I promise I will talk about what we spent last month in a moment, but first I want to tell you that you can now…
Schedule a Free 15-Minute Call with Me!
If you’ve been thinking about hiring me to do a financial plan for you, if you’re curious about how my consultation process works or whether or not I can answer your questions… you can now grab 15 minutes on my calendar for free! I want folks to feel confident that I can help them with their money and, I’ve found a 15-minute chat is an easy (and fun!) way for you to pick my brain on what exactly I can do for you and your monies.
Why do I offer financial consultations? Because money is terrifying for a lot of people and many folks 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. I help people figure out how to make their money enable them to live the life they want.
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.
Want To Work With Me?
I charge a flat rate because I don’t believe in hidden fees or upselling. I want you to know in advance what you’ll be paying and that you don’t need to worry about me steering you towards investments or products that’ll give me a kick back.
→Not sure which option is right for you? Schedule a free 15-minute chat with me to learn more. Refer a friend to me here.
Ok Yes, Now I Will Talk About What We Spent Last Month…
I went to New York City! By myself! It was glorious! I mean, I missed my husband and children terribly… At any rate, I flew down to NYC in a station wagon-sized commuter plane–along with 4 other passengers and one pilot–in order to attend a wedding as the date of one of my college BFFs. She flew up to NYC, I flew down and we shared a hotel room in Brooklyn. We did our favorite things: walked for miles, ate amazing food, drank incredible coffee and imbibed lovely cocktails. I also had lunch with my financial BFF, Shannon McLay the Founder of the Financial Gym! Plus, I went to a Walgreens and bought a tube of red lipstick.
I’m now topped up on city experiences and happy to be nestled back into my rural enclave. Three days and two nights was just enough time for me to feel immersed in a place I used to live and also reminded of why I no longer live there.
I bought two dresses for the weekend–one thrifted and one new from a local boutique here in Vermont. Also purchased several very classy and not at all tacky I ♥ NYC souvenirs for the kids.
Littlewoods Turned Five!
Other than New York, Littlewoods made the month eventful by turning FIVE years old!!!! We celebrated on a Saturday per her precise specifications:
Went skiing in the morning
- Out to a restaurant for lunch
- Had friends over for a homemade pizza dinner
- Baked a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries on top
You’ll notice there’s no line item for birthday presents because we didn’t give her any. KIDDING! People, I’m joking. There’s no line item because…
All of her gifts were either hand-me-downs or purchased used over the summer at garage sales.
Yes indeed, the frugal gifter struck again and the birthday girl was thrilled. For decorations, I reused the stuff we bought for Kidwoods’ 7th birthday back in November.
If you want to know how I do really inexpensive gifting for my kids, check out:
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:
- 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 card_name. 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: $37.01
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 $1,850.67 on that card, which netted us $37.01
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-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 $28.41 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 $28.41 for both of our phones (that’s $14.21 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
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?
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 February:
|Groceries||$536.68||Check out my NEW grocery post:|
|NYC||$447.47||Subway passes, hotel, restaurants, coffee and souvenirs|
|Gas for the cars||$378.37|
|Restaurants||$214.37||Including Littlewoods’ birthday lunch!|
|Preschool for Littlewoods||$200.00|
|Dresses for me!||$108.00|
|Beer & wine||$49.09|
|Health Insurance Premium||$41.74|
|Utilities: Electricity||$37.82||We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.|
|Cell phone service for two phones||$28.41||Thank you, cheap MVNO!|
|Ski lodge snacks||$6.00|
How was your February?
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