June was a month of celebrations! My husband and I marked FOURTEEN years of marriage, Kidwoods “graduated” from Kindergarten, Littlewoods finished her first year of preschool, we went to a town-wide end-of-school party with a food truck and BOUNCE HOUSE. And, we bought the folding wagon of my dreams.
The Folding Wagon of my Dreams
We’ve reached the stage with our kids where, when on outings, we either bring:
- Everything we own
I adore the “nothing” outings. We no longer need diapers or wipes. We no longer need a stroller or baby carrier. We no longer need a constant flow of snacks and sippy cups. I do keep a little potty (and wipes) in the trunk of the car–as well as changes of clothes for everyone (let me tell you about the ONE time I forgot to bring those… involves vomit in a car seat)–but I don’t have to lug this around with me all day long, which to me = FREEDOM.
On the other hand, we’re also at the stage of needing nearly everything we own when we go to the beach, the pool or an outdoor potluck/picnic. There are buckets and shovels, there are sun hats, sunscreen, towels, one stuffed dog (who I keep evicting from the beach bag, but keeps showing back up… ), water bottles, lunches, and so much more. We’ve been carting all of this in tote bags (ironically–or perhaps expectedly? tote bags we received for free from Vanguard at a financial bloggers’ conference years ago), which works, but is super hard on my back. Also it’s annoying and I have to make 13 trips. The kids are great about each carrying one bag, but that still leaves 19 other bags.
We’ve also been going to this fabulous outdoor community pizza night most Saturdays and toting our giant cooler of veggie stick snacks, water and beer (not to mention the sunscreen, bug spray, lawn chairs…).
With no small amount of lust, I’ve been eyeing the foldable wagons that other, smarter families casually pull behind them while holding their children’s hands, laughing at something their spouse said and twirling their sun-tinged hair behind their ears. And so, I set out to copy them. To keep up with the Joneses. To IMPULSE BUY. Well, not really impulse. I DID think about this for way longer than 72 hours. I’ve been thinking about this wagon for a good two years now.
I tasked Mr. FW with finding a wagon that’s:
- Sturdy (with durable, capable wheels since we’re off-roading more often than not)
- Not $1,000 (you’d be shocked at how $$$$ some of these wagons are!!!)
He selected this wagon (affiliate link).
We no longer need seating for the kids inside the wagon, so we were able to go with one that’s purely for cargo. It also features a little fold-out table with cupholders and what I can only assume is supposed to be a spot for your phone (although Mr. FW contends it looks like the perfect place to set a taco). Dream Wagon arrived last week, I began using it immediately, I’ve used it six times already, and I LOVE IT. It navigates sand, dirt, grass and concrete with equal aplomb. It holds everything. The cupholder/table thing actually works and stays extended. It folds up with ease and slides right into the trunk of the car. In other words: it’s everything I dreamed it would be.
We had an old plastic kids’ wagon that I found on the side of the road, but it wasn’t nearly large enough for all of our stuff and it didn’t fit in the trunk unless you bent the handle up against the rear windshield, which seemed like a bad idea from the windshield’s perspective. All that to say, I tried to go used and free and I failed. When that happens? Capitulate to buying something new that’s going to make your life better. My life is better with this wagon (affiliate link). In fact, I’d say it’s 30% better. That’s a lot of %.
We’ve also reached the stage with our kids where–for the first time ever–it makes sense to buy memberships! We bought two memberships in June:
- To the local science/children’s museum.
- To our local beach. Which, yes, is on a lake and not an ocean, but we all call it the beach around here. It has sand! Or, rather, it used to have sand. All of that sand is now in the trunk of my car, in the folds of my dream wagon, and on the floor of my home.
We’ve used both a ton already and I’m feeling very good about the $200 we spent as I’m a fan of paying for experiences!
My Wine Membership
Coincidentally, my wine membership also renewed in June. To be clear, this is (sadly) not a membership from which I personally receive wine. It’s a membership to Wine.com whereby I receive FREE shipping to anywhere in the US on any wine I order (even if it’s just one bottle!).
I love this because wine is what I gift to our family members. My parents, in-laws and siblings are all the recipients of a case of wine on holidays. I am TERRIBLE at selecting gifts for people, I hate wasting money on stuff people will not use/enjoy and–lucky for me–everyone I’m related to enjoys wine! It’s an affordable way for me to gift something I know everyone will drink and enjoy. Plus, I get photos of everyone toasting with their wine at Christmas, which I love. I further appreciate Wine.com because it lets me save everyone’s addresses and my past orders, which I use to remind myself of everyone’s wine preferences! Wines all around.
*The wine.com links are affiliate links
I Love the Free Expense Tracker from Personal Capital!
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 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) is a great way for me to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth.
If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, you might consider trying Personal Capital (note: the Personal Capital links are affiliate links).
Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything
We buy everything we can with credit cards because:
It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where a random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. I also spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of the month.
- 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 for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway.
- We build our credit. Since we don’t have any debt, having several credit cards open for many years helps our credit scores. It’s a dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years does help your score.
For more on my credit card strategy, check out:
Cash Back Cards to Consider
If you’re now cash-back curious, there are a number of cards on the market right now that offer pretty good cash back percentages. Here are a few I think are a good deal:
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
- 1% cash back on other purchases.
- Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.
- $0 fee for the first year; $95 annual fee thereafter. Rates and fees details here.
- Terms apply
- 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
- 1% cash back on other purchases.
- Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.
- No annual fee. Rates and fees details here.
- Terms apply.
- 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
- $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
- No annual fee.
- Unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target).
- 1% back on all other purchases.
- Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
- No annual fee.
- Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year), which is worth up to $300 cash back:
- 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 4.5% on dining and drugstores
- 3% on all other purchases.
- After your first year (or $20,000 spent), you earn:
- 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
- No annual fee.
If you’re interested in travel rewards, people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card®. You can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate 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: $88.19
The silver lining to our spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $4,409.52 on that card, which netted us $88.19.
Not a lot of money, 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 How I Made $712.59 With My Cash Back Credit Card.
Where’s Your Money?
Another easy way to optimize your money is with 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, which–as of this writing–earns 1% in interest (affiliate link). In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,050. That means you earned $50 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 $28.03 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 $28.03 for both of our phones (that’s $14.01 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use an MVNO!
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–the same service, 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.
Here are a two MVNOs to consider:
For more, I have a full chart of providers and their prices 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 on what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease. These MVNO links are affiliate links.
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 we go there a few times a month to stock up on what we can’t get from our neighbors or online.
But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z???
Wondering about common expenses you don’t see listed below?
- We don’t have a mortgage because we paid it off (details here)
- We pay bills in full the month we receive them. That’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property tax. These expenses show up as the full annual (or bi-annual, etc) amount in the month we pay them
- Here’s what we do for health insurance.
- We don’t have any debts and we paid cash for our cars.
- Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.
- Here’s an overview of how we save for our kids’ higher education: How We Use 529 Plans To Save For College
- We live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, so our utilities and household expenses are different from traditional urban and suburban homes:
- We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up (we take it to a transfer station once a week in bags we purchase from our town), we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer).
- There are, of course, costs associated with maintaining these systems (such as having our septic system pumped and inspected) and those expenses show up in the months we pay them.
- We have solar panels, which account for our low electricity bill.
- For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in June:
|Doctor visit co-pay and labs||$1,202.97||I had to get some lab work done (all is well) and WOW was it expensive on our new insurance. However, our monthly insurance premium is so low that this feels totally reasonable. Plus, I think I may have met my deductible…
As with our dental bills, I’m saving all of our receipts and will re-assess our choice of ACA plan before the next calendar year.
|Groceries||$692.08||Oh hey, not too bad!|
|Restaurants||$596.89||Oh whoops, THAT’s why groceries weren’t too bad… A month of celebrations, indeed!|
|Gasoline for cars||$440.74||YIKES GAS PRICES|
|Dentist||$322.00||More dental work, for Mr. FW this time (all’s well, just routine stuff).
Paying out of pocket for dental care continues to rack up bills, which is why I’m keeping all of our receipts and will re-assess the viability of paying for insurance next calendar year.
|Preschool||$160.00||Final month of preschool (this year) for Littlewoods|
|Swim Lessons||$150.00||Swim lessons for both kids|
|Household supplies||$124.88||The thrilling miscellany of life: toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, vitamins, craft supplies, toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, etc.|
|The Folding Wagon of My Dreams (affiliate link).||$106.52||Folding wagon (affiliate link).|
|Beer, wine, liquor||$105.94|
|Wine.com membership (affiliate link).||$62.54||I am such a fan of the free shipping this affords me!|
|Chicken feed & misc. farm supplies||$57.45|
|Health insurance premium||$52.43|
|New overalls for Mr. FW (affiliate link)||$49.99||His old pairs of overalls–which are still trucking along–have severe , unrepairable rips in a, uh, sensitive area. They’re totally fine for farm labor, but not so fine if other people are going to be around…
As you may recall, I bought another pair of this exact same brand for myself last month (affiliate link).
|Coffee Shops||$43.51||Dates with my husband!|
|Fuel club dues||$40.00||We have propane for our oven & stove and oil for back-up heat in the wintertime, so, I joined a Fuel Club last year. So far, the savings are totally worth the annual membership dues!|
|Utilities: Electricity||$28.59||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$28.03||Thank you, cheap MVNO!|
|Roof straps to hold my stand-up paddle board to the top of the car (affiliate link).||$26.45||Straps for stand-up paddle board (affiliate link).
I can report that I have successfully paddle-boarded and I love it!
|Food truck||$15.60||At the very same town-wide party as the bounce house. My kids LOST their minds with joy.|
|Ice cream!||$8.50||Took the girls to the local ice cream shop. They were in HEAVEN.|
|Toilet wax ring||$4.23||We needed to move and re-set one of our toilets as part of our ongoing, long-term home renovation projects, so we needed a new wax ring for it.
This is the very same toilet that our dear friends Mr. & Mrs. 1500 Days helped us install four years ago, so that wax ring holds a special place in my heart.