The Thanksgiving Turkey And Other November 2021 Expenses

November 2021 was the Month of Cars and Carving

I am confident our cars are in a covert coven requiring them to break down in synchronization. Far be it for one car to have an issue and the other car to be fine. Nope. We must have parity in all things and we, the cars, remain unsympathetic to your transportation needs.

Kidwoods, now SIX years old!!!

In the most spectacular break-down I’ve ever experienced, the Prius began emitting an ear-splitting, interminable beep as I was pulling into the school parking lot to pick the kids up one afternoon. There were no dashboard lights and zero indication of where this unremitting beep stemmed from. The car itself was screaming, “HELP HELP HELP!” from the bowels of its existence.

In case anyone else owns a Toyota Prius and has this happen to them, this was the car informing me that the brakes were completely shot. Thankfully, I made it safely to school and parked before all of the brake fluid flowed out. And I do mean all of the brake fluid. A novel experience for me, having never before had a car berate me so personally, so intentionally, so loudly. And so, the Prius was towed to the mechanic’s and its brakes were fixed.

Feeling neglected, the truck decided to throw a rock onto its windshield in a desperate, and I must say successful, bid for our attention. We ignored the crack for a week. Two weeks. Three weeks. A month. The truck escalated things by branching the crack out across the entire windshield. Ok, truck, you got your wish: a brand new, $315 windshield.

Cars, are you both happy now? Satisfied that we’ve paid enough attention to you? Yes? Good. Remember that nice leisurely tow and your shiny new glass the next time you have the urge to pop off.

Public transit and walkability are the things I miss most about living in the city. The fact that we must own two cars in order to survive out here is the biggest, and really the only, downside. I loved my car-free walking, biking, subway-riding city days and think of them fondly as I’m driving down a dirt road in a car that’s screaming at me. But, on balance, it’s worth the trade-off for our nature-encased life.

Updated 12/11/21:

There were a lot of questions about our cars in the comments section and I appreciate everyone’s concerns regarding the Frugalwoods fleet. I realize I didn’t outline the entire car story and so, since there is so much interest, I’ll be happy to. Buckle up, it’s a long story :)!:
-Both of our cars are 2010’s, which we’ve owned and religiously maintained since 2015 (Prius) and 2018 (Tundra truck)
-The Prius had been inspected and serviced by our mechanic a mere WEEK prior to the brake failure. We’d had those brakes replaced on schedule as well. Sometimes, things happen.
-The truck windshield crack was not the type that could be filled–we certainly would’ve done that if it’d been a possibility.
-The reason we didn’t have insurance cover the windshield is that we very intentionally do not have comprehensive insurance because we can afford to pay cash for these sort of repairs (or to replace the car entirely if needed). It’s much less expensive overall for us to go this route and to instead carry the absolute maximum in liability.
-We actually began car shopping last spring for something to replace the aging Prius, but, as you all have seen in the news, the supply chain has made cars unbelievably expensive and flat out unavailable. We spent months researching used Toyota RAV4s as well as Honda CRVs and think we’ve narrowed our search down to recent-year RAV4s.
-We found that many of the used RAV4s on the market were actually MORE expensive than brand new RAV4s!
-Upon learning this, we called all the dealers in our region to see about buying a–gasp–brand new car. Their responses were that they had no inventory and did not know when they’d have new ones in stock as all available and upcoming stock was taken by folks on waiting lists. But, they’d be happy to sell us used RAV4s for over the asking price of a 2022 model. YIKES!
-After this exhaustive research (along with saved Craigslist searches and local private sale research), we determined that now is not the time to replace the Prius. Our hope is that things normalize in the auto market by spring/summer and we can move forward with replacing that car.
-All that to say, rest assured folks, we’ve done our research and arrived at what we feel are the best decisions for our family.
-I’ll post this up in the post so folks can easily refer to it.

Thanksgiving Tenderness

Littlewoods helping me make the pumpkin crisp!

We had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving this year and it was a JOY to be around the table with my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law and her new girlfriend (who we got to meet in-person for the first time)! Such a warm change from last year’s pandemic holiday. We are deeply grateful that all of us are vaccinated and were able to celebrate together.

We went as local as possible with our ingredients, including an 18lb turkey, potatoes, and cranberries from a farm down the road, sage from our garden, cider pressed from our apples and eggs from our very own chickens!

Kidwoods turned SIX in November and we celebrated with a family party the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The benefit of a holiday(ish) birthdate is that she usually gets to have a party with at least some of our extended family! Among her birthday gifts was the princess snow globe I found at a thrift store last month. She has it on her bedside table and told us it was the best present ever. $3 very well spent.

Thrift Store Success

My thrift store success streak continued this month and I found:

  • A winter ski coat for Mr. FW for our upcoming ski terrorization lessons
  • A pair of snow bibs for me
  • A bunch of clothes for the kids
  • A bunch of books for the kids
  • HOLIDAY-THEMED coffee mugs (a definite need)
  • Some other winter gear I neglected to write down and now can’t remember…. gloves, maybe?
  • Two dresses for me (I know, I know! I need to restrain myself… )
  • Some other stuff… oh geez, I really should’ve written it down right after I bought it…

Littlewoods Lunch Date

Littlewoods in the snow!

In November, Littlewoods had a day off preschool on a day where Kidwoods did have school. So, I took her out for a very special and fancy lunch date: I bought sandwiches, chips and cans of seltzer from a general store and we ate them in the car together.

Since she’s not old enough to be vaccinated, I’m not keen on her eating inside a restaurant. No problem as you would think I’d taken her to the Ritz Carlton for high tea. She was ELATED and could not stop talking about it.

A good reminder to me of how special one-on-one time is for each of my kids—and how cheap it can be! Sandwiches eaten together in the car = major win.

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

The birthday girl with her specific request: store-bought mini cupcakes

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:

My homemade maple pecan pies!

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.

This year’s Christmas postcard

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, which is $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: $71.31

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 $3,565.59 on that card, which netted us $71.31.

And the other side of the postcard

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).

Me hiking in November

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 November:

Item Amount Notes
Prius repairs / towing $854.98 See above for details.
Groceries $752.47 Thanksgiving feast items + regular food for the month.
Preschool Tuition $740.00 For Littlewoods
Household supplies $495.56 All the thrilling tidbits of life: laundry detergent, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, craft supplies for the kids, vitamins, tissues, medications, etc
Beer, wine and alcohol for Thanksgiving hosting $413.67
Windshield for Truck $315.00 Blerg. I hope it appreciates it.
Gas for cars $221.08
Restaurants $195.63 For husband + wife lunch dates while the kids are at school!
Tractor Supply $87.07 Chicken feed, something else for the chickens, some other farm stuff… I really can’t remember
Thrift store $85.50 Scores!
The Thanksgiving Turkey $79.00 An 18.5 lb free-range turkey raised on a farm right down the road.
Christmas cards $74.18 I continued my tradition of ordering Christmas postcards, the cheapest option because:

1) No need to buy envelopes

2) Postcard stamps are cheaper than regular stamps

3) The postcards themselves cost less than regular cards

Internet $72.00
Three chickens $66.40 Three whole frozen, free-range chickens from a farm down the road.
New hydraulic hose for wood splitter $64.71 Things break all the time out here on the homestead. Breaking all over the place, non-stop.
Stamps $60.00 For mailing out our Christmas cards!
Outdoor camera $38.14 Another outdoor camera to monitor snowfall and wildlife (affiliate link).
Woodstove item $35.00 New diverter plate for the woodstove
Utilities: Electricity $28.57 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.

Lunch date with Littlewoods $17.98 The very Fancy and Special sandwiches, chips and seltzer eaten-in-the-car dining event of the year.
Local cranberries and potatoes $17.50 For the Thanksgiving feast!
Coffee date with my husband! $13.40
Yeast $8.79 1lb of yeast, for use in our homemade sandwich bread (affiliate link).
Parking meter in ye olde Big City $3.35
TOTAL: $4,768.26

How was your November?

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89 Responses

  1. l says:

    Would you mind sharing which thrift stores you shop at? “Just another frugal Vermonter who loves thrift store shopping!”

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love all thrift stores, hahah! Anytime we’re on a day trip, I try to find a thrift store :). A few that I frequent are the Listen stores down in WRJ/Lebanon as well as Uplifting Thrifting in WRJ. Happy thrifting!

  2. gosia says:

    How do you like your Wyze camera? Thanks!

  3. BETH G says:

    An amusing tale. But glad the vehicles got the attention they so badly needed! And the pictures this month are especially adorable!

    • Jean says:

      Love all of your pictures, your mommy/daughter lunch date also. I just have to weigh in on the car breakdown issues. We have always bought new cars for the safety and lack of breakdown issues which is another safety factor in that we have not been stranded on the side of the road and at anyones mercy out in the country. You are fortunate that your car waited until it pulled into the school lot to completely break down. You and your husband are frugal rich and I just don’t think you should be buying 10 year old or older autos anymore. I would be so frightened if my daughter or granddaughter were driving really old cars, having to be out in the dark in the winter especially. I know, I know, new cars can breakdown too but not nearly as much as old ones. You need one super safe and reliable car for trips and for hauling your kids around. The other can get old or be old when purchased. My motto has always been safety first. You would not buy used ripped and worn chaps for mr F to use when felling trees, I just encourage you to think about the problems breaking down on an isolated road could cause. You will not be harming your image to purchase a new car. My parents had to buy used cars and they were always breaking down and a complete headache for my parents who fortunately lived most of their lives in florida. P.S. I am not a new car salesman!!

      • Eileen says:

        Are their cars that old? I suspect that had they bought them brand new, they’d still be the owners anyway. With the convenience of cell phones, the risk of getting stranded is pretty low.

        • Jean says:

          Incidents after a breakdown can happen in minutes, seconds. A phone call would be easy to do if you have not already become a victim, waiting on the side of the road for a tow. I honestly don’t mean to be an alarmist but you have to look at the situation of a young mother stranded with 2 small children in a remote area. I am 70 years old and can recall numerous such incidents of abductions in cases of breakdowns. If you can take one step more to make yourself safer when you have the means to do so, why not do it. Also by reading previous posts from this couple, they try to stock up on stuff in case they get snowed in from a nasty blizzard, so I think their household supplies, food and liquor lasts a lot longer than a month. I love reading your posts just as they are and do not want to see you change the name. You are still very frugal in so many ways with clothing household furniture, decor, etc. You are now able to really live a luxuriously frugal lifestyle and you should!!

          • Claire says:

            Everyone’s priorities are different. It’s a stretch to say that the Frugalwoods, who drive two well maintained 2010 vehicles that they’ve owned for 5ish years, who don’t have daily work commutes, who have the means to pay for all necessary repairs, and who own cell phones are putting their young children at risk while driving. Of course, engineers are always working on improving safety in new cars, but that doesn’t automatically mean that old cars are unsafe.

          • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

            I appreciate everyone’s concerns regarding the Frugalwoods fleet and I realize I didn’t outline the entire car story in the above post. Since there is so much interest, I’ll be happy to. Buckle up, it’s a long story :)!:
            -Both of our cars are 2010’s, which we’ve owned and religiously maintained since 2015 (Prius) and 2018 (Tundra truck)
            -The Prius had been inspected and serviced by our mechanic a mere WEEK prior to the brake failure. We’d had those brakes replaced on schedule as well. Sometimes, things happen.
            -The truck windshield crack was not the type that could be filled–we certainly would’ve done that if it’d been a possibility.
            -The reason we didn’t have insurance cover the windshield is that we very intentionally do not have comprehensive insurance because we can afford to pay cash for these sort of repairs (or to replace the car entirely if needed). It’s much less expensive overall for us to go this route and to instead carry the absolute maximum in liability.
            -We actually began car shopping last spring for something to replace the aging Prius, but, as you all have seen in the news, the supply chain has made cars unbelievably expensive and flat out unavailable. We spent months researching used Toyota RAV4s as well as Honda CRVs and think we’ve narrowed our search down to recent-year RAV4s.
            -We found that many of the used RAV4s on the market were actually MORE expensive than brand new RAV4s!
            -Upon learning this, we called all the dealers in our region to see about buying a–gasp–brand new car. Their responses were that they had no inventory and did not know when they’d have new ones in stock as all available and upcoming stock was taken by folks on waiting lists. But, they’d be happy to sell us used RAV4s for over the asking price of a 2022 model. YIKES!
            -After this exhaustive research (along with saved Craigslist searches and local private sale research), we determined that now is not the time to replace the Prius. Our hope is that things normalize in the auto market by spring/summer and we can move forward with replacing that car.
            -All that to say, rest assured folks, we’ve done our research and arrived at what we feel are the best decisions for our family.
            -I’ll post this up in the post so folks can easily refer to it.

        • Julie says:

          They bought them with 100k miles on them. I think th3 Prius is a 2010. There’s a post about it.

      • Dianne says:

        We have older cars as well. A 2003 and 2009. We have had these autos since they were new. We kept very good care of these autos and I have no fear of breaking down. I, too live out in a rural area. If I were to break down, I have a cell phone and auto membership that would come out and tow me. Or I would have my hubby bring his 2003 truck to rescue me. If you want a new car, that is fine. You’ll always pay higher rates for insurance and always have a car payment. I haven’t had a car payment in 8 years! Both vehicles are closing on 200K miles and ride like brand new. When I need to buy a car, I will buy one that has been just turned in on a lease. Low miles. The key to longevity is keeping the car up. I’ve spent way less money on maintenance than what a car payment would of cost me in 8 years x 2! Which would be $64,000.

        • Jean says:

          I agree, nooooo car payments, cash only. We have not had a payment in 40 years. We buy new and trade them when there is still value in the car which makes us not have to put out 40 or 50 thousand. More like 20 thousand with the trade. When you have a frugal lifestyle in other ways and have invested your money to grow, these are things you are able to do when your investments have done well.

          • Davin says:

            I know it’s possibly a tossup based on new car fuel economy, but I feel like requiring a new car so often requires the car companies to keep making you a new car, which feels like it’s pretty crumby for the environment. Which could still actually break down even though it’s new. If you take care of what you have and fix it as it goes, cars can be reliable for a pretty long time.

        • Anne says:

          Agree. I bought a 2007 about 9 months ago with 100k miles for $1k. It looks terrible but the engine is in good shape and it has been really reliable. I have a reasonably priced and trustworthy mechanic a mile away who I bring it to if the slightest thing seems wrong, and the cost of maintaining it really well is tiny compared to the cost of a new or nearly new vehicle.

      • Kay says:

        Over the nearly 52 years my husband & I have been married, we’ve had a number of cars, with winners & losers along the way. However, I have to agree with some of the others here, Jean. If you buy a car just a couple of years old, you save the big depreciation that happens the minute you drive the car off the dealership lot, and still get years of trouble-free use IF you choose your car model carefully. We bought our 1999 Toyota Camry in 2001, and it has been the best, most trouble-free car ever! Okay, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of newer models, and now has 135,000 miles on it, but we love it. Also, we paid cash at a dealership for a low-mileage 2013 Lexus ES 350 in 2020, and it runs like new. We bought a new car once, and it was one of the worst cars we ever drove, dealer servicing or not (no wonder Pontiacs are no longer sold). Just our experience . . .

        • Fifi says:

          Kay I am SO jealous of your Camry! I am amazed it is still on the road (unless i misread)! My 2001 Camry was the best car EVER and I still wish i had it! Sadly I had to replace it in 2017. But i served me SO well. I bought it in 2010 when i got my first job out of university as a consultant in autism services. For a few years I was driving 3100 miles A MONTH! And all I ever had to do was replace brakes and tires and the occasional small thing, and of course monthly oil change. It was the XLE model so it was such a comfortable and luxurious car even though it was old.
          Anyways my love-rant is over hehe!

      • wallies says:

        Agreed Jean. Why wouldn’t Liz buy the SAFEST and BEST car they could possibly afford? What is a better use of money than your family’s safety and security?

  4. Kate Semple says:

    I consider myself very lucky that my cost of car ownership is pretty low because we drive older vehicles maintained by my mechanic hubby, but it does mean that often if there is an issue it takes time to get fixed and we’re down to one vehicle while also living in practically the middle of nowhere. But it somehow always works itself out. It definitely beats a monthly car payment!

  5. Shea says:

    I laughed out loud at your car repair stories. It’s fun to look back and laugh at these things a month later when it’s no longer so damn stressful. I’m kind of convinced these type of stories are why people name their cars- so they can personify their frustrations. I’ll say “Old Blue”- my powder blue ’95 Cadillac was a luxurious old lady with expensive tastes.

  6. Beth says:

    Always fun to see your updates! Do you think you all will ever have another family dog? I miss reading about (and seeing photos of) Frugalhound’s adventures!

  7. Maria says:

    I sometimes consider living outside my town again, but then I remember the car problems and related bills… Im so happy to have my job, good cheap food stores, most of my friends and everything else I need within 20 minutes on bike (and it’s even possible to use the bike in the winter, with snow tires of course). I haven’t owned a car in 8 years. Car sharing and renting is (where I’m in life right now) enough to meet my needs. So blessed.

  8. Anna says:

    Hi Liz, I love reading about your life in Vermont, and admire your feeling of contentment, but isn’t it time the blog gets renamed as it is less and less about frugal living, and more and more about your family’s life in rural America on a high-middle class budget? I understand that life in rural places can be in some ways more expensive than life in the city, but spending $4500+ a month (mortgage or rent payment excluded) is not really frugal. $400 for alcohol, $800 for food, $500 for household supplies is not frugal. I believe your increasing budget simply reflects the level of income/wealth you have achieved, and I have no problem with that, but perhaps when you started the blog, you were frugal by necessity and that was the whole beauty of it, and now that you no longer need to be frugal, you can spend almost $5000 a month. My point is not how much you spend or how you live, but that this kind of budget/spending should not be under the banner of “frugal” because it isn’t. I hope this is not seen as criticism because it isn’t. I just think that the blog gives its followers the impression that $80,000 a year (housing included) of expenses is frugal.

    • Candace says:

      I guess we all define frugal differently. I’ve always defined it as spending carefully and thoughtfully, spending as little as possible on the things that don’t bring me happiness so I can spend on the things that do. Living frugally gives you the freedom to live as you wish rather than doing what it takes to stay afloat. What we choose to spend on or how much will be different for each individual. In this sense Frugalwoods is indeed frugal.

    • Cyndi says:

      I’d rather she not rebrand at this point 🙂 Also, her other monthly expenses are usually quite a bit lower than this month’s in particular. They are spending more this month to celebrate the holidays (and pay for auto repairs), and their frugalness is how they got to this point.

      • AW says:

        Agreed, I don’t want a rebrand. I agree that some of the expenses are not super frugal for those that started reading the blog recently. But for those of us who have been reading for years, we see the evolution. And that’s the whole point, the frugality was a means to an end. Like her clothes buying ban. She did it for years, but it was never supposed to be forever. And some thrift store dresses are not the same as a shopping spree at a high end shop. Personally, I like these new expense reports because they reflect closer to what my family of 4 spends in certain categories like food. I feel like the blog has moved from extreme frugality/ no spend months to mindful spending. But Mindfulwoods doesn’t have the same ring…

    • ClaireL says:

      Personally, I think frugality as much more complex than just a monthly budget number. It’s more about bang for your buck. So, 5k monthly expenses aren’t rock bottom by any means, they are living an awesome life for a lot less than what most people would expect it would cost. Frugality was the tool in which they used to reach this lifestyle and frugality is what is allowing them to spend way less than what they probably could. That’s the continued lesson. Use your money intentionally and in ways that you really benefit from.

    • Kathryn says:

      You are missing her points. She admittedly lives a luxurious frugal life. Aggressively spending on what their priorities are. And not keeping up with the jones. They have saved every last cent for years to deliver them to this point where they spend what they want on day dates but still don’t lease a new car every year. Looking at a month of expenses proves nothing because they live frugality they can pay for all their car repairs in cash and holiday expenses in cash. Other months will be dramatically less.

    • wallies says:

      Liz may well be frugal. For example, if she has $5M, spending $5K/month is pretty damn frugal. At a 4% withdrawal rate she could spend $16K a month and be well within safe limits. Remember, we don’t get the full picture because she won’t share their assets.

    • Katherine says:

      I see your point, but you also have to consider that this month includes several one time or infrequent expense. $1200 on car repairs, $750 for preschool tuition, increased food cost for Thanksgiving & house guests. I don’t know how long you’ve been reading the blog, but they have no mortgage on their homestead. This blog is rich with information on how to save money at all income levels! I love it!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi Anna, thank you for your thoughts! I started Frugalwoods back in April 2014 and it’s safe to say a lot has changed about my life since then :). I’ve continued to blog along and share what I’ve learned as I go. I won’t be changing the name because it’s the name I started with and I love it. I totally agree with you that we are not super frugal, which is something I’ve addressed over the years in different posts, as well as in the FAQs section of this post. I love learning alongside my readers though the Reader Case Study series as well as through my own life experiences and mistakes. Thanks for joining us here!

      • Anne says:

        Hi Liz, I know you’ve discussed it in bits and pieces around the blog, but I would LOVE to read a post about how your philosophy around frugality and mindful spending has evolved. I feel like so many of us start out super frugal due to necessity or trying to meet certain financial goals, and then it can be hard to figure out how much to increase your spending as needs change with having kids or you reach certain financial milestones and realise that you can already afford your goals. It can be difficult to figure out how to spend in ways that improve your life without it getting out of hand or spending on things you don’t really value.

  9. M says:

    We have two huge car repair expenses coming up on our only car, and when this happens we say “It is time to make our offering to the Car Gods.” It is unavoidable. I’ve never been to Vermont and of course I don’t know where you live, but is a long-tail e-bike an option for spending less time in your car? I, too, live in an area where I really miss great walkability and effective public transit. We are about to move to the Minneapolis area and I am salivating at the idea of an e-bike to haul around my kid.

  10. Robert says:

    Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods – would you ever consider doing a case study on yourselves? I’d love to see the big picture to have a better understanding of how you achieved retirement at such a young age?

    • Julie says:

      She talks about that in her book. They both did not have student loans and had high paying jobs. They also minimized spending and bought a house before the market heated up. Lots of smart financial decisions

    • Kathryn says:

      She definitely has a book and a whole archive on exactly that!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi Robert, welcome and thank you for your interest! The other commenters are correct–I’ve been writing Frugalwoods since 2014, so there’s a robust archive. Additionally my book, which published in 2018, contains more information. And my recent post, Mr. FW Retired and We Paid off Our Mortgage: Frugalwoods FIRE is Complete, is the most updated version of what’s happening in my life. Hope that helps :)!

      • Robert says:

        I’ve been following your blog for a long time, but I’ve never seen all of your assets, liabilities, and expenses listed like your case study participants do. I get that this is very personal and you may not want to share, but it would be helpful to know how much you have in savings, retirement, 529’s, debt (Cambridge mortgage) and income to be able to retire so young. Does your book cover that?

        • Andrea says:

          I believe the reasoning behind the case studies being so transparent is that the authors use pseudonyms. Frugalwoods is no longer an anonymous blog, and the explicit breakdown of their assets could be a safety concern.

  11. Victoria says:

    Have I been missing this trend on recent posts or is it a one-off, because several people seem judge-ey here and your blog comments section has been supportive before now. Or maybe there are more people who are new to your blog/book/lifestyle. Anyhow, keep on keeping on.

    I’ve been recommending you to people at work as a source of good advice (even with us being UK). I did a session for colleagues recently on spending,saving,investing and pensions. Not a financial expert, but wanted to share some of my experiences and some good links to advice. It was really well received so I feel proud of that.

    • Candace says:

      Ditto. Maybe people are just stressed out and grumpy? Tis the season.

    • Emily says:

      I noticed the same vibe from a few folks and I’m choosing to ignore them. I continue to enjoy reading this blog (and have enjoyed it for years)! Keep on keepin’ on, Liz!

    • Jessie says:

      I was just thinking this. Forever one of my favorite phrases – “Not my monkey, not my circus.” Some people seem to have forgotten.

    • Meira Bear says:

      Yeah, I’m noticing it a lot, too. I think it’s kind of strange. The principles of frugal living are applicable at most income levels. The point is that those principles applied allows a person to use their money in a way that they couldn’t otherwise.

      Like…this isn’t a blog about how Liz and Nate make 100k a year each and manage to only spend 80k of it. They’re both retired, and have set their lives up to be able to spend that much money on what they value–that’s remarkable, interesting, and educational.

      There are a lot of really wonderful blogs written by women on how to live frugally on one middle-to-low income. As an example, I love, love The Frugal Girl and her attitude is super inspiring.

      But the financial advice is often not applicable to me; my financial situation and lifestyle are more similar to what Liz and Nate had when they lived in Boston. Two incomes, horribly long hours at work, high COL, student debt, but a middle-to-high income. There’s a limit to how much I benefit from advice that focuses on how to stretch a dollar; we don’t struggle to afford our groceries and rent. I like reading this site for insight into big-picture financial strategy.

      All that to say…being wise with money is for everyone. Liz and Nate have been wise with their money and are teaching others how to do the same. That they spend money on things that I wouldn’t isn’t the point. There are a ton of people who think that the only way to live well is to have the highest possible income at all costs, and this site has helped illustrate that this isn’t true.

      Keep on keepin on, Frugalwoods.

      • Victoria says:

        I love Frugal Girl too. Another blog where the comments section is generally friendly and supportive.

        • monica says:

          And another blog where she is changing slowly as her situation changes. She now get takeout or goes out to dinner quite often with absolutely no explanation necessary. Love her blog!

    • Katherine says:

      I think people are missing one of the key points of the blog. There are tons of ideas on how to save money on specific items, but more important is developing a frugal mindset. The Frugalwoods constantly seek ways to reduce the cost of the things they love! I recently applied the mindset & was able to reduce the cost of medical item I needed from $125 to $20.

  12. Christopher Johnson says:

    That is a lovely photo of your family and nature! As for my November, it wasn’t great because I had to leave the room I was renting to move to another room I’ll be in so lots of extra expenses there. I’m hoping this will be my last move before I move to my own home.

  13. Dianne says:

    So glad you are able to finally enjoy the life you and Mr. FW created for your family. I am sure it came with much sacrifice, determination and hard work. I bet there were days that you could of just given up the dream. But, you stood firm in your commitment to your growing family.
    Very nice to have family around us again! Glad you were able to host your in-laws for Thanksgiving. I’m feeling lucky that I will spending Christmas with family soon in SC.

  14. Julie says:

    I love how happy your posts have been’

  15. Shannon says:

    Were you unable to get Littlewoods into a free preschool?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Our school district, which administers our preschool (the one Kidwoods went to for free), has since changed its policies and now charges for anything beyond the 10 free hours per week provided by the state of Vermont. We happily pay for the extra time as Littlewoods loves preschool, we adore the teachers and the program, and it’s in the same building and with the same hours as Kidwoods’ kindergarten class. It is absolutely ideal for us and we are so thankful to have it in our community :)!

  16. KNatGU says:

    A way to re-frame your car travel times (from one big-city mom) it is an interesting time to talk to the kids. I find the combination of seatbelt restraint and lack of eye contact, somehow turn my children into sharing machines. I also find myself sharing life lessons all the time. I want you to be able to earn your own money someday, you need to know how to get from one place to another without your cell phone and on and on it goes. I hope my children remember all these conversations as much as I do.

  17. Honey Smith says:

    If you’d gotten that crack filled when it happened you probably wouldn’t have needed to replace the windshield. Glass replacement for free is also an insurance option

    • Tara says:

      Yup! I got 2 chips 3 weeks apart last month. Those aggressive winter tires throw a lot of rocks. Get them filled right away and they won’t split across the entire thing and will nearly disappear. It costs $40 at my locally owned glass shop. $80 in windshield repair is so much better than needing 2 new windshields last month!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      -The truck windshield crack was not the type that could be filled–we certainly would’ve done that if it’d been a possibility.
      -The reason we didn’t have insurance cover the windshield is that we very intentionally do not have comprehensive insurance because we can afford to pay cash for these sort of repairs (or to replace the car entirely if needed). It’s much less expensive overall for us to go this route and to instead carry the absolute maximum in liability.

  18. Nora S. says:

    I love the look of pure joy and contentment on Kidwoods’ face looking at that tiny cupcake! It’s like you can see her thinking, “This is EXACTLY what I wanted!”

  19. Kathryn says:

    I have a three year old and she is equally enthralled with everything simple. I have to constantly remind myself that she doesnt know or care how much anything costs, packed lunches in new places are delightful, snow globes from my childhood amaze her, the beach is forever a great day no matter the weather and a simple walk downtown our small town in Michigan, she tells her dad about like we went to Chicago. As I assemble her and her baby brothers Christmas gifts, I reminded myself that she will love all of these random used books/toys/clothes and probably be still be overwhelmed and she doesn’t care or know what ‘new’ or store bought is (thanks pandemic)!
    It is hard seeing her cousins with ipads and brand new clothes but we are raising them exactly how we want and it is already paying off so we will keep it up!

  20. River says:

    Cars and appliances – ugh – I they all talk to one another.

  21. Walnut says:

    $66 for three chickens seems steep! Were these particularly large birds?

    • Sandy Hill says:

      Not steep if they were organic corn free feed and free range- that is about the same price as Western NY.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Yep, that’s just the price around here for organic, free-range birds raised locally by a farmer down the road. It’s important to us to support our local economy and to eat hyper-local when possible.

  22. Tom says:

    Liz- I agree with Jean. I can certainly understand why you don’t buy new cars but you might want to consider buying a low mileage 2-3 year old car the next time. The advantage of buying a newer used car is that the majority of mileage and maintenance will be done by you and you will know exactly how the car is maintained and driven. Also, regarding your current cars, have the brakes, tires, and cooling system inspected by your mechanic each time you get an oil change. The safety of you, Nate, and those two little girls is worth any extra expense you will pay to insure your cars are safe.

    One more thing. Don’t change the “Frugalwoods” name. Your insight and guidance into frugal living crosses all income and spending levels. Your values are the most important thing.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I appreciate everyone’s concerns regarding the Frugalwoods fleet and I realize I didn’t outline the entire car story in the above post. Since there is so much interest, I’ll be happy to. Buckle up, it’s a long story :)!:
      -Both of our cars are 2010’s, which we’ve owned and religiously maintained since 2015 (Prius) and 2018 (Tundra truck)
      -The Prius had been inspected and serviced by our mechanic a mere WEEK prior to the brake failure. We’d had those brakes replaced on schedule as well. Sometimes, things happen.
      -The truck windshield crack was not the type that could be filled–we certainly would’ve done that if it’d been a possibility.
      -The reason we didn’t have insurance cover the windshield is that we very intentionally do not have comprehensive insurance because we can afford to pay cash for these sort of repairs (or to replace the car entirely if needed). It’s much less expensive overall for us to go this route and to instead carry the absolute maximum in liability.
      -We actually began car shopping last spring for something to replace the aging Prius, but, as you all have seen in the news, the supply chain has made cars unbelievably expensive and flat out unavailable. We spent months researching used Toyota RAV4s as well as Honda CRVs and think we’ve narrowed our search down to recent-year RAV4s.
      -We found that many of the used RAV4s on the market were actually MORE expensive than brand new RAV4s!
      -Upon learning this, we called all the dealers in our region to see about buying a–gasp–brand new car. Their responses were that they had no inventory and did not know when they’d have new ones in stock as all available and upcoming stock was taken by folks on waiting lists. But, they’d be happy to sell us used RAV4s for over the asking price of a 2022 model. YIKES!
      -After this exhaustive research (along with saved Craigslist searches and local private sale research), we determined that now is not the time to replace the Prius. Our hope is that things normalize in the auto market by spring/summer and we can move forward with replacing that car.
      -All that to say, rest assured folks, we’ve done our research and arrived at what we feel are the best decisions for our family.
      -I’ll post this up in the post so folks can easily refer to it.

      • Allison in Ky. says:

        You will love your (future) Rav 4….will be well worth the wait/search. Best of luck!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Good to hear!! Several of our friends have them and love them. We test drove a few and were very happy with them–and they get such amazing gas mileage!

      • LaReesa says:

        I’m so glad you answered this thoroughly! I love your used car advice and have been looking for a RAV4 or CRV Since late last year. I came to the same conclusion that now is just not the time to buy a car lol. We’re getting by with our beaters for now and hoping things settle down soon. Feels very good to be validated by you 😁

        • Catherine says:

          Thank you so much for sharing your lives and financial insight with all of us. I’ve found it to be very encouraging, even though I’m a generation + ahead of you. Observing frugality, no matter where you are in life, is a good discipline that can help you achieve your goals at the same time as being mindful of the world and neighbors around you. I try to pause and consider the consequences of my purchases and weigh my options vs buying impulsively. And I’ve tried to do the same with my time so I can do both what needs to be done and what I’d like to do and with whom.
          Your precious time with Littlewoods is such a sweet blessing and I love to do the same with my family members individually too. Merry Christmas to your family, and thank you!!

  23. Fifi says:

    Those kids are just stunning and look so happy! What a wonderful life you have built!

  24. Carolanne Howitt says:

    I read these blogs from Scotland. Semi retired – largely because of poor financial decisions ( no savings) as a younger person. But Frugalwoods has helped so much – ideas adapt, the frugality got me through covid lockdowns here and the blogs are uplifting.
    Thank you – and have a very happy festive season. Slainte Mhath! Carolanne!

  25. Dan Ball says:

    I had 2 questions concerning insurance and your search for a RAV4. Is it wise to have an umbrella policy? The minimum is $1 million dollars and the cost is $29 a month. I had one before 2010 and the need never arised to use it. I am concerned about someone injuring themselves and we are looking at a huge judgement that is not covered by insurance. The search for a used car this April led me to a dealer. The used cars were really a high cost and for a few thousand dollars more, I bought a brand new 2021 RAV4 Hybrid that had been on the lot for 1 day. We took on a 3 week vacation to visit the US National Parks of southern Utah. Best vacation ever! I am now writing a travel book about how the average traveler can plan for such a trip. So far 15,000 words and 1,500 photos to choose from.

  26. Liraz says:

    THANK YOU FOR THE POST!
    I’ve been following you guys for a few years now, and I am ashamed to admit that only now, as I am almost 44 years old, I stopped being afraid of looking at our finances in the eye and deal with it. I feel overwhelmed and afraid that maybe I am too late, but I think that it’s better late than never.

  27. JD says:

    Vehicles talk to each other and so do household appliances. Didn’t you have nearly every household appliance break at nearly the same time in your Cambridge house?

    I also buy local poultry, and I see your prices are right there with the ones I pay. Yes, it’s more expensive, but I’m supporting local farmers (my bird supplier is a female farmer, to boot) and the food is clean, organic and superior in flavor, from animals raised using best and most humane practices.

  28. Bonnie says:

    WOW! what fractious comments section this post…almost feels like if Liz had posted that one of the children had choked a bit on cut grapes after cramming too many in, commenters would have said, “Cut them smaller! Buy something other than grapes! Give them one piece at a time! Check their mouth after each swallow!” … To the highly critical or nosy folks: C’mon! Your way is not always the best way for EVERYONE, they’re adults in a safe area, and are living their life, not yours, with your choices, fears and experiences. Neither are you owed the specifics on their finances. What they choose to share is their call.

  29. Jessie says:

    Have you paid off your Cambridge mortgage as well?

  30. LaLoffland says:

    Our purchased used vehicles are 11 and 22 years old .Look good, run good. We have cell phones and tow insurance. Husband maintains them well. We will replace them with used vehicles only when they are no longer dependable….hopefully not for another 20 years!

  31. Shayna says:

    After never having been in a wreck our entire lives, my husband and I both were in wrecks (neither one was our fault) that totaled each of our cars a little over a month apart. So stressful!!

    This was in 2019 and we bought a 2016 Prius with 100k miles and a 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser with 150k miles. New cars are nice but I got a steal of a deal because of the high mileage on the Prius & his LC is now worth about $8k more than when we bought it.

  32. Kris says:

    Where do you order your Christmas postcards from? (Sorry if I missed it somewhere)

  33. Louise says:

    Liz, I enjoy reading your blog, very inspirational.
    Could I change the subject and ask if you met your 1000 hours outside this year.
    I ask because it to inspired me to get outside more. Bedt Louise

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