The dog booty wearer in question

Ahhh decadent December! Filled with food, wine, life-sized penguin stuffies and dog booties. December always promises to be a high-spend month, but that doesn’t have to spell crisis. If you plan for expensive months, if you calculate what you spend on something like Christmas and save up over the course of a year, you can conclude a month like December with satisfaction as opposed to regret. The goal in all of this–all of this money awareness and wise financial management–isn’t to NEVER spend money.

The goal (in my opinion, anyway) is to spend money:

  1. In alignment with your values and on what matters most to you
  2. In a planned, proactive way as opposed to an impulsive, reactive way
  3. To enhance happiness, not to create stress
  4. Only on things you can actually afford

How you articulate those four pillars of spending is up to you, and for me? Last month it was on food, wine and penguin stuffies. = My BFF for Christmas Gifts

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

Cheers to my wine membership!

I like because:

  1. The wine costs the same as it does in a store. I’ve price-checked the bottles and doesn’t mark them up.
  2. The selection is immense. They’ve got every kind of wine (also liquor and port) imaginable!
  3. It’s so quick and easy. I’ve saved my family member’s addresses AND their preferred types of wine on the site so I have an easy reference point each year. It takes me 15 minutes to order Christmas gifts for my entire family!
  4. FREE SHIPPING. I saved the best for last. I pay $59 per year to be a “Wine Stewardship Member,” which qualifies me for free shipping on all of my purchases. Free shipping! Crucial since bottles of wine are heavy and expensive to ship. This works out for me since I ship at least five cases of wine a year and each case would cost ~$20 to ship.

All in all, is the answer to my gifting prayers and these are affiliate links.

Christmas Gifts: for Teachers and the Angel Tree

On the astute advice several years ago from Frugalwoods readers who are teachers, we give cash to our kids’ teachers every December. I write a nice note and stick some cash in the card. Again, I want to give people something they can use. And everyone can use cash!

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

My Own Children Get Used Christmas Gifts

Checking to see if the reindeer visited–they leave carrot shavings outside our house!

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

Our kids receive hand-me-down and garage sale finds! I scour thrift stores and yard sales all year long to collect things I know they’ll love. In our house, Santa shops used.

For more on how I manage really inexpensive gifting for my kids, check out:

…But I’m Not A Hardliner About It

While 95% of my kids’ gifts come from yard sales/hand-me-downs, I’m not a zealot. I think it’s all about balance. I don’t believe my children need hundreds of dollars worth of toys for every birthday and Christmas, but I also believe it’s lovely for them to receive a few gifts they’ve specifically requested. As our kids get older (they’re currently 7 and almost 5), they naturally have specific interests and specific gift requests for Santa. We decided this year that Santa would fulfill two of each child’s specific gift requests. The girls wrote letters to Santa back in November and my wonderful mom wrote them back as Santa (side note: this is AMAZING for kids who can read–I thought Kidwoods was going to pass out from excitement when she read her letter from Santa).

On Christmas morning, Santa delivered four gifts to each child, two used and two new, although the kids do not know the difference–I began the tradition of removing all packaging and tags from new gifts years ago so that everything looks the same when they unwrap it.

Here’s What We Purchased New:

  1. Gifts!

    Snow globes: both girls requested snow globes and so Santa Dada bought two at Walmart (affiliate link).

  2. One big penguin: for unknown reasons, Kidwoods wanted a “life-sized penguin stuffy” and Walmart delivered (affiliate link).. When she opened it, she announced, “All my penguin dreams came true!!!!” so I guess that was a good call on our part. Big penguin now gets paraded around the house nonstop, much to the chagrin of the dog who I think might think it’s real…
  3. Walkie Talkies: these are FABULOUS because they force the girls to play collaboratively (affiliate link). They’re pretty good about playing together as it is, but these bring their cooperation to the next level. After all, it’s not very fun to one-sided Walkie (as evidenced by the fact that Kidwoods bails every time Littlewoods reverts to breathing loudly into her Walkie… ). I really try to keep a straight face as a parent.
  4. Nail polish from Piggy Paint: The girls are obsessed with me painting their nails, but I had misgivings about all the chemicals in my adult nail polish (affiliate link). Enter: PiggyPaint. This stuff is non-toxic and water-based and has NO odor. Seriously. It’s also very easy to apply. Given these attributes, we let the girls paint their own nails with it. You’ve already accurately predicted the results of this activity: nail polish spilled on the floor, nail polish spilled on the table, nail polish on clothing, nail polish on the dog, and the worst manicures you’ve ever seen. But it doesn’t matter! The stuff is so easily removed, it’s basically like wiping up crayon marks. The downside is that it doesn’t last long on nails AT ALL, but the kids don’t care–they just repaint their nails the next day.

Dog Hiking Booties

Gigi in the snow, wishing for booties

Gigi, for her part, received several toys for Christmas as well as a stocking stuffed with tennis balls. She was elated. She also received these hound hiking booties, about which she is demonstrably less elated. As temperatures dropped and snow cover ensued, Gigi began having trouble on our hikes with ice getting stuck between her little toe-sies. We tried applying Musher’s Secret (a wax that’s supposed to keep the paws ice-free), but it didn’t work. Next, we tried the booties we’d used for Gracie (Frugal Hound 1.0), but those weren’t durable enough and kept falling off. Since Gigi hikes twice a day (once with me and once with Mr. FW), we needed a way to keep her comfortable and so, we ordered sled dog booties. Of course, as soon as they arrived it warmed up and we haven’t needed to use them yet. But, they fit her securely and appear very durable.

Electric Kettle

Several years ago we bought a cheap, knock-off electric kettle, which we use daily to make our coffee, oatmeal and tea. Last month it broke. Mr. FW took it apart to see if he could fix it and discovered that on the main electrical leads inside the base, next to the heating element, the insulation had started cracking and flaking off the wires. This is a huge safety and fire hazard! Clearly one of the ways they cut costs on this knock-off kettle was by cheaping out on the heat insulation wires. Scary! In light of this discovery, we decided to spend more and get this Cuisinart kettle as a replacement (affiliate link).

We haven’t opened up the new kettle to check on the wire insulation, but our hope is that a brand name has a longer term stake in not burning down people’s homes. We hope there are better long-term safety choices being made in this kettle…. because YIKES.

Can I Talk To You?

Our winter warmer wonder: the wood stove

Yes! In September I launched Private Reader Case Studies, which are an opportunity for folks to hire me for a one-on-one financial consultation. I also now offer hourlong video calls. You can:

  1. Hire me for a private financial consultation here.
  2. Schedule an hourlong call with me here.

To learn more about one-on-one consultations with me, 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:

  1. Sunrise as seen on a morning hike

    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:

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
Kidwoods at our church’s Christmas Eve service

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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.

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.
Littlewoods’ snow creation

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: $62.18

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 $3,109.04 on that card, which netted us $62.18.

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?

Kid in a tree

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 3.3% in interest (affiliate link). In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,165. That means you earned $165 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)

Sunrise view from our back porch

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 few 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
  • Christmas tree through the window!

    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)

  • Used gifts ‘neath this Christmas tree

    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 December:

Item Amount Notes
Groceries $939.03 Christmas feast foods!!! Including one bag of Christmas Cheetos for ME.
Truck repairs; Subaru tires $840.45 The truck needed new struts and a tie rod end while the Subaru needed to have its new snow tires mounted and balanced (now that they’re mounted on their rims, Mr. FW will change them himself each season).
Gas for cars $386.20
Christmas Gifts: extended family, teachers, angel tree child and our kids $383.55 See full details above. Brief rundown (affiliate links):

Wine from

Snow globes from Walmart

 Life-sized penguin stuffy

Nail polish from Piggy Paint

Cash for teachers

Angel Tree gift

Preschool $260.00 For Littlewoods
Vet visit + prescription medications $243.60 For doggo
Restaurants $205.29
Chicken food, larger chicken feeder, dog food, dog treats, dog toys for Christmas $201.27 All from Tractor Supply
Household supplies $172.54
Round-trip flight to NYC $153.08 I’m going to NYC next month for a wedding (I’m going to be my friend’s +1 as we leave our husbands and kids at home. We’re pretty excited about this.)
Beer, wine, alcohol $151.86 For Christmas spirits!
Sheets: one set of king sized $150.70 1 set of king-sized sheets from LL Bean.

We’ve always gotten super cheap sheets in the past and–unsurprisingly–they all rip and fall apart within a year. Our hope is that by spending A LOT more, these’ll last longer than a year.

Electric Kettle $99.64 Electric Kettle (affiliate link). Similar story as the sheets–we’ve always gotten knock-off kettles in the past and they’ve broken. Hoping that by spending more, this’ll last longer.
Oil change & check-up for Subaru $78.54 We’re being very diligent about doing all the dealer-recommended check-ups on the Subaru.
Diesel & ethanol-free gas for farm equipment $77.02 10 gals diesel, 5 gals ethanol-free gas
Internet $72.00
Health insurance $52.43
Thrift store $45.00 A ski coat for me, an insulated flannel shirt for Mr. FW and some toys for the kids.
US Postal Service $44.00 Stamps for our Christmas postcards
Dog booties! $37.40 Dog booties
Walkie Talkies and rechargeable batteries $36.76 Walkie Talkies and rechargeable batteries (affiliate links). The ultimate in sibling cooperative play.
Dog kongs $35.93 2 XL dog Kongs for Gigi. She loves them! (affiliate link)
Lifetime supply of shear bolts for tractor snowblower $34.51
Utilities: Electricity $30.98 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Ski program for Kidwoods $28.99
Cell phone service for two phones $28.24 Thank you, cheap MVNO!
Tailgate handle $22.25 The tailgate handle on our truck broke, so Mr. FW is going to replace it with this new one (affiliate link).
Torx bit socket set $17.09 Torx Bit Socket Set for all your torx bit socketing needs (affiliate link).
Spotify $13.77 Music!!
Ski straps $13.77 Ski Straps to hold our skis together (affiliate link).
TOTAL: $4,855.89

How was your final month of 2022?

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  1. The giant penguin is the stuff of my kid dreams 🙂 that’s a good idea on unwrapping the new gifts from the original packaging so that they all look the same once the gift wrapping comes off.

      1. I went the the thrift store and occasionally find Christmas fabric
        I made each of our children a huge
        bag as gift wrap. With their name on it “So Santa knows which bag to put their gifts in” we no longer use wrapping paper unless it come from extended family and friends. I have made smaller bags for smaller gifts from mom and dad.

    1. Having spent at least half an hour this christmas unpacking my nieces’ dolls I say yes to depackaging new gifts before giving them!

  2. “All my penguin dreams came true!!!!” YES to this!
    My 14 year old son got a ‘depressed frog’ plushy and he was similarly ecstatic. They’re easy to please, hey?!

    On a serious note, it’s really helpful to see how you do Christmas – thanks!

  3. We love our walkie-talkies! We got ours for camping trips where we let our son go to the playground while we stay at our site cooking and yet they are no longer kept with the camping gear because all the kids on our culdesac love to use them for elaborate games of spy or hide and seek.
    One other suggestion for families with young kids is that Santa doesn’t wrap presents at our house. I was very suspicious as a child why Santa used the same wrapping paper as my mother…needless to say Santa only brings unwrapped gifts to our house and that saves even more money. Plus watching his eyes light up when he first spots that gift always makes me smile.

    1. Apparently I asked about this once when I was a kid, and my mom quickly said, “Santa Claus probably buys all of his wrapping paper the day after Christmas just like we do!”

    2. Santa never wrapped gifts at our house either. Weirdly, Santa also seemed to bring the difficult to wrap and oddly shaped things….

      1. bahaha funny how that happens…. I don’t wrap the Santa gifts either–they just go in a huge bag (1 for each kid)

  4. A note about Subaru maintenance (to consider): we were thinking of buying a Subaru Outback next (currently with Toyota/Acura). Down the online forums rabbit hole, we found YouTuber “MrSubaru1387”. He highly recommends every 60k transmission fluid replacement vs the lifetime assumption by Subaru. Some say this voids Subaru’s warranty, others say it’s fine as long as you have receipts. If we go with Subaru, we’re planning on doing the 60k intervals (besides other maintenance), since we DIY most of our own maintenance and take our cars to 250,000+ miles. Just a thought. Appreciate your car articles which helped us to feel safer buying Subaru (vs our trusted but not as utility based current cars).

  5. I can’t say enough about having a lifetime supply
    Of shear bolts , in my case shear pins. One bad snowstorm and no replacements available is a recipe for disaster. Mine are tacked and labeled in a ziploc bag on the garage wall, right next to the snowblower.

  6. LLBean sheets are the best. We have them on all of the beds in our home and even flannel ones for winter. Even when the bottom sheet of the flannel set became see through after 10+ winters of use, I cut it up and used it for dusting and rags. My mom even took some of them home and asked for more. Great investment!

    1. This is wonderful to hear! It really hurt to spend so much on sheets, but it also seemed like so much waste to continually buy the cheap ones. Fingers crossed these do the trick!!!

      1. I had TWO sets of $50 Target sheets rip down the middle within 4 years (I remember buying them on maternity leave so kid-math)

        Bless Target but they are no longer my source for bedding.

      2. I’ve got Boll and Branch on my beds. They are wonderful! So soft and comfortable, it’s hard to get out of the bed in the morning. I decided after our bottom sheet ripped about 2′ down the middle, no more cheap sheets here anymore. Next, good quality blankets.

  7. Was the malfunctioning knock-off electric kettle the Miroco brand one you linked to in your November 2019 Expenditures report? We bought it off Amazon after reading your post.

    1. Sure was! I guess it was cheap for a reason! I hope yours performs better than ours did! Learned my lesson on that one.

  8. Haha did not know Christmas Cheetos were a thing — is it a different flavor or just Xmas packaging? Either way sounds delicious 🙂

    1. Haha no, it was just a regular bag of Cheetos! A special treat for me at Christmas. I tried very hard to eat the whole thing by myself but the kids crept over and reminded me that “sharing is kind and in our family, we share.” Curses!!!

  9. Your description of the kid’s reaction to the letter from Santa made me laugh out loud! Also the same regarding the breathing into the Walkie Talkie. Gigi is probably pinching herself daily thinking I have landed well in Frugaland. Happy New Year!

  10. We love writing letters to Santa! In Canada you can send a letter without postage to him and he will write back (all free through Canada Post):
    Santa Claus
    North Pole
    H0H 0H0

  11. I bought my Subaru in Jan 2017. The year model was 2016 with 4100 miles on it. Yes 4100 miles. Apparently the previous owner’s family had seriously grown quite unexpectedly. My win! So part of the great deal I got was free oil changes for LIFE. Using your price of oil change number I figure that I have saved around $1000 so far! Win! I take it in every 5000 miles and they let me know what maintenance should be done and I pick and choose what I have them do and what I choose to do myself. Not a bad deal for a 68 year old widow.

  12. We have the Cuisinart kettle and have been using it at least 11 years, maybe more. We definitely owned it when we moved into this house 10 years ago. It’s the best kettle, at least it was when they made it back then!

  13. My two kids also got garage sale/thrift store/pre-owned gifts from Santa when they were young. I shopped for the best quality, and they knew no difference. They were toys/books/clothes I knew they’d like. By middle-school age, they got pre-owned Nintendo DSs, for example. They loved them. I saved a ton of money.

  14. I’ve been putting weekly money aside for gifts for several years. It is so nice not to enter a new year with debt from buying gifts! I have a separate savings account for gifts which used to be my regular savings account before my bank was bought out by a credit union and I had to open new accounts as well. Once a week an automatic transfer is made from my checking into the gift account, otherwise, I would forget to do it.

    I reuse sturdy gift boxes and cloth bags from year to year, and I usually unwrap everything that goes in them. This year one of the gifts included a like-new copy of a favorite children’s classic hardback book from a library sale, but there was no way to tell it was used, because the new books I gave were also unwrapped. It works well!

  15. Love the new kettle story, my mother bought us one in the late 1990’s and it is still running strong! From a now defunct kitchen supply company called Chef’s Table. Would love one with a temp, but hate to part with this one.

    As for how was out final month of 2022, we did really well budgeting Christmas over 3 months. Good thing we did as I ended up going out on long term medical leave (a year!) from work. Our income just dropped by 1/2, luckily through my work I had a long term disability plan and we’ve been saving around 50% of our income. I’ve been rereading all of your frugal articles and getting motivated through your UFM January which I’ve done before. I had fallen off the uber frugal wagon – it was honestly fun while it lasted – and am now back on it! Thank you!

  16. We just bought a new set of flannel sheets from LL Bean to replace our 18 year old flannel sheets that we bought from LL Bean. The old ones lasted forever and just recently got a tear that is past the point of mending. Total cost for ours: FREE (we have an LL Bean card and I used the reward dollars we get from that to pay for them.

  17. What is this magical $28 kids ski program in your budget!?! We live outside of Portland, Maine and most here are $100 a lesson!

    1. Hahah oh yeah, this is the cheapest of THREE different ski programs our kids are doing this winter—not including lift passes and equipment LOL. This is the one day per week school program (they leave school on the bus and go to the local ski mountain where we parents teach and supervise). All of the more expensive ski passes and lessons hit in the late fall

    2. Paula, look at Gunstock next year – they have a season program (10 x 2 hour lessons) for around $250, and their season tickets (if you buy them in spring) are about $350/kid. We live just south of you and it is less than a 2 hour drive.

  18. We purchased that exact same electric kettle after our old less fancy one died about 6 months ago. IWe love it and have no regrets! Plus we were able to purchase it through a local business which was a fun bonus 😀

  19. We love the gift of used in fabulous condition gifts for my side of the family. We’ve gone to white elephant only, but typically A+ items that would donated otherwise. We gift $s for experiences to our adult children and families. If you find your self in need of quality sheets again anytime soon, American Blossom is a great option. They are made in the US and are destined to become buttery soft as vintage linens. They are not inexpensive, but we saved up and have slowly replaced all our sets.

  20. I love piggy paint polish and use it myself for the same reasons! It seems to work for your girls to wipe it off and do it again. But if you DO want it to last, follow the instructions and dry it thoroughly with a hair dryer

    I give myself a pedicure with piggy paint a few times a year and it’s still growing out on my big toes the next time.

  21. I also source Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, etc. for our boys (ages 2 to 7) from stuff friends pass our way or by buying inexpensive used things that catch my eye throughout the year… my latest hack to try to encourage their wish list to magically align with this stash of random stuff in our attic, is to create an Amazon wish list with a catchy name like ‘Best Toys of 2022!’, then scan in the toys from our stash (the Amazon barcode reader tool pulls them up most of the time), then share the toys on this list with our boys to help them brainstorm things they want for the upcoming event (they can’t tell the difference between an Amazon list and regular Amazon). I was so happy to hear the boys unwrapping their Christmas gifts this year and screaming “It’s what I asked Santa for!!’ It’s frugal MAGIC! 😉

  22. I also concur that LL Bean sheets last. I don’t think I’ve bought sheets from anyplace but Bean and all are still going strong. Just be warned that some sets have elastic running all around the fitted sheet so make sure you get the tag at corner of one end. I’ve long taken folding a fitted sheet off my bucket list. Don’t point me to YouTube videos – I just cannot fold (nor wrap even the most square of presents – better half is in charge of gift wrapping).
    Never wrapped Santa gifts either. But I have been known to leave a note (once one kiddo could read) to complete “finding” the Santa gifts.

    1. Matter of fact I know two sets of flannel sheets I use on the guest bed are from the 1990s. Elastic is a little worn on the fitted sheet but it stays on the bed.

  23. We’ve gotten wonderful flannel sheets and duvet covers from Lands’ End that are thick and soft and have lasted for many years. If you don’t care what color they are they have good sales.

    We considered switching MVNOs recently and I would encourage people to ask their neighbors about cell coverage if you live in a rural area like we do. Both Verizon and TMobile “coverage maps” promise us “excellent coverage” at our address but we get no signal with either here to had to stick with our AT&T MVNO.

    I think you went over this already but I called the Vermont Health Connector yesterday to see about getting us coverage (the plan through my employer is no longer affordable as rates just went up dramatically) and at our income level we are ineligible for a tax credit. I am curious how a family of 4 with the assets you have as well as rental income get such inexpensive insurance. I don’t begrudge you inexpensive insurance, I am just curious how they calculate it.

    1. For health insurance–the way it’s set up is that it’s based solely on your income, not your assets. Our income decreased dramatically when my husband left his job. It also changes every year since it is based on your income and, for many folks, income is a moving target.

  24. I bought 2 sets of LL Bean flannel sheets in 1998. I use flannel year ’round as they are cotton and breathable. I finally had to get new ones in 2022 because they shredded. They are quality and I believe you will really like them.

  25. Another option if the boots you purchased don’t work out. These don’t have insulation, but protect from pawsicles and salt.
    PawZ Dog Boots | Rubber Dog Booties | Waterproof Snow Boots for Dogs | Paw Protection for Dogs | 12 Dog Shoes per Pack (Medium, Blue)

  26. Electric Kettle Comment. I love mine and have been through a number of them over the years, and I justI don’t understand why most Americans don’t use these. I suggest trying a see-through (glass) one if you have to buy another- I like it much more than the stainless ones I have had in the past. I can’t exactly explain why knowing how much water in is in the kettle by glancing at it is so good, but it is!!!

  27. Love the choice to give consumable gifts or cash as presents. One of the things that has me feeling awkward is when I get gifted something that’s inappropriate- I want to be appreciative and show I am grateful, but 9 times out of 10 it’s literally something that will just sit on a cupboard collecting dust for years till I eventually donate or sell it 😅

  28. Hey I appreciate you guys posting your expenses as it is a great resource to evaluate our own expenses. I do not see any home or car insurance. I also don’t see property taxes. Also do you not count your 529 savings as an expense? Thanks for putting yourself out here for us to see and learn. I also requested your book at our local library and they will hopefully have it soon.

  29. I while back I read (or heard) you recommending some of the parenting books you have read. I thought I made a note of if, but as a sleep deprived parent of a toddler and a newborn I have no idea where that note may have gone (if it was ever made). I don’t want to sound like a first grader, but if it likely the my toddler either ate it or tore it apart. (At nursery school she is what they call an exploratory child, which translates to a child that rummages through anything she can get her little hands on.)
    I’ve search the archives of this blog and googled with all keywords that came to mind, but cannot find this again. Can you point me in the right direction? Hopefully others can use a book recommendation as well.

  30. Great, Thank you! That must have been the post I was trying to find. Love your blog and your book. Its very inspiring and makes the frugal life in Vermont sound tempting to a city dweller.

  31. My mom gave our kids walkie talkies a few years ago and they are the most frustrating and wonderful toy possible! Frustrating because it seems they never all have batteries at the same time, and wonderful because they are so fun to play with!

  32. I just picked up your book at the library and started reading it this week after being a long time reader online of What a great book. Thank you so much.

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