We Adopted A Dog!
I’m thrilled to introduce Genevieve the dog (aka Gigi)!! Frugal Hound 2.0, Gigiwoods, G-dog McHound Face! She’s a rescue so we’re not sure of her exact age or breed, but our vet estimates she’s 6 months old and likely to be 60-70lbs (she’s currently 40lbs). We think she’s a Plott Hound/Black & Tan Coonhound cross, but again, can’t be certain. She has snuggled right into our pack and the girls are thrilled to have a dog-sister! Despite being a puppy, she’s calm, sweet, doesn’t bark and LOVES to hike. We are so happy to welcome a new dog into our family and she seems very happy to be here. Brace yourselves for a deluge of dog fotos!
OG Frugal Hound
Longtime readers will remember our first dog, Gracie, better known as the OG Frugal Hound. She was a delightful rescued greyhound who passed away in January 2018. We grieved her deeply and she was truly our first child–we adopted her three years before our first human child was born. Gracie moved from Cambridge to the country with us, but always remained a city dog at heart. She’d pick a smooth sidewalk over our bumpy woods any day and she never liked to hike.
As a greyhound, her preferred location was snoozing beside the wood stove. While Gracie–and rescued greyhounds in general–are IDEAL city/apartment dogs, they’re not endurance animals (long hikes are out) and they have tender little paws that are at odds with our sidewalk-free rural homestead. In light of that mismatch, we knew our next dog wouldn’t be another greyhound. I think it’s important to adopt a dog that matches your lifestyle. It’s not fair to you–or the dog–to try and mold them into your lifestyle if it’s not their natural inclination.
Gracie passed away less than a month before Littlewoods was born, so there was no way we were going to adopt another dog right away. Then, we had a two-year-old and an infant. I think you can see why we didn’t adopt a dog at that point either. Then, the pandemic hit and we were confined to our home with a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Yay! We did–in a fit of pandemic-brain–consider adopting a dog during lockdown. But, due to all the other people who had the EXACT same idea, dog supply was running low. I contacted a few local rescue organizations who told me that, due to Covid, we wouldn’t be able to see a prospective dog in person before agreeing to adopt them. That wasn’t going to work for us. So, we decided to shelve Plan Dog Procurement.
Then In Walks Gigi
Fast forward to last month and here we were, minding our Vermont business, not thinking about dogs in particular when Gigi waltzed out of the woods and into our lives. Gigi showed up emaciated and covered in scratches in our friends’ yard a month ago. They (and we) tried very hard to locate her owner, but she came with no tags and no one responded to our advertisements with her photo. We took her to the vet to scan her for a microchip and she didn’t have one. Our friends kept her at their home for a few days and then planned to take her to a shelter as they already have a dog and can’t keep a second. We’d had a chance to meet Gigi and spend time with her and we knew we couldn’t let her go to a shelter. So, we brought her home! She joined our family on October 3rd and we took her to the vet for an exam, all of her shots, parasite testing, medications and microchipping. The vet determined she was too young to spay, so we’ll make an appointment for that in a few months.
Gigi is a serious hiker, which is perfect since Mr. FW and I each hike daily. She goes with us on two hikes per day and I honestly think she’d do a third if given the chance! She loves being in the woods, doesn’t mind jumping over logs, isn’t bothered by the cold (at least, so far), and is happy to trot alongside us. We’re thrilled she’s part of our family!
No Halloween Expenses?
Nope! The girls wore costumes I’d gotten at a yard sale over the summer and I re-used the same decorations we use every year. We don’t get any trick-or-treaters out here in the woods, so we don’t get to buy candy for anyone! I bought a huge bag of candy the first year we lived here and… zero people showed up. I do miss that about our urban home–we used to sit out front with our next-door neighbors H & B, drink beer, chat and hand out candy for hours. We’d run out every year! Fun times.
At any rate, the MO here is trunk-or-treat and I am so thankful to everyone who brought their car to a parking lot, decorated it and handed out candy to kids in the middle of the afternoon on a day that wasn’t even actual Halloween. These people are heroes. Thank you for enabling us to trick-or-treat at a time that is not also our bedtime. And, I promise Kidwoods was happy–that’s just her “serious princess” face. As she later explained, princesses have a lot of responsibilities and therefore are indeed quite serious. The more you know…
But I Did Buy… Mommy & Me Dresses!
In a most ridiculous fit of consumerism, I bought matching dresses for the girls and me. I offered to get one for Mr. FW but he demurred. I realized that, with a soon-to-be 7-year-old, our days of dressing alike may be fleeting! I’ve always wanted to buy matching dresses for us and kept hoping I’d magically stumble upon them at a yard sale or in a hand-me-down pile, but alas, no. Sensing that my oldest might be nearing the brink of not thinking this is “the coolest thing ever,” I seized the moment.
Kidwoods selected our dresses from a menu of options I pre-screened. She insisted that they be floor-length which is why, yes, we do kind of look like a cult. But no matter, the girls LOVE their dresses and mine fits just fine too. We’ve already worn them to church together and Kidwoods wears her to school regularly (floor-length gown to 1st grade, anyone?).
There’s A Hole in my Washing Machine…
Public service announcement to anyone buying a front-loading washing machine: make sure that the drain pump filter is easily accessible from the front of the machine. This is crucial because this is a thing from which you will need to extract baby socks, crayons, coins, acorns–just for example.
On our 12-year-old washing machine, the drain pump filter is NOT accessible from the front. So the first time we needed to clean this filter, Mr. FW had to disassemble the entire machine (which also entailed taking down the dryer, which sits on top of the washer… ). He vowed that if he ever had to do that again, he’d just cut a hole in the front of the washer. And last month, he made good on that vow. So far, so good. Washer runs just fine and the drain pump filter is now easily accessible for all future incursions. WAY cheaper than buying a new washing machine. Plus, check out our sweet cardboard cover:
Can I Talk To You?
Yes! In September I launched Private Reader Case Studies, which are an opportunity for folks to hire me for a full financial consultation. I’m also now offering hourlong video calls. You can:
To learn more about private one-on-one consultations, check this out.
I Love the Free Money Tracking Tools from Personal Capital!
I use a free online service called Personal Capital to organize our money. It tracks our spending, net worth, investments, retirement, everything.
Knowing where your money’s at is one of the 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 your finances, 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 don’t have a solid idea of where your money’s at–or how you’re spending it–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 $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
- 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 up to $250 – Here’s How: Earn up to $150 back when you shop with PayPal. Earn 20% back as a statement credit on purchases when you use your new Card to check out with PayPal at merchants in the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back as a statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- 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: $73.43
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 $3,671.37 on that card, which netted us $73.43.
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 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 2.35% in interest (affiliate link). In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,118. That means you earned $118 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. 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.
Yes, We Only Paid $28.24 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 $28.24 for both of our phones (that’s $14.12 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 and more recently, here too.
- 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 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 October:
|Ski Program||$520.00||Season-long ski program for Kidwoods. All of our other ski-related expenses showed up in last month’s expense report.|
|Vet visit for Dog||$497.78||Vet visit, shots, tests, medications and microchipping|
|Gas for cars||$204.91|
|Gigi supplies||$183.98||Dog food, dog beds, dog treats, and chicken food. All from Tractor Supply, as they seem to have the best prices on these sorts of things around here.|
|Dentist||$183.00||My six-month cleaning and exam.
We don’t have dental insurance anymore so we pay out of pocket. I’m saving all of our receipts this year to see if it’ll make sense to buy dental insurance next year.
|Restaurants||$149.71||Date lunches & dinners!|
|Household Supplies||$116.77||Cannot emphasize enough how exciting these items are: toilet bowl cleaner, toilet paper, laundry detergent, a folding table (to do puzzles on!), a new kitchen trash can (a child accidentally broke the lid on the previous can while doing the chore of taking out the trash… ), etc|
|Littlewoods’ Fancy Lunch||$90.09||Kidwoods had school on a few days that preschool didn’t and so we took Littlewoods out for a Very Fancy Lunch Date with both parents. We try to give each kid individual attention and she positively BASKED in being the only kid at lunch.|
|Beer, wine and liquor||$89.90|
|Haircut for me||$82.80||My pixie cut continues! I had her cut it super duper short back in March, so this was the first time I needed it cut since then. 7 months between cuts is pretty good! Although I doubt I’ll make it quite that long this time since I didn’t go as short.|
|Chimney Sweep||$75.00||Annual expense for all your chimney safety needs.|
|Matching dresses||$67.97||The Mommy and Me dresses. Not too bad at $27.99 for my dress and $19.99 for each of the girls’ (affiliate link).|
|Fancy Hair Products||$58.00||I know, I know!!! I was in a weak moment and I bought the products my hairdresser used on my hair. And… I love them. Thankfully, short hair = very little product needed per day.|
|BJ’s Warehouse Store Annual Membership||$55.00||Continues to be worth it for the savings on groceries and household supplies.|
|Health Insurance||$52.43||Monthly premium|
|Utilities: Electricity||$33.04||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Local Maple Syrup||$29.12||We’ve run out of the maple syrup we make! The horror! We now have to buy it from our neighbors. The bulk of this gets used in our homemade whole wheat sandwich bread.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$28.24||Thank you, cheap MVNO!|
|Pharmacy||$14.77||Prescription medication co-pay|
|Spotify||$13.77||We signed up for Spotify as we’re tired of not having music in the car. Since we have no cell reception, and pretty terrible radio reception out here, we’ve been craving jams. So now we’re jamming.
I really wish I could phonetically convey how Littlewoods says, “Simon and Garfunkel.” It’s… something.
|Washing Machine Cleaner||$12.70||I recently learned that you’re supposed to clean your washing machine with this stuff regularly (affiliate link). Welp. Better late than never? This may or may not be related to aforementioned drain pump filter issue…|
|OTC Medication||$8.58||Generic Zyrtec for all your allergy-prevention needs (affiliate link).|
|Yeast||$8.57||Yeast for our homemade sandwich bread, which we make in a bread machine bought for $5 at a yard sale three years ago (affiliate link).|