We’re planting a pear, peach, apple and elderberry orchard this spring! Because why not. In a year (two years?) of unrest and insanity, why not plant an entire fruit orchard. We have a long-standing goal of expanding the perennial foods we grow and this’ll be our latest and largest undertaking.
In years past, we planted perennial blueberries, strawberries, currants, cherries and did major remediation work on our existing apple and plum trees. This’ll be our most ambitious perennial endeavor and it feels right. We want to establish a homestead that will bear fruit–quite literally–for our children and grandchildren. Of course they’ll probably all live in New York City and have no interest in farming, BUT they can come visit, right?!?
When planting a tree orchard, one orders baby trees! And so, last month we spent $430.38 on the following (all ordered from Fedco trees):
- Keepsake Apple, 1, on Bud 118 semi-dwarfing stock — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- Dabinett Cider Apple, 1, on standard stock — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- Harrison Cider Apple, 1, on standard stock — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- Kingston Black Cider Apple, 1, on standard stock — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- Cabot Vermont European Pear, 1 — 1 × $31.75 = $31.75
- Luscious European Pear, 1 — 1 × $31.75 = $31.75
- McLaughlin European Pear, 1 — 1 × $31.75 = $31.75
- Nova European Pear, 1 — 1 × $31.75 = $31.75
- Patten European Pear, 1 — 1 × $31.75 = $31.75
- Redhaven Peach, 1 — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- Reliance Peach, 1 — 1 × $30.25 = $30.25
- ‘Adams No. 1’ Elderberry, 1 — 1 × $18.00 = $18.00
- ‘Nova’ Elderberry, 1 — 1 × $18.00 = $18.00
- ‘Wyldewood’ Elderberry, 1 — 1 × $18.00 = $18.00
- ‘York’ Elderberry, 1 — 1 × $18.00 = $18.00
The trees won’t arrive until late spring. I’ll keep you apprised of all orchard development activities in my This Month On The Homestead series as well as the planting of our…
We ordered all of our vegetable seeds for the garden, which means it’ll be seed starting time soon. Hard to believe as we’re socked by snowstorm after snowstorm, but I’m led to believe it will one day melt and we will one day put plants in the dirt again.
The Dryer Is Fixed!
For everyone riveted by the saga of our broken dryer, wonder about my wet laundry no more for the dryer is resurrected! Thanks to my handy husband, $22 of knock-off dryer parts, and my strong arms, we are once again among the tumblers (affiliate link).
Quaint as it was to dry our king-sized sheets in front of the wood stove, I am really, really, really grateful to have a working dryer. We’re still waiting on the parts we ordered from the manufacturer, which might arrive sometime in… 2022?
The knock-off parts we bought are reported to “work for awhile,” so our assumption is that the pulley will snap again, but hopefully by then we’ll have the parts from the manufacturer. Then we can perform the ballet of hefting the dryer down from its perch atop the washer and Mr. Frugalwoods can take it apart for a third time. Good times!
For the second time in my five-year career as a parent, I bought new clothes for my kids. The first time was the purchase of SnowStopper mittens (an affiliate link that I HIGHLY recommend), the second time was last month and the purchase was: footed jammies.
Let me explain:
After three years of disdaining and refusing (with vitriol) to wear footed jammies, Kidwoods decided a few months ago that she is DESPERATE to have footed jammies like her little sister. There were actual tears.
Did I have any footed jams in her size? NO because she spent the last three years telling us how much she hates them, so I stopped buying them at garage sales.
I never buy new clothes for our kids, but decided to make an exception because she was tragically trying to squeeze herself into too-tight footed jams. Carter’s had an after-Christmas sale and I bought 6 pairs for circa $6 each. She is in HEAVEN and now I have 6 pairs of 5T jambos for Littlewoods to grow into one day.
I probably could’ve found cheaper off-brand jammies, but I really love Carter’s jammies. Thanks to my cache of hand-me-downs and garage sale perusals, I’ve learned that not all fleecey jams are created equal.
We’ve had pairs from Old Navy, Kohls, and unknown places and they’re not as soft or as thick and the zippers aren’t as durable (a crucial feature since my kids dress themselves and really wrench those zippers up… ). And now you know the tale of the footed jambo escapade. (affiliate links)
Witches! (in book form)
At the start of the pandemic, I abandoned my previous nighttime reading material (non-fiction slop about politics, current events, and financial matters) in favor of decidedly other-worldly fiction. When the world descended into the SciFi/horror genre, I needed to escape. And so, I read my way through Philippa Gregory’s series on the queens of Tudor (and pre-Tudor) England, a 15-book saga of historical fiction that’s delightful, diverting and easy to read (affiliate link).
Having finished that series, I needed a new not-related-to-real-life literary escape and my friend RG recommended Deborah Harkness’ Discovery of Witches series (affiliate link). I’m halfway through the first book and it is A+, top-notch, diverting, fluffy, delightful. There are witches, there are vampires, they are at Oxford University, there is lots of tea being drunk, manuscripts being pored over and it is just what I need right now.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$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 Capital. Here’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:
- 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. .
- We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry debt other than our 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:
- 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 $200.
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 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.
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: $47.57
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 $2,378.56 on that card, which netted us $47.57.
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 $24.87 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 $24.87 for both of our phones (that’s $12.44 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 an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-away way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*
*the amount we pay fluctuates every month because it’s calibrated to 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 buy as much of our food as possible directly from our farmer neighbors. Our town doesn’t have any stores, so we rely on online ordering and big box stores for necessities. 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?
We pay bills in full the month we receive them. That’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property tax. These expenses show up as the full annual (or bi-annual, etc) amount in the month we pay them.
- We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgages) and we paid cash for our cars.
- Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
- Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
- Here’s an overview of how we save for our kids’ higher education: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College
- We live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, so our utilities and household expenses are different from traditional urban and suburban homes:
- We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up (we take it to a transfer station once a week in bags we purchase from our town), we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer).
- There are, of course, costs associated with maintaining these systems (such as having our septic system pumped and inspected) and those expenses show up in the months we pay them.
- We have solar panels, which account for our low electricity bill.
- For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in January:
|Annual Home Insurance (through Vermont Mutual)||$727.00||The annual cost of coverage for our VT homestead: house, barn, outbuildings, and 66 acres of land|
|Groceries||$589.68||Includes meat and flour purchased from our neighbors|
|Fruit trees||$430.38||See the list above!|
|6 Months of Car Insurance for two vehicles||$225.40||Six months of car insurance through Geico for our 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Toyota Tundra. This is low because:
More about our approach here.
|Household Supplies||$194.07||The thrilling stuff of life, including: dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, shampoo, dental floss, toothbrush head replacements, craft supplies for the kids, and more.|
|Vegetable seeds||$155.43||I’ll do a full rundown of what we’re growing this year in an upcoming This Month On The Homestead installment.|
|Craft Beer||$102.06||For our at-home craft beer tasting dates.|
|Gas for cars||$77.44|
|Witches! (in book form)||$49.25||My latest book series obsession: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (affiliate link).|
|Footed Jammies (6 pairs)||$39.78||6 pairs of footed, fleece 5T jammies from Carter’s for my formerly footed jam hater, Kidwoods (affiliate link).|
|Temperature Sensors||$30.74||Two temperature sensors with probe for freezer alarm usage. Since we store a lot of food in our deep freeze, we got these sensors to let us know if the freezer ever stops working.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$24.87||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 MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.
|Diesel for tractor||$24.19|
|Utilities: Electricity||$23.20||We have solar, which I wrote about here. This is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Dryer parts||$22.22||As discussed last month, here are the knockoff dryer parts, which are currently working fabulously! (affiliate link)|
|Prescription medications||$10.00||Online pharmacy for the win!|