It’s appropriate that I spent $34.25 on a 20lb tank of C02 because quite a few of you are participating in my bi-annual Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge (UFM) this month. And this tank of C02 is the perfect illustration of an overarching theme of the UFM:

Frugality isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s about being strategic with your resources.

Littlewoods in a restaurant, definitely about to drop that sweet potato on the floor

I am not into hardship or deprivation. Not my thing. What I am into is saving money where I can and in ways that are efficient, focused on what matters most to me, and with an eye on the return on my investment (whether that’s in the form of $$ or happiness).

Frugality has a reputation for being painful, boring, and devoid of all pleasure. False. Frugality is about being creative, strategic, and conscious about how you spend your money (and I’d argue, your time too).

Mr. FW and I could stop drinking seltzer in order to save money. It would cost us much less to drink plain tap water. But we love seltzer and we choose to keep it in our lives. Making the choice to continue drinking seltzer is an example of what I call luxurious frugality and it’s how I like to live. I’m not about cutting every last gratuitous expense. I’m about judicious allocation of money and clever savings where possible.

My 20lb tank of C02 embodies my approach to frugality SO much so that a lot of you are probably sick of hearing me talk about it. But you guys, it’s such a good example!!!! And so, to the cringing of people around the globe who’ve heard this story before, allow me to regale you with The Tale Of Our Seltzer Machine.

Carbonation Is King

Cheers to cheap seltzer! Yes, this is actually a selfie I took of Mr. FW and I clinking seltzer glasses… never said I was cool, guys, never said I was cool.

There once was a young lass (that’s me!) who drank at least one Diet Coke per day. She knew it was expensive and not ideal for one’s health, but she craved it nonetheless. Until one day she happened upon some seltzer in a store.

Intrigued at the prospect of plain water with carbonation, she bought a pack. As she hoisted the can to her lips, she was overcome with the realization that all this time, it hadn’t been the ersatz flavor of Diet Coke that kept her coming back. All along, it had been the carbonation that held her captive…

Ok that version was going to take way too long, let’s hustle things along here:

  • I drank soda until I discovered seltzer. It’s only water, so yay, no more weird diet soda chemicals.
  • Somewhere in here, I converted Mr. FW to seltzer.
  • Mr. FW and I bought cans of seltzer at the grocery store.
  • We realized that two liter bottles of seltzer were cheaper, so we bought those.
  • We learned about SodaStream seltzer-making machines–and calculated that would be cheaper than two liter bottles–and bought one.
  • We swapped out our tiny, expensive SodaStream C02 cartridges until one day, Mr. FW was beset by the idea that he could hack our SodaStream, hook it up to a cheap 20lb tank of C02 and deliver fresh seltzer to us for a fraction of the price.
  • And so he did. Here’s my step-by-step tutorial if you too would like to hack your SodaStream.
    • UPDATE: A LOT OF PEOPLE have noted that the hose adaptor kit we purchased for our hack is no longer available on Amazon.
    • A LOT OF PEOPLE have asked me for a new link.
    • I have heard you, people.
    • BEHOLD: A NEW LINK for the hose adaptor kits (yes, this is an affiliate link).
  • Oh but we’re not done yet.
  • Not by a long shot.
  • Bet you thought that new hose adaptor kit link was the end.
  • It was not.
  • The incriminating evidence. Dun dun dun….

    A year into our life as Hacked SodaStream Enthusiast Weirdos, we made a discovery:

    • “Lo but we did one day see that the hipster homebrew store where we were swapping out our 20lb C02 tanks was slapping a hipster-designed marketing sticker over the incriminating evidence that their C02 tanks were DIRECTLY FROM the not-at-all hipster local welding supply shop.”
  • Upon making this discovery, my frugal antennae went up. WAY up.
  • Hipster = more expensive than not-at-all hipster.
  • I called the not-at-all hipster local welding supply shop (called Igo’s, by the way) and queried their price for a 20lb C02 tank swap.
  • I was vindicated. Igo’s price was a whopping HALF of what we’d been paying at the hipster homebrew store.
  • See data below.

Raw CO2 costs:

  • Traditional Sodastream cartridge: $1.07/oz ($15 for 14oz)
  • 20lb C02 tank from homebrew store: $0.22/oz ($69 for 320oz, or 20lbs)
  • 20lb C02 tank from welding supply store: $0.11/oz ($35 for 320oz, or 20lbs)

Based on our consumption rate of 42oz of CO2 a month (3 traditional Sodastream cartridges worth), our monthly CO2 cost is now dramatically lower:

  • Old system with traditional Sodastream cartridge: $44.94/month
  • 2014 frugal newbie system with homebrew store-sourced tank: $9.24/month
  • 2015 frugal boss system with welding store-sourced tank: $4.62/month
Mr. FW using our hacked seltzer machine. In case you’re wondering, yes, he made fun of me for taking this photo.

With our original tank hack, we were saving $35.70 a month. But with our new tank hack, we save $40.32 per month, which is also known as $483.84 per year.

Clearly, this is a cost savings. But it’s also an elaborate way of having fun. There was intrigue, discovery, self-improvement (no more soda passes my lips!), a mystery to be solved, and a field trip to a place called Igo’s. In a near-universal truism of frugality, this approach is also more environmentally friendly.

No more cans or plastic bottles or tiny cartridges. Just one giant tank that gets used and re-used and re-used… What more could a frugal sojourner desire? While we no longer live near Igo’s (pour one out), we’ve found another welding supply shop here in Vermont that suits our needs and, oddly enough, charges almost exactly the same price as Igo’s. Must be the going rate and must be inflation-proof.

Note: our C02 is food grade and what I recommend to anyone interested in setting up a similar system is to call your supplier and specifically ask for food grade C02.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything (20lb tanks of C02 included)

Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards for several reasons:

  1. It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where that random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. This prompts me to spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
  2. We get rewards. Who doesn’t like rewards? Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying things we were going to buy anyway.
  3. We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry any debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (which are fully paid off every month) has greatly helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty, 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, however, does help your score.

If you’re interested in opening a credit card, I highly recommend using this site to search for a card that’ll best fit your needs. And if you’re interested in travel rewards cards specifically, check out this list curated by my friend Brad from Travel Miles 101. I respect Brad’s work in the travel rewards space and I trust his advice on which cards will reap the best benefits.

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 that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with using a debit card and/or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend! (these are affiliate links)

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$



Kidwoods playing in the creek. Was it cold? I imagine so. Did she care? Nope.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to aggregate and consolidate our transactions from across all of our accounts. We then drop them into a spreadsheet to provide the below analysis for you fine people.

Tracking expenses is, in my opinion, the best way to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. Sounds harsh, but without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a frugal must, folks. No excuses.

Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for us to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth. If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, give Personal Capital a try (these are affiliate links). Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking.

Where’s Your Money?

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.

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Look no further than Our Low Cost, No Fuss, DIY Money Management System. We also own a rental property in MA, which I discuss here. Why do we allocate our money like we do? It’s all in service of our goal to reach financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods (which happened in May 2016).

Littlewoods and me on a hike

For us, embracing prudent financial management and frugality is a joyful, longterm choice. We prefer a simple life to one filled with consumerism and we spend only on the things that matter most to us. Our approach isn’t one of miserly deprivation; to the contrary, we live a luxuriously frugal existence in which we maximize efficiency.

Why do I share our expenses? To help give you a sense of how we use our money in a goal-oriented manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget (perfection does not exist!). We’re not the most frugal people on earth (far from it) and we’re not spendthrifts either. We fall somewhere in between and I hope that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain some insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.

Interested in how we keep costs low? Up for some hardcore frugal adventuring? Sign-up to take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is the method Mr. FW and I employ to sculpt our frugal lifestyle. You can sign-up at any time and it’s free!

If you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life

Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities and expenses are slightly different from traditional urban and suburban dwellings.

Our driveway

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 that 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). We also 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.

But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????

Wondering about other common expenses that you don’t see listed below?

If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask me in the comments section!

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in December:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $699.92 Special Christmas foods for the win (and the expensive-ness). Our waistlines and wallets are thankful we only eat decadently once a year…
Christmas Gifts $442.95 This total includes gifts for:

  • All 15 members of our immediate families (our parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews).
  • Shipping costs to get those gifts to our immediate family (none of whom live near us).
  • Kidwoods’ 5 preschool teachers (we decided to give them cash after the helpful comments from many teachers on this post).
  • The two nursery attendants at our church.

Mr. FW and I don’t exchange gifts with each other and we buy our kids’ gifts at garage sales/thrift stores throughout the year. More on our gift-giving approach here.

Preschool $434.56 Kidwoods goes to preschool four mornings a week, which we and she love! More on our preschool decision here.
Beer and alcohol $187.44 Mr. FW made a mini pilgrimage to the new Upper Pass tasting room to stock up on some delicious and luscious local beers, which we’ve been drinking with relish. He also bought a bottle of Hendrick’s gin (the best gin) for my traditional Christmas gin-and-tonics. Plus, a caramel-flavored vodka (sounds disgusting, I know, but it’s amazing) for addition to Mommywoods and Daddywoods’ Christmastime hot cocoa and egg nog. Divine, I tell you. Divine. Wondering why we needed spiked cocoa and egg nog? Read this.

We also gave a some of these local Vermont beers as gifts!

Gasoline for cars $124.80
Restaurants $101.37 Mr. FW and I went on our customary once-a-month date night (our adopted grandma neighbor comes over to babysit after we put the kids to bed!!! WE LOVE HER).

AND Mr. FW and I took Littlewoods out to lunch at a local coffee shop while Kidwoods was at preschool one day (this mostly because I wanted a holiday-themed latte real bad). Can I just say that it is SO EASY to take a baby to a restaurant? Toddlers on the other hand? Forget about it. We’ve taken both of our children out to eat with us exactly one time. That was enough. We’ll revisit restaurants with our children once they’re both old enough. Which might not be until they’re ten. I’m OK with that.

P.S. the latte was “gingerbread” and it was amazing.

Household supplies $97.23 Thrilling items such as laundry detergent, toilet paper, medications, dental floss, baby supplies, etc.
Internet $75.00 Love our fiber internet!!!!
Landline VOIP reload (14 months of service) $50.00 ($3.57 per month) We–GASP–have a landline (through because we don’t get reliable cell reception at our homestead. This is a reload that’ll last us about 14 months. At $3.57 per month, that’s a pretty good deal!
Shirt for Mr. FW $48.99 We purchased this Carhartt work shirt for Mr. FW from our local farm supply store (the aptly named Farm Way). We’ve found that Carhartt seems to be the happy medium between super expensive work gear (not worth the price) and super cheap stuff that doesn’t last.

Mr. FW loves this shirt as it’s fleece-lined and has pockets, so he can sometimes get away without a coat, which is ideal for some of his outdoor chores since a coat can impede movement. (the above is an affiliate link)

Fireplace gloves and baby cream $46.18 We were in dire need of new fireplace gloves as our old gloves had holes in every fingertip, which kind of defeated the purpose of their role as gloves. We got this pair. And yes, we tried to buy these locally, but couldn’t find them in stock anywhere.

Littlewoods is a rashy baby and our pediatrician recommend this cream, so we’re trying it out to see if it’ll help. All my cheaper remedies that worked on Kidwoods are no match for Littlewoods’ rash-prone self (these are both affiliate links).

Stone chip delivery for our driveway $45.00 Icy conditions necessitated a delivery of stone chips for our quarter-mile-long, steep driveway.
Diesel for our tractor $44.00 We use our tractor (with snowblower attachment) to clear our snow in the winter, which equals a need for more diesel!
Doctor visit co-pay $35.00 Someone went to the doctor at some point for something (I cannot recall who or for what, so clearly that person is now fine… )
20lb C02 refill for our homemade seltzer-rama machine (an 8 month supply) $34.25 (lasts for 8 months; so it’s $4.28 per month) Longtime readers know that several years ago we hacked our Sodastream machine to outfit it with a 20lb C02 tank, which is VASTLY less expensive than the tiny refill cartridges. Thanks to this system, we enjoy bubbly water for a fraction of the price. This tank’ll last us approximately 8 months.
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Utilities: Electric $12.60 We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Yellow Curry Paste $7.31 For Mr. FW’s homemade Thai recipes. Oddly enough, none of our local stores or markets carry this curry paste (affiliate link).
TOTAL: $3,899.45

How was your December?

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  1. I love the way you’ve so succinctly outlined the concept and appeal of luxurious frugality. I couldn’t agree with it more! In our household, saving money isn’t about sacrificing the things that are important to us, but about finding creative ways to save on things that aren’t so we can invest our money and time into simply living a more intentional — and ultimately, fulfilling — life.

    For those of us frugal weirdos who are incessant optimizers by nature, identifying savings via improvements such as The CO2 Tank Frugal Boss System constitute a never-ending and enjoyable challenge. The ancillary benefits that are a result of more efficient consumption, such as minimalism and a lower environmental footprint, simply make the reward that much sweeter.

    That Carhartt work shirt looks like a winner! There’s nothing less enjoyable for a claustrophobic-prone individual such as myself than cutting wood or inching under a vehicle while wearing a binding one-piece suit. Anytime I can get away without wearing a coat while doing outdoor chores in the snowy months is a win!

    1. Totally!! We are definitely “optimizers by nature”–I like how you phrased it :). Glad to know we’re not the only ones!

  2. That’s pretty good for the holiday season. I noticed you don’t do the Minus Mortgage row anymore. It’d be helpful to see what the monthly expenses minus housing are. But I still love your expense report regardless!

    I’ve read your setlzer saga before, and it never ceases to amaze me 😀

    1. Oh whoops! I totally forgot to include the “minus mortgage” subtotal. Sorry about that! Looks like for this month our non-mortgage spending was $2,506.59.

  3. I’m certain there is a version you can get in the US, but for my VERY VERY SENSITIVE, RASH-PRONE babies (all.of.them) the thing that worked incredibly well was cetamocrogol cream, with urea at around 10%. Most large pharmacies have this. NOT aqueous cream, though it appears much the same. Sounds gross, but it’s unscented and does amazing things, just slather it on. There’s an ointment version for washing, use that until the rash is entirely gone at least and when it shows signs of reasserting itself. Our brand is epizone, I’m certain you will be spoilt for choice but it’s very, very cheap and works incredibly well.

  4. Have you ensured the CO2 you are purchasing is food-grade? Although the actual gas most likely comes from the same plant, the FDA regulations, impurity standards and handling procedures are very different and you wouldn’t want to put the industrial grade stuff into your body, for sure.

    1. Yes, it is indeed food grade :). What I recommend to anyone who is interested in setting up a similar system is that you call your supplier and specifically ask for food grade C02. This is what we do and it’s been a great system for us.

  5. For rashes, if the one you’re currently using doesn’t work out, one of the best creams is Cicaplast Baume B5 from the La Roche Posay line of French dermatology products. Here in France, it costs less than 15 euros, even though you buy it in the pharmacy and it’s from a fancy skin care line, but I imagine that it’s more costly in the US. Avène Cicaplast/Cicabaume also works well and has a similar profile.

    Generally recommended by all three of the pediatricians we’ve seen for our daughter, and also recommended by my doctor to prevent some scarring/a contact dermatitis rash I had from hiking/and so on. Very multipurpose! The other nice thing is, though it’s expensive, you only use a small amount 2x per day because of the zinc, so one tube goes a long way.

  6. Oh how I love your posts! Both informative and hilarious at the same time. I am NOT creative in the kitchen and my husband would be fine opening a can of tuna every night for dinner. I know Mr. FW doesn’t follow recipes, but I’d love to get an idea of what he throws together. Any way you’d consider a recipes post?

    1. Oh man, I have tried to pin Mr. FW down on his recipes for YEARS now. Seriously, five years now. It’s like trying to pin a fish to a wall (not that I’ve ever tried that, but it sounds slippery). Maybe I can con him into doing a general cooking outline post or something. He just gets in the kitchen, turns on either NPR or bluegrass, and chops, dices, roasts, and cooks like a wild man. And then the result is amazing. I once shadowed him while he was making his from-scratch tomato sauce and I stopped writing down instructions after step #35. I just gave up. So, uh, yeah… I’ll see what I can do, but since I can’t cook, I’m not very helpful :)!!!!

  7. Any ideas out there for hacking Italian soda? Not a cream soda (that’s all of the recipes that I’ve found), but more like the in-the-glass-bottle version from Trader Joe’s. I like the fizzy lemonade and blood orange ones, but can’t seem to recreate it at home. I’ve tried mixing soda water with homemade canned fruit syrup (I had to strain it because apparently I make gloppy fruit syrup!) and it tasted ok, but not great. I also tried mixing lemonade in, but no dice. We love these at our house, but the $2-5 a bottle price really makes me die inside so I try to only buy them for special occasions or when the store brand version is on sale.

    1. Hmmm, that’s a good question. I have no idea! I admit I like my seltzer plain so I haven’t experimented with flavors. I’m sure someone has though–perhaps they’ll chime in here 🙂

    2. You can buy the Torino syrups at places like World Market (or restaurant suppliers if you have one) and add to C02 water, (a little milk/cream if desired) and top with whipped cream. The syrups are pricey, but it doesn’t take a lot for an Italian Soda, and they have a long shelf life.

      1. These are good ideas! My syrup might not be flavor-y enough (works great on pancakes, though), so a concentrate or Torino might be a better option to get the flavor without watering down the fizz. We already have frozen juice in the freezer so I’ll try that first. Thank you!

      2. I used to work at a coffee shop and this is exactly how we made the Italian sodas. A little syrup goes a long way.

  8. We all have those luxuries we cant give up.
    I will admit I have been semi frugal in the past week after a no spend, but I knew this week would be expensive.
    I had gifts to buy, garden seeds, and some awards. Also though I have lots of free ebooks to read I really want a second hand book one of my favorite frugality youtubers mentioned. Its out of print.

  9. Have you ever made your own caramel sauce? It’s pretty easy, requires only a few ingredients, is great for gifts around christmas – and a dash can easily be added to vodka that you already have. I keep one bottle of plain vodka and add the flavors to my drink instead! Salted caramel is even better 🙂

    1. YUM! Yes! We make a caramel sauce to go on bread pudding (a recipe from my amazing mother-in-law) and it is just about the best thing that’s ever come out of our kitchen. I never thought to make my own caramel vodka–great idea! Thank you!

  10. When I get my own place, I am making my own hacked soda stream! I’m interested in experimenting with fancy cocktails, too!

    As for the luxurious frugality, I coveted a pair of boots from Frye forever but I couldn’t justify spending that much. I found the perfect pair (in my size!!) at a second-hand shop. They were $80!! They need to be resoled, but even after that expense I’m still far ahead of the retail price.

    1. PERFECT!!!! I paid full price for a pair of Frye’s years ago and I still love them. With all my heart. They really are the best. Enjoy your find, my friend!!!

  11. I don’t know if you still shop at BJ’s, but around Christmas time, they’re one of the cheapest places to get multipacks of gift cards (they pass off a lot of the retail payment on to the customers as savings–at one point I got my dad a $200 Southwest Air gift card for $160). For teachers, I like to get food/entertainment gift cards so I got a steal on 3 movie theater gift cards (made sure they were theaters close by so they could actually be used). But, cash is always a good idea too! I just hate giving cash for any gifts so I try to stick with gift cards if I can.

    For your Voip service, did you have to pay anything for the device to set it up? I’ve been eying an Oooma for a while, since they charge just local taxes once you buy the device and Costco always has them for sale with a handset for decent prices. Our taxes appear high in our area though, so I think I’d have to pay over $6 a month with Ooma too. Just curious for more feedback on your VOIP if you can… my mom really needs a home phone so I’d appreciate any more info!

    1. Ooma works great. Had the same unit for 5-6 years, And it just works. Maintenance free. Mine is like 3 to 4 dollars a month for various federal taxes and fees.

    1. Ooooo that sounds divine!!! We do still have some of our homemade apple cider in the basement… and it is a FRIDAY!!!! haha

  12. Do you just use plain water in your SodaStream, or do you mineralize it in some way? I’m addicted to San Pellegrino water, but it’s as much for the mineral taste as the bubbles.

    1. We just use tap water, but perhaps there’s a way to DIY that flavor? Not sure, but maybe someone else has tried it :)!

      1. I used to love seltzer water but my naturopath told me that it can lead to leaky gut, so I stopped. Now I drink natural mineral water like Perrier but I still miss the sharp taste of carbonated water.

    2. LiteSalt is great for mineralizing your water. It’s half sodium, half potassium, and there are lotta different brands, like Morton’s. I put A 16th of a teaspoon per 2 cups of water and that doesn’t upset my stomach, but you probably wouldn’t want to do much more than that, and you’d have to experiment with it. I microwave it in an ounce or two of water for about 30 seconds and then stir it up and it dissolves completely.

  13. Great hacks,
    Just make sure that you are getting the safe CO2 grade for human consumption or medicaly safe. Industrial grade may not be the best for your health. Good luck.

    1. Yes, it is indeed food grade :). What I recommend to anyone who is interested in setting up a similar system is that you call your supplier and specifically ask for food grade C02. This is what we do and it’s been a great system for us.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing. I have a question. When you say you spend all you can on your credit cards, do you pay all of your monthly bills using credit cards? mortgage? utilities? etc? I realize that I am spending so much on stamps paying bills. I know I could auto-pay through my checking account, but I would rather not. I think I would like the buffer of using a credit card and then getting the rewards on top of it. What is your experience

    1. Our mortgage and utilities are paid via autopay (which is through our checking account). I love this system since it means we never miss a payment and don’t have to go through the process of mailing in a check.

  15. I’m shocked by how little you spent on Christmas gifts, especially considering that amount included shipping. Impressive! I spent more for far fewer people and didn’t have to ship a thing. Instead of buying a bunch of people a few small gifts, I’m very generous to the few people I give gifts and then give larger sums to non-profits I support throughout the year. And I factor that into my Christmas gift budget. I manage to afford this giving through none other than your appropriately named “luxurious frugality.” Without this tactic, I wouldn’t be able to live the life I do or give like I do, so it works well — it’s a great tradeoff!

    I was just telling my mom about your soda stream hacking because she and my dad also love their seltzer, so this article is especially timely. 🙂

  16. My skin can be very sensitive and the only thing that works all the time is Oilatum. It’s safe for kids as the doctor prescribed it when I was young. Not sure they have it in the US but you could google it to check the ingredients.

    I’ve always thought that itching would be a very effective torture technique as when my skin, sometimes very suddenly, gets bad, I could literally rip it off if I didn’t have this cream or antihistamines. I use melt versions. More expensive but work very quickly.

    My mum has had significant skin issue since getting bitten by horseflies a year or so ago and has been trying so many things. One of them even required her to stay a certain distance from naked flames in case the cream caught fire!

  17. Just in case you haven’t thought of this already: Is there any chance Littlewoods is reacting to your laundry detergent/fabric softener/stain remover/dryer sheets? Many of us with allergies & sensitivities don’t react to All Free & Clear or Seventh Generation Free & Clear. And many of us use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets (if you use your clothes dryer). Instead of fabric softener, we use white vinegar. And we use fragrance free soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Good luck determining the cause of her rashes – hope she feels better soon!

  18. Thanks for the post! I’d love to hear your tips for frugally entertaining the kiddos in a future post. As a stay-at-home-mom I find a lot of my impulse expenditures tend to be desperate attempts to entertain cranky little ones, especially in winter when I can’t always shoo them outside. I’d love to hear how you and Mr. FW keep the kids occupied without constantly buying new toys, classes, memberships, etc! Thanks!

    1. I totally feel ya! We do pay for gymboree because my kids love it so much 🙈.

      We love hosting play dates with their fellow twins, and all it costs me is some coffee for the moms and snacks for the kids :).

  19. Always love these posts! I’d love to see how much you think having a toddler has changed your grocery spending – we have 2 yo twins and are amazed that our grocery budget has gone up $100-$150 a month.

    My son also had a perpetual rash that would not go away. We spent so much on creams, including a prescription one. What we finally figured out it was the all natural bath wash we were using (only figured it out when we went to my in-laws for a week and we were using a different bath wash and it cleared up). I know your pain – hope you find something that works!

  20. For me, urea in my hand cream aids in preventing dryness enormously. For your little one I would start with a very low concentration & test it. My daughter now 10 has occasion eczema BAD. I once put silver containing cream from California baby on it & her skin turned bright red. Screaming, both of us crying, couldn’t get it off fast enough. For her, cold humidifier in her bedroom helps the most in addition to all the creams (usually plain Eucerin).

  21. Mrs. FW, I noticed that your health insurance is covered by Mr. FW’s employer. I imagine that paying for health insurance outright (without help from an employer) for a family is very expensive, in addition to covering potential medical bills in the instance of a long-term health crisis. My in-laws in KY pay around $1700/month for a high deductible plan for 2, 61 year olds, for example.

    I think this is a huge factor in being truly financially independent for the rest of one’s life. Healthcare costs can be so unpredictable. Have you looked into this? I realize it would only be relevant if Mr. FW stopped working. Apologies if it’s already been addressed.

    1. Very true! Yes, we price out health plans through the ACA every year to test our calculations, which is something I encourage anyone considering FI to do!

  22. How funny… i drove myself crazy trying to find yellow curry paste in my local grocery stores last month too! I live north of San Francisco, so I couldn’t believe I couldn’t find it! Hilariously, I ended up buying the exact same one from Amazon!

  23. I love that you embrace frugality while still supporting local businesses. The owners of Farm Way do incredible things for the community. I’m glad to hear you shop there.

    1. Yay! We try to shop (and restaurant) local whenever possible and we tried to buy our fireplace gloves at Farm Way too, but they were out of stock. Farm Way is indeed awesome :)!

  24. Hey Mrs. Frugalwoods, I applaud your efforts to save on Co2 costs. Why stop at 20 lb canisters? I just queried a 50 lb canister from Airgas. In my zip code 94595 it was $54.81* (*Additional itemized charges such as delivery, shipping, special handling, cylinder rent, hazmat fees, taxes or other charges may apply.) At your zip code 05079 the cost was $62.44. Guess since that is close to the $70 you pay, that is not much of a savings. Still, that was the first place I checked. Other places might be less. There are also even larger cylinders, although there is a point of diminishing returns. Also, I worked in the ’80s as a chemical engineer at Air Products. You may want to consider placing the cylinder on the other side of the wall from your kitchen, perhaps in a shed. That way, a leak couldn’t cause a problem.

  25. Currently trying to talk my husband into utilizing your soda stream hack for a seltzer tap in our kitchen that is currently undergoing renovations!

  26. My 4 year old had lots of rashes as a baby. He still has sensitive skin. (Cradle cap still, at 4!). He doesn’t take a lot of baths, which is embarrassing to admit, but that has helped with the eczema.

  27. Thanks so much for sharing this! So random, but try browned flour for the diaper rash. My friend was at her wits end with a never ending rash and browned flour finally kicked it. On an unrelated note of curiosity, I always wonder if Mr. FW works for an outside employer? You often mention retiring to your homestead at 33, but also talk about him working from home, which of course one can do independently, but then I’m curious about what you do for things like health insurance. I love all your posts and so appreciate all the helpful info!

    1. Thank you for the flour suggestion! Mr. FW does indeed work for an outside employer from home (he’s been with the same company for 12 years–he loves them!) and we have our health insurance through that employer. I make a note of this above in the post under the section “But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????” And I agree with you about the confusion over retiring early/financial independence. Since Mr. FW and I both choose to work from home, we are financially independent but not retired early. I’ve been trying to iron that out and make it clearer since I know it can get confusing! The crucial difference for us is that we both choose to work, but we don’t have to work. I hope that helps :)!

      1. That makes perfect sense! I agree that we need to invent a better word than “retirement”, maybe you can come up with one that captures your unique situation. 🙂

  28. I have seen that brand of curry paste at the Thai Market in Lebanon, NH (which I believe is not too very far from your home).

  29. Do you have anything to regulate/decrease the pressure coming out of the tank? I’ve found that the release valve won’t work when the line is directly connected directly to the tank because there’s too much pressure. I’m so sad!

  30. Awwww, poor Littlewoods. I hope you find something that works for her. I suffer from cold urticaria so I sympathize with being super tasty.

  31. Have you tried browned flour for the rash? Sounds crazy but it was the only thing that worked for a friend of mine, and it’s cheap! 🙂

  32. I was wondering if living in an isolated area ever gets you spooked? I know I would love to live in a rural area, but my wife would be to afraid. Wondering your thoughts on this. Love your website!

  33. I remember reading your Setzer CO2 Hack a few years ago! And here you are yet again, raising the bar!

    I’m currently a sailor on a ship and our mess has a SodaStream machine… I was going to suggest using the same method and then I remembered all of the safety considerations needed. I guess safety is a needed yet expensive consideration!

    I should steal your table sometime. I definitely need to make a table to make myself accountable (especially for all the things I need to keep track of)! Did you usually just rip it off of Personal Capital?

  34. Love reading about your CO2 hack! Very much like you, I had a major Diet Coke kick going on that I just couldn’t get rid of. That is until I found sparkling water, and you are exactly right, it’s the carbonation that makes it good. So I am glad to be done with all the chemicals in the diet soda. I am still buying sparkling water from the store (except when I’m at work since we have a sparkling water dispenser there), so I’m going to look into building out a similar setup to you. Appreciate the tips and the updated links to actually buy the right materials to get it to work.

  35. Is your rental property paid for? I’ve read posts from different dates and was not what is paid for if you’ve shared. Are you paying off your vt house early? I enjoyed your book!

  36. I love soda water! I was a bartender in college and that was my go to vs. Diet Coke on the nights I worked. I would like to see if I can find a Sodastream on my favorite Swap and Shop site. Do you have a recommendation on a specific Sodastream model?

  37. Love ‘ya, Mrs. FW Can’t hep but respond to your article on cheap seltzer. I, too, was a Diet Cokehead. Knew all the risks, but I just couldn’t stop. My husband saw how much I was drinking and he begged me to stop. Which I did. Clod turkey. Switched to seltzer and never touched a soda again. Flash forward ten years. I get the shock of my life after my first DEXA exam. The phosphorus in the seltzer had been steadily leaching the calcium out of y bones and I had a firm diagnosis of osteoporosis. I thought nothing could be more innocent than seltzer. I was wrong. Please check with your doctor or a health care provider you trust.

  38. Do you have a new link for this?
    “BEHOLD: A NEW LINK for the hose adaptor kits (yes, this is an affiliate link).”

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