October 2021

I dub thee “The Month of Winter Preparations,” for reasons made obvious below.

The Ski Odyssey

We’ve decided to do the world’s most expensive winter sport. Barring purchasing our own personal hockey rink, I cannot imagine anything being as expensive as skiing. Even the word looks pricey, what with its double i’s.

The jack o’lanterns alongside pumpkins and gourds from our garden

When we moved to Vermont five years ago people asked us three questions, all related to winter:

  1. What kind of tires do you have on your car?
  2. Do you have a generator?
  3. Do you ski?

I have proudly (and perhaps a bit too vehemently) replied ‘no’ to #3. That ends this winter.

At age 5 (almost 6!), Kidwoods wants to ski with her friends. Apparently everyone in Vermont–other than us–learned to ski when they were two years old.

Capitulating to our ski ignorance, Mr. FW, two of our good friends, and I signed up for a local adult learn-to-ski class. There was a questionnaire on what style of ski you prefer and I wrote, “whatever style does not entail me falling down the hill and into a tree.” I am terrified of skiing. I am not a thrill seeker. I prefer a sedate snowshoe through the woods. But, living in fear of something I’ve never done before isn’t really my style (or maybe it is, TBD).

Plus, we can’t take our kids skiing if we ourselves cannot ski. And all the kids ski here. And all the adults. The dogs probably ski too. We live in a state with a six-month-long winter and so we too will fling ourselves down the side of a mountain on foot-based, narrow, plastic boards INTENDED to make us go faster.

A wee witch I spotted in our woods

Despite the obvious and imminent danger, I am excited to do something new. It’s so rare that adults get to do something they’ve never done before. And that excites me. The actual part where I go down a mountain, not so much. But pursuing something I’m afraid of does stir up feelings of empowerment and possibility. I’ll keep you posted on how those feelings go once I’m mountain-side.

Hence, this month shows the costs for:

  • Ski lessons for me and Mr. FW
  • Ski lessons for Kidwoods
  • A ski season pass for me and Mr. FW (entrance is not included with the price of adult lessons, although it is with kid lessons)
  • A season-long rental of skis and boots for Kidwoods, plus the purchase of goggles
  • The purchase of helmets and goggles for the adults

I did a ton of research into whether we should rent or buy skis and boots this first year and everything pointed to renting. Since we’re never skied before (and might never again), it didn’t make sense to buy skis and boots because even used options are $$$$$. Ditto for Kidwoods. Plus, she’s still growing so there’s no guarantee the gear will fit her next year (or even for this whole season). We rented her stuff from a local place offering a season-long rental for $99 with free size-up exchanges. So, if your kid grows during the season, you can take in the skis and boots to exchange them for a bigger size at no extra cost. Our friend kindly gave us a hand-me-down ski helmet for Kidwoods, we bought goggles for her, and helmets and goggles for ourselves since those are not included in the ski & boot rental. YIKES there’s a lot of gear involved with this thing!

Once we know whether or not we’re going to continue with this torture sport as a family, we’ll try to buy used gear for all of us. We decided not to start Littlewoods in the ski program this year because at age 3, she’s just not ready.

Winter Fuel

Our driveway = not friendly for big trucks

I ordered our annual supply of propane and oil this month. We use propane for our kitchen stove/oven and the oil is our back-up heat. While we primarily heat via our woodstove, we have an oil boiler that serves as our back-up. If we ever go out of town during the winter (and thus can’t feed the woodstove), or the temperature drops precipitously overnight, the oil heat kicks on to keep the house warm enough that the pipes won’t freeze.

In our climate, where -20F isn’t uncommon, it’s wise to have more than one heat source. We don’t burn all that much oil every winter, but I still like to top up our oil tank annually, just to be safe.

Due to the length and hilliness of our driveway, we can’t get oil or propane deliveries once the snow sets in–the trucks just can’t make it down our driveway. A point driven home last year when the oil delivery truck got stuck on our driveway on a sunny October afternoon with no snow or ice in sight. Even in perfect weather, our driveway is treacherous for large trucks.

Other Winter Prep Items:

  • Land survey:
    • We’re trying to get a survey of our property done this fall before the snow sets in, so you’ll see the downpayment on that service this month.
  • Halloween! Littlewoods announced, “I will NOT smile”

    Chicken warming devices:

  • Chimney sweep:
    • We had our chimney swept and cleaned to ensure we have a safe wood-burning season all winter long.
  • A bunch of round files and a bunch of flat files for sharpening chainsaw chains:
    • It’s important to have a sharp chainsaw ready to fell firewood and remove trees that fall across our driveway–something they love to do during ice storms (affiliate link).
  • Car wash:
    • Alright, this is the dumbest $16 I’ve spent all year. Our Prius, which is white, was coated in the normal spring/summer Vermont ephemera. In other words, mud. Being low to the ground, white, and driven on a lot of dirt roads, that thing was tragic.
    • I was in town with Kidwoods to pick up her rental skis and had the brilliant idea to get a car wash. I thought it would be smart to wash the mud off before the winter road salt set in. However. This was a ‘city car wash’ not intended to contend with rural dirt. The Prius emerged slightly less muddy, but by no means ‘clean.’
    • On the other hand, Kidwoods had SO MUCH FUN riding through the car wash that I should just recategorize that $16 as “kid entertainment.”
    • If I actually want the cars to get clean, I’ll have to scrub them myself. TBD if that’ll actually happen as I’m feeling a strong pull towards… nope.
  • Littlewoods continued to not smile, put hands on hips, turned around, but remained in the frame

    Thrift Store Scores:

    • Now that the kids are in school, I can go to thrift stores again!!!! As any parent of small ones will tell you, trying to navigate a garage sale or thrift store with a child in tow should on the UN’s list of “things that are torture.”
    • Given that, I’ve been absent from the thrift stores for, oh, about five years. But no more!!!!! I find most of our kids’ stuff–clothes, books, toys, puzzles, games, shoes, birthday and Christmas gifts–at garage sales, which happen only in the summertime. But thrift stores are another fabulous source of used items.
    • I went to two thrift stores and, for a grand total of $49.75, bought the following:
      • Three winter coats for the kids, one of them brand new with tags on!
      • One pair of kid winter gloves
      • One puzzle (to be given as a birthday or Christmas gift)
      • One princess snow globe (to be given as a birthday or Christmas gift)
      • A dress for me (I mean, I was already in the store, so… )
      • A jean jacket for me
      • A dress for Kidwoods
      • A dress for Littlewoods
      • Three pairs of shoes for the kids (two of which I donated to the school because they needed some extra sneakers for gym class days if kids forget theirs–something both of mine have managed to do, uh, several times already this year… )
      • One Superwoman costume to be used on a future Halloween
    • A great haul for $50! I will never stop touting the value, the economy, the efficiency, the fun and the environmental-friendliness of buying used. If you’re interested in getting started with used shopping, I have a guide for ya: How to Thrift Like a Rockstar: Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead and Focus on Depreciation.

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Little witch runs through the upper field

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

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:

The jack o’lanterns all aglow

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. Excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target® for grocery  benefits.
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

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: $95

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 $4,750.21 on that card, which netted us $95.

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 $28.28 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 $28.28 for both of our phones (that’s $14.14 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?

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 October:

Item Amount Notes
Ski lessons and ski season passes for me and Mr. FW $1,763.00 They promise this is a beginner class. It better be.
Retainer for Surveyor $1,250.00 Downpayment to reserve a spot to have our property surveyed
Heating oil $643.59 A top up of our oil tanks to ensure we have this back-up heat source for the winter.
Beer, wine and liquor $409.39 Another winter stock-up item. Don’t be caught without in a snowstorm!
Groceries $408.55
Dates! $297.48 The husband + wife lunch dates while the kids are at school continue. Worth every penny!
Household supplies, all from Walmart.com $238.56 We started ordering online from Walmart during the pandemic and have continued to do so because they offer free shipping for orders over $35 (and the nearest store is 45 minutes away from us).

I find Walmart’s prices particularly good for toiletries (shampoo, soap, vitamins, etc), household stuff (laundry detergent, band-aids, etc) and kids’ stuff I can’t find used, most recently for backpacks, lunchboxes and soccer shin guards (affiliate links).

Ski helmets and goggles for the adults $237.42
Gas for cars $204.86
Chimney Sweep $175.00
Ski rental $134.98 Season-long rental of boots and skis for Kidwoods, plus the purchase of goggles.
Propane $97.15 Annual top up of our propane, which we use for cooking.
Fiber internet $72.00
Local chickens $67.00 We buy whole, frozen chickens from our neighbor
BJ’s annual membership renewal $55.00 It continues to be a good deal for us to have a membership to BJ’s (a warehouse store similar to Costco or Sam’s Club).
Chainsaw sharpening accoutrements $51.58 A bunch of round files and a bunch of flat files for sharpening the chainsaws (affiliate link).
Thrift store scores $49.75 See above for the full list of scores!
Winter basketball program registration fee $48.00 Now that the soccer season’s over, Kidwoods is excited to be on the kindergarten basketball team! This’ll take place over the next few months and end when the ski season starts. I’m trying to keep us to one kid activity at a time!
Pajama pants for me $40.00 Two pairs of my favorite, soft pajama leggings.
Family lunch out $38.90 The four of us had lunch with friends outside at a local farm a few Saturdays ago.
A soccer ball, workbooks, and tea lights $35.90 One youth soccer ball for kicking into my walls, preK workbooks for Littlewoods who is desperate to have workbooks to do just like her big sister:

… and some tea light candles (affiliate links).

C02 replacement for our hacked sodasteam machine $33.92
Utilities: Electricity $31.33 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Cell phone service for two phones $28.28 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.

Doctor visit co-pay $25.00
Chicken food $21.98
Chicken wintertime warming mechanism $19.07 We got this outdoor smart plug for the chicken coop’s light and water heater (affiliate link).
Car wash $16.00 Better known as “kid entertainment”
Prescription co-pay $10.00
Total: $6,503.69

How was your October?

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  1. We have three thrift stores in our community that are really close by. Normally my daughter (4) and I will visit them together. She knows if we’re looking for something specific and enjoys the hunt. Otherwise she loves to check out the toys but doesn’t normally ask for anything because she understands we won’t buy anything. Haha I love to see her get excited about used things and understand they are just as good as new (most of the time). I think thrifting with kids is important.

    Also definitely understand the joy of looking alone too and being able to really have a good look around the store.

  2. Yeah, you should ski if you can afford it. The kids will love it and take to it like little ducks to water. You sound like me– I learned in my 40’s after moving North and never got beyond the bunny slopes. Which i loved though– the view, the air, the “little” rush of the mini slope. Got to know the lift guy real well. My kids were off on the big slopes in days, big grins. I don’t like heights, speed or thrills either, but I did end up enjoying it a lot.

    1. Yep, I’m envisioning that’ll be me–just up and down on the bunny slope while the kids go flying!

      1. I started in my forties after moving to Vermont, and dang! I got pretty proficient – blues and blacks! But it’s all about those lessons. I had a few false starts earlier in life on occasional ski resort visits to the adirondacks and New Mexico when I lived in Texas. Bottom line, there’s no shortcut….incremental steps, don’t do more than you’re comfortable with, and I suspect you’ll be great!

  3. Hello🤗
    I am very interested in the leggings/PJs you mention.
    Can you share a link for them….picture…fabric content?
    I love a comfy legging and a recommend is highly appreciated 🙏

  4. If you go back to the car wash for entertainment purposes you should ask if it costs extra to go back through until your car is clean. I found out after parking near a tree with some sort of very sticky rotting fruit one winter that my local car wash will let you go back through for free if your car doesn’t come clean the first time. It took three runs to get that fruit all the way off.

  5. Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, VT is a great place for all kinds of outdoor gear but particularly ski gear. Enjoy learning something new!

      1. If XC classic style not near as scary. XC skating is a bit more adventurous (read: scarier). The ability to snowplow and herringbone is the key.
        $1250 for a survey – YIKES. We also have a heavily wooded lot but the survey wasn’t near that much. Guess it just depends on where you live.

  6. Did you call around for the best price on propane or did you save time and go with who you had last year?

    And yay for skiing!

    1. We joined a local fuel club for our oil and propane, which locks us into low per gallon prices with an annual $40 membership fee. This is our second year and so far, I’m super impressed with the prices!

  7. Be on the lookout for Vermonters free ski days – most of the slopes offer them at least once per season and they are usually mid week, perfect for a date and a good way to check out different slopes.

    1. Yes – there are so many mid week deals for skiing including those free days! We usually take off a day in the spring to do one of the cheap mountains like Bretton Woods $17 days!

  8. Ah the joys of living in Vermont! At least skiing is cheaper as you don’t have to add in gas prices to drive 3+ hours to the mountains, lodging and food while you’re up there. I really miss skiing – it’s too hard with a toddler who I am trying to keep out of the lodge in a COVID world. Pre-COVID, she was happy to hang out with someone who wasn’t skiing. Now she would be a banshee running up and down the halls. I am going to look for some small XC skis for her for our backyard this winter though!

    1. I cannot speak to snow skiing only to water skiing. My 9 year old daughter was up on water skis the 3rd time she tried on the same day. Me, as an adult, took dozens of times trying to get up and stay up. I was physically very fit but had bird legs and could not keep my legs together and also could not pull myself into a standing position. After numerous water enemas, face bruises, sore legs and wounded pride, I finally got up and stayed up and enjoyed the sport for over 2 more decades. I can still see my daughter in the boat yelling to my husband “she’s up, no, she’s down”. There is a lot of fun and frustration in learning something new but so worth being able to be out with your family enjoying the same sport.

  9. I tried to learn to ski as an adult and found that my ‘mature’ brain was too afraid of falling to allow me to really embrace the sport. Sad. But a good thing to discover.

    I do, however, love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, both of which can be done with a lot less investment and with less peril to life and limb.

  10. SKi lodges have nice fireplaces with availability of hot chocolate for the non-skiiers. (I went once, ripped the skis off halfway down and walked the rest of the way.)
    Get a pressure washer for the car. You will be surprised the uses that you find for it and it’s surprisingly entertaining. There are even youtube channels for watching people pressure wash.

  11. I miss skiing! But i hate speed and falling so wouldn’t even consider downhill. I picked up cross country as an adult when I moved to Alaska and a friend gifted me her skis and boots. I never spent a penny on the sport and it made for many wonderful hours with just the shush-shush-shush of skis on snow (the sound varies depending on the temperature). Fairbanks has (or had) great trails where I could just step out the backyard and connect in – not fancy groomed but still worked well. Then I moved to a rural village and could ski along wherever a snow machine had gone. I saved the snowshoeing for the deep powder and always preferred the skis for moving along. Happy memories!

  12. I didn’t learn to ski until I was in my 20s. My husband started as a child and wanted his kids to learn to ski. We started them at 3 yrs old at our local ski hill, “Mouse House”. Through the ski program we met other families and built life-long friendships. We got equipment from friends and at the local ski swap, and bought our season passes during yearly sales. My kids are now 31 and 28, love to ski, and we all ski together. Skiing is a family affair. I hope you have the same great experience.

  13. I am so jealous of the skiing. It’s so much fun! You can also look and see if your local ski area offers a swap day. I picked up boots and skis for ~$150. It’s the best way to get still good gear for cheap! (As cheap as skiing gets anyways)

  14. I am from the deep South, When I was in college (January 1978 to be exact) in Utah I went to Sundance Resort to take ski lessons. Robert Redford owned it then, and was 40ish and at the top of his career. I managed to fall down almost immediately, when it was my turn, during the lessons. I looked up and who do I see skiing down the slope (while I have face planted myself in the snow and can barely see through my snow covered eyes since somehow I managed to lose my goggles on the fall), yes, Robert Redford, in all his blond glory. He looked at me. He actually slowed down as he was skiing by. I was memorized and gawking with my mouth wide open. I was so thrilled, until I realized (1) I am on the ground, covered with snow, hopelessly tangled in ski hell. (2) I have lost my pole in addition to my goggles and cannot get up. That, my friends, was my one and only ski lesson. Believe me, you can only go up from where I “landed” in my first lesson and only lesson….lol

  15. You’re gonna love skiing and be very happy you got the lessons. We go to Stowe every winter, and love seeing the school kids cross country skiing for gym, and hearing about the high school downhill team. Although we’ve cross country skied for a number of years, we decided to take a lesson one day after having a struggle in some areas…what a game changer!!! And the guy who was our instructor was in his 70’s and a former Olympian! Worth every penny. He even taught us how to warm up our hands if we get too cold…something that can make you want to turn back.

  16. I live near Berkshire East in Charlemont. Part of the winter school curriculum was the choice of skiing, cross country skiing, and ice skating. This was for six weeks, and it started when my son was in second grade. He’s a great skier. I just could never get the courage to do it. I walked up the mountain with him in the summer, looked down, and said to myself, not for me! So good for you and your husband! My son would go in the afternoon when the price went down. Berkshire East is a great place for kids to learn; if you can ski Berkshire East (Berkshire ice), you can ski anywhere.

  17. I’m not sure if it will be worthwhile, but is walmart.com on ebates? I have been using ebates for purchases I make and continue to get cash back. We have been buying our household staple items on walmart.ca and I always get a little bit of cashback for buying from Walmart. There are other stores as well (amazon used to provide some cash back pre pandemic) and occasional coupons.

  18. I started skiing with my kids at 35! It was the best thing ever, to learn something so out of my confort zone made me feel as if I could do anything!! I took some courses and built up some confidence over the years. I am now 40 and looking forward to go back on the hills every winter. Every first time I feel like a beginner again but I enjoy the winters so much more. It’s such a fun outdoor activity that the whole family enjoys. We rent the skis for the kids each year and I bought mine second hand, I hope you love it, you’ll see it grows on you!

  19. Welcome to the ski/snowboard world! My husband and I both grew up skiing and it’s one of our favorite things to do together in the winter. We’ll be starting our 2 year old on skiis this year, which admittedly will probably be fruitless, but it’s all about getting out of the house and playing in the snow! Looking forward to reading your experiences and remember…if at first you don’t succeed…try another day with different snow conditions!

  20. Regarding mud on cars – If you have some sort of higher-pressure washer (power washer would be good if you can adjust the pressure, you don’t want to take the paint off) for getting mud off, that might be your best option. If not, one of the you-wash-it locations may be your best shot, but the last one I was near had a big “NO MUD” sign. Of course, there is rarely anyone there to stop you.

    I also recommend silver-colored cars. They may show mud, but they hardly show dirt. Unfortunately, I let hubby and daughter pick the color of the last vehicle we bought, and it is red. Sigh. It is telling that after that, when daughter bought her first car herself, she bought silver.

  21. We live in BC so have many mountain ski resorts on our doorstep. I am so afraid of heights, can’t get on the lift so downhill is out for me. I went up once in summer to see the wild flowers and had to be driven back down by the staff! Never again. Looking at the expense I’m happy to be firmly planted on the ground.

  22. The skiing is essential to not “going bonkers” during a Vermont winter! I take the cheapskate route and cross country and snowshoe on the paths on our property.

  23. First time commenting, but have been following for a few years. I live a very similar life, and relate to almost every post! I live on 20 acres, sort of homestead, in Michigan. I have 2.5 and 4.5 year old girls and we love winter! You’ll live skiing, I’m also starting to teach my 4.5 year old to ski. Just wanted to say, we also set up an outdoor rink last winter and it was awesome! My oldest daughter learned to skate quickly and we went skating every day for about 8weeks. I built it with friends with 2×10 lumber, ordered a liner and filled with water. You should try it, we are doing it again this year and adding outdoor lights! Just need to find a level spot. Bring on the cold and snow!

  24. Hi Liz,
    I’ve been looking at your grocery numbers and it appears the peak was in May. When I look at my own numbers, the peak was in April. We have both been downtrending since the summer. I wonder if the transitory inflation peak was in the Spring or this is just coincidental.

  25. I’m terrified of heights. Skiing is the stuff of my nightmares, but you go and have fun! I accept that I can never do anything that involves being up high, and especially that includes going back down low in a fast, hard-to-control manner, and I begrudge no one their fun of doing it.
    Be aware that most likely, while you and Mr. FG are still stumbling along trying to figure out how to point your skis, your child will be streaking down the hills as if she was born to it.

  26. If/when you decide to purchase ski gear, Roces has an adjustable ski boot for kids. I got pairs for my kids last year. Level Nine has them for $99 a pair often and should last your kids years!

  27. I’m one of those who learned to ski as a tyke and I have 0 recollection of it being difficult. Kids just pick it up. The good thing is there are bunny hills and greens you can stick to if that’s your style. Have fun learning something new!

  28. You’ll have a blast skiing. I learned to ski as a child, and like you, my father learned to ski with me out of a sense of obligation, so I wouldn’t go tearing off onto the slopes without parental supervision. Turned out he loved it, and was the only one in family who eventually bought his own pair of skis and boots!

  29. Good luck with your downhill ski adventures! If you ever want a frugal hack for skiing in future years, try taking up xc skiing. It is like hiking on skis, and you can stick to flat terrain or hilly terrain, in an ungroomed back yard or in a groomed xc ski resort. Day passes often go for less than $20, and you can often find used xc skis for anywhere from $10 to $100. In the years when my husband snowboarded at resorts, I’d always drop him off and then go to the nearest xc ski trails. Now we usually go xc skiing together on ungroomed terrain that doesn’t cost a penny, and we have a secondhand ski trailer to tow our baby. He’s an adrenaline junkie and I just like a pleasant day in the woods/mountains, and we both are more than satisfied after a day of xc skiing.

  30. Can’t wait to hear the outcome of the ski story! I tried to learn at 10 years old, I think that was too late 😂, terrifying T-bar ride and out of control downhill. But I have managed to ride many a serious chairlift or much better, gondolas, to accompany my husband snowboarding. And ski lodges are great places to hang out! Good luck, I’m rooting for you!

    1. I’m with you on the gondola–ENCLOSED, please–and the ski lodge! We’ll see about the actual skiing… hahah

  31. My Vermont-dwelling sister says the best place for outdoorsy type clothes is the Goodwill in Burlington … lots of clothes donated by college students.

    I often wonder about using electricity to heat your home since you have solar … though I guess there would be the cost of installing electric heating systems.

    1. Oooo great tip on the Burlington Goodwill–I’ll have to check that out next time we’re up that way. I actually just scored a ski coat for Mr. FW at the thrift store today and a pair of snowpants for me!

      1. The thrift store in Richmond is legit amazing. They get all the unsold stuff from consignment shops, so very good quality at Low prices. Lots of outdoor gear there in the winter half of the year at good prices

    2. There is also a store in Burlington that seels used ski/snowboard gear that lots of the students use to score ski clothes and equipment (of course, not my daughter who only uses new…(roll eyes)).

  32. My husband and I are also hoping to get back into downhill skiing this winter, spurred on by our kids’ interest. We’re not complete newbies, but haven’t skied in 20 years (ample time for me to develop a fear of moving quickly downhill…). I’m also looking to purchase ski goggles and helmets for us, while we plan to rent the other gear until we decide whether we are too old/stiff/scared to re-enter skiing. Any recommendation for adult ski helmets/goggles from your purchasing experience?

  33. Please make sure to teach your kids how to stop as part of their first lesson. When my granddaughter was learning to ski, (she was about the age of your oldest), she came flying down a hill and could not stop. Had her arms outstretched and broke both of them when she hit the lodge. She’s ok now and did eventually get back on skis but if only somebody had considered the possibility of such a situation and drilled her in what to do.

    1. Oh yikes, that’s awful! I’m so sorry! This is one of the reasons why we’re happy to pay experts to teach us–and our kids–how to ski. I feel much more comfortable putting my daughter on skis knowing she’ll be taught by a professional and not by me!!

  34. Not sure exactly where you’re located but if you are near the Upper Valley and eventually want to purchase equipment, the annual Ford Sayre Ski Swap could be a great option for used equipment. Good luck, and enjoy!

  35. Please enlighten us about ACA! We are on Medicare but having to rely on marketplace for our two college age daughters. We are comfortable “middle income” so get no help with premiums. It is open enrollment and we must change plans. The one we had is going up a great deal for 2022!

  36. Hooray for thrift stores! I treated myself to an outing a couple of weeks ago and basically won Christmas for my toddler for $20. Potato Head family, Scuttlebug, a toy barnyard, and I even found an abacus! To top it off, I scored a play kitchen from my Buy Nothing Group! All the exclamation points!

    And good luck skiing. Believe it or not, it’s easier to ski off the bunny hills when you have a little speed under you because you can use the mountain to control your course. And hey, if alpine isn’t your thing, cross country is also awesome. Or, you know, sipping a mocha by the fire in the lodge.

  37. I’m jealous because skiing (both skate skiing and downhill) are my very favorite pastimes. I grew up skiing every Saturday during the winter from age 4 on and those are some of my happiest memories. You are doing a wonderful thing for your children! I taught my husband when we were dating and he got really good and proposed to me on a ski slope. Now, we are eager to teach our kids. I’m especially jealous of you because I fractured my leg a month ago so no skiing for me this season. I’m going to miss it so much!
    And ditto on the ski swaps. We just got used skis and boot and helmets at one for two kids- $79 skis and $39 boots. Definitely worth it, especially if we have a few kids and can pass them among siblings. Good luck this season! You will love it!

  38. Skiing is well worth every penny spent. I think that your family will embrace the feeling of freedom, the wonderful sensation of flying, fresh mountain air, and beautiful Vermont winter scenery. You and your children will strengthen bonds with your friends and neighbors that join you on the slopes as part of a regular routine. Winter will be fun instead of confining. An additional expense needed for your budget will be maintaining the edges and waxing the skis. Your husband may want to purchase the edging tools and wax to do this yourselves. Otherwise, you will spend a bit of money for each set of skis every five or six visits to the slope. Maintaining ski edges is very important for safety and control. I am a very frugal person and made the mistake of trying to get my money’s worth by making the most of my season pass. All the time I ran a calculation in my head of dividing my annual expense by the number of runs. I tried really hard to get this number into the single digits. My painful lesson both mentally and physically that I learned the hard way is that if you are tired or not feeling well, do not go skiing. If you or your kids want to go home after one or two runs, then do so without arguing that you did not get your money’s worth after spending money for gas and getting ready. My skiing accident was very costly in terms of my psyche and physical health. I will never buy a skiing pass again and simply pay for a ticket if I really want to go skiing.

  39. I totally agree with Donna. Once I noticed after a carwash my window was not clean at all. So I asked an employee for for advice and the response was to drive through the carwash again. Free of charge and the guy with the pressure hose took care of the enormous bird dropping before I entered the carwash again and came out blinking like a diamond!

  40. I’ve been skiing and snowboarding since I was 2… 36 years later, I still ride multiple times a week. We have so much gear. I give and donate and swap all the time adult and kids gear.

    Ask your buy nothing group, neighbors, friends. You will be fully set up for free if you start asking around. Be specific with sizes of both skin’s and boots. For kids stuff I collect any size bigger and then give it back to the community once we’re done with it.

  41. Siing is a lovely way to spend a day if it is sunny and not terribly cold. I XC and Downhill. Just keep to the beginner and intermediate trials and make sure you invest in clothing that will keep you warm (very important!!!). It is a wonderful way to have a beautiful view and enjoy being outside. I taught my kids as soon as they could walk well (1/5-2 years old) but holding them between my legs – had to do it this way becasue they were too. young for the ski schools, but it worked! We live in MA, but both my kids chose to go to college in VT and they both enjoy skiing!

  42. Skiing for the win! My kids had 5 one hour group lessons and we’re tearing up the slopes. I had only skied a few times in high school but decided to jump back in. We buy gear for my husband and I and rent for the kids for about $100 per season. We ended up skiing 38 days last winter! We went with Pico season passes because kids under 7 ski free and if you do their early season pass buy, you get a free kids pass with each adult pass. That means 5 of us on the mountain for $1050 in passes and $300 in rentals. That worked our to $35 per day for all five of us. Pandemic winter meant not much else to do! We have enough friends and family who do the same that there is always multiple families skiing on any one day and plenty of opportunities for our kids to ski with us or with their cousins/friends. We teach each others’ kids to ski and snowboard as part of our everyday. Kids learn FAST!

    It definitely makes winter a time to look forward to rather then slog through!

  43. As a Midwesterner, I never skied until living in Connecticut in the 80s. I was about 26, but it was hard for me. Maybe the icy conditions in Connecticut scared me. Even though I never felt comfortable on steep slopes, it was a great adventure and I still remember fondly a couple of trips to Vermont with friends. But back on flat ground now!
    Your girls are lucky to start as kids.

  44. Love that you guys are getting into skiing! It’s absolutely essential to surviving New England winters (mentally) and, now that Mr. FW is retired, you can take advantage of some great (cheaper, less-crowded) mid-week snow! Strong suggestion for next season if you’re ready to commit: invest in good, professionally-fitted, new boots. Boots “pack” overtime, meaning the liners wear out and they’re not as responsive as they were intended. You shouldn’t They also vary a lot from foot to foot, level to level, etc. Definitely worth the money to have a local professional bootfitter get you setup. You can probably find some great skis used, but my strong recommendation, as a lifelong New Englander and skier, is to invest in good boots! also, i think you guys would love doing Classic XC on your property. Much cheaper and easier!

  45. Is there a reason you didn’t chose to snowboard? Based on everything I’ve seen and discussed with my friends who board (I’ve skied since I was 8), equipment for snowboarding is less expensive, and frankly the boots look more comfortable (although now I use custom molded liners with my shells.

    Another pro tip is that while you can but used skis and poles all day, don’t buy used boots. Buy new boots from a shop that have a good reputation for fitting. Because most everyone who skis a bunch will need to have their boots custom adjusted to relieve pain points. A good local shop will include these adjustments for free or discount them. If you bring a pair of boots in that you got somewhere else, they will charge. A good boot fitter is essential to a comfortable ski day, as if your boots are too tight, they will kill your feet and restrict blood flow so on cold days, you will be miserable. Also, make sure you have good waterproof pants and jackets. In early season, rainy/icy/sleet days are common, and if you paid for lessons, they won’t be rescheduled due to weather…nothing worse than being cold wet and tired from a beginner lesson

  46. Yay for learning to skiing!

    I spent my winters in high school in Maine teaching kiddos how to ski. It is not a glorious job, but it was fun for a while. If you and the kiddo have the same instructor for the season, I recommend a nice little thank you gift at the end. It doesn’t have to be much (like a $10 gift card to a coffee shop goes a long way), but ski instructors make minimum wage and it’s a very physical job. I spent too many hours bending over holding kids’ skis together to form the “pizza” because they didn’t have the leg muscles to hold the wedge and stop or kids just running into me. Kids generally pick up skiing fast, but some don’t and that’s totally normal. I’ve seen way too many kids that parents made lie about their age so they could get “free babysitting” for the day. Your kids seem very independent and this probably won’t be an issue, but for others who might read this comment, it’s best to drop the kids off at their lessons and leave. Don’t watch from the sidelines because as soon as some children see their parents, that’s it. They will cry for the rest of the lesson and not want to ski. I was that child growing up, but as the instructor, it was super frustrating as I was generally teaching a group of 5-12 kids any day.

    If you fall in love with skiing, many ski clubs often have annual ski swaps where you can get new equipment or gently used equipment for huge discounts. In Maine, the Downeast Ski Club does one in Portland. I’m not sure what is available in Vermont, but I’m sure there are places in the White Mountains that offer similar options. And I definitely recommend continuing to rent for kids. They grow so fast that it’s not worth it to buy equipment every year. My sisters and I always went through tons of hand-me-downs growing up. I also recommend putting special stickers or something to mark your skis. You’ll be surprised how many kiddos will have the same skis and it’s never fun to play the “which ones are mine” game! 🙂

  47. I’ve lived in Utah — land of the “world’ best skiing” — for nearly my whole life, and yet…I’ve never been, nor do I have any desire to learn. However, I am very eager to live vicariously through your experience of it all!!

  48. We ski VT all winter (and the rest of the tri state)… it’s an AWESOME way to have a family activity with teens that we can still all do together. We still rent for the kids annually….much better deal with growth and they beat the heck out of the skis on the terrain parks. However, Costco often has great helmets and backup gloves for the kids. The ski carrying strap is the best $8-10 I’ve ever spent as I HATE leaning/carrying skis on my shoulders, and that thing rolls right up into my pants pocket to walk back and forth to the car. They have them for little kids too, the sooner they can carry their own equipment, the better!!! My kids mock me for that strap, but I do NOT care. Couple of other tips: Local ski clubs offer discount and trial days all over VT and MA for ski days, and have socials. Ikon and Epic should be considered for next year if you really love it once you get out there. ….. And if you love your own rented equipment, you can often negotiate a really great discount to buy vs return at the end of the season. Have fun. It’s a beautiful excuse to be outside in the winter.

  49. I 100% support your family investment in skiing! It’s such a healthy way of spending time outside together recreating during winter. I was lucky and started skiing when I was real young so I don’t know what it’s like to learn as an adult. But I do know you are offering such a gift to your kids by introducing them to the sport.

  50. Skiing is soooo worth the money! I always choke a little on the pass/lift ticket prices, but once you have the gear the expenses go down. Just my two cents- good used gear is not that much cheaper than buying new at the end of the season, and you get the benefit of a professional fit which really makes a difference. We look forward to ski season every year- when other people are complaining about winter weather we say “bring it on!”

  51. A few thoughts:
    1: If you have a Buy Nothing group in your area, this is a stellar resource for almost anything. My local group has given away appliances and a car, as outlier examples, but great for clothing of all kinds, household goods, some foods, pretty much anything I’ve wanted. It’s also a great way to pass along things I’m no longer using.
    2: I was unable to afford ski lessons, so I checked out books from the library, then went to a local ski area and “fell down” near where beginner lessons were being conducted. Learned a lot that way! I became a comfortable intermediate skier with no professional lessons at all. I can vouch for the thrill of speeding down the snow with the wind in one’s face. It’s a great sport. Here in the PNW, we have bigger mountains than you do in Vermont, so I have every confidence you & fam will be loving it soon. Good luck!

  52. Highly recommend Nordic/x-country skiing! The hills are less terrifying, the speed less intense, the gear 1000x cheaper, and the whole outing can be built around toasting a sandwich over a woodstove while drinking wine you bought in your backpack. It’s the best winter sport (and I use the word loosely) of all time.

  53. When it is time to buy ski’s, check to see if your local ski patrol has a gear sale in the fall. I’m a retired patroller and got all my gear that way, paying about $25 for a decent pair of skis for myself and $10 for kid skis and boots.

  54. Way late on this post, but so glad you’re all trying skiing!! It’s expensive, but SO WORTH IT. I’ve never, ever regretted spending money on skiing. You know that feeling you get when you’re scrolling through Instagram and realize an hour has passed and you feel sluggish and irritated? The feeling you get skiing is the exact opposite of that – you feel alive, exhilarated, cold, nervous, proud, tired, brave. It’s the best. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t try it as an adult!

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