June was the month of post-vaccination celebration! And yes, I realize it’s almost August and I’m just now writing about June, but we’ve been a tad busy, in a wonderful way.
All manner of family visited in June (and July), we hosted, we dined, we went out to restaurants (!!!!). It was glorious. After the 15-month drought of isolation, which involved not seeing any of our family members, this summer is a warm balm of reconnection and celebration.
I have to tell you that we didn’t think about our spending one single time during this month-long bacchanal. One of the most profound gifts of financial independence–and frugality–is the ability to have months like this. The freedom to–occassionally, not every month–loose the financial reins. The key for me is to keep these wild spending sprees rare enough that they’re true treats, but often enough that I don’t feel deprived in my daily life. That balance is different for everyone, but I think options and freedom are the universal benefits of living a financially conscious life.
Aside from our extensive dining out, brewery visiting, hosting, and groceries for guests, there were a few notable expenses:
Advertiser Disclosure: Frugalwoods partners with CardRatings for coverage of credit card products. Frugalwoods and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers at no extra cost to you. Here’s a boring (but important) explanation of how Frugalwoods makes money. The credit card links in this post are affiliate links.
My fabulous in-laws are here for the summer and so we bought two car seats for their car so that we don’t have to swap seats between our car and theirs. Worth every penny to avoid continual hassle.
The chicken coop is now complete! June saw several more materials-related purchases of lumber, paint and hardware.
Believe it or not, I got a haircut. A real, live haircut in an actual salon by an actual professional. Longtime readers know my husband’s been my hairdresser for the last seven years, but I broke that streak last month with my first official haircut.
As you saw above, I went pixie!!! You all might remember my short v. long hair dilemma of a few years back and I finally pulled the trigger and got it chopped. I LOVE IT. It’s short, it’s bouncy, it takes zero work. I hop out of the shower, put in conditioner, comb it, add some scrunching gel and…. that’s it!!!! My hair routine is now almost as fast as Mr. Frugalwoods’! Almost.
I’m not yet sure if I’ll try to maintain the pixie myself or go back to my hair lady. I really liked my hair lady and she did an awesome job. Right now, I’m waiting to see how quickly my hair grows and how soon I’ll need a trim. I had her cut it really, really short so that I have a lot of growing room.
I don’t envision myself ever, ever having long hair again, but I’m willing to let the pixie grow shaggy before chopping it super duper short again. I’m almost two months post-cut and I still like how it looks, so TBD how often it’ll need a trim.
I’m also considering buzzing it and then letting that grow out. TBD! Folks with super short hair–how do you keep it short? As a lifelong long-haired, I need your advice!
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: $81.51
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 $4,075.52 on that card, which netted us $81.51.
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 $31.90 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 $31.90 for both of our phones (that’s $15.95 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 June:
|Groceries||$887.81||For us and our house guests! Money well spent.|
|Hotel stay!||$627.35||Pre-payment for a hotel for our 13th wedding anniversary kid-free trip (thank you to my in-laws for keeping the kids!)|
|Restaurants||$494.77||Woohoo!!! Party time, excellent.|
|Visits to breweries, distilleries plus gifts and gift cards for family and guests||$396.05||More excellent party time.|
|Car seats||$312.05||Two car seats for my in-laws’ car|
|TSA pre-check renewal||$170.00||Decided to renew our TSA pre-check. Seems worth it–we’ve liked having it the last five years.|
|Chicken coop supplies||$161.16||Lumber and hardware for Mr. FW to finish building the chicken coop|
|Household supplies||$152.25||The thrilling things of life: laundry detergent, toilet paper, dishwasher soap, vitamins, craft supplies for the kids, etc etc etc…|
|Gas for cars||$137.66||Had to drive a lot to all those restaurants and breweries!|
|Seven local whole chickens (frozen)||$127.00||From a neighbor’s farm, to roast|
|Restaurant gift card gift for family||$100.00|
|DMV||$76.00||Truck registration renewal|
|My haircut + tax and tip||$74.40|
|Chicken feed and shavings||$70.71|
|Summer clothes for Mr. FW||$64.79||Some new shorts, shoes and shirts for Mr. FW for the summer|
|Truckload of 50/50 dirt compost||$64.45||To top off our raised bed garden|
|Wine shipping stewardship club from wine.com||$51.94||This is my wine.com free shipping membership, which is SO WORTH IT. I buy wine for all of my family members for holidays and birthdays and, since none of them live nearby, I have to ship it to them.
This annual expense entitles me to free shipping for all of my purchases, which pays for itself in roughly two orders.
|Second set of swimsuits||$47.63||I bought a second set of swimsuits for the kids to keep at my in-laws house. I love these full-body SPF suits for Littlewoods and for Kidwoods (affiliate link).|
|Noise machine||$46.98||A noise machine for the kids’ bedroom at my in-laws’ house (can you tell I do not like carting things back and forth?). I now own four of these noise machines and I love them (affiliate link).|
|Tires||$36.49||Mount and balance a new car tire, plus a new tube for the lawnmower’s tire|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$31.90||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.
|Utilities: Electricity||$24.24||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Carpenter’s Pencils||$19.27||My carpenter is tired of losing his pencils, so we bought this pack of 72 carpenter’s pencils (affiliate link).|
|Hand cream for me||$15.89||My favorite dry hand combat tool: O’Keefe’s Hand Cream (affiliate link).|
|Coffee shop!||$11.15||Decadent, lovely visits to coffee shops!|
|Parking in the city||$3.35||Parking meter|
How was your June?
Advertiser Disclosure: Frugalwoods partners with CardRatings for coverage of credit card products. Frugalwoods and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers at no extra cost to you.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.