September 2021

Daisy chicken: the first of her name, the smallest of the flock, the first to lay an egg

Our chickens graced us with their first egg, which made us realize that if we don’t want to go on a daily Easter egg hunt, we needed a way to kindly suggest where they might like to deposit. Enter these wooden eggs (affiliate link).

Much like real eggs, they are oval and brown and nestled into the nesting box of our chicken coop, in the hopes of encouraging their factual counterparts to join them. To date, results are mixed. The ersatz eggs are shuffled around by chicken feet and sometimes there’s a genuine article in their midst.

Other times, I find eggs at the top of the chicken exit ramp, in the middle of the coop–not helpful–or next to the food dish. I mean, I get it, who wouldn’t want to eat and lay at the same time?

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.

Settling Into the School Routine

Never have I ever been so grateful for the simplicity and beauty of a school routine. Our kids are both back to in-person learning and we are all of us thrilled. Ecstatic. They love it, we love it and the chickens appreciate the reduction in their kid-facilitated snuggling regime.

I don’t think the chickens are sad to be receiving less, uh, love

Preschool for Littlewoods costs $20 a day, a fee we happily pay. Vermont provides 10 hours per week of free pre-k education to all children ages 3 to 5 and we pay for the additional hours so that her day aligns with Kidwoods’ school day.

Kidwoods joined the Kindergarten soccer “team” and gets out on the field to kick and run with unbridled glee. The participation fee was $48, I borrowed a pair of cleats from a friend and found these shin guards for $4.88 (affiliate link).

Kidwoods’ swim lessons this summer were our first foray into kid activities and so far, I’m glad we waited until age five. At five, she’s excited, ready to participate and not (too) shy about bounding off to join the group. We’ll hold off on signing Littlewoods (age 3) up for extracurriculars until she’s five as well.

So far, it feels like one activity at a time is a good pace for us since I don’t want the kids (or myself) to be over-scheduled and hectic. We need time to play in the woods and read by the woodstove! Not to mention snuggle chickens…

Wife + Husband + Kids at School = Weekday Dates

The first egg!!!

Speaking of the fabulous school routine, now that Mr. FW’s early retired–and my job remains supremely flexible–we’ve started going on a weekly lunch date!

We drop the girls off at school, drive to a gorgeous spot in our gorgeous state, enjoy lunch, a coffee, a stroll and then drive back to pick them up from school in the afternoon. I love that we don’t have to hire a babysitter or make reservations or pay dinner prices or stay up past our 8:30pm bedtime!

The only hitch is that there aren’t all that many places open for lunch on weekdays, but this is a hardship we are overcoming ;).

I’ve had the dream of weekday dates since our kids were born and it feels amazing to make it happen. This is one of those examples of mindful, values-based spending.

My husband and I like spending time together, it is important for us to do so without our children, and we like good food and beer. Winning all around. This is why you’ll see line items for restaurants and coffee shops this month!

Another Liz Haircut: The Pixie Continues

I’m keeping the pixie! Here it is grown out, right before I got it cut again. I’m thrilled that it grows out just fine for three months in between cuts.

I’ve decided to keep my pixie cut! I don’t think I’ll ever go long again, I love it so much. It’s beyond easy to style, it takes no time, it always looks nice and it’s not flying in my face when I’m doing yoga/hiking/cleaning out the chicken coop/working in the garden.

I’ve also decided to continue paying my local stylist to cut it for me because she does an awesome job and I want to support her work.

One of my BFFs and I have established the tradition of going to get our hair cut together and then out to lunch! She takes half a day off work, I take half a day off life, we carpool to town and we have a fabulous time.

We’ve decided to go four times a year, roughly every three months, which feels reasonable from a cost and hair maintence perspective.

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. 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 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

Chicken love

We buy everything we 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 also think I spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of each month.

  2. We get rewards. Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, we 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 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:

If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are some good options that don’t have annual fees:

Kidwoods with an apple from one of our trees

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 a $200 statement credit if you spend $2,000 within the first 6 months of card membership

2) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • 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) Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery stores.
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
  • Get $200 if you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Kidwoods nominated herself to collect the first egg

4) Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards.
  • 3% cash back on dining and drugstores.
  • 1.5% cash back 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.

If you’re interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

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: $36.14

Peeking through our apple trees

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 $1,807.12 on that card, which netted us $36.14.

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 $28.42 for Cell Phone Service (for two phones)

Fall leaves behind Glamour Shed and the chicken coop

Our cell phone service line item is not a typ0 (although that certainly is). We really and truly only paid $28.42 for both of our phones (that’s $14.21 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
  • Littlewoods in our woods

    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?

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 September:

Item Amount Notes
Groceries $574.62
Preschool $440.00 $20 per day for Littlewoods’ preschool.
Gas for cars $350.84 You can tell we’ve been traversing the state on our weekday dates!
Restaurants $187.04 Weekly weekday dates!
Household Supplies $162.02 All the riveting accoutrements of life, including the aforementioned $4.88 shin guards, laundry detergent, soap, craft/art supplies, toothpaste, etc, etc and so forth (affiliate link).
Beer, wine and liquor $99.23
Haircut for Liz $82.80
Utilities: Internet $72.00
Soccer for Kidwoods $48.00 Participation fee
Chicken Food $47.96 Ba-GAWK!
Book $37.63 The Vermont Almanac
Farm supplies $29.72 Cider yeast (for our homemade apple cider) and an outdoor water dish for the chickens
Utilities: Electricity $29.07 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Cell phone service for two phones $28.42 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.

Coffee Shops $26.98 Weekly weekday dates!
Pharmacy $25.94
Replacement Tire for Prius $20.00 The Prius got a tire puncture that neither Mr. FW nor our mechanic could patch.
Leveler Feet $18.37 Leveler Feet for table saw out-feed table build (affiliate link).
Wooden Eggs $12.71 Wooden eggs for chicken instructional purposes (affiliate link).
USPS $4.00 Shipping
Parking Meter $3.35 For parking while on a weekly weekday date
TOTAL: $2,300.70

How was your September?

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.

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  1. Vermont seems very family-friendly if they offer preschool for such a small fee? I live in Sweden and my municipality charges around $100 per child 3+ years. (15h are usually free of charge). Are taxes higher in Vermont than other US states? Do women generally work more hours when child care is this available?

    1. Yes taxes are higher in Vermont than other states. I would absolutely work more if this type of care was available!

    2. I agree! $20 a day beyond the ~40 hours a month free seems very low. Can you outline the number of hours per day $20 pays for (or how many hours/day the $440 per month pays for?) New Orleans rates are around $1100/mo for 8 hr/day.

  2. Yes taxes are higher in Vermont than other states. I would absolutely work more if this type of care was available!

  3. Ping pong balls work just as well as wooden eggs! I’ve generally not had that problem, but once, last summer, my chickens decided that they preferred a new outdoor spot under our back steps for laying. It was a bit hard to reach, so I popped a few ping pong balls into their nesting boxes and they were back there in no time! (Nothing like a foreign object in your nest to make you assert ownership!)

  4. With the tip added, I pay $28 a haircut with an extremely talented stylist. Perhaps you could shop around? It is cute, though! 😀

  5. The kid’s activities are so much fun and allow them to explore and to hone their skills. The lessons can add up, especially as they get older when monthly fees are often over $100. My kids also started activities in kindergarten and are now 8 and 11. We set a rule early on that if we pay for a lesson they have to see it through the pay/refund period. One cool thing has been that they do not always take a shine to what I think they are going to, so it is nice for them to pick out and try out different things.

  6. Not a chicken expert but you might want to try putting a couple partitions in the nest box area. Think “cubby hole” size.

    1. Absolutely agree. Chickens like privacy. It is also not unusual for the young girls to drop eggs wherever. They will eventually seek the privacy of their nest box. You may also find ‘soft eggs’ where no hard shell has formed. This is not unusual for first time egg layers. Your ladies are so pretty!

    2. I agree. You may be having laying issues because the chickens think wide spaces are ok to lay in since the “box” is so big. Milk crate size + or – depending on your breeds I should think. Best of luck from a fellow chicken hobbyist!

    3. We have partitions in our nesting boxes and they work well. Golf balls also are good for hens to sit on. We leave some in all the time which has served us well……a chicken snake swallowed two thinking it was getting eggs.

  7. Have you tried the Tuckerbox Restaurant in White River? Fantastic place….Lebanese/Greek. We were there last week and highly recommend! They still had outdoor seating.

  8. I love that Littlewoods seems so comfortable now with the chickens, even though they look huge in her arms! She had been a bit nervous around animals it seemed before you got the chicks. So adorable.

  9. The girls might “love” on the chickens less if you got another dog lol! Do you ever think you will get another one again? I remember seeing your sweet greyhound here years back.

  10. From one fellow chicken-keeper to another, you could try dividing up your nesting area into three separate cubbies. Hens like their privacy, you know 😉 . The girls will figure it out. Thank you for sharing your knowledge over the years – appreciate your wisdom and humor!

  11. Hi! Love your site. A quick question to the non-USA audience? Is there a Canadian equivalent to the Personal Capital service? RBC dropped its MyFinanceTracker built-in app. I am missing it so much and worried eventually there will be drift in managing our finances.


  12. Seconding the request for your tire shopping secrets! I’m afraid my elderly Toyota needs a new one soon and I’m not looking forward to shelling out!

  13. Not sure how close you are to Hill Farmstead, but you must go if you haven’t already. My fave microbrewery in VT and in a lovely area (though I swear entire state looks like a picture postcard besides the Rutland area). 🙂

  14. There were times when the only way we would find where our hens were laying eggs was when they became broody and started sitting on their nest!

  15. It’s wonderful to get glimpses of your life post-early retirement—getting to enjoy the freedoms and enjoying life. This line said it well: “she takes half a day off work, I take half a day of life…”. I would love to hear more about the lifestyle shift post retirement and how you both fill your days 🙂

    Also very in love with your hairstyle and it looks simply beautiful on you. Does it work for finer hair do you think?

  16. I don’t see your health insurance listed? I thought since Mr. F retired you were going with ACA insurance? My acct. AND my state health dept rep told me to be very careful getting that, since there can be a backload charge during tax time. Just wondering how you make out with it. My husband also just retired early, but he went on my work insurance (ouch)

  17. I’m also team short hair. Short hair for the win! It’s literally my crowning glory and the only thing I splurge on! So worth it for me. I look put together with minimal effort on my part haha.

  18. 20$ for a new tire? That must be a mistake…. I mean, I know that prices are cheaper in the US compared to Canada, but 20$? Here, for a cheap one, installed on the rim, you’re looking at around 125$. Lucky you!

  19. Sounds like your family has settled into a lovely fall routine and that everyone is finding a great new groove! I really like the idea of weekly lunch dates and friend haircut dates. Loving your hair and that you found a stylist you trust. That can be a process of trial and error, but when you find them, it’s magic. Thanks for the uplifting post, as always!

  20. Love everything about your blog — so, so informative (and the kiddos pictures are so darn cute)! Is there any place here where you talk about auto insurance? I have looked but must have missed it. THANK YOU Frugalwoods for all the info you provide

  21. I would like to know how you got a Prius tire for $20? Was it used? We also have a Prius and love it. One reason I wanted it was for car camping, which we have done a few times. You can run the heat or air all night long. Thanks in advance!

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