Chicken Feed And Other December 2021 Expenses

We’re building a garage! Well, we’re planning on building a garage.

Chickens: unconcerned about our lack of garage

Longtime readers know that one of the downsides of our Vermont homestead is its lack of a garage. Why this place has no garage is a mystery for the ages. My family in California all have garages. My family in North Carolina all have garages. People in Florida have garages! But people in Vermont? Nope. It’s more common to NOT have a garage than TO have a garage. If anyone, anywhere can answer this mystery, please do.

And it’s not because our house is old–it’s not! Built in the 1990s (not the 1790’s like my friend’s house), cars were definitely a thing when our house was designed and constructed. While we’ve enjoyed the ritual of scraping ice off our cars in -4 degree weather and defrosting the INTERIOR of our cars for upwards of 10 minutes, not to mention the battles we wage against rodentia incursions, we’re ready for a garage. Since our land is sloped and there’s not a clear spot for a garage, we’ve hired a local architect + designer team to design and site the garage for us. We also had to get an in-depth land survey done (not just a property boundary survey, but a one-foot topographical survey), to ensure the garage goes in a topographically appropriate spot.

We’ve spent the last six years discussing, considering and analyzing every type of car-covering device/building available and came to the conclusion that we want to build a proper garage. And so, the journey begins!

Christmas Gifts: Extended Family

2021 in review! At least, according to Instagram

For our extended family, I once again turned to my friend wine.com to ship bottles of wine. I’m a fan of consumable gifts that don’t add clutter and are something I know the recipient will enjoy. For the two non-wine drinkers in our family, I sent gift cards to their favorite local restaurants. Again, a consumable that will get used! 

I like wine.com because:

  1. The wine costs the same as it does in a store. I’ve price-checked the bottles and wine.com doesn’t mark them up.
  2. The selection is immense. They’ve got every kind of wine (also liquor and port) imaginable!
  3. It saves time. I’m able to save my family’s addresses and their preferred types of wine on the website so I have an easy reference point each year. Thus, it takes me approximately 15 minutes to order Christmas gifts for my entire family!
  4. FREE SHIPPING. I saved the best for last. I pay $49 per year to be a “Wine Stewardship Member,” which qualifies me for free shipping on all of my purchases. Free shipping! Crucial since bottles of wine are heavy and expensive to ship. This really works out for me since I ship at least five cases of wine a year and each case would cost at least $20 to ship.

All in all, wine.com is quite literally the answer to my gifting prayers. These are affiliate links.

Christmas Gifts: Teachers, Postal Workers, the Angel Tree

A very happy kid on Christmas morning

The other Christmas line item last month was for the kids’ teachers, our postal workers and the Angel Tree at our church. On the astute advice of Frugalwoods readers who are teachers, we now give cash to teachers. I write a nice note and stick some cash in the card. Again, I want to give people something they can use. And everyone can use cash! I do the same for our postal workers.

For the Angel Tree at church, we buy what the child has requested.

Christmas Gifts: My Children and Husband

My husband and I don’t exchange gifts with each other–a choice we made almost a decade ago. We instead put money towards experiences we enjoy, such as: our kid-free getaway this past summer, meals out at restaurants, and our ski lessons this winter! We both prefer experiences over stuff, so this approach works perfectly for us. 

Our kids receive hand-me-down and garage sale finds for Christmas! I scour thrift stores and yard sales all year long to collect things I know they’ll love. We also buy a few new items they’ve specifically requested but, every year, their favorite stuff ends up being some random thing I bought for $1 at a yard sale. In our house, Santa shops used!

For more on how I manage to do really inexpensive gifting for my kids, check out these two posts:

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Another kid thrilled with her second-hand Christmas gifts

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:

Our church on Christmas Eve

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 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 offers a flat cash back percentage:

  • 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.

The HAPPIEST person with her lightbulb jewelry

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: $57.43

The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $2,871.74 on that card, which netted us $57.43.

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?

Making Christmas cookies for Santa!

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 0.50% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,025. That means you earned $25 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)

Cookie baking!

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 December:

Item Amount Notes
Property survey $2,120
Architect $1,942.56 Architect + designer payment
Groceries, Household Supplies and Miscellany  $1,173.70 Ok, I figured out what happened here: I forgot to break out the “Household Supplies & Misc” line items this month, which means “Groceries” includes a ton of non-food things, such as: toilet paper, laundry detergent, craft supplies, toothpaste, some new baking pans, etc. 
Christmas: extended family $330.65 From wine.com (affiliate link).
Restaurants $317.66 Outdoor lunch dates with my husband while the girls are at school! Definitely my preferred type of gift.
Christmas: teachers, postal workers, Angel Trees $233.75
Preschool tuition $200 For Littlewoods
Gas for cars $145.99
Doctor visit co-pays $125.00 Eye doctor visits (x2) and something else (cannot remember what… )
Beer, wine & alcohol $98.26 Festive cheers!
Haircut $82.80 My pixie lives on! I don’t think I’ll ever have long hair again. And yes, I’m sure I could find a cheaper salon, but, I love my hair lady (she is local and also a farmer!) and I go with one of my BFFs and we have a kid-free outing, so it’s worth it to me for the whole experience.
Ski Program for Kidwoods $78.00 Kidwoods is doing the ski program through her school and this is the participation fee.
Internet $72.00
Chicken feed and tractor chain repair shackles $63.38
Health insurance ACA payment $52.43 Our first monthly payment for our new Affordable Care Act health insurance
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.

Utilities: Electricity $26.70 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Plexiglass for chicken coop $21.08 To cover the windows to prevent draft/snow drifts.
Smart plugs $19.27 We got these smart plugs for our lights, which I originally thought were gimmicky, but now I LOVE them (affiliate link). We can turn on all of our lights by voice command! I feel like the Jetsons.
Headphones $18.22 I treated myself to some new headphones because my old ones only worked in one ear…. (affiliate link).  
Thrift store $17.76 I love that our thrift store accepts credit cards–helps me keep better track of my thrifting adventures.
Kids’ book $15.15 This book on consent, boundaries and respect was recommended to me and we love it (affiliate link)! Very helpful and appropriate for our 3 and 6-year-old.
Prescription co-pay $10.00
Shipping and postage $9.75
Coffee shops $5.05
TOTAL: $7,207.44

How was your final month of 2021?

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92 Responses

  1. Mrs. Bug says:

    Will you be doing a post about ACA? I would be very interested!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! Will do!

      • Christine Keefe says:

        Just coming here to post about how reasonable your ACA payment is! I’d love to read about this. We will soon be in the position of having to buy insurance on our own I think.

        • Leslie says:

          Yes, my daughter’s ACA premium last year was $58 (silver) for one person and she had virtually no income. So this family price is very cheap. The ones like this that are so cheap may have huge deductibles.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Seconded! Currently insured through my employer, but would LOVE to know more about this.. it’s one of the parts of becoming FI (in 4- or 5-ish years?) that I’ve had a hard time figuring out, if I opt to step back from full time W2 work, or choose to become self-employed…

  2. Anna says:

    Hi! Long time reader and first time commenter – How is your health insurance so cheap?? Is this a Vermont thing? When I had ACA insurance, it was close to $250 a month – and wasn’t even that good!

    • Aaron says:

      It’s based on income. They are semi-retired and a family of 4. That is why their insurance is cheap. I pay nothing for mine since I have very low income.

    • Jen says:

      And mine, in my 60s, is $525, with a $5,000 deductible, and co-pays! Just for one person, but with the cost of medical services these days, it’s well worth it!

      • Jen says:

        To be clear, the MONTHLY premium is $525. I live in the midwest and do not have a high income at all.

        • kat says:

          My employer was paying nearly 900.00 a month for mine, with a 2,500.00 deductible. I think employers are the ones subsidizing the most. It puts a lot of pressure on a small business.

  3. GratefulSaver says:

    I would love a post on Affordable Care Act, please.

  4. Skiing is awesome! I’m so glad you’re getting into it. The rush of flying down the slope is only second to skydiving (from my experiences doing both!).

  5. Kathleen L. says:

    I took the call only job. After 20 years of shift work, in the operating room, they were offering a call shift. This means that I earn a salary (for the first time, scary). I know longer take extra call (I took 80 hours a week), I no longer work 50 hours a week of evening shift charge nurse work. Although the salary is generous, I still am making less money since I no longer take all the call hours, get overtime, or get hourly money for meetings. But all of that money for call hours (it was a lot) and hourly money for meetings (it was also a lot) would have been going away this year. Especially when they hired in the call shift. My husband and I had many, many conversations about it. And I was on the fence about it.
    And then the department made me mad by installing a second day shift charge nurse with 3 years of experience, none in people management, and putting her in charge of me and my evening staff and taking away my ability to schedule add-ons or do anything for the department without express permission from her. And counseling me to be nice when I tried to explain to her things that she asked me to explain.
    After 6 months of increasing tension and the whittling away of my job responsibilities in favor of giving them to her so she could learn, I applied for the call shift as soon as it opened. 1 month of interviews later, 1 month of notice I started my new shift on 12/8/2021. Am I scared to death? yes.
    The brakes have been applied to my being an out-of-control workaholic. This is a loss leader for the department, I know it. But it is a corporate initiative, as in all the hospitals are going toward it. It is a popular program among the newly hired, as they will only be responsible for night call 2 days a week, spread out over 16 nurses.
    I am adjusting to a new normal. Instead of 40 hours a week of shift work, 10 hours a week of overtime/meetings, plus 80 hours of call, I am now available from 2100-0700 5 days a week. I write, a lot, in my nursing blog, I write fiction, I read a lot, I organize my house, which has been suffering from the fall out of my old schedule, the pandemic, and graduate school for my MSN. When asked about my position, I say that it is weird. Never have I worked so few hours. I have plans to start a PhD program in nursing starting in the fall.
    Everyone in the department was happy for me, until it happened, and they realized that I would no longer be there every day to manage what duties they had left me. My evening tech has been trying to bribe me, with her money, to come back to my shift. I’m going to ride this thing out, as long as it lasts. And when they decide to do away with the shift, because it is not profitable, I will decide what to do then. If I decide that I simply am not making enough money, I will decide what to do then. But for now, I am getting used to it.

  6. Anne says:

    Many Vermonters do not have garages because in Vermont garages are not for card, they are for storing the detritus that doesn’t fit in your house. Cars stay in the driveway, and when you go out you scrape out a little square of windshield to look through as you drive. Since you have a barn that can hold your excess stuff, and thus there is no reason to build a garage. The end.
    The old owners may have also put the cars in the barn if they wanted to store one over the winter. That is common for barns and other outbuildings, like large disused chicken coops. That is not a joke.

    • Anne says:

      To be clear, my first paragraph was an explanation of the Vermont mindset about garages. You do you, of course. I personally always found it incredibly irritating to have to scrape off the car because there was no room in the garage to store the car.

      • KP says:

        I have to say my first thought was to use the barn for the garage in the winter as well. I’m missing the point of the need for a whole new structure, but something surely must have been left out in the post…

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Yeah, the barn isn’t equipped to hold vehicles. It has a lean-to where the tractor lives, but the barn itself was built to be a professional woodworking shop, so it’s very good for tool-related projects but not equipped for animals or cars.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Indeed! Our barn is actually newer than the house (it was built by a subsequent owner than the person who built the house) and it was built as a woodworking shop and so can’t actually hold a car (which is too bad!).

  7. Deborah says:

    I was actually interested in what you do about chicken feed – did I miss that bit? I have a few backyard (allotment) hens, and want to move away from buying in feed that contains soya (climate crisis reasons). Any thoughts / experience you can share? Thanks!

    • Emily says:

      I’m curious about chicken feed as well – we spend way to much on it, but we have an urban setting and not as much grazing space as we’d like. Any tips on how to improve this expense would be most welcome.

  8. C says:

    Another request for the ACA info, It seems a huge barrier to retire early for us

  9. Nora S. says:

    I am excited for you guys that you’re getting a garage!

  10. Amy says:

    I asked my 5th generation Vermonter-hubby re: garages in Vermont, as I have often lamented over this myself. His response: they’re a waste of space and increase the taxes! I reminded him that the cars would be parked inside the garage, therefore only increasing a slight additional footprint. He barked out something about cars being made to be outside before stomping out to the outdoor furnace. Honestly, I don’t think they know either!

  11. Terri says:

    Thank you for the perfect teacher gift. I can tell you as a teacher (40 years) the money will be spent on the kids and classroom. The teacher will enjoy the purchasing and the children’s reaction to the items.

  12. 8little_paws says:

    My mind is blown at your health insurance payment. I have to contribute a portion through work (I have my husband and son on mine as well) and it’s nearly $700 a month for a HMO.

    • Dianne says:

      I have HI from the ACA. My premium is close to $900. a month. HOWEVER, my premium is $35 based on my income (SS and traditional Pension). The rest of the premium ($865) is given as a tax credit and is included as income on my yearly taxes. Kind of like the Child Credit the Gov’t had been issuing every month in 2021.

  13. Jessie says:

    Did you also pay off your Rental property mortgage in Cambridge, MA? Would be interested in a post about being landlords and the financial implications for Income, Tax, etc.

  14. LaLloffland says:

    Dream big about your garage. Think about future family trips…an oversized van or a small RV. Think about future trucks…big trucks need taller and longer spaces. Think about your girls driving in a few years…cars for country kids save their parents lots of taxi duties. Enjoy your garage!

  15. Robert says:

    Congrats on building a garage! Look forward to following along on your journey. My only recommendation is to go bigger than you think. If you’re thinking 2 car garage, go 3 car garage. If you’re thinking 3 car garage, go 4 car. No one finishes building a garage and says jeez wish we went smaller. And go deeper so you can have a workbench, place for the kids bikes, kayaks, etc etc. Make a stall for the tractor too!

    • Hannah Gokie says:

      100% second this advice. We have a 4 car attached garage, which seemed like a “oh that’s nice” thing when we bought the house, but it’s become mine and my husband’s FAVORITE part of our house — and we love our house! I don’t think I could ever go smaller. We easily house two cars near the door and have a giant workroom/toy storage/extra fridge/freezer in the back half, which is perfect for projects and harsh winters. Also, put in more outlets than you think you’ll need! And maybe consider adding ports for an EV? Can’t wait to follow along!

  16. LaReesa says:

    The garage thing is so funny! I live in Minnesota and I think it’s the opposite here. People often have multiple garages?! And a lot of people have garages for parties/gatherings. It’s weird. My parents have three “garages” – an attached one that functions more like an addition to the house, a shed that’s uninsulated/unheated that stores all sorts of stuff AND has a lean-to attached for other miscellaneous storage, and a huge detached insulated/heated garage that my dad uses to work on cars and it’s also the party location. Oh, and THEY STILL PARK ALL OF THEIR CARS OUTSIDE. Even in the snowy/cold Minnesota winters. I’m so curious about the regional differences in garages now haha!

    • JG says:

      Similar here. Shed for yard stuff and an attached garage that is a winter kids play space because the door opener (even a new fancy one) completely shakes the kids rooms above it. When my husband leaves for work at 4am that’s a solid no from me. Park it outside and let the kids burn off energy in the garage.

    • Leslie says:

      In the city of St. Louis, where I live, garages are common. Detached garages for old homes. But if a garage was knocked down or something at some point, now people are building ‘California garages.’
      There’s a roof, posts and a door that opens. But the three sides are not closed in!
      I guess this is cheaper and at least keeps snow and hail, etc. off car. Still, it’s weird to me (there used to be carports in some midcentury homes here that were attached to the house)
      But I keep wondering how much more would it cost to enclose the garage so one could lock things up — and not have to look at cars in your backyard. Maybe there is a tax advantage….

    • Isa says:

      This! I live in Quebec, Canada, and almost all the houses with garages seem to be storing stuff in them, not cars…. Why?? Why would you put yourself in the position of having to scrape ice and snow from your car when you have a garage to store it? It’s beyond me. We usually get a LOT of snow too, (20 inches yesterday), so…..

      • Lynn says:

        I live in Maine and my husband and I are building a big garage for everything BUT our cars! The first floor will be my husband’s workshop and the upstairs will be my art studio. Whenever I am out walking the dog, I shake my head at all of the empty garages, or “car holes” as I have taken to calling them!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahaha that’s hilarious and sounds very Vermont :)!

      • LaReesa says:

        I love these comments! So funny how different it is for everyone. My house has a detached garage and a carport. I park my car in the garage in the winter – we don’t heat it so you can’t do much in there in the winter anyways – and my husband uses it as a workshop when it’s above zero. I know a lot of friends use their garages as gyms and one friend is building one that will be a kids play area in the loft and a workshop in the bottom (again, not one thought of parking the cars ha!)

  17. Shannon says:

    Can’t wait to hear how you’re only paying $42 a month for a family of 4. I love my garage, and thanks to work being done on the house, I’ve been forced to use it for storage this winter. Ugh!

  18. Amy says:

    Very excited for you about your garage! Re gifts for postal workers: USPS employees can accept gifts up to $20 in value, but cash and cash equivalents cannot be accepted. Just wanted to mention that since it may not seem like a big deal, but a cash gift could cost a postal worker their job!

    • Jenny says:

      We have given our wonderful mail lady over $20 a year by check for 30 years! How would the PO even know? But I actually do agree that it’s “wrong”; it’s just that she does a lot extra for us. In my profession, one would NEVER EVEN THINK about accepting gifts of any kind or money- or so I thought until I realized that I seem to be the only ethical, legal rules-follower! At one employment, we could accept food gifts, like a box of candy, if we put it out for everyone to share, and then we all signed a thank-you card. That seemed OK. Teachers and cash seems very questionable. As a teacher I would not accept, or I would turn it in to the school, officially, for maybe a teacher fund for a purpose? with transparency all around it. This is just me.

      • Amanda says:

        Teachers frequently pay for school supplies out of their own pockets because schools never have enough resources. So you’d have to be a pretty crappy person to have a problem with them accepting cash for the holidays.

  19. Anneliese says:

    Oh dear, the garage issue! When we lived in New Hampshire we were told it was due to “antiquated fire code”, but after living there 5 years, I’m fairly certain it’s just “cheap yankee” mentality (a phrase taught to me by my friend, a fourth, maybe fifth, maybe more, native New Englander). If it’s offensive, I apologize in advance!

  20. CD says:

    Are you considering an in-law suite or apartment on top of the garage? That could be worth it for having long term guests to the homestead!

  21. Heidi B Engelhardt says:

    I love your hair! Looks great.

  22. Katherine Barker says:

    In the UK, very few people garage their cars these days – I can only think of myneighboour who owns a vintage car. ‘Vintage’ also means it fits in the garage – many houses built up to maybe the 60’s have garages not exactly too small for modern cars – and with improved bodywork, electronic locking & our more temperate climate, it’s safer to leave the car on the driveway than risk the scratches & scrapes getting it in and out would risk.

    As CD said, a lot of people have a living room , or a 2-storey extension instead but as ours was, until recently, used to store furniture from an office that had to close down (our house was used as the office instead – but we already had the tables and chairs!)., and we are looking to downsize in retirement, we’ll leave it for whoever comes next!

  23. Ashley says:

    Your hair is beautiful. I love seeing you spend money on things you value. That’s the point.

    • Clancy says:

      I agree with Ashley….gorgeous hair and the spending speaks to what you are teaching…be frugal so that you can spend money on what you truly value! ❤️

  24. Don says:

    My 2 cents, Find an experienced builder, skip the Architect. The builder should be able to tell a good location and how they would construct the garage. If it’s a diy project, a established local lumber yard should be able to supply plans with the promise you get materials from them. If plans needs to certified, they might be able to recommend an engineer

  25. Lance says:

    ACA can really suck in rural areas. MMM wrote a great article on Healthshare (Sedera) + Direct Primary Care Dr. You may want to look into it but it can be hard to find a Direct Care Dr. FYI, we are 53 and 48 and pay $300/mo each for a $2500 deductible plus unlimited one hour minimum doctor visits. In addition, everything our DPC Dr. can do in the office is covered, including routine blood work, mole removal, stiches… you name it.

  26. Mary says:

    When my kids were growing up, I did the same: garage sale items for Christmas. A few thrift store items as well but our thrift stores are not great. I found better and more stuff at garage sales. I kept a list, stored it all in boxes marked something innocuous like Towels, and wrapped for Xmas. As they got older I got a few higher-end but still pre-owned items like Nintendo DSs.

  27. Jane says:

    If I lived in Vermont, i think I’d want a garage/barn! Can’t you add some space for goats. Plan for the future! ha.

  28. Fille Frugale says:

    I used to live in Maine, in an (otherwise awesome) rental without a garage, and when I asked my landlord (born and raised Mainer) he replied they’re for sissies who can’t handle a little snow (he used nicer words, but that was the gist 😄).

  29. KP says:

    Another poster indicated the same, but I’m curious, Mrs. Frugalwoods… why wouldn’t you turn that barn into a fantastic garage? the structure is already there. I feel like you left something out in the post as surely your readers aren’t the ones who thought of this idea! 😀

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Unfortunately, the barn isn’t equipped to hold vehicles. It has a fully covered lean-to where the tractor lives, but the barn itself was built to be a professional woodworking shop, so it’s very good for tool-related projects but not equipped for animals or cars

  30. Eileen says:

    We have priced out an ACA insurance policy for our family. We only have one child and it was approx $2000 per month.

  31. Barbara says:

    I’m going to guess all the farm machinery , garden tools and syrup making stuff is in the barn and that’s why a garage is needed.

    Love the hair!

    For my teacher, mail carrier, trash man, bus driver gifts, I buy Target gift cards. You can get them10% off the first weekend in December.

  32. Colleen says:

    A garage sounds like a great idea to me. You have the space and the money. I live in northern BC, Canada. Our house is about 40 years old and it has a carport which are very common here. Newer homes have garages which many people claim become storage rooms for all their stuff. But we know the answer to that – organize and declutter!
    We plan to build a new garage/bike shed this year, as our old metal one has seen better days.

  33. Sharyn Whiting says:

    Living in Australia I find it hard to believe that in the harsh climates in parts of America you don’t have garages. Here every house has a garage and often double garages attached to the house so you drive into the garage and then walk straight through an internal door into the house. After moving into town from our farm where the triple garages were not attached I now think I live in luxury with my double garage as part of the house.

  34. Tom Marshall says:

    Nate and Liz: Can I give you some unsolicited advice on building your new garage based on owning four houses with garages but never having the opportunity to build my own garage?

    1. Make sure you build it large enough to not only accommodate your car and your truck but also your tractor. Some additional storage would also be nice. You will never regret building it too large but will regret building it too small.

    2. Insulate and heat the garage with a propane heater. You can set the temperature to 50 degrees so it won’t be too expensive to heat during the wintertime, but I promise, you will appreciate it as will your cars.

    3. If there is anyway design-wise that you can attach it to your home, do so. It is so convenient to get in your car when it is raining or snowing.

    4. One more thing, have a garage door opener installed. Again, when it’s raining it is really a nice convenience.

    See, I can spend your money very easily……..LOL! Good Luck!

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Good you are building a garage. I would hate to not have one especially for the winter. The barn is for the tractor, wood splitter, chain saws etc

  36. Sara says:

    I love your hair! That is all 🙂

  37. LongTime Frugal says:

    I hope your thrift store has a no-processor fee merchant. If it were me, I’d pay cash. I abhor fees.

  38. Dianne says:

    Yes for the garage. I have always had an attached garage. I could not own a home without one! It sure comes in handy when the kids were outside playing. I could take their dirty clothes off and remove snowsuits, boots etc, and a place to take off shoes before coming into the house. We also kept our 2 vehicles in the garage. Today, I still have a 2+ garage and a car and a truck occupy some of the space. Never again did I want to scrap off snow and scrap windshields in the winter like I did as a young adult in an apartment, school or parents driveway. You will be so happy when you get it built. I like the suggestion if possible, attach to the home!

  39. S&M says:

    I’m also joining the chorus requesting a post about the ACA. This must be not only the supposedly low income on the 1040 form, but also a Vermont thingy as well.
    I’m very curious about the breakdown of the annual income and how you manage the cash flow to qualify for such a low premium. My guess is that rental revenue (I’m not in rental business so I could be also wrong) and blog income or a large portion of it go to some kind of tax-deferred savings (say SEP 401k, IRA, or something) which let’s to knock the AGI way down and then use saved cash + qualified dividends for living expenses. Am I right that it’s the case here?

    A blog about ACA and an example with all the math would be appreciated!! If you don’t want to share your income which is understandable, perhaps take the max income along with deductions to arrive to the net income that would qualify for a family of 4 for the $42/mo. ACA premium. Curious minds want to know.

  40. CandiceRNTX says:

    On the ACA, recently I found we were without health insurance and had to seek it through them. My husband was 62 and I was 59 not old enough for Medicare. In Texas with an income of $52,000 annually it was $1,350 a month with a $10,000 deductible each. Cleary the cost varies by state, income, number of people in the household, etc.

  41. JD says:

    As I understand it, the rules have changed for the ACA to allow higher earners more chances to get subsidies and to increase subsidies for lower income applicants.

    I’m interested in hearing how it pays. The comments I’ve heard from a few people I know who have it are mostly comments such as “It sucks.” So I’d like to hear other opinions about payments, out of pocket, deductibles, etc. I’m on Medicare myself, and it is no picnic.

    I agree with the advice to add extra space to a garage, assuming that is not already your plan. Bikes, snow tires, go-cart, wagon, sled, battery charger, gas cans, tool chest, extra freezer, wading pool… so many things can go in a garage! Good luck with your build, and hopefully, you won’t be permitted to death!

  42. Regina says:

    A lot of people don’t get the annual/bi annual bills & look for monthly. I pay auto insurance every 6 months in full (progressive gives some discount for paid in full instead of monthly plus fees & state farm is no fees). I pay winter & summer property taxes in full otherwise late fees added per month.
    I pay garbage by the year (called & asked & saved a ton $$) with no difference in service. I pay auto plate renewals yearly also. I recently purchased home warranty insurance (found discount code that saved $125 if paid for whole year) for replacement/repairs on larger (not covered under normal appliance protection insurance policy I have for most appliances & no copay but monthly change).that is yearly. But there is copay if ise services ($100 for central air conditioner that is no longer covered by appliances insurance) & getting $4,000+ new unit & installed for under $1,000 (including yearly charge for insurance).
    January exspenses
    $2379.06 bills/insurance
    $567.82. food/household/meds/fuel

    Of course still have another week of month left so might increase slightly for food/fuel.

    February will be costly increase in exspenses (property taxes & teen drivers education/training) & consistent below zero temps add to budgeting.

  43. Bethany says:

    On the consumable gift front, I’m a fan of universal yums. Each Christmas, we get a subscription for my parents and my MIL ( because the LAST thing old people who have everything they could possible need is more useless knickknacks to dust!). Universal yums ships snacks from countries around the world, along with a small trivia book about the company. You can choose the box size, and either order as a one- off, or choose 3, 6, or 12 month subscriptions, so there’s literally an option for every budget. https://www.universalyums.com/

  44. Christina says:

    Congrats on the garage! Just a warning from experience that rodents can still find your vehicles. You may want to look into adopting a couple spayed or neutered barn cats for the garage. Gives them a home and keeps mice way down and if you have two they have company. Completely solved our problem.

    Thanks for sharing your great write ups.

  45. Kimberly in California says:

    We have a detached garage and while we parked our cars in it when we first moved in, we don’t anymore. It was too much of a hassle to back the car out of the garage and through the porte cochere, unlock and open the gate, move the car out, then close and lock the gate again, all the while managing dogs. Instead it holds bicycles and the things that go with them (helmets, shoes, pumps, extra wheels, cargo trailer, etc.), a chest freezer, my husband’s work bench, my son’s work bench, my stroller wagon for grocery trips, EZups, and a whole lot of other miscellaneous garage stuff.

    The weather is such here that we don’t have to garage a car to avoid snow and freezing temperatures. Most of the time when it rains heavily we don’t bother to go anywhere, and that’s pretty rare anyway. Also, our campervan doesn’t fit under the porte cochere, so leaving it in the driveway means a car couldn’t get through to the garage easily anyway.

    But someday in the future I can imagine wanting to pull into the porte cochere, unload groceries or people out of the rain, and then move the car into the garage when the rain has let up. It’s what I did when we hade babies and small children, and I think I’ll want to do it when I’m much older, as well. At that point we’ll put in an automatic gate.

  46. B says:

    I love your hair. My husband and I also don’t do presents for Christmas/birthdays. I would so much rather do something fun together. I love that Santa has used things at his workshop. I must look out for things now for my children. I am impressed by all your wrapping- I am now covered into reusable Christmas sacks. The best part no wrapping, saves money and helps the environment. You can sew some up using old Christmas material, or source them from shops.

  47. kat says:

    I haven’t tuned in for a while, I almost didn’t recognize you with your hair cut – it looks great. I loved your long hair but you also look great in short hair-lucky you are. Your children have grown so much! I have a two car garage though I live alone – I love it-in fact, I love it more than my house! I love to be encouraged to remain frugal, and I find your site really helps me with that. Happy 2022.

  48. Jane says:

    Love that your daughters had the most fun with the $1 gifts! Reminds me of one of my young nephews whose favorite Christmas present a few years ago was a lollipop! I’m curious whether you already talk with your daughters about buying their items secondhand? I’m embarrassed about this in retrospect, but as a kid, I think I felt some shame about wearing hand-me-downs or thrift store clothes, for example. Unfortunately, my attitude at the time was probably shaped a lot by consumer culture as well as having some friends who were always spoiled with new items. Now that my own son is clad in secondhand finds, I’m wondering how to give him a healthier relationship with the frugal (and environmentally-friendly) mindset of buying used items. Would love to read a post about how you talk to your daughters about this or how you plan to when they are older!

  49. bfraz says:

    It’s not a garage! It’s a solar panel holder. A garage sounds great – and a studio above it too, please.

  50. Michelle says:

    Does Vermont offer extra subsidies for the ACA? I’m in FL and our family of 6 pays $1200/month and that’s with the subsidies. Without subsidy is $2400/mo. We also have an almost $18,000 deductible per year and barely any doctors and hospitals around here are in network. None of our preferred doctors are on it. We live in a busy tourist area, not rural at all here and we’re far from being millionaires lol. This is the absolute lowest premium we could get on healthcare.gov. We are looking into a Healthshare like Sedera or Zion. It’s interesting how different everyone’s experience is with ACA. That’s why some love it and some hate it.

  51. Beth says:

    I live in suburbia (north of Toronto) and we have a garage that connects to our basement. In the summer my 17-year old Toyota stays outside but once the cold wind blows, we make space for Beep Beep in our garage. It’s not heated but it does the trick! I do enjoy coming into the house via the basement in the winter as ALL the winter clothes and dirt stays in the basement. I WFH (or live at work, depends on your viewpoint) and I go crazy at clutter/dirt so it’s nice to have it in the basement where I don’t see it until I have to leave.

    Excited to hear about the garage. Cheers!

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