Doggie Doppelgänger And Other August 2022 Expenses
Birthday Brewery Bash!
Mr. FW celebrated his 39th birthday in August and my in-laws graciously kept our children for three days (and two nights!!!!)! We decided against traveling this year–last year we went kid-free to Cambridge, MA–and instead stay-cationed it up. When I asked my husband what kind of cake he wanted me to bake, he replied, “beer.” Excellent.
We made a reservation at Hill Farmstead (ranked the best brewery in the world) and spent his birthday lounging on their lawn, viewing the mountains and sipping beer. Perfection. We also went hiking, bought some used snow tires for the Subaru and took a day trip to Burlington, VT. Several other breweries made their way onto our itinerary: Foam, Queen City Brewing, Burlington Beer Co and Lawson’s. Vermont is truly abundant with breweries!
Other People’s Birthdays
Many people have August birthdays, it seems, including three of Kidwoods’ friends. Kid birthday parties introduce a new spending conundrum: gifts! In the past, I’ve been able to find new (with tags/wrappers on) toys at yard sales to gift to the birthday children. However, I haven’t been so lucky as of late and didn’t have any new gifts to repurpose. What to buy? I spent some time on the old internet and came up with the following gem: make-your-own flower crown and headband kits (affiliate link). At ~$10 each, these are ideal! I like that they are a craft and a costume. I like that they aren’t electronic. I like that they don’t require the kid to be into a certain character/book/theme. So far, the three recipients seem delighted and I’m going to ride this train until next year.
Littlewoods’ very favorite, very required stuffy is Doggie. Doggie goes to bed with her, on car trips, out to the garden… he has been prevented (many times) from accompanying us to the beach. For reasons that are likely obvious, Doggie is now on a lifetime ban from the chicken coop and chicken pen. Due to his well-traveled nature, Doggie has also been forgotten in inopportune locales and required emergency extraction.
Additionally due to his well-traveled nature, Doggie requires frequent machine washing, which A) puts him out of commission for the duration of the wash and dry cycles; and B) Is rapidly degrading his fur and other integral characteristics, including but not limited to his stitching. In light of the travails and travels of Doggie, we decided it would be prudent to invest in a backup Doggie Doppelgänger. Thankfully, Doggie is commercially available. OG Doggie was, of course, a hand-me-down. Doggie Doppelgänger, on the other hand, had to be purchased new (affiliate link).
Oil & Propane Top-Up
I know it’s fall because we just topped off our oil and propane tanks! While we heat primarily with our woodstove (burning wood that Mr. FW harvests from our land), we have baseboard oil back-up heat. It’s imperative for us to have back-up heat to prevent against frozen pipes in the event that: 1) temperatures dip precipitously overnight and the stove can’t keep up; 2) we need to go out of town during the winter months.
The propane is for our cooking stove and oven, which we hope to transition to induction in the future to capitalize on our solar power! But for now, we’re stuck with propane.
Neither the propane nor the oil was anywhere near empty, but I make it a habit (tradition?) to fill both up every fall. In the unusual event that we needed more fuel in the middle of winter, there’s no guarantee the delivery trucks would make it down our driveway. In fact, they’ve told me they won’t deliver to us in inclement weather. Case in point: two years ago an oil delivery truck got stuck on our driveway. In the middle of dry, balmy September. Yep.
I’ve been watching oil prices and debating when to order, but I finally just did it. I fear prices will go up this fall, so I felt good locking in the prices now–even though it’s nearly double what we paid last year. YIKES.
Here’s what we paid this year:
252.8 gallons of oil at $4.78/gal = $1,208.38
+19.7 gallons of propane at $3.93/gal = $77.42
= $1,286.80 (we paid $1,261.99 with our “prompt pay” discount)
I learned a few years ago that most oil and propane companies offer a discount for what they call “prompt pay.” If you pay your bill in full within a specified time frame, you get a discount! And so, our total was actually $1,261.99. Woohoo! Always, always, always ask if there’s a discount for paying a bill in full at the time of service–any service! I got the same type of discount on my Lasik eye surgery years ago. Never hurts to ask.
Longtime readers will recall that I used to call every single oil and propane company in our region to compare prices, which I do think nets the best price. However, I got lazy a few years ago and joined a fuel club, which negotiates the prices on behalf of all club members. Here’s a deep dive into how I’ve saved thousands on propane and oil over the years.
Since I find all of our rural systems somewhat overwhelming, I started a Google doc when we first moved here to keep us on track with our:
- Oil and propane deliveries
- Chimney sweeping and inspection (for oil and wood chimneys)
- Septic pumping
- Boiler servicing
A lot of this needs to be done in intervals–not on a simple, annual basis–so I find this doc is the only way I can keep track!
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 offering 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.
- $95 annual fee. 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.
- 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023.
- $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 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.
- 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
- New 5% categories each quarter.
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- 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 you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, which is $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: $68.89
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 $3,444.56 on that card, which netted us $68.89.
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 1.75% in interest (affiliate link). In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,088. That means you earned $88 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 $28.43 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 $28.43 for both of our phones (that’s $14.22 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 August:
|Property Taxes||$9,015.01||Annual property taxes on our Vermont homestead: 66 acres, 1 house, 1 barn|
|Oil and Propane||$1,261.99||Annual amount|
|Gasoline for cars||$283.84|
|Household supplies||$282.33||Massively thrilling items, such as: dishwasher pods, laundry detergent, craft supplies, printer paper, motor oil, toiletries, vitamins, toothpaste, shampoo, etc…|
|Cash withdrawal||$200.00||ATM withdrawal for my yard sale adventures! Remind me to do an end-of-season wrap-up on all my great finds 🙂|
|Birthday Brewery visits||$191.14||Foam, Queen City, Lawson’s, Hill Farmstead, Burlington Beer Co|
|Passport Renewals||$160.00||Both of our passports were due for renewal!|
|Beer to Go||$115.34||Mr. FW’s birthday presents|
|Kids Summer camp||$100.00||Final payment for the girls’ 2 day/week summer camp.|
|MA Dept. of Taxes||$87.52||Taxes owed to the state of MA (where our rental is located)|
|Oats||$83.29||50 lbs of bulk, raw, organic oats. We store them in these pet food containers, which are cheaper than human food containers, but work in exactly the same way (affiliate link).|
|Ski Socks (2 pairs)||$62.00||Fall is in the air and ski season cometh! Decided to break down and buy the expensive ski socks from Darn Tough that everyone raves about. We didn’t have ski socks last season and everyone told us we needed them. So now we have them.|
|Random Amazon items that ended up in the same order||$44.86||1) Hand Strengthening Balls. I’ve been having hand pain and my physical therapist recommended hand exercises that involve balls. That’s a Clueless reference and an affiliate link all in one sentence.
2) Mesh Laundry Hampers. The girls requested to each have their own laundry hamper. Who am I to deny them this wonder?
These are affiliate links.
|Health insurance monthly premium||$52.43|
|Local beef||$50.00||8lbs of local organic, grass-fed beef|
|Overalls||$49.99||New pair of work overalls for Mr. FW (affiliate link).|
|Vermont Woodlands Annual Dues||$40.00|
|Lunch date with Littlewoods!||$36.53||Kidwoods started 1st grade a few days before Littlewoods started preschool, so I took her out for a special mommy-and-me lunch date!|
|Utilities: Electricity||$33.00||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$28.43||Thank you, cheap MVNO!|
|Three headband/flower crown-making craft kits for birthday gifts||$29.99||They have options for flower crown OR headband-making kits (affiliate link). I’ve purchased both types and been pleased with both.|
|Fitness ring||$15.89||I got this fitness circle (ring? thighmaster?) for leg strengthening (another recommendation from my PT/osteopractor) (affiliate link).|
|Doggie Doppelgänger||$13.73||The one, the only, the Doggie Doppelgänger (affiliate link).|
|Parking||$10.80||Parking meter usage while in Big Cities|
|Stainless Steel Hose Clamps||$10.59||Stainless Steel Hose Clamps for replacing rusted ones on the tractor (affiliate link).|
How was your August?
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