Ever wonder why you don’t see ads here on Frugalwoods? That’s because the vast majority of stuff companies want to pay us to sell you is total crap and I refuse to promote crap in exchange for money (unless you’re in legit need of some manure). But on the rare occasion there’s a relevant product I actually use and believe in, I’ll tell you about it here on Frugalwoods Recommends.
Full disclosure: for several of the products listed below, Frugalwoods will receive some cash money if you sign up for them using our links (at no extra cost to you!). And for that, I thank you! For others, we won’t receive any money at all–I’m just telling you about them because I happen to think they’re handy/dandy. Here’s a boring (but important) explanation of how Frugalwoods makes money.
If you have any questions about the stuff I’m recommending, or if you’ve used these products yourself and want to share your feedback, feel free to send me an email. I’m always happy to hear from you!
Stuff Mrs. Frugalwoods Recommends
Personal Capital: the #1 way to take charge of your money is to track what you spend every single month. I use Personal Capital for this task because it’s free, easy to use, and provides all sorts of awesome charts and graphs illustrating our spending. Here’s my full write-up on why I like Personal Capital and you can sign up using my referral link here.
PolicyGenius: a free online insurance calculator and policy comparison tool that assesses your insurance needs and suggests a range of policies from different companies. The best part? They won’t sell your contact information, so you won’t be inundated with annoying calls/emails from insurance providers. If you’re in need of insurance, or hoping to find comparison points for your current insurance, check them out.
Credit cards: Mr. Frugalwoods and I buy everything we possibly can with credit cards because it’s easier to track expenses, we get rewards, and we build our credit. I like the site CardRatings because they make it easy to search for–and compare–lots of different credit cards, including cash back cards and travel rewards cards.
For more on my credit card strategy, check out:
- The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage
- The Best Credit Cards (and Credit Card Rewards)!
- The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience
Online high interest savings accounts: One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. A high-interest savings account gives you money for nothing. 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 that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 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 you sleep. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, is here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts. Here’s a handy chart where you can search for accounts as well:
Cell Phone Service Stuffs
MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators): you guys, I pay $10.65 per month for cell phone service through my MVNO Ting, which re-sells T-Mobile and Sprint service. MVNOs are the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world: the same thing, A LOT cheaper. Check out my full post on how to switch to an MVNO here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month. I also have a post with a chart of different MVNOs and the services they resell: How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill with an MVNO: I Pay $12 a Month.
Plain Old Stuff
Amazon: a massively convenient way to obtain stuffs of all kinds. We price check everything we buy between Amazon and Walmart. I find it’s important to check individual items because it’s not uniform which vendor is cheapest. But, by vacillating between the two, we’re able to net the lowest prices on our household goods.
Walmart: if it’s not on Amazon, it’s usually on Walmart.com. We started ordering online from them during the pandemic and have continued doing so because they offer free shipping for orders over $35. I find Walmart particularly good for toiletries (shampoo, soap, vitamins, etc), household stuff (laundry detergent, band-aids, etc) and kids’ stuff I can’t find used, recently including backpacks, lunchboxes and soccer shin guards.
Mattress: yep, we bought our mattress on the internet and we love it. LOVE it. Ringing up at a cool $279 for a king-size, this knock-off memory foam mattress from Amazon (we have the LUCID 8 inch) is by far the cheapest way to sleep in comfort. October 29, 2021 update: It’s been NINE years and we still love this mattress. We bought this thing in September 2012 and it’s still going strong!
Check out my five and seven year updates here:
Roomba! I have a robot vacuum and I love it. Let me rephrase that: I LOVE IT. It cleans the floors for me every night and satisfies my neat freak desire to sweep alllll the time. I love it so much I wrote an entire article about it: When Spending Money Equals Happiness: Why I Bought A Roomba.
Eye Buy Direct: Mr. Frugalwoods bought prescription glasses and sunglasses from Eye Buy Direct and is thrilled with them. They were a fraction of the price of glasses from a traditional optician’s office and were shipped right to our home. Check out my full review here.
Electric Kettle: in service of our coffee and oatmeal addictions, our electric kettle supplies us with perfectly heated water at the touch of a button. I know it sounds bizarre to be so attached to one’s kettle, but I really do love this thing. It supplants the need for a coffee maker, a stove top kettle, and a microwave. And, it looks snazzy being all stainless steel with its bad self.
Glass Food Storage Containers: supremely handy for containing bulk homecooked meals (which all good frugal weirdos make in spades, right guys?). Bonus is that they travel really well: Mr. FW pops his lunch container into his backpack, bikes to work, and has never had a spill (now watch, it’ll spill today because I just jinxed it… ). If you’re cooking a ton, do yourself a solid and invest in some glass containers. I’m a much happier person now that I’m not mincing around with old, warped plastic containers (it’s the little things in life).
Underwear: you might’ve guessed I’d go here. It’s true, we have amazing frugal undergarments (his and hers). For more than seven years, our sets of Ex-Officio undies have ably covered our frugal behinds. Since underwear is basically the only clothes item we don’t buy used, finding a deal on this most intimate of gear was key. Cheap cotton undies decompose, wear out, and otherwise die after a few years, if not months, of use. But our undies? Despite weekly washing and wearing, they show virtually no sign of wear and the elastic is as robust as ever. We originally bought these for hiking but quickly outfitted our entire underwear drawer with them when we realized how comfortable, breathable, and durable they are.
Roku: our Roku supersedes our need for cable, Netflix, HBO GO, and whatever else people pay for to watch TV these days. Since the Roku was obtained for a one-time expense of $50, this is a pretty good deal. Anytime we can prevent a recurring expense (which is what cable is for many folks), we’re quite delighted.
Corelle Plates and Bowls: Previously, we used janky plastic plates and bowls, bought for—you guessed it—cheap while we were in college. Upgrading our dishes was a big decision for us frugal weirdos and we knew we wanted a product that would stand the test of time. Since we have to touch, view, and otherwise eat off them on a daily basis, I desired certain aesthetic features as well. The Corelle brand ticked all of these boxes. Plus, these babies don’t stain, chip, crack, or show any wear.
Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living, by… me! Yep, here I am recommending my own book.
The Simple Path to Wealth: Your Road Map to Financial Independence And a Rich, Free Life, by: JL Collins. I love this book. Collins provides the explanations, theory, and historical data for precisely why the low-fee index fund, “set it and forget it” investing approach is wisest. Collins sets forth his straightforward financial guidance in a humorous, easy-to-understand, and delightful pattern. This is no dry economics text. This is no tortured fiscal advice column thinly disguised as a way to peddle unneeded financial products and services. Nay, my friends. This is some candid, honest, really good (and really well-written) financial truth-telling. My full review is here.
Your Money Or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by: Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Monique Tilford. Written in 1992, this is basically the OG book of the financial independence early retirement (FIRE) movement. It’s a must for anyone interested in the canon of literature on a financially independent way of life.
The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, by Helen and Scott Nearing. First published in 1954, the Nearings predate Mr. FW and I in leaving the city and moving to the woods of Vermont by about 87 years. Before the popular hippie-inspired back to the land movement of the ’70s, the Nearings embraced simple, good living in nature long before it was cool.
Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By And Get Your Financial Life Together, by Erin Lowry. The ultimate “how to money 101” guide. Lowry covers everything from debt repayment to retirement investments in an approachable, humorous, thorough manner. Reading this book feels like talking to a friend–a very financially savvy friend who isn’t going to let you get away with mucking up your finances any longer. A wonderful read for high school grads, college grads, and anyone else trying to iron out their adulting financial life. My full review is here.
The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children, by Emma Johnson. A fantastic guide for single mommas (and all parents!) on how to manage the often financially precarious position of single parenthood (and parenthood writ large!). Drawing on her experience as a single mom and personal finance expert, Johnson delivers comprehensive, no-nonsense advice on how to not only survive single parenthood, but how to thrive in this new iteration of life. Her upbeat writing style is as hilarious and delightful as it is informative and thorough. Far from dwelling on the negatives of single parenthood, Johnson outlines concrete financial, career, and life advice to help parents navigate the challenges inherent to parenting and most especially to parenting without a partner.
Stuff That’s Not Actually Stuff
AirBnB: Mr. FW and I love using AirBnB when we travel–in particular when we’re visiting more off-the-beaten path locales, such as those found in rural Vermont. We enjoy getting to know our hosts and learning about a local area through their experiences and suggestions. You’ll receive $40 in credit towards a stay if you use our referral link.
The Buy Nothing Project: an international organization with hyper-local branches that facilitate giving away things for free to one’s neighbors. Check to see if there’s one in your area, and if not, consider starting your own. I absolutely adore the ethos and practice of Buy Nothing and am deeply grateful for the things we’ve received and given away through this group.
The Library: Mr. FW and I like to kick it old school frugal with our library cards. We check out mountains of books every week, hang out there and read magazines, and enjoy the free passes to area museums that the library offers. Not to mention the kids’ activities–all of which are free!
Yoga: nothing relaxes, focuses, or strengthens me more than my regular yoga practice. I volunteer at the front desk of my yoga studio in exchange for free classes and my studio isn’t unique in offering this type of bartering system. Yoga clears my mind and brings me both physical and mental fortitude.
Hiking: I want to conclude this list with the ultimate frugal recreation activity (in my humble opinion). Hiking is what sparked our dream of living on a homestead in the woods and it’s one of the things that brought us closer in our marriage. There’s something liberating and soothing about walking in the woods and climbing mountains. If you’ve never hiked before, give it a try–even a short jaunt through nature has the ability to recalibrate your senses and eliminate stress. Oh and the best part? It’s completely free.
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