My husband and I are committed to learning new things. It’s a goal of ours to consistently make ourselves beginners in different capacities. Putting ourselves in a beginner mindset enables us to keep our brains limber, opens us up to creativity and new experiences, keeps us humble and models lifelong learning for our kids.
It has been the catalyst for a number of conversations with our girls around the facts that you don’t get things right the first time, you have to work hard and be persistent and that it’s ok to make mistakes. Also, that you’re never too old to learn something new!
In the past few years, we’ve learned how to:
- Downhill ski
- Use a chainsaw
- Paddle board
- Grow and preserve fruits and vegetables
- Raise chickens
- Drive the tractor, plow the driveway, fell and skid trees for firewood and much more (this being Nate, not me)
- Sing solos at church (me)
- Do a ton of home and farm repairs, maintenance and upgrades (Nate)
And now, Nate has decided to learn how to play the guitar! He got a used guitar from Craigslist for $100 and is taking free online classes. He practices every day and he’s sounding pretty good.
For my new thing, I’m slowly learning French on the free Duolingo app. Not to brag, but, if I ever–and I mean EVER–see a cat eating a croissant, I KNOW HOW TO TELL YOU ABOUT IT IN FRENCH. Not sure why this was one of the first lessons, but I’m going with it.
We celebrated Easter in fine frugal fashion with:
- Hand-me-down Easter dresses for the girls and a thrift store dress for me
- Garage sale-sourced Easter basket items
- Re-used plastic eggs and decorations from previous years
- Homemade pizza for our Easter dinner feast (the girls voted for pizza over ham, which is what we had last year)
- An egg hunt, a visit to the Easter Bunny and egg decorating at our town Easter Party
- And of course, singing in the choir at church!
My ten-year-old Sonicare toothbrush finally surrendered. It died valiantly and after serving me ably for lo those many years. The upside is that my new toothbrush is PINK (affiliate link)! Also it works a lot better… technology, I tell ya. We’re a devoted Sonicare electric brush family and–knock on wood–none of us has had a cavity since we started using them. There are things I am willing to pay more for and healthy teeth are decidedly one of them.
Potting Soil + Seeds
The girls and I started our garden seeds in April! They decided to each start their own flat of seeds to plant in their very own garden rows. I started a bunch more just in case! We used saved seeds from previous years and I bought some new things I want to try this year, including: GIANT sunflowers, a decorative squash/gourd mix and a different kind of pickling cucumber.
In addition to her vegetable seeds, Kidwoods elected to start her own flower garden, so we got her a wildflower mixed seed packet, which she planted all on her own.
Here’s what we’re (hopefully) growing this summer:
- Bush beans
- Snap peas
- Ground cherries
Decorative squash & gourds
- Salad greens
- Picnic peppers (not hot per the kids’ instructions)
I love how far the girls have come in their gardening capabilities. I’ve had them by my side for every year of gardening and it’s lovely to see them taking ownership of their own rows and plots. It’s also lovely that they’re no longer pulling my vegetable plants out by the roots. Ahh, memories.
Equipment Auction Previews = Excellent Free Entertainment
Forget Touch-A-Truck, visiting a large equipment auction’s free preview is GOLDEN children’s entertainment. This is the second year in a row we’ve made a point of strolling the local auction field filled with ancient tractors, school buses, bulldozers, steamrollers, back-hoes and stuff I don’t even know the name of. The girls love sitting in the cabs pretending to drive and Littlewoods declared that she wants to be a back-hoe operator when she grows up.
Book a Financial Consult With Me!
Money is terrifying for a lot of people and many of us don’t know where to start.
That’s where I come in.
I demystify personal finance and break it down into manageable steps. I explain where to start, where to go and how to confidently manage your money on your own.
My consultation sessions–and resulting written financial plans–are comprehensive, holistic, and all-encompassing of each person’s finances. I look at income, debts, assets, mortgages, expenses, investments, retirement accounts, anticipated social security, credit card strategy and more. I run through every aspect of a person’s financial life alongside their longterm goals and aspirations.
I help people figure out how to make their money enable them to live the life they want.
Need help with your money?
- Hire me for a private financial consultation here.
- Schedule an hourlong call with me here.
- Schedule a 30 minute call with me here.
I Love the Free Money Tracking Tools from Personal Capital… now called Empower!
I use and recommend a free online service called Empower to organize our money. It tracks our spending, net worth, investments, retirement, everything. While the name is different, the free net worth tracking and money organization tools are the same!
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 Empower 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. Empower (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 Empower (note: the Empower 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 Empower. 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.
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: $57.17
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 $2,858.60 on that card, which netted us $57.17.
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 by putting it in a high-yield 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 3.75% in interest (affiliate link). In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,188. That means you earned $188 just by having your money in a high-yield 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 few MVNOs to consider:
- Mint has plans starting at $15 per month!
- Twigby starts at just $10 a month!
- Gabb specializes in kid-safe phones (with no internet access or games) and has plans starting at $24.99 per month
- GenMobile starts at $10 per month AND has unlimited international calling plans at $18/month
- Tello has plans starting at $10 a month
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.
- Want help with your money? Hire me for a financial consultation or call. Not sure what that means? Start with a free 15-minute call.
- 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 April:
|Restaurants||$464.77||The girls had a week off school and we took them out for a few special “family date” lunches. And my husband and I took each other our for special “date date” lunches.|
|Preschool||$240.00||Nearly done with this bill as Littlewoods starts Kindergarten in the fall!!!!!|
|Gas for cars||$212.58|
|Household supplies||$174.27||The thrilling ephemera that keeps a family going: toilet paper, dishwasher soap, toilet bowl cleaner, shampoo, floss, craft supplies for the kids, vitamins, sunscreen… you get the picture.|
|One used guitar||$100.00|
|Utilities: Electric||$86.45||Clearly we had some very un-sunny months this winter! It’s a bummer when your solar panels are covered in snow and ice (and yes, we have a roof broom, but no, it doesn’t always work). Looking forward to sunny days ahead!|
|Tractor parts and fluids||$78.49||Gotta keep that tractor tuned!|
|Potting soil and seeds||$72.12||Crucial to start with good soil|
|An outdoor broom, buckets, etc…||$62.45|
|Diesel for tractor||$45.56|
|Beer and wine||$45.00|
|Toothbrush||$42.39||My new PINK toothbrush (affiliate link).|
|Health Insurance premium||$41.74|
|LED Garage Lights||$31.79||New LED Garage Lights for the barn and tractor storage area (affiliate link).|
|Coffee shop dates||$30.52|
|Doctor visit co-pay||$30.00|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$28.24|
|Maple syrup||$28.00||From our neighbor|
|Storm Door Latch||$26.37||Mr. FW replaced our broken storm door latch with a new storm door latch (affiliate link).Works great!|
|Guitar Picks and Strings||$17.47||Guitar picks and strings for the guitar learner (affiliate link).|
|Bead craft kit||$10.57||Birthday gift for one of Kidwoods’ friends. I LOVE giving these craft kits a birthday presents–we gifted the headband making kits last year and this year, they’re all into BEADS!!! (affiliate link)|