November 2019

Pants, a kettle, brake parts, and 150 trash bags: a sampling of what we purchased this month. Let’s start with the kettle, which is something of a woeful tale.

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The Frugalwoods Electric Kettle

Longtime readers have been briefed on our adoration of our electric kettle–our erstwhile electric kettle, I should say. We bought this kettle for $93 back on October 12, 2012 and it sufficed for all our hot water needs these past seven years. We made oatmeal with it, we made pour-over coffee with it (using these Melitta cones), we made tea and hot cocoa. For seven years, this kettle heated water every morning and every afternoon.

Ye olde Kettle

It did so without complaint, without questioning, and with aplomb. Then, two months ago, a leak formed at the base of the kettle. It started with a small spasm of water elicited from the bottom-most seam. This aqueous interference advanced to a trickle, a drip, and progressed to a Stage Four Leak. We researched repair options to no avail. We used it leak-ily for several months and finally surrendered to the inevitable: an electric kettle that spews water onto its charging base is not a safe kettle.

We bought our original (rather expensive) kettle on the premise that we thought it would last longer than a cheap kettle. I much prefer buying a more expensive option that’ll last over replacing a cheap alternative every year. However. I’m not always a proponent of Buy It For Life since I think it’s an inherently flawed pretense: precious few things last–or are needed/used–for one’s entire life. Given that, for our kettle replacement we opted to go the knock-off route and test the mettle of this less expensive kettle. At $31.79, it’s a full $61.21 cheaper than our original kettle. Will it last seven years? I know not. Will I try to make it last seven years? Absolutely. Note: the links in this section are all affiliate links.

150 Trash Bags: More Interesting Than They Sound*

Our town of 400 people does not provide trash pick-up. Instead, we take our trash and recycling to the transfer station once a week. For this purpose we are required to use specified trash bags, which are sold by the town. The bags are $2 each and we use one bag per week; hence, these 150 bags should last us almost three years. We’re able to get by with just one bag of trash per week by recycling everything recyclable (cleaned out and sorted) and by composting our food scraps and coffee grounds.

I baked these pies from scratch–crusts included! Much better than a photo of trash bags, no?

Composting is a fabulous way to reduce your trash, cut down on the methane in landfills, and create a wonderful source of nutrients for your garden. According to The Atlantic, “Wasted food is… the single biggest occupant in American landfills.” That’s disturbing and deeply depressing. Further, Bloomberg reports: “… food that ends up in landfills contributes to the release of methane, a major contributor to global warming.”

City and suburb dwellers can compost too! There are a plethora of handy compost bins and barrels one can use if one has limited outdoor space. And if you don’t garden, you probably know someone who does and who would appreciate a gift of compost. Environmentalism + a holiday gift all in one. Plus, a number of cities across the country now offer curbside compost pick-up alongside trash and recycling. Hooray!

*actually, maybe not…

Monthly Massages for Mamas: A Genius Arrangement

A friend of mine–who also has two young children–dreamed up a genius plan several months ago. She asked her massage therapist (who is also a mom of two young children) if she’d be willing to see clients at my friend’s home one day each month, which would allow us to watch each other’s children during our appointments. The massage therapist agreed and we’re into our third month of this system. My friend invites her friends (including me) to sign-up for a massage time slot on that one specified day per month and we use a sign-up sheet to coordinate childcare. It works brilliantly for everyone involved because:

  • When seasons collide: snow on apples

    The massage therapist is guaranteed back-to-back appointments all day long and most of us are now repeat monthly clients.

  • We–the recipients of the massages–watch one another’s kids during our appointments!
  • One of the main reasons parents don’t do more self-care is that they don’t have anyone to watch their kids during said self-care. It seems super obvious and easily surmountable, but it’s not. When you consider the logistics of booking an appointment, scheduling a babysitter, travel time, and of course paying for it all, the whole thing can quickly spiral into the category of not worth it.
  • By trading babysitting, we’re only paying for the massage itself, not for the three hours (when you factor in travel time) of childcare we’d each need in order to go to a massage appointment.

This is, hands down, one of the greatest co-ops I’ve ever been part of. I watch someone else’s kids during their appointment and then they watch my kids during my appointment! We provide repeat business for a local, woman-owned business, our kids have fun playing together, and we reinforce the community of parents we rely on to get us through these not-so-easy early years of parenting. I can’t take credit for this idea, but I can share it in the hopes that you might create something similar in your community!

The Prius And Its Brakes: A Tale Of DIY Victory

Our 2010 Toyota Prius–now with new brakes!

Mr. FW is on a DIY skill-building tear. Last month he wired all of the electrical to install our generator and this month, he replaced the brakes on our Toyota Prius. He’s never done a brake job before and he wanted to see if he could teach himself how–and he did!

Armed with the internet and a willingness to spend hours researching and learning, he figured it out and successfully replaced the rotors, pads, and calipers on the rear brakes. Nicely done!

We ended up spending more on parts because once Mr. FW got into the job, he realized the calipers also needed replacing. He had to buy them locally instead of online, where they’re cheaper. Still, a much less expensive job than if we’d had to pay for the labor too!

Join The January 2020 Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge!!!

It’s time, my friends. It’s time to sign-up for my free January 2020 Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge (UFM)!!! You’ve read the Frugalwoods Case Studies, you’ve seen the UFM testimonials, you look at my monthly expense reports and think “I can spend less than Frugalwoods!,” and now, it’s time.

The UFM is your opportunity to put these frugal concepts into practice. The UFM is your chance to lasso your spending, organize your money, and get a better handle on your financial life.

The UFM doesn’t just help you save money. The UFM helps transform your relationship with money: how you earn it, how you spend it, how you manage it. The UFM is money management bootcamp and next month, we’re doing the Challenge together! Did I mention it’s FREE? It’s free.

Also, brand new for this Challenge, for the first time ever, we will convene in a private Facebook Group to discuss the UFM, to share our challenges, and to offer support and advice to one another. In the past, I’ve hosted an Uber Frugal Month Facebook Page, but you all adroitly noted that “Pages” are public while “Groups” are private, which is desirable since we get into some pretty heavy topics over the course of the UFM. More details here.

Yes, We Only Paid $22.50 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 pay $22.50 for both of our phones (that’s $11.25 per person for those of you into division). How is such trickery possible?!? We use the MVNO Ting (affiliate link). 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 basically the TJ Maxx of the cell phone service world–it’s the same service, just A LOT cheaper. If you’re not already using an MVNO, switching to one is an easy, slam-dunk, do-it-right-now way to save money every single month of every single year forever and ever amen. More here: My Frugal Cell Phone Service Trick: How I Pay $10.65 A Month*

*and yes, the dollar amount we pay every month fluctuates slightly because it’s calibrated on what we use. Imagine that! We only pay for what we use! Will wonders ever cease.

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.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Littlewoods: I stomp this mud!

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. I 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. 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 debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (that are fully paid off every month) has helped our credit scores. By the way, 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 The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience. I also wrote this guide on how to find the best credit card for you.

If you want a simple cash back credit card, here are a few good options that don’t have annual fees:

  1. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card (more here). This one’s good because it offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases. There are no categories to keep track of, you just get a straightforward 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Nice, easy, and fee-free! What this means is that if you spend, for example, $1,000 on this card in a month, you’ll get $15 back just for using the card.
  2. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is also excellent and also offers a flat 1.5% cash back on all purchases–with no categories or restrictions–which makes it super simple to use.
  3. The Fidelity Rewards Visa (which is the card that I have) offers 2% cash back on all purchases, with no categories or restrictions, but the downside is that it requires you to have a Fidelity account. If you’re already banking with Fidelity, then I think it’s a great deal, but if you’re not (and you don’t want to open a Fidelity account), I’d go with either the Capital One Quicksilver (more about that card here) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Glamour Shed in November: positively fabulous

If you’re more interested in travel rewards, a lot of people love the Chase Sapphire Preferred as well as the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (more about that card here).

The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself. Fortunately, there’s a website,, with a search function that aggregates information about tons of different credit cards.

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! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links).

Cash Back Earned This Month: $43.45

The silver lining to all 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 $2,172.79 on that card, which netted us $43.45. Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway! This is why I love credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Our driveway in November

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to 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.

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 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, you might consider trying Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links). Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking.

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out Our Low Cost, No Fuss, DIY Money Management System. We also own a rental property in Cambridge, 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).

Woodshed ice view of November

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 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. 

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 insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.

If you’re wondering where to start with managing your money, or if you’d like to save more every month, you might consider taking my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re interested in other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life

The Toddler Ennui out in the snow

Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities and 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). 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 common expenses you don’t see listed below?

  • 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 amount in the month we pay them.
  • We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgages) and we paid cash for our cars.
  • Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
  • 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.

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 November:

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Daycare $600 For Littlewoods so that my husband and I can work (which makes us happier, more balanced parents). Kidwoods goes to free preschool at our public elementary school.
Groceries $460.40 All foodstuffs for our family of four
Vacation (over Thanksgiving) $316.37 We jetted down to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Mr. Frugalwoods’ family and had a glorious time.

A full post on the details coming soon! For now, enjoy our vacation-related expenses.

150 Town Trash Bags $300 These 150 bags should last us almost three years
Toyota Prius brake parts $263.96 Rear Calipers + Core Charge
Household and Farm supplies $258.74
Gasoline for cars $158.56
Toyota Prius brake parts $139.21 Rotors and Pads
Pants for Mr. Frugalwoods $89.40 Mr. FW’s favorite pants went on sale so he bought two more pairs. He’s been really happy with the quality and fit of Duluth’s stuff–it’s durable and comfortable for the hard manual labor he puts in, but not ugly, and not super duper expensive.
Date night!!! $88.68 Our monthly kid-free dinner out, facilitated by our amazing adopted grandma neighbor who stays at our house. We put the kids to bed before we leave.
Massage for Mrs. Frugalwoods $80.00
Internet $74.00
Christmas Gifts $65.00 Read about my holiday gift-giving strategy here.
Mount and Balance New Prius Snow Tires $62.79 As I noted the other month, we bought new studded snow tires for our Prius this year. This charge was for our mechanic to mount the tires on the rims. Now that they’re mounted, Mr. FW will take care of switching them out with the summer tires every year.
Doctor visit co-pays $50.00 Somebody was sick with something. I feel like I should just have a standing monthly appointment with our pediatrician because we end up there at least once a month anyway…
Wrenches $48.64 Wrench set for use on car repairs (affiliate link).
Ethanol-free Gas $46.66 For our chainsaw, generator, and other small engines.
Car seat and little potty for my in-laws’ house (for our Thanksgiving trip) $40.92 My in-laws already have one carseat at their house and we didn’t want to lug the second carseat through the airport, so we bought this carseat and had it shipped to their house in North Carolina in advance of our trip.

We also bought this little potty and had it shipped to them. Since these are both super bulky, super necessary items that we will use for years, I thought it made sense to buy them to leave at my in-laws’ house. P.S. we did NOT put the batteries in this potty to make it play music… that’s just a bridge too far, even for me.

Electric kettle $31.79 We shall test the mettle of this new kettle (affiliate link).
One checked bag for our flight $30.00 I tried to fit all four of us into our carry-ons, but alas, I had to check one bag. Once the girls are old enough to roll their own suitcases, we’ll be back to being carry-on only!

I was delighted that Kidwoods carried her own little carry-on backpack, so I feel we’re moving in the right direction.

Emergency Snow Shovel $24.58 This is an embarrassing story that I’ll regale you with in an upcoming post…
Cell phones (service for two phones) $22.50 This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service). MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of cell phone service.

If you’re not using an MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.

Utilities: Electric $19.06 We have solar (which I detail here); this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Cold weather work gloves $14.99 Here in the tundra of Vermont, we have near-constant need for cold weather work gloves. It’s hard to find gloves that are warm enough in sub-zero temps, but that offer enough dexterity to actually use your hands.

Mr. FW bought these gloves to try out–he’s hoping to find something warmer than his fleece gloves, but more dextrous than his giant leather mittens (affiliate link).

Pharmacy $8.49 Medication for one of the kids for some malady or another.
Winter gloves to accompany Emergency Snow Shovel $7.45 To be included in embarrassing saga in upcoming post…
Total: $4,695.05
Minus mortgage: $3,302.19

How was your November?

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  1. Did your daycare bill go down by about 1/3? Is Littlewoods going to daycare less or did you find cheaper childcare?

    1. Maybe she goes for fewer days or less hours? I found that usually the younger the kids are more expensive the daycare is since they have to have smaller ratios

      1. Good catch! It was less in November because there were so many vacation days due to Thanksgiving and then a snowstorm. She only goes two days a week, so when there are vacations, we might miss an entire week

        1. You don’t have to pay for vacation and snow days? That’s amazing. We are still on the hook regardless of attendance.

          1. Wow, I can’t believe you don’t pay for vacation or snow days! I’m curious how they still pay their employees then. Lucky!

      2. Yes! I remember it was more expensive when my son was under age 2; then he graduated to the “big kid” room and our daycare bill went down.

  2. Maybe she goes for fewer days or less hours? I found that usually the younger the kids are more expensive the daycare is since they have to have smaller ratios

  3. That co-op is seriously a brilliant idea! Plus I feel like it would be easier with several moms kind of going all at once so that you’re not the only one with all the kids (although now that I think about, with the scheduling of the appointments—maybe you are?).

    Also, I feel you on the at-least-once-a-month-at-the-doctor thing. It’s to the point now where I really should just budget for it monthly, rather than being upset regularly that we need to pay a co-pay yet again.

    1. So the babysitting works well because the appointments are staggered and everyone leaves after their appointment time. I only have my kids and one other person’s kids during one mom’s appointment and then she has my kids and her kids during my appointment. Basically, I’m there for my appointment time and one other mom’s appointment.

      1. Good idea! Although I’m not sure I could relax, waiting to hear possible crying from another room. Presumably all play well.

  4. Dear Mrs FW, thank you (again, I think) for this marvellous blog!. I live quite far away from USA, being from Slovenia and living in coastal Croatia, but I enjoy your photos so much! They remind me of my childhood and youth in Slovenia with the woods and the snow and all, it’s quite the same scenery as the middle/Alpine Slovenia. Yea, I suppose you’ve never planned to make a homesick Slav feeling better with the blog’s photos, but it works this way too:)
    Of course I read about frugality too and sometimes I try to emulate. I have to be thrifty anyway because of our humble earnings but seldom I feel it as a burden. It is only difficult at times when health problems arise., the public health system dwindling here and with private health care being quite costly.
    A big fat reason to act preventatively, too. And my burning Q for today: how on earth do you manage to keep your ancient kettle so shiny?!? Beacause I am kinda convinced it was not just polished for a photo session. Best regards from Šibenik, google that:)

  5. Just curious about an electric kettle vs a stovetop one— is it easier? I have a stovetop one that is starting to look a little rusty.

    1. We used to use a stovetop kettle (and still do when the power goes out!), but we find the electric kettle to be faster and more efficient.

      1. Everyone in UK, NZ, Aus, has an electric kettle. I remember my first visit to the states, looking mourned the kitchen for the kettle and trying to work out how to make a cup of tea. Too funny.

        1. I think my time in England as a study abroad student might have influenced my lifelong love of electric kettles!!!

        2. In South Africa and India too. I think the Brits pretty much popularised the concept in all their territories (or maybe they just popularised tea, which is almost the same thing 🙂 )

          1. Every time I’ve moved house, in the UK and US, the first thing unpacked is the kettle! I was baffled by the lack of electric kettles when I first lived in CA.
            I’ve just replaced my budget kettle of 10 years too with exactly the same fault. Not bad for a £10 kettle that is used a good dozen times every single day. Yes, we love our tea! 🍵

    2. We used to have an electric kettle but switched to a stove top. I don’t find it takes that long to boil unless you fill it right to the brim. I just put it on in the morning and do other tasks while it boils.

      Ours is a Le Creuset. Not cheap but we’ve had it for 13 years now and I expect it will outlast us! I like knowing I’m not going to be adding yet another electrical appliance to the landfill. Even if you get seven years out of every kettle, it adds up over a lifetime of drinking tea!

    3. The nice thing about many electric kettles is that you can set them to the specific temperature you want. Many teas and coffee shouldn’t be brewed at boiling so the ability to set the temp at the outset takes much of the guesswork out of the heating.

      1. I agree with Lisa! I love that I can make coffee at the right temp, tea at the right temp, and very tepid hot cocoa for the kids all with the same kettle

  6. The kettle you purchased has problems with rust (not hard water spots) forming on the bottom. The company is great at responding and refunding defective products, though.

  7. About the kettle…. if you get 2.3 years use of the kettle you just bought, the expense will come out the same.
    ($90/ 7 years vs $30/2.3 years)

  8. I’m excited to hear about Mr. Frugalwoods adventuring into DIY car repair! My husband has also taught himself how to fix nearly anything car related. In the last 20 years we have had to pay a mechanic only 2 times that I can think of, besides tire replacement. Once was for some programming issue related to the door locks, and the other because we were out of town without the necessary equipment to be able to fix some sort of major problem. He also does all our oil changes and other vehicle maintenance things.

    We have never been worried about keeping older cars, which has saved us a small fortune and helped us on our path to FIRE. My teenage son is currently driving a 2004 full size 4WD pickup (we live in the snow belt) that we bought for $3800 last year (it even came with brand new tires!) and it also doubles as my rental house work truck. No school bus in our area, so the truck’s third duty is saving my sanity by not having to take the kids to school every day. My husband spent about $1000 DIY fixing various things when we bought the truck, and we expect this beast of a truck to last us a long time with less than $5k invested in it. We could sell it for more than that.

    And it builds character for my son, what with the rust and all. He parks it without a care in the world next to the fancy brand new cars in the high school parking lot. 😉 That is a huge life lesson that I wish more kids at his school would get to experience, instead of getting to drive a new Lexus or Mercedes to HIGH SCHOOL.

    Way to go Mr. Frugalwoods!

    1. I love your comment about your son’s truck. My son is 16, just learning to drive, and will soon inherit my 10-year-old Camry. I cannot fathom handing a new driver keys to a new vehicle of any kind, much less one as expensive as a Lexus or Mercedes. If an adult who is an experienced driver chooses to drive such vehicles, fine, but it just doesn’t make sense for a new, young driver. Plus, I think when parents do this it could set their child up for a lifetime of disappointment. What I mean is when they grow up and buy their own vehicles, what happens if they can’t afford a new, luxury vehicle? Would they be disappointed to go from driving a new Lexus to a used Ford? More than likely! I was the opposite- I started out in a very-much-used vehicle that I paid $1,600 for (this was in the 90s) at the age of 16. Now, at 41, my 2012 Toyota Rav 4 feels like a luxury vehicle to me! So glad my parents didn’t spoil me by buying me a nice, new, expensive vehicle at a young age!

    2. My niece has Grandpa’s 1991 pickup truck. She drove it to prom! She and the truck are the same age and have had many adventures. Still going Ford tough in 2019! Frugal extended family for at least 5 generations….

  9. Just curious, what do you do with your cash back from the credit cards? Do you save it for one large cash out and then do something special with it? Do you take it out each month and add it in next month’s budget? Or invest it monthly?

    1. We are big CC point chasers in our home, I can tell you what we do is use them for travel. We have Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, and Chase Sapphire Reserve (this one has a $95 annual fee but worth it for how we use it) and transfer all the points to the Sapphire which we then either can transfer to partner travel providers OR use to buy travel through Chase’s travel portal. Using the sapphire to get to the travel portal multiplies your points by 1.25%. We also use Discover for their rotating 5% categories and bank all that cash back until travel time at which point we see if any of their gift cards can be used on the trip we’re planning. You end up getting more for your points if you use them for things like gift cards or travel as compared to straight cash back in many cases.

  10. I received a similarly priced kettle as a wedding gift 6.5 years ago and it is still going strong! I would conclude it is of appropriate quality given your 7 year goal.

  11. I am on my second “cheap” Hamilton Beach kettle. The first one lasted … SEVEN years until one morning it no longer heated. It is the only time in my life that I have not hesitated; I went directly to the store that same day and bought the same, if slightly redesigned, model, which is edging toward its 7th year. I LOVE my electric kettle ❤️❤️❤️

  12. We used to have the Cuisinart electric kettle like yours, but instead of leaking ours just up and died one day. Couldn’t get it to turn on at all. We loved that kettle, but the biggest issue we had were the numbers on the buttons were wearing down so we couldn’t see what temperature we were pressing. I was preparing to make labels when the kettle gave up the ghost. My mom went to purchase another and ended up purchasing the same one you linked! So far, we love it. Especially the fact that there doesn’t look like the numbers on the buttons will disappear anytime soon. We’ll definitely keep an eye out for the rust that Beth mentioned above, though.

    1. We had the same problem with all the numbers rubbing off our kettle too! Hoping this new one will last…

  13. I have always just used a regular stove pot to boil water for tea and buy my tea at Dollar Tree, or somewhere else for a $1…obviously I am not picky about taste….lol.

  14. How are Mr. F’s new gloves working out? We love mittens because they keep our hands warmer than gloves do, but dexterity is an issue….

  15. I prefer to put a potty seat right on the toilet so I have less cleaning to do. I just buy a step stool for the kids. I’ve been wondering about an electric kettle for awhile, but am unwilling to take up more counter space. Is it really cheaper than just using a traditional tea kettle on the stove?

  16. Our big November purchase was an Assault Air Bike for working out at home. Used it a ton already, so it was well worth it, plus we got 5% back using Chase Freedom card through paypal. Building a small Crossfit style home gym will save us money in the long run vs. paying monthly Crossfit fees, it’s something I absolutely love doing and I am motivated to work out alone at home so I know it won’t gather dust. For times when I want to use equipment that’s unreasonable for me to have in my home, I can pay a daily drop in rate at the local fitness center which has what I need.

    Also I am due on Sunday so we are buying a few last minute baby things but not a whole lot, I believe we pretty much have what we need. It feels like studying for a test, all this infant prep! We saved a significant amount of money into a Baby Fund the year before I got pregnant, so we are just drawing down on that as we need to, since we really had no clue how much it would cost. So far, less than I expected which is nice.

    1. Congrats on your impending due date!!!! Sounds like you’re in awesome shape and all set for baby! How do you like the bike? I’ve been noodling around the idea of getting some sort of home exercise equipment that I could use while the kids are asleep…

      1. I flat out love it. Yes, I know there’s a lot of free fitness plans out there, but I know what works for me and I gotta have some equipment! You could also consider a Schwinn AirDyne, which is similar to the Assault Air Bike, at a lower price point. I went for the AAB because I’m used to it and it is a workhorse and will last a long time, I’ve ridden them before and they fit me well. It’s comfortable to ride at 39 weeks pregnant! I have not used a Schwinn but I know people who have and they seem happy with it too.

        These airbikes aren’t silent, but they’re fairly quiet and sound like “white noise” so I bet the girls will sleep through it. It meant a lot to me to have some fitness equipment that I enjoyed using, that would fit in my new role as mother. Another place for high quality fairly priced fitness equipment is Fitness equip can really take a beating so to me it’s worth investing in stuff that’ll last.

        I use this equipment along with the daily workout plans available through, it’s $19 a month but since I enjoy it so I prepay a year at a time at $180. Very comparable to Crossfit but in my neck of the woods $180 doesn’t even get you one MONTH unlimited attendance at an in-person gym, so $180/year is a fantastic deal for what is included with it IMO. A lot of the members are parents with young children who workout while kids are sleeping! Might not be your cup of tea but I would imagine there are other readers here who really like the crossfit style of working out but not the steep price tag attached.

      2. I have a home gym in an outside room and I love it. I bought a treadmill, which was expensive and probably unnecessary, but we got quite a bit of weight equipment either free (it’s the kinda stuff people buy and don’t use and throw out when moving) or really cheap. That part of the setup was pretty economical and I think lifting weights gives better results in terms of strength and body composition anyway. I use it far more regularly than I ever used a gym membership because there is no travel time involved and I never have to wait for equipment or feel inhibited by the gaze of strangers.

  17. Hi. I’ve been meaning to mention to you about having your husband try DIYing your cars. My husband taught him self mechanics and has literally saved us thousands of dollars! I encourage him to check out Chris Fix on YouTube. He has tutorials for everything related to cars.

  18. Loved the kettle story. I coveted an electric kettle 35 years ago because I saw them in Britcoms and I am a tea lover (and coffee). I had burned up kettles on the stove by forgetting them. The electric ones weren’t a thing back then and neither was Amazon. We found a British made Kenwood for the whopping price of $40 back then. Big buy for us at the time. I LOVED it. About 8 years in the cord burnt out so my husband put a new heavy duty plug on it cuz that’s the way we roll. It went another 7 years for a total of 15 before it started leaking. Then began the saga of $20 kettles that lasted 3-4 years each. Our last adventure was getting one for $20 at CostCo. It leaked after a year so my husband exchanged it at Costco because they are great about that. The new one leaked after a year so he took it back and exchanged again. This exchange is on year 6 and still going. We have a 5 year old one at a family vacay house.

  19. Mom win! Brilliant idea. I wonder if it would work for less fun stuff like doing taxes. I’m pumped for your car repair success. I just had my brakes and rotors replaced last month for $700. I spoke to a client who told me I could do it myself, but didn’t feel confident. Next time maybe! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  20. I’m on a well in Vermont too and since we moved here we’ve killed numerous electrical water-heating appliances. Our well water is somewhat corrosive. Our first coffee maker here was a Krups for $75 which we hoped would last years. It died in months. We switched to cheap brands with the same results. My husband instituted a preventive maintenance program for our current coffee maker which involves a monthly cycle using vinegar and then a water rinse. Our current coffee maker has lasted us 7 or 8 years. Just a thought…

  21. I love this idea of shared massages and can’t wait to share it with my friend, who’s a mom and massage therapist. She’s always trying to find new clients, so this would be a great selling point for her. Since she has a toddler, she knows a bunch of other moms with young children for whom this would be an equally great arrangement. Thanks for sharing this idea!

  22. Curious about the car seat and potty listed as $40 spent. Seems like the cost is higher for the 2 of them. Did you get a fabulous deal on them?

  23. I dream of massages…that is such a good idea! And you had me at kettle—I’m seriously considering buying this one that costs about 80 euros. INSANITY. But it has an all-metal interior which is almost impossible to find, and it’s electric. And it’s Italian, and since we’re going to be in Rome for Christmas this year (aaaaaaaah can’t wait geeelatoooo) I’m hoping to find it somewhere for cheaper…! Had my eye on it for a couple of years now, so I figure I either need to devote the rest of my life to waffling about kettles or just bite the bullet and buy it!

  24. Wait, what? You have to BUY trash bags from your town? I have never heard of that. I have always lived in rural areas using transfer stations and have never heard of this. A money-maker for the town? Just curious.

    1. Towns in Maine do the same thing, I think it started as a way to try and get people to recycle and throw out less trash. Of course now there’s almost no recycling, just plastic milk jugs, so more trash…Our bags cost $2.25.

    2. Makes sense to me as you pay for your trash when you buy the bag, rather than when you drop it off full of trash. Might mean less staff cost for the town?

    3. My hometown in MA did this as well. A yearly fee for all residents (a sticker for your car), and then pay-by-the-trash-bag. Recycling was free with the car sticker. Also free dumping of yard waste (leaves, branches) with the car sticker.
      I think the stickers are like $50/year, bags ~$2.50 each.
      Plenty of families/neighbors ‘share’ a sticker, and just load up that car all together to transport trash each week.

  25. My parents bought car seats for my niece and nephew when they visit a couple years ago. SO much easier than my brother lugging them on the plane. When they outgrow one size the younger kid uses it or it gets sold/donated. Since they are only used a few times a year they are in excellent condition by the time the kids grow out of them.

  26. Our electric kettle from the 1990’s is still going! From a now defunct store brand. I keep wondering when it will go. We use it constantly, great for boiling water for canning too.

    1. Ahhh yes! We use ours to top off canning water as well! So handy when you have a big pot of water bath canning on the stove.

  27. Speaking of composting… do any city folk have any advice on how to do it? I’m on the 10th floor with no outdoor space–is composting at all possible for me?

    1. You can get a bucket-type apartment Composter. It can fit under your sink or in the kitchen, and lid stays on so it doesn’t attract bugs. Occasionally drain the water out to use for plant food (there is a spigot). The problem I found was that I filled it too quickly and ran out of space way before the compost was ready to be used!

  28. I, too, would like to hear more about the brake job in an upcoming post. By the way, where online do you buy your auto parts?

  29. As a Brit and therefore someone who can’t imagine not having an electric kettle (time spent in the US can be tricky on this point) I’ve discovered a sweet spot in kettle spending. I invented in an expensive Bosch (where you can choose the temperature of the water) and it lasted 3 years, my not the cheapest but medium-priced supermarket brand kettle has been going strong for 6 years at this moment. Hope your new kettle works out well.

  30. I enjoy your articles and especially photos even though so much does not apply to me and my lifestyle. I love that you live well, buy attractive things and have a lovely home – to many people “frugal” means the poorest and worst of everything. I have signed up for your January challenge. I am retired at the age of 72 and feel that I am comfortably set without any debts but still can certainly get new ideas. However, I find that I spend my TIME badly and would like to maximize it, as the years fly by at an alarming rate. Do you have any thoughts on such matters?

  31. Not having a kettle is like not having a toothbrush in our house – Entirely necessary! We received a Breville Kettle ($$$) as a wedding gift – get this – 12 years ago and it’s still kicking! I don’t always go the “quality” route if another brand has good reviews but this still blows my mind! (P.S. I‘ve loved your book and your blog for years! Thanks for keeping me motivated!)

    1. That’s interesting, my Breville kettle died after a tragically short life but its supermarket brand successor has been going strong for about 6years now. I honestly don’t see much correlation between longevity and price when it comes to smaller appliances (irons also seem to be random).

  32. Love love love your blog! I feel so inspired reading it. I’m trying to implement some of your recommendations. I’ve just started reading your book and can’t wait to dive right in over the Christmas holidays when I’m off.

  33. Hi! I read your book (from the library) and am so excited about the possibility of retiring early. I’m 38 and we own our house, no debt, and we have savings. I’m curious on the amount you thought was a good target goal to deem yourselves ready for leaving your job(s)? We are investing in low fee index funds currently and use employee matching to help. Our expenses yearly end up being around 40k (20k/person) but I imagine we could lower that if we were more frugal. I was living off 12k when I was in grad school and I made it work. Anyway, thanks so much for your time and your passion! I am so into this because I’m also a conservation biologist and want to do everything I can for reducing our impact on the environment. -Cody Gilbertson

  34. I was amazed when I first read that you had to take your own rubbish and buy your own bags…but then I thought about it and thought wow, this is the BEST way to really reduce rubbish. I think we would really cut down our packaging etc if we knew we had to cart it back to the dump ourselves. Really interesting to think about! I have tried a worm farm, but both times other insects get in it. I possibly overfeed them (?!), but it is something that I really want to do in the New Year. I love the sound of your Mum Co-op. It sounds really lovely!

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