The Ballet and Other May 2021 Expenses
May 2021 was the month of the fully vaccinated! Mr. FW and I both got our second shots of the Moderna vaccine, waited the requisite two weeks and then were FULLY VAXXED! The feeling of freedom, the feeling of normalcy creeping back in, the gratitude to the amazing scientists who made mRNA technology possible, is almost overwhelming. My first action as a fully vaccinated individual was to take Kidwoods out on a mommy daughter date!
Ballet Vermont: 10 out of 10, Would Attend Again
I surprised Kidwoods, now aged five, with a road trip to see Ballet Vermont in one of their legendary Farm to Ballet outdoor performances, Bees and Friends. I HIGHLY recommend this if you too have a ballet-loving child. There were a ton of little kids in the audience and no one minded the occasional child-related noise (in Kidwoods’ case, it was her very loud commenting on how beautiful the dancing was).
I’m not sure we’re quite ready for an indoor performance (or able to sit without making noise or moving for several hours), so outdoor ballet was perfect for us. Plus, the tickets were very reasonable at $25 for adults and $10 for kids ages 5 and up (under 5’s are free). I was thrilled to again be able to support the arts in Vermont. And, potential highlight of the entire outing: I bought Kidwoods an ice cream cone to eat during the performance.
I also took her out to brunch beforehand at one of our favorite local restaurants, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier. They have a gorgeous outdoor seating deck and we both spent a good portion of our outing staring at people. My apologies to all people at whom we stared. And many thanks to Frugalwoods reader Catherine who spotted us and said hello! Such a joy to meet her and her adorable family. Apologies to this month’s budget as well as June’s budget… I predict quite a few brunches this summer. I regret nothing.
My second act as a fully vaccinated individual was to go out for…
Tapas with my Friends!
In continuation of my own personal Restaurant Week, my girlfriends and I went out for tapas at another gorgeous outdoor dining patio. I am really loving outdoor dining and hope it sticks around post-pandemic! After 14 months of absolutely no dining out and no take-out (we live too far away, nowhere delivers to us), I am ready to roll! I’m also delighted to be able to support local restaurants again.
My third act as a fully vaccinated individual was to….
Stock Up for Visitors!!!!
I stocked up on food, beer, wine and alcohol in preparation for our summer of guests!!! My in-laws, my sister and her kids, my sister-in-law, possibly my brother, my parents, some friends…. lots of folks are coming to the homestead this summer.
The Chicken Coop
Our biggest non-food expenses were materials for the chicken coop, which Mr. FW is building. It’s progressing beautifully and just in time as our chickens are no longer fluffy babies! They’ve entered the hawk-ward phase of chicken growth: the teenage stage.
Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$
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 or how much you have. 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 me 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
We buy everything we 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 we don’t have any debt, 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 Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage
- The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
- The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience
If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are some good options that don’t have annual fees:
1) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a hierarchy of cash back percentages:
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
- 2% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores
- 1% Cash Back on other purchases
- Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases in the first 6 months of card membership (up to $150 back)
- Earn $100 back if you spend $2,000 within the first 6 months of card membership
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 or more in purchases within the first three months of card membership
- 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
- 2% at grocery stores
- 1% on all other purchases
- Cash back won’t expire for the life of the account; no limit to how much you can earn
- Get $200 if you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
- 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores
- 1.5% on all other purchases
- No minimum to redeem for cash back, rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- Earn $200 if you spend $500 in your first 3 months from account opening
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, 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: $52.54
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 $2,626.84 on that card, which netted us $52.54.
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.
To see how this adds up over the course of a year, check out this post: The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage.
Where’s Your Money?
Another easy way to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in your favor as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you. Having money in a no or low interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:
Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 0.40% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,020. That means you earned $20 just by having your money in a high-interest account.
And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low or no interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person.
Be the person who earns money while sleeping. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.
Yes, We Only Paid $29.73 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 $29.73 for both of our phones (that’s $14.86 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 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: How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill with an MVNO: I Pay $12 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 (also known as our first home) 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 don’t have a mortgage because we paid it off (I’ll write a full post on that soon!).
- 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 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 May:
|Groceries||$1,001.44||It’s hard to say what happened here… uh, whoops?|
|Chicken Coop Materials||$518.67|
|Beer, wine and alcohol||$278.47||Stocking up in anticipation of our many summer visitors|
|Bulk food order from our local co-op||$164.33||White whole wheat flour, whole grain oats and all purpose flour|
|Gas for cars||$161.06|
|Household supplies||$133.46||Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, kid craft supplies, toothpaste, bandaids, vitamins and more.|
|Food storage bins||$74.16||We use pet food storage bins for our bulk flour and oats. Way cheaper than “human” food storage bins, but effective and food safe (affiliate link).|
|Tapas||$71.95||Tapas with my girlfriends!|
|Replacement summer tire for Prius||$68.48||One of the Prius’s summer tires was punctured with something pointy and rude. This is its replacement.|
|Dinner fundraiser||$50||Our friend’s kid’s school did a take-out dinner fundraiser, which we were happy to support (and eat!).|
|Lunch out with my best five-year-old||$47.68||Mommy-daughter date brunch|
|Tickets for the Ballet Vermont performance||$40.40|
|C02 refill for our hacked Sodastream||$38.69|
|THE CHICKENS!||$36.24||Our twelve adorable–and totally ungrateful–baby chicks, which we brought home in early May.|
|EZPass Refill||$30||For interstate tolls|
|Mobile phone service (for two phones)||$29.73||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.
|Curry pastes||$25.62||A variety of curry pastes not available at our local market (affiliate link).|
|Utilities: Electric||$23.27||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Dish soap dispenser||$20.59||Our in-sink soap dispenser broke, so we’re hoping this replacement will be more long-lived (affiliate link).|
|Carburetor||$19.07||Carburetor to fix lawn mower (affiliate link)|
|Coffee filters||$18.76||Coffee filters for our fancy, at home, pour-over coffee (affiliate link).|
|Hand Cream||$13.98||Despite it being summer, my extremely dry hands started acting up again. This is the only hand cream that works for me (affiliate link).|
|Snacks||$12.97||Snacks during the ballet performance!|
How was May for you?
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