light when he leaves on his hikes, but he typically returns in darkness, so this headlamp is his guide.

Tractor Maintenance

It was time for the tractor’s 400-hour maintenance and Mr. FW gamely took it on. We have a Kubota L4400 and it recently rolled over 400 hours, so the time had come. By doing the labor himself, we saved at least $1,200 since the dealership charges to tow it, work on it, and return it.

The parts alone were $500, but well worth it to keep our tractor in peak tractor shape–especially as we plow into its most hardworking season of snow removal and firewood moving. We also bought new rear tire chains as the previous (cheap) chains broke and were unrepairable. We went with the more reliable, more expensive Eko OFOs in the hopes that we’ll never have to buy chains again.

Beer as a Hobby

Enjoying the tasting room at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, Belgium in 2011. In other news, who is that BABY with no grey hair, no wrinkles, no body fat and, OH RIGHT, no kids…. 😉

Mr. FW and I have long been beer enthusiasts and love going to specialty tastings and out-of-the-way breweries. We went to Tree House back when they were still brewing in their garage. We’ve been to Cantillon in Belgium. We’ve lounged in the Hill Farmstead tasting room and stood in line at The Alchemist. We enjoy trying unique beers and discussing how they’re made, the hops that are used, and whether or not the flavors come together. What can I say, there are weirder hobbies, no?

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been unable to visit any breweries and so, we started an at-home tasting club. Almost every evening, as soon as the children are tucked in bed, we split a craft beer and discuss the flavor. It’s our pandemic version of traveling the state by beer.

In November, Lawson’s releases their specialty Maple Tripple–a one-day-a-year release–as well as their Maple Brown Ale. This year, having nowhere else to be, Mr. FW drove to the brewery to pick-up a case. And we are not sorry. Aged in Vermont bourbon barrels, it has a deep, earthy flavor that flirts with the boundary between beer and cocktail.

If you’re ever wondering why we spend so much money on beer, we don’t drink a ton of it; rather, we savor small amounts of very, very expensive liquid. We also view buying super local beer is a good way of supporting local industry here in Vermont during the pandemic.

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

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.

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 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: $80.64

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 $4,032.01 on that card, which netted us $80.64.

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)

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???

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 November:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Tractor chains $782.28 Rear chains for the tractor. Brand: Ice Pick OFA Eko 9
Groceries $604.37
Tractor parts $505.85 Filters and hydraulic oil for the tractor’s 400 hour service + seals for front axle repair
Household supplies and giving tree gifts $404.29 Thrilling things like dental floss
Beer + Christmas Gifts $391.50 We were able to get in on Lawson’s specialty annual release of their Maple Tripple and maple bourbon beer and so, we bought a lot. We also were able to do an order from our hyper-local brewery, Upper Pass! Merry Christmas to us.
Snowshoes for Mr. FW $279.00 Snowshoes for the daily hike. Mr. FW has long wanted to upgrade his old snowshoes and this was the year. He reports he’s very happy with them so far as they’re super lightweight.
Propane (annual supply) $247.48 See last month’s expense report for all the details on this.
Headlamp for Mr. FW $120.14 Wicked bright headlamp
Lightbulbs and Christmas lights $114.17 See notes above!
Gas for cars $89.64
Internet $72.00
Stamps and shipping $70.88
PO Box annual renewal $64.00
Christmas cards $59.21 150 custom photo cards
20lbs of C02 $34.25 Seltzer
Diesel for the tractor $33.19
The Vermont Almanac
50lb of bread flour $29.95 Purchased locally from King Arthur Flour
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.

Utilities: Electricity $21.70 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Prescription medication co-pay $10.00 Online pharmacy for the win!
Total: $5,387.80

How was your November?

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57 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    Mmm, that Lawson’s beer sounds great. I will have to try it. And that’s pretty cool that you can say you were at Treehouse when it was in a garage. Look at that place now!

    The same thing happened to our tree last year and we came up with the same solution. But first, I made the mistake of attempting to take off all of the old lights that were pre-strung. Not an easy task!

    Thanks for always being so transparent with your spending. It’s always so interesting, but also helpful to everyone trying to improve their financial situation.

  2. Melissa says:

    Love it! We’ve discovered that having a selection of tasty beverages in the house is a crucial way for us grownups to keep ourselves happy in these trying quarantimes, so we’ve dedicated some additional budget to that category and are enjoying it very much. It’s really lovely to sit in the living room with the tree and a fire going, sip a beverage, snuggle a cat, and read after the kiddo has gone to bed. Doesn’t quite replicate our favourite date night of a beer and a shared order of sticky toffee pudding at our local pub while reading novels in cozy booth, but it gets pretty close!

  3. Annie says:

    I got our Christmas cards through Costco for $35/150 custom cards!

  4. Elizabeth Whitmore says:

    King Arthur flour is on my list to visit and or order from when we can travel to the US again. Canada has good flour so probably some of the other “goodies”.Have you ever gone to a class there?

  5. Bill M says:

    I too, have changed to LED lighting. I really like the new warm white LEDs that are available.
    Good you can do you own maintenance on the Kubota. John Deere has everything computerized and a person can no longer work on their own equipment.

  6. Lindsey says:

    We acquired a fabulous pre-lit tree on the side of the road a few years ago and alas, the lights were dead… but we spent some time taking off the lights (which was a weirdly fun hunt to find them all and snip them) and we rock it now with our own lights (some years the multi-color string goes on the tree, some years on the front of the house and vice versa with the white lights- we are so adventurous! )

  7. G.P. Burdell says:

    Mrs. Frugalwoods – Do you have a post on how you bought your tractor? I know you have posts on car purchases, but does the tractor get no love? A former city-slicker myself, I’ve bought my own homestead and need some good resources on how to buy a tractor.

  8. Can you link to the headlamp? We have a puppy and he likes to traipse in the woods after dark. I was just thinking last night as I tried to manage his leash and my cellphone for light that a headlamp will keep me from tripping in the dark.
    My Christmas light problem is we live in a really old house that was once a hunting camp and there are not enough outlets. We have no outside outlets so it’s a real hassle doing any sort of outside decorating of trees and shrubs with lights. We’ve been using a giant extension cord to connect to power in our barn. And we live in Maine so rechargeable lights don’t always work when we go days without sun.

  9. Jackie Rice says:

    Just a word of caution. I like the girls posing on the tractor with Dad. But the tractor only has one seat, and that’s for the driver. No one should be riding along as a passenger. Some farm accidents involve people falling off the tractor when riding. Same for riding lawn mower. I could go on and on about tractor safety, but I’ll stop with that.

  10. 8little_paws says:

    OK Liz I am trying out personal capital. I had been using YNAB old version and I refuse to pay that monthly fee. But it doesn’t look like I can project a monthly budget? Like I can’t say, I have $5k in my checking and $1k is for mortgage, $800 groceries etc? Am I correct in this, that PC only gives you a retrospective of how you spent your money and doesn’t handle prospective spending?

    I too have really enjoyed supporting local breweries during this past year.

  11. Chelsea says:

    Would you be willing to write about how having your kids home FT again has impacted your writing career (if at all)? It’s something so many of us are dealing with right now (trying to work and homeschool/ care for kids who are also at home). Have you cut back on hours/jobs or worked out a specific arrangement with Mr. Frugalwoods so you can maintain work time?

  12. Susan says:

    You probably don’t realize one of the delights of your blog; watching your girls grow up along the way! Time flies (I know, easy for me to say)when we see how they have grown from newborns to toddlers to girls!. Enjoy!
    PS I miss Frugal Hound

  13. Babs Lamott says:

    Love your newsletter. Most people don’t know this, and as a small business owner, it irks the hell out of me. The way “reward cards” give the “rewards” back to the cardholder is by charging the vendor a higher fee. So Amex isn’t the great guy giving you the miles, it is the Mom and Pop store you bought your dog food in that pays the higher fee to give you those miles. Just an FYI, for those who like to shop Mom and Pop. Keep up the great work you are doing! I ma buying my son your book this year for Christmas.

  14. Jennifer says:

    FYI…..we keep our lights up all year (in doorways, around our beams etc)…in the off season they are “faerie lights” 🙂

  15. Julie says:

    Liz, you look fantastic. I’m responding to the no body fat ten years ago caption on one of your photos. That body gave you two kids and helps keep you active! And it’s ok to eat butter!

  16. RC says:

    We are starting a cider club in the new year! Of course would love to visit the local spots in person but thankfully our grocery stores have a large local variety for right now!

  17. Jenene says:

    Christmas lights are one of the reasons winter is my favorite season! When my partner and I moved to the Midwest from the West Coast we were delighted to see Christmas lights up well into March!

    Wow – 50lbs of flour! What is the best way to store it?

  18. Cindy says:

    We attempted a UFM November. It wasn’t bad but not as good as other UFM challenges. We purchased a lot of toys for Xmas so we’d have them since so many items were becoming unavailable.
    In turn that made december a little less pricey-which is good since this month we did our big donations, and we’re finishing up a huge basement job, which has gone over budget! We need wine to get through these troubled time!

  19. Andrea McCulloch says:

    I thoroughly applaud you reusing the tree. Mine, just 4 foot tall, is about to celebrate its 40th Christmas. It was bought in Germany in 1981, and I still have the wooden decorations that were bought at the same time.
    Pre-lit trees didn’t exist then, and it didn’t have lights until white lights became a thing about 25 years ago. It’s had about five sets, and fingers crossed, 2018’s set will work this year. We had one set that lasted for about 15 years, but then had a few that only lasted a fraction of that time
    I collect Christmas tree ornaments, and after 40 years, the tree looks like the decoration department of harrods landed on it. It takes about four hours to decorate, despite being so small.
    It’s quite a realistic tree, despite being so old, because it was expensive when we got it.
    Even at the cheapest prices, it’s saved us a lot of money by keeping going all these years.

  20. Bill says:

    We had the same problem with our pre-lit Christmas tree, but I stumbled across the LightKeeper Pro and now I swear by it. Not sure how it gets the strands to work again, but I now tell everyone I can about it. Our tree went from 20% of the lights working to 100% (granted I did have to replace some of the bubs). It is amazing and can be purchased at any big box retailer.

  21. Carolyn says:

    “Happily, I will keep them and continue decorating with them until I die, at which point my last will and testament will stipulate the lights are to be buried with me. Grandma Frugalwoods always was a little odd, but darn it if she didn’t make Christmas magical (is what they’ll say).” OMG, these lines made me cackle! So funny.

    • Jenny says:

      Goodness, this made me think- what happened to my grandparents’ ornaments? My parents split our magical sentimental childhood ones up between us kids when they switched to a fake tabletop tree with generic matching Walmart stuff. But I actually have no idea about my grandparents- and their parents, and so on. Were there beautiful European trinkets and cute colorful vintage dime store baubles? Were they thrown out or sold at a garage sale? I’ll never know.

  22. Lindsay says:

    Wondering if Mr Frugalwoods would weigh in on how he chose his snowshoes. I’ve long wanted a pair, but don’t know how to go about choosing a good set.

  23. JD says:

    I love all our LED Christmas lights. Ours are older and so a little bluish, but since we decorate for Christmas in blue, silver, gold and white (my great room is painted “pale celestial blue”), the lights fit right in. I live in Florida. I’ve seen a dusting of snow here twice in over 40 years, so I like the icy blues and silvers that remind me that yes, it IS winter.

    After decades of real trees, I broke down last year and got an artificial tree. It is pre-lit, but with LED lights, so I hope it stays pre-lit for many more years. If not, I’ll put strands of lights on it, just as I did with the real trees. I used LED lights on the real trees for several years, and my light bill noticed.

    I had no idea tractor tire chains were so expensive. My dad never put chains on his tractor when I was growing up, but we didn’t live with that much snow (upper south). I sure hope they are the last chains you need.

    Will you be baking for Christmas? Crafting (ha, ha)? I’m ready to see those pictures of the kids smeared up to their elbows in scarlet and green icing with a dusting of powdered sugar on top of their noses.

  24. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for your monthly post! We’ve learned the “pandemic pivot” here on our homestead as well. We kicked off the Holidays just before Thanksgiving and are continuing to come up with new “traditions”. We have the EXACT same pre-lit Christmas tree and we bought it the same year you did. We thought our lights were toast this year but a little wiring magic, boom we are back in business. Next year we may have to invest in quality LED warm white lights for the tree. We too, share in local craft beers and a glass of wine in the evenings. I’m also reading up on the wicked bright head lamp because here in the Pacific Northwest – it also gets dark way to early and we’ve been left out in the dark with only a not-so-great flashlight. We wish you the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year.

  25. Linda says:

    Love all the light and tree recycling! I “treated” myself to a realistic (if I do say so myself) 7″ tall tree 21 Christmases ago. It was the floor model and while it came without the original box or directions, it was marked down to $20!!! I found 2 boxes, firgured out which branches went in which holes by size and love how it looks (and the money saved).

    Same thing with my decorative white wire lighted deer. They were the thing to have on your lawn 20 years ago. The white lights stop working every few years and I just re-thread another set of white lights on white wire through. And the best part is it makes decorating outside my small townhouse easy: check the lights, set the deer up and plug him in, switch our the door wreath and I’m done once I make and add the hanging greenery basket.

    I used to purchase an evergreen “kissing ball” from a big box retailer when they were $15; when the price starting climbing (they’re now $30 here) I started making my own with wet florist foam in a hanging basket from the summer; a variety of evergreen clipped my my yard and my mother’s and decorate with the ornaments saved from the years I had purchased. They are now a traditional: I make three to share ( and love my savings (!), especially as I’m now unemployed, thank you pandemic….)

    Always love reading the ideas shared here.

    • KIrsten says:

      Glad to hear someone else takes on the task of putting news lights on their Charismas deer. I thought maybe I was the only one!
      I have a family of 4 and have re-strung 3 of them and just discovered this past weekend that the final one, a baby deer, needs new lights. My task for this weekend. I admit. It’s not a job I look forward to, but it sure is super rewarding when it’s done.
      🙂

  26. Evans Bowen says:

    I’ve learned to hate prelit trees. There were always problems with the lights and then they would go out after just a few years—what a waste. Over the last few years I’ve taken lights off of several trees. It takes a bit of work keeping perfectly good trees out of the landfill. A pair of pliers for the clips and scissors gets the job done. Put the tree on a drop cloth and take out your aggressions on all those light clips. Put on some podcasts and save the life of a plastic tree. Tedious but worth it.

  27. Cindy says:

    We, too, have a pre-lit tree whose lights died this year. We, too, strung a bunch of lights around it, including my husband’s old chili lights from his frat days (how have those lasted 20+ years?) and called it a Happy Holiday.

    November found me realizing I had walked over 500 miles with my daughter using her car seat and caddy. I finally made the effort to fix up her brother’s old jogging stroller and what a difference it has made! We walk every day and I can go farther and faster with minimal effort, and I can go off road when I need or want to. I love that she can see the world coming at her and that I can recline the seat back when she falls asleep. I did buy a stroller bag to keep her snuggly warm, which was well worth $47 since we walk EVERY DAY.

    Moneywise, we did well. Put more than half of our salary into savings/investment/retirement, geared up for Christmas, got a few essentials, had a Thanksgiving that was the most peaceful day I’ve had in months, made end-of-year donations to charities. We had a good month all around.

  28. The beer sounds amazing! And can completely agree that a bright headtorch can be so worth it. Have you ever worked out how much it costs to run your Christmas tree lights?

  29. Carol says:

    Oh my goodness the HEADLAMP!!! My hubby LOVES his headlamp(s), not just for hiking (…in case we get delayed for some reason and have to descend in the dark…happened once and it was memorable for me!). He reads in bed with it, early morning outdoor reading & journaling quiet time, and so on. I cannot show him this. He will have no self control! He will have a bad case of Headlamp Envy.

  30. LongtimeFrugal says:

    When one has a wood burning stove, a fake tree is safe (especially if one has felines). Upside of the fake tree, or the Charlie Brown Xmas tree as we called it, is the the kids can assemble it. Then load it with enough ornaments to decorate a 10 foot tree (live or artificial). I never understood my former SIL – she never let her kids decorate EITHER tree (really – two trees?). My kids decorated ours in addition to my folks (geez, can you say only grandkids? lol). The Charlie Brown tree has been rehomed but I have totes of decorations (including collectible Barbie ornaments of the 80s/90s). Perhaps some day I’ll have a grandchild versus grand cats/dog. But until then, I’ll sit on the ornaments of my childhood and my kids.

  31. Pam says:

    Finally looked into switching from Verizon to Ting. Unfortunately, hubby’s flip phone isn’t supported by Ting. 🤣🤣

  32. Margy says:

    Our house is relatively small which we like but our large artificial 15 year old Christmas tree was taking up a lot of room. (The size is ‘needed’ for my 27+ years of ornament collecting). A few years ago we discovered a real bonus of an artificial tree – by leaving out 1/4 of the branches, it fits snugly to a corner of the wall. So much space saved and no one ever notices.

  33. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for the lightbulb link. I have a lamp that uses filament bulbs, the only non-LED or fluorescent bulbs in my condo. Glad I can now replace those non-efficient bulbs.

  34. Dawn says:

    I completely understand the desire for an artificial tree but just feel compelled to say that it is not the only frugal option depending on your lifestyle and preferences. We live in a rural area on 30 acres and are fortunate to be able to go and cut a tree here or on a neighbor’s property for free. When the holidays are over, we put it back in the woods as shelter for the birds and other wild creatures. For those that do not have access to their own forest, I have heard that some state parks and national forests in some areas allow harvesting of Christmas trees. I believe the cost is a donation to the park. https://www.fs.usda.gov/news/releases/usda-forest-service-moves-christmas-tree-permits-recreationgov-2020-season

  35. Annonymous says:

    I used foraged vines, branches and pine cones (so not good inside for foliage sensitive people with seasonal allergies). Used the up-side down tomato cage my neighbors gave when they moved, wrapped pine branches and ivy for my porch Christmas decor. Cost $0.

  36. Katie says:

    Ok had to say hello from New Mexico here- happy to confirm, we can buy a permit to cut a tree from pre-selected forest areas (that are overgrown and need thinning anyway) for just $10 for a tree up to 10 ft tall. You can get a tree up to 20 ft tall for $20. It’s a economical tree, it helps the forest and it’s our favorite event of the season… so fun! Just remember to bring your saw! 😉

  37. Melissa says:

    Hello!
    I was heartened to hear about your christmas tree light woes. One of the reasons I “invested” in an artificial tree a few years ago was because while I LOVE tree lights I hate to put them on the tree. I am anal and it takes me a long time and it hurts my fingers. I have loved my artificial lighted tree until this year a portion of one strand did not light up. I removed the strand and one million plastic attachment thingies and connected a new strand. I didn’t think of just adding lights that worked. Does it drive you bonkers to see the old lights on the tree that aren’t lit up?? I’m wondering now if I wouldn’t have even noticed.
    Peace and love from Portland Oregon.
    Melissa

  38. Jenny says:

    Just curious about the allergy to trees. Is Mr. Frugalwoods only allergic to the trees inside, or what? Does the fresh air dilute the problem, or he just has to put up with it since he lives and works in a forest!
    I love the smell so much.

  39. Nemyinspired says:

    Wow!!!
    Reading your blog always motivates me to be financially prudent. This goes to show that with discipline and having the right set of values, one can live her best life. Merry Christmas in advance to you

  40. CD says:

    Hi the opening photo of the girls is great. They are so BIG! I am wondering if you have found your food bill has risen during the pandemic? We find grocery prices to be much higher in general. It is killing our budget! We slowly switched all of our bulbs to LED’s and we also have the bulbs that are Alexa enabled so we can turn on and off lights from other rooms. Does VT have a program for free LED bulbs and rebates? Can you deduct any repairs on the tractor if you have a homestead you are living off in VT? Thanks for the blog…The isolation is really hard during these long, cold months.

  41. Sam says:

    I love the idea of a shared beer tasting as a way to get the feeling of travel right now. I may try that out!

  42. Sadie says:

    I love your writing style and the info you share. Thank you for writing about this in a fun and engaging way!

  43. Carolyn says:

    We make beer at home as well. Now is lagering season as the cool temperature in our basement allows the longer, slower fermentation. We are going to be adding hops to our garden next year. We are looking at varieties for making IPAs as well as well as the other ales and lagers. We have the stainless steel soda kegs and the CO2 tanks to carbonate our beers. We have also made hard cider as well. Tractor maintenance is definitely a must, we have a long gravel driveway that goes down the hill and turns. My husband fills a plastic barrel with water and straps in onto the back for added weight as well as the chains on the rear tires. He says that the added weight is needed as ballast to offset the weight of the snow in the bucket as he turns the tractor to dump the snow. Being he often clears snow in the dark during the winter, he added a light bar on the rollover bar and a smaller light so he could see backing up, the front headlights are not effective with the bucket use. He mounted them and wired them up himself. He was just like a kid going out at night to see how bright the lights were after he installed them that day. So we do have fun on the homestead.

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