No one took ME on vacation.
No one took ME on vacation.

Hey, guess what? No vacation = low(er) summer spending! We like this though we are somewhat saddened by our lack of travel. But on the bright side, plenty of time to clean the house, embark on epic home improvement projects, go hiking, teach Frugal Hound how to high-five (success rate = sporadic), and hunt for great trash finds.

This weekend was a bonanza of great trash–many leases turn over on September 1 and, since 65.4% of the population rents here in our fair city of Cambridge, there was a lot of moving goin’ on.

Being the classy frugal weirdos we are, Mr. Frugalwoods and I took the Frugalwoods-mobile on a trash hunt jaunt through the city. We didn’t find any decent furniture as we’d hoped, but not too shabby in the kitchen wares and clothing departments. Never fear, photos to come in a future episode of Great Trash Finds.

Mr. FW at the summit of Mt. Cardigan, which we hiked in August
Mr. FW at the summit of Mt. Cardigan, which we hiked in August.

Despite our lack of a vacay, we had an awesome August. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Celebrated Mr. FW’s 31st birthday in style with take-out BBQ, beer, and love.
  • Marked the joyous two-year anniversary of our adoption of Frugal Hound.
  • Went to a free Red Sox game! We even walked to Fenway Park from our house in order to save the cost of public transit.
  • Hiked some glorious hikes.
  • Built a home seltzer system!
  • Discovered the sheer delight of having popcorn dipped in homemade hummus for dinner. Try it before you hate on it.
Popped the popcorn outside so as not to heat up the house
Popped our dinner popcorn outside so as not to heat up the house.

See folks? No need to pay for entertainment! Which brings me to a new section of the Frugalwoods monthly expenditure breakdown extravaganza. Last month a few savvy readers, including Kali @ Common Sense Millennial and reader Laura asked what was up with the missing categories in our budget. And I was like, ladies, you are so right! Without further pontification, here are the things we don’t pay for every month. Are you wondering about any other categories? Hit me up in the comments!

Stuff the Frugalwoods Fam Spends $0 on:

  • Health insurance: we are mega fortunate that Mr. FW’s generous and progressive company pays not only for his healthcare but for mine too! Future Frugal Baby will be covered in full as well. Can’t tell you how grateful we are for this!
  • Mobile phones: another area where we are just plain lucky dogs. Both of our employers pay our cell phone bills every month.
  • Yacht payment plan: our 50′ yacht is paid off.
  • Trash/recycling: Cambridge doesn’t charge us for either, though we do have pretty hefty property taxes.
  • Entertainment: when you can scope trash and hike, who needs an entertainment budget? As ya’ll know, I finagle my yoga for free and the woods does not charge us to walk through it. You could count gas for Frugalwoods-mobile in this category if you wanted.
  • Dining out: we don’t do it except in special circumstances (like Mr. FW’s bday!).
  • Car Insurance: we pay this once every six months, so it doesn’t show up as a monthly expense.
  • Cable: we’re not cord cutters–we’ve never even had it!
  • Clothes: we all know I’m not allowed to enter a thrift store for the remainder of 2014.
  • Student loans/unsecured debt: we don’t have any and, in fact, never have.
Enjoying our free baseball game!
Enjoying our free baseball game! Did I mention we got free food too???!!!

And Now: All the Stuff We DO Spend $$$$$ on:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Mortgage & Escrow for Taxes & Insurance $2,741.01 At peace with this expense since we intend for this home to be our rental property post-early retirement.
Cost for Mortgage Re-appraisal $350.00 We’re having our mortgage lender reappraise our home. Post with details forthcoming.
Groceries & Alcohol $235.05 I decided to combine these categories this month. A tad on the high side. We did stock up on some staples and we bought a lot of fruit.
Costco $256.69 Not too shabby for our monthly Costco run! This includes bulk food and household supplies (dog food, laundry detergent, toilet paper, and the like).
Car Insurance for Frugalwoods-mobile $202.90 We pay this twice a year. Just happened to hit in August.
20lb CO2 Tank for the Frugalwoods Home Seltzer System $175.31 The crowning glory for Mr. FW’s inventive homemade seltzer machine! Check out his how to post.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $116.27 Extremely high for several reasons: we went on some hikes that required a lot of driving and, we bought gas yesterday because we were in an area where it’s cheaper–the tank wasn’t empty so hopefuly September’s gas will be much lower.
Annual Subscription to Dropbox for Photo Sharing & Storage $99.00 Mr. FW set us up with an awesome web-based photo sharing & back-up system. This has been a dream of mine for awhile, so we can count this as my Christmas present.
Electric Bill $90.40 It’s electric! High due to AC usage so as not to bake the Frugal Hound during the weekdays.
Internet $66.95 Necessary!
Costco Membership Renewal $55.00 Decided to renew our annual Costco membership. We definitely get our money’s worth on this one.
Medical Appointments $40.00 Two doctor visits ($20 co-pay each). Glad to have health insurance!
Craft Beer Cellar $37.25 Mr. FW’s birthday gift of beer! We’ve been drinking it and sharing it with friends all month and still have some left.
Restaurant! (GASP) $28.32 Mr. FW’s birthday dinner of take-out from Blue Ribbon BBQ!
Gas Bill $25.43 It’s gassy!
Household Supplies $19.11 Misc. assortment of things from our inagural trip to Ocean State Job Lot (a discount store here in MA. Think Wal-Mart but less classy). It was a, uh, special experience and we’ll definitely go back next time we need household/home goods.
Hardware Store $4.24 Some tool or piece of hardware for one of our many home improvement projects.
TOTAL SPENT: $4,542.93
LESS MORTGAGE: $1,801.92

What do you think? How was your August? Tips, frugal hacks, and advice ALWAYS welcome!

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  1. Great overall and as you said some categories are a little higher than normal due to specific reasons. I noticed your Internet costs of $66, compared to what I pay which is $41. What type of service are you getting for that and are there cheaper options available to you in your area? Our August was a lot less expensive that June/July so I’m very happy with this! And huge congrats on the free healthcare and cellphones!

    1. We use Comcast for internet and, unfortunately, there aren’t any other viable options in our region. We’ve checked! I’m jealous of your $41–nice!

  2. Sounds like August was a great month for you! We don’t usually have an entertainment category, either. We try to do as many free activities as possible. It’s awesome that Mr. FW’s company pays for your health insurance! Looking forward to seeing what you found on your trash hunt.

    1. Yay for free entertainment! We are so thankful for that free health insurance! It makes a huge difference in our monthly expenses and, it’s just a really nice thing for his company to do.

  3. We pay our car insurance in one go each year so it doesn’t appear on our monthly expenses either 🙂 just need to remember when it is! August sounds like it’s been fab for you – we’ve had a great month too. Here’s to September being just as good!

  4. Sorry if you’ve covered this before, but as this is just a spending report I’m curious. Since you seem to pay your irregular expenses whenever they come up, your spending must vary quite a bit month-to-month. (We use targeted savings account to smooth those irregular expenses since we often can’t absorb them in just our monthly income.) Do you just save every dollar of your income that is not accounted for in your monthly spending, and if so when and where do you do it? I assume you have payroll deductions for some saving, but then do you also save at the start or end of the month (or both) and does the amount change based on your expenses? And what is the savings breakdown between retirement, taxable investments, and cash-equivalents? Feel free to point me to an old post or say you don’t share this stuff!

    1. Great questions! We don’t publish our incomes here for privacy reasons, so this is definitely an incomplete picture of our finances, which I’m sorry about.
      -Our monthly spending absolutely varies and we don’t smooth–we just pay as we go. Our aim is for our annual expenses to remain low and consistent. Our savings rate fluctuates from 65%-85% month to month.
      -Yes, we do save every dollar of our incomes that’s not accounted for in our monthly spending.
      -We both have payroll deductions for our 401Ks. We each contribute the annual federal maximum ($17,500) to our individual 401Ks.
      -The rest of our incomes go into a joint money market account (via Fidelity).
      -We then make a determination on how much to keep liquid in that money market account and how much to put into our taxable investments account. We don’t keep too much liquid since we can easily liquidate the taxable investments in the case of an emergency.
      -We spend directly out of our money market account (primarily through credit cards in order to reap rewards).
      -We’ve never had a segregated “savings” account, because we consider everything we don’t HAVE to spend as savings.

      Let me know if you have any other questions–I really appreciate the interest! You’ve motivated me to do a post more thoroughly explaining our finances! Thank you 🙂

      1. Your cash flow method sounds a lot like what I used in college! My expenses vary enough now (just under $2,000 on the low end and $6,000 on the high end) due to high, irregular expenses such as insurance, property taxes, and travel months that I prefer to smooth things out more. My monthly budget is about $3,500/month and I let categories like insurance add up throughout the year, while allowing me to save a more consistent amount each month and to not worry about whether I’ll spend more than my paycheck.

        1. Sounds like a good method. There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. I love how FH lets you dress him up in silly outfits. I’m pretty sure my cat would eat my eyeballs if I attempted that. I’m super jealous of the health insurance! I really miss that working full time! Hope you have a great sept!

    1. Cats are not as forgiving with the dress-ups as I recall… As a kid, I tried so hard to dress my parent’s cats up and they were not having it. Best wishes to you for a great September too :)!

  6. Halleluja for health insurance! Move to Belgium when you decide to quit your jobs: free healthcare for everyone! 🙂

    Seems like you had another frugal month in August considering 50% of your expenses are mortgage payments, congrats!

    I’m looking forward to a post on the trash hunt – including Frugal Hound photos,

    1. Seriously would love your free Belgian health care! Oh the trash finds were pretty epic indeed. It’s always amazing what people throw out!

  7. Excellent August, Frugalwoods! My husband’s employer used to provide free health care, but once they were acquired by a larger company that went out the window! I miss those days! It’s a huge benefit!

  8. Kitty PoP learned high fives by me hiding treats between my fingers and holding my hand up to him for a high 5 at about face level when he was sitting up facing me. Then when he smacked my hand with his paw, he would get a treat. Now I don’t have to hide the treats, but he does expect a treat still pretty much every time he high fives. =)

    Our spending this month was right around where we plan for our average to be, which is good considering we still spent a decent amount on treats like Mr PoP getting his SCUBA certification.

    1. That’s a great high-five technique! Frugal Hound really loves ear rubs, so she gets those every time she high-fives. She’ll do it for awhile, but then she just kinda gets tired and gives up :). Your spending did look good for August!

  9. Wow, sweet deal on the health insurance and the cell phones! We did good for August, too. No big expenses, except for our 6 month car insurance payment.

  10. You two have some great work benefits/perks! And your expenses are downright small for two adults in an expensive city. Nicely done 🙂

    Um, I think it’s time to take Frugal Hound to Hawaii, by the way. It would suit her 😉

    1. Thanks! We try to be as low as possible (in the expenses arena, that is) ;). We actually went to Hawaii without Frugal Hound last year–the injustice!

    1. Thanks! It was a fantastic hike. I think it’s in my top 10 hikes of all time. Truly a great trail. Thanks for sharing!

  11. No wonder you guys are on the fast track to early retirement! 🙂 Even though the home mortgage is by far your largest expense, it’s actually not a true expense but rather just another investment where your money will work for you once you start collecting rent. It looks like you guys don’t have any landline telephone or home security system either. Great numbers for August.

    1. Thanks so much! Yep, that’s how we view our house too. You are indeed correct–no landline or home security system here.

  12. I have never tried popcorn dipper in hummus, but now I want to. You have to share your homemade hummus recipe. This is probably the one food that I have epically failed and it was so awful, I have never wanted to revisit it again. And super jealous of your free healthcare. Hubby’s company covers ours, but we definitely have to pay for some of it out of pocket. Not as bad as if we had to go to the exchanges, but painful nonetheless.

    1. Oh the popcorn hummus combo is excellent! I’ll badger Mr. FW to post the recipe–it’s fairly simple and amazingly good.

    1. Utility bills certainly vary by region–I felt like ours was high, but I suppose it’s all about perspective! Thanks for stopping by and happy September to you too.

    1. A joke, my friend. I couldn’t resist throwing in a gross representative of conspicuous consumption. You know me, I can’t write a post without a cheap joke! See? I just did it again! CHEAP joke 🙂 Somebody stop me…

      1. Ha, I thought so, but had to make sure! Phew!

        I know of people who claim to be frugal, but with a huge asterisk. For example, someone once told me about how they cook at home, ride a bike whenever they can and buy used clothes. These frugal behaviors didn’t transfer to their car purchase though as they drove a $50,000 Lexus.

        I don’t think frugality is an “all or nothing” proposition. We all have our compromises. However, the compromises have to be reasonable.

        PS: Candy Corn would make a good name for a yacht.
        PSS: Candy Corn would make a horrible name for future Frugal Baby.

        1. Can you imagine?! The Frugalwoods Yacht–HAH! I’m liking Candy Corn as a greyhound name. Mr. FW recently suggested “Garbanzo” as a kid name, so, uh, I have some work to do in that department 🙂

  13. In your mortgage category, do you include extra payment toward principal in that amount or is that your base amount for your escrow?

    Looks like another successful month for you! Enjoy that Yacht, I’m sure autumn will be a nice time to sail. Perhaps a captain’s hat for Frugal Hound is in order?

    1. Good question! No, we don’t include an extra payment towards principle. That amount is for principle, interest, taxes, and insurance.

      Oh a captain’s hat is a wonderful idea for Frugal Hound! She just loves her hats…

  14. Since the joke about the Yacht was included, I am not going the HOUND you for more information, instead I am just going to act like future frugal baby and make pun-jokes. You WOOD like that WOODN’T you?

    Anyways, great job on the expenses front! Great to see health insurance is fully paid for and cell phones! Pretty sweet deal!

  15. You got me on the yacht as well. I was thinking how the h-e double hockey sticks did they buy a 50 foot yacht, what is this What About Bob? Anytime you are monitoring and keeping track of expenses you are winning, congrats. The Health Insurance and Cell phones are certainly a huge bonus for work, nice to have. Mrs. Even Steven used to have internet card before she moved on, but nothing like a little company perk.

    1. I didn’t think anyone would think I was serious about the yacht, but, I couldn’t resist just slipping that in there… 🙂

      Yes, very, very thankful for the health insurance and cell phone coverage!

  16. We celebrate our pup’s adoption day every year since we don’t know his real birthday. I love popcorn and hummus, so popcorn with hummus sounds delicious.

    You guys are doing amazing with your savings. I always like to see how others spend and save their money, because it gives me good ideas about how to save and spend my own. I’m still trying to convince the bf to build a seltzer system for me. He’s a little nervous, so I might have to wait until my dad comes for Thanksgiving to set it all up 🙂

    1. I love the idea of celebrating every day–why not! I’m telling you, popcorn and hummus does not disappoint. Yes, you must get a seltzer system! It’s amazing. I’m drinking seltzer RIGHT NOW!!!

  17. Ha! I was wondering about the yacht too! I was thinking when do they have time to go on it with all the hiking? Does Frugal Hound wear a life jacket? Did I miss a post on this? Hyuk Hyuk sneaky, very sneaky. You’re spending is da bomb!

      1. Frugal Hound in a life jacket would be adorable! They make them specially sized for greyhounds since they’re not shaped like regular dogs! But, they are expensive and we don’t need one. But, the photo would be priceless!

  18. That is awesome about your health insurance and cell phones. I’m really impressed with your budget. I like to go out to eat too much — it’s my one budget issue! I also don’t buy clothes, makeup, and hardly spend anything on entertainment. Haha I love your dog photo. Congrats on your nomination!

    1. Thank you so much, Melanie! We’re so excited to be nominated! I love going out to eat–it’s probably the one thing I wish I could spend money on. Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂

    1. Thanks! I agree, definitely the best way to go to school! Good question on the car insurance–I think the answer is two-fold. 1) we just have 1 car and it is 18 years old! 2) Mr. FW and I both have perfect driving records–neither of has ever gotten a ticket (hope I didn’t just jinx us!).

  19. Mrs. FW,

    Great looking month right there. Love the free entertainment options. Gotta love a free baseball game!

    And it’s super sweet you guys get the health insurance and cell phones covered. Nice!

    You guys also do pretty well in the food department. Less than $500 between the both of you is mighty impressive.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best wishes.

  20. I love these breakdown posts! One thing that we really struggle with is our water and sewer bill (yes, even without watering the lawn or plants). I’m not seeing one in your budget, though. Did I miss it, or do you not have one?

    1. Our water and sewer bill comes quarterly. Always makes the budget look a little funny, but it’s how the city does it. I’ve often thought it must be quite a shock to people who live paycheck to paycheck to have a non-monthly recurring expense… you really have to remember it’s on its way!

  21. I just found your blog the other day and love it! I feel so bogged down by the unnecessary clutter and keeping up with the Jones spending that happens here. My husband and I have dreams, too, of leaving the city (Vancouver) and fleeing to somewhere further out where we can afford a detached house with some acres for less than the price of our condo in the suburbs; where I can have a veggie garden and we can both quit our 9-5s (not really: 7-5 for me, 9-6 for him currently) and lead a simpler life. Your finance tips and making me looking differently at what we have and what we spend on will definitely help us on our way.


    I’m not sure if this is the same in the States, but I assume it is. My brother works for a Costco here (Canada) and apparently you can use a Costco gift card without having a membership, and the gift card doesn’t have to cover the entire purchase. My husband and I have been piggybacking Costco trips with friends and family for a while (we shop with them, they pay the whole amount, we pay them back in cash or email interac in the parking lot like some shady back alley deal) so we don’t have to pay for membership fees, but it does require a lot of coordination. We’re going to try out this gift card shenanigans for our next Costco trip. My brother gave us a couple $10 gift cards for Christmas, so those will be our “membership” for our next two trips.

    1. Hey Sarah! So glad you found us! We definitely feel like there’s a better way to live than the consumer carousel that so many people feel trapped by. That’s awesome that you and your husband are planning to escape the rat race too!

      Good to know re. the Costco gift cards! We’ve found that the membership fee is worth it to us–we make up for that cost with the savings in Frugal Hound’s kibble alone. Thanks so much for reading and commenting :)!

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