Birthday Brewery Bash!

Hill Farmstead beer

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.

Doggie Doppelgänger

OG Doggie hanging out with the fall decor

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

As seen on a recent hike: FALL LEAF

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)

Kidwoods + our ripe blueberries

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.

Fall apple picking

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:

  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 spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense listed at the end of the 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 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:

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:

Apple drops from our Red Duchess tree

1) Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:


  • 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 $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Rates and fees details here.
  • Terms apply

2) Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express:

  • 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.

3) Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • 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.
Littlewoods enjoying the finest of summer

4) Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card:


  • 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.

5) Chase Freedom Unlimited®:

  • 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).

Disclosure: Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Cash Back Earned This Month: $68.89

Littlewoods + me on our lunch date

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)

The girls harvesting the vegetables they grew!

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:

Item Amount Notes
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
Groceries $630.56
Restaurants $390.37
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).
The Internet $72.00
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!
Chicken feed $28.37
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).
Prescription medication $6.57 Co-pay
Total: $13,386.48

How was your August?

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  1. Tom and I loved Kraemer & Kin Brewery on the southern tip of Alburg on our Vercation last week (what we’re calling our Vermont staycations) — the food was fabulous, the view from the porch beautiful, and though neither of us drink alcohol, we were intrigued by the hyper-local garlic mustard brew!?!

  2. For a minute after I read the title of this post in my inbox I got really excited that you’d adopted another greyhound!

  3. $283.84 for gas seems high when you are basically retired. Where do you go to burn that sort of gas? Can’t you consolidate trips?

    I’m not retired yet, but the appeal of it will be not having to go anywhere most of the time.

    1. I work from home and I’m still spending $600 a month on gas. When you live in a rural area, you generally have to drive several miles just to go to the grocery store.

        1. Yep, we are the champs of consolidation! We never go just “one” place ;). We do drive a lot, because we have to, which is a real downside to living rurally (which I’ve addressed in past posts, most notably this one). Additionally, we took a bunch of long day trips in August for our stay-cation, which definitely increased our gas costs. Plus, August saw the start of driving to and from school every day. And, the nearest grocery stores are 40 miles away. We don’t go to the store weekly–more like 2x/month–but it’s still a long way. Here’s a great consolidation trip I have planned for later this week–I’ll be doing all of the following in one trip: dropping kids off at school, doctor’s appointment, library, grocery store, Walmart and an oil change & tire rotation appointment. That’s a pretty typical errand consolidation day for us.

          1. Not for preschoolers! Once Littlewoods is in Kindergarten, they can both ride the bus. But for now, we have to drive them.

          2. I found it very liberating when my son started riding the bus. It allowed me to reclaim my mornings and slow down and catch my breath a little before work.

    1. We order them through our local Co-op’s bulk ordering option! We are members of the Co-op and they allow members to put in bulk food orders, which is fantastic. It’s where we get our bulk oats, flour and dried beans.

    2. Hey Rebecca,
      Not an affiliate or anything, but I just did a bulk buy of beans, rolled oats and steel cut oats from Azure Standard. I was really happy. Great prices. They bring your order in a truck to a drop point and you go pick up.

      Now I need to buy some of the pet food containers!

      I’m not a prepper, but I cook enough that having some bulk supplies on hand makes it easier.

  4. Doggie Doppelganger is definitely worth it. My son had a kitty that went everywhere, so I purchased a backup just in case – well, he found my hiding spot, so then kitty and twin went everywhere with us. He’s 18 now, and the kitty twins still live in his room.

    1. This happened to us… then one of them got lost and was replaced, then the lost was found in the neighbor’s window well. Now we have three that travel around with our 13-year-old.

  5. As someone who also lives in a rural area and struggles to keep track of all the systems, would you be up for doing a post on your Google sheet and how you organize and budget for all that? From cleaning the gutters to the septic to chimney to wood… I could use some help! I budget for them in a lump sum but it would be a lot cheaper if I’ve got the septic maintained when it wasn’t an emergency. And when it’s multi-year maintenance cycles it’s hard.

    1. I have found, even living in a city, that having a calendar with events/reminders helps me keep track of these things. I use Google Calendar and have a “house chores” calendar which has things like mowing the yard, changing the air filters for the HVAC, draining the water heater, tree trimming, etc. You can set up recurring events and include notes about cost and company to contact or other helpful details. I also have a calendar for my dog, medical stuff, bill pay deadlines, and when to take out the trash versus trash and recycling so maybe I’m just “calendar happy” but it works well for me. I also, in addition to Personal Capital, use a spreadsheet that reflects the costs of these tasks but I find that it is easier to update calendar events while on the go and then transfer to the spreadsheet en mass/ as needed.

      1. Thanks for this, Emily, never thought of using several calendars instead of having everything on one, which sometimes is more confusing than helpful! 😄

      2. You can have google calendars set up recurring entries. If something needs to be done yearly, semi-annually or every three years you can have your google calendar automatically but in a recurring entry. For reminders I set it to show for a week. That should get my attention even if its just to move the entry forward a couple of weeks when I think I’ll be able to deal with it.

  6. Started back at university for a PhD in nursing. This was a shock to my internal budget, not the actual budget. The university if 78 miles away. BUT there is only in person classes twice a month, the rest of time I get to have class from my house. I did not buy a parking pass for $150 for the semester because I never know which car I am commuting in, instead it is $8-10 a day to park.
    This is a state school, which is cheaper. I have cobbled together scholarships from AORN ($2,000), tuition reimbursement from my hospital $3,000, all corporate bonuses (roughly $4,000/yr from the hospital), clinical ladder monies that I get for doing things for career advancement (roughly $5,000/yr), working a research assistant for 10 hours a week from home. And a nursing faculty loan forgiveness program that will pay 85% for me to go to college with $1,000 yearly book allowance, as long as I work as a nursing faculty at an accredited college after I graduate. I am putting all the money earned in a high yield savings account in case I can’t fulfill the nursing faculty loan and I can pay it off in one fail swoop. The monies I get for scholarships and bonuses far exceed the program cost over the 3 years that it takes. I don’t strictly need nursing faculty loan forgiveness program but as teaching is one of the things I’m working on the degree for, I will gain valuable experience, just like the RA work. And contacts, which we all know is the real currency in academia.
    My first 3 classes are 1) statistical analysis for nursing research, 2) philosophy for nursing, and 3) financial longevity. The cost for each class is roughly $1,500. And I intend to take 3 classes every semester, and one class 1 summer. The program is 57 credit hours. And I believe I can utilize 18 credits from my MSN, which I received in 2020.
    Wish me luck, I’m going to need it with statistics. I am not gifted in math; tears were shed yesterday when I was struggling with my first assignment. That was mostly tech related but, you know, still a struggle, even with my in-house IT husband.

    1. Good Luck! I did a master’s in education long distance. Take one assignment at a time. Ask for help if you need it. You can do this!

  7. We sold our gas stove and swapped it for induction due to the poor air quality in our home from gas. Like you, I’d like to eliminate all fossil fuels from our home. We have two heat pumps that heat our home all winter. Once we swap out the gas run water heater, we’ll be 100% electric making the most of our solar run home. The induction stove is amazing, with better heat control than gas, which we were not expecting. You won’t regret it.

    1. Have you thought/checked into a photovoltaic water heater? Sun heats the water even in winter. Saves a lot on our electricity bills. We love ours!

  8. Ha, the Clueless reference. I just re-watched it the other day.

    One of my kids had a stuffed animal that went everywhere with her since she got it at age 3. She turns 37 this month, she’s a wife and mom, has a graduate degree, is someone who often deals with international clients in her job, yet that original stuffed animal still adorns her bed. Long live your daughter’s doggie! May she have it (OG or not) for a long, long time.

    The kids’ parties are starting for you – get prepared. It helps to have a stash of gifts that you buy when you see them on sale, instead of being caught on short notice needing a gift and having to pay full price. When my kids were young, it seemed sometimes as though we had 10-12 parties a year to attend. I was so glad when they got past that age.

    I think you did the right thing buying your oil now. I think it’s only going to go up.

    I found a red leaf at my house this weekend! Hooray!

    1. Ditto on the gifts! I’m always shocked at how little folks spend on gifting, then remember how much I’d save if I wasn’t buying a dozen or more bday gifts (plus 8 coach and teacher gifts) each year.

      When my kids were younger I would watch the Christmas (and after Christmas) sales and stock up for the year when the deals were good, or periodically check Target’s clearance section for deeply discounted art kits, etc.

      Now that we’ve aged out of the toy stage it’s harder to find a bargain, but I still look for deals on gift cards older kids would like. Would love to hear other ideas for frugal bday gifting, especially tweens!

  9. 1. Hill Farmstead is THE.BEST! And it’s beautiful there, too!
    2. Darn Tough socks are THE.BEST! 🙂 I laughed as I’m sitting here working (well, kind of… ) and have a pair on as I type. Mornings are nice and cool these days in CO… fall is coming!

      1. We also own a multifamily that we live in but are trying to pay it off early. I suppose the difference is that the rent doesn’t pay the mortgage since we reside there. I’ve heard many debates on paying off multifamily or letting them ride out.

  10. Your brewery tour birthday celebration sounds awesome! You’re fortunate to have so many good ones near you! And lovely to have a special lunch date with your Littlewoods! Happy Autumn!

  11. When my kiddo was little, we had Kitty. It went everywhere with us too! Got left behind at Walmart, the library, and grandma’s house. She luckily had a sturdy cloth build, but after many washings her fluff was pretty deflated. We took her to build a bear and had her re-fluffed. I packed her away and she is safe, and made it with my kiddo to adulthood, now 24.

  12. My friend’s child has two “bear” and she rotates them often so they are equally worn. I would suggest mixing new doggie for adventures as well.

    1. Definitely this! For our first child we never pulled out the back up until it was needed when she was 1.5yo. I will never forget the look of confusion and horror on my daughter’s face as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing – her lovey, but not her lovey, because it was too pristine. We got that thing out of the room as fast as we could and let my daughter sleep with the OG lovey still damp from the wash.

      For our second we have always switched between two identical loveys regularly. At 4yo she totally gets it and will switch them herself when one needs washing – they both share the single lovey identity of “Floppy”.

  13. Very jealous that the favorite dog is still manufactured and easy to buy. I have spent so much time on eBay trying to find used toys that my kids became obsessed with but are no longer produced. Whoever at Disney decided that each princess needs to have 6 pets but not make said “palace pets” available on the open market is a sadist.

  14. I love your brewery tour. Can you be more detailed about how/when you visited each—-i.e., how many in a day, what hours, what sequence, etc? We’d like to do the same. Also, can you recommend a place to stay overnight in the midst of the visit? It sounds like such fun. Thanks.

  15. So, not that Mr F is also retired, does the interest you get on your investments pay your expenses?

    I’m sure you’ve explained it but have lost track of that info…

  16. Was Littlewoods accepting of Doggie Doppelgänger? I ask b/c my parents tried the same thing and “Pooky II” was rejected. The original bear had to be sewn into a newborn sized onsie to keep him together 😉

    1. Same here. We actually got a second one soon after his birth and switched them frequently but he had a favorite and knew which was which.

  17. Darn Tough socks are the best. I am very frugal but socks are one of the things I splurge on. I only buy Darn Tough for every day winter socks and Feetures for exercise and wearing with tennis shoes and shorts. Both have lifetime guarantees. Great investment.

  18. Same! We are traveling to NH/VT and plan to spend an overnight in Burlington and were just researching which breweries/brewpub to try. Any favs of the ones you named? Our AirBnb is not far from the Burlington Beer and Queen City. (We won’t be able to go to Hill Farm stead this time.)

    1. Fun! Burlington Beer Co is great–they have food and it’s a large space, so it’s perfect for groups and kids. Queen City was probably our favorite because it was unique. There’s a pizza shop in the same building as Queen City so you can get pizza and take it in, but otherwise they don’t serve food. Foam is also great! As is Four Quarters in Winooski. can’t go wrong!

  19. Totally on the same page about gifting! My kids are basically the same ages as yours (Aug. 2015 and Feb. 2018), and I have also been doing craft kits for gifts for several years. The rock painting kit from the same brand as the crowns has been a big hit, and this year I switched to bracelet-making kits from Amazon (craftabelle sets are packaged nicely for gifting). Our daughter has spent hours and hours on the rainbow loom she got for her 7th birthday. For awhile I tried to find kits with little supervision necessary, so it’s something the parents can just send their kid off to do (screen-free childcare!), but the bracelets will need some adult help. I also stick to about $10 (to $15) per gift. None of our kids/friends NEED anything, but since it’s not really accepted around here to request “no gifts” at the elementary ages, I at least try to keep it inexpensive and fun. To me the craft kits are like gifting an experience, in the form of a physical thing you can wrap up. I love your take that the crowns are also like a costume!

    1. Love these ideas! I have been mostly gifting sand art kits, will have to look into other kits as well and stock up. In my town families often only send out birthday invitations a few days ahead, which makes it really hard to plan affordable gifts, especially because mall stuff is a lot more expensive than online.

  20. At least you could get a back-up – older kid had an item that was mine when I was little and *no* back-up was available. At times, a planned or unplanned trip to the washer/dryer was not a happy time for the kid. Wised up with the second kid and had back-ups.

  21. We were given a very nice blanket for our oldest that only got used on important occasions. The last used it as his blanky. It got so ratty I was able to divide it into two pieces, so he could have one while the other was in the wash. His sibs joke that he still carries a piece in his wallet.

  22. I have a delightful stuffed friend my late husband gifted me 41 years ago. He looks very similar to your Doggie Doppelgängers. I made him coveralls out of fleece fabric. They covered all his paws. I sewed them shut on him. This saved his fur as it was getting many bald spots. I will be replacing his coveralls but adding a hood since the fur on top of his head is sparse.

  23. Happy 39th Mr FW! Hope you guys had a great time in Cambridge, went there once many years ago, and loved it! I’m sorry you had to drop $1200+ on heating oil, I hope that carries you through the winter!

  24. Mrs Frugalwood, Newcastle, Australia here, really enjoy your monthly updates, its interesting to see how others live and have become a lot more aware of wasting money and ways to make my money stretch further. Love the local breweries you visit, we have lots here as well.

  25. One thing I’ve found for great interest right now is US Treasury I-bonds. You have to hold on to them for a year minimum, but the interest rate is unbelievably high — 9% now– and perfectly safe since they’re backed by the US government. The catch is you can’t get at your money for a year, and that you can only put in $10,000 a year, another $5 if you immediately move a tax refund in. This is great money!

  26. Longtime reader but never commented. Many of you likely already know this but Sierra (part of TJ Maxx family of stores) carries great wool socks at a discount. Brands such as smart wool and Darn Tough/Cabot and Sons. Worth checking out if you have one near. I’ve gotten Darn Tough ski socks for $7 on clearance

  27. Thanks for all the sharing and great content. I’m curious do you also share the end of the year results? Show your income vs expenses to show how you guys managed your money for the year. That would be very helpful.

  28. hi, i don’t know if this has been answered before, but I’m curious if you all have thought of geothermal heating/cooling for your house? I get that you don’t have air vents which would add to the cost of adding the vents, but considering you do have a huge plot of land, it seems you’d be a good candidate (outside of cost of course!)
    my coworker got geothermal for her house in Jersey and it cut her winter heating bills in half (you all heat with wood so wouldn’t be as necessary).

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