Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Month: May 2014

Ode to 27

Yesterday was my 27th birthday.

In some ways, I feel old, in other ways I feel really young. I think I’ve learned a lot over my life, and so for you today I have 27 things that I have learned in my lifetime. (I’ve grouped them into different categories for your convenience.)

Ready? Here we go. 

 

Money

1. Most money is just numbers on a paper (ex. your bank account balance) or theory (ex. your house may be “worth” $500,000, but unless someone buys it, you won’t have $500,000 in your pocket).

2. Budgets really do make you feel like you’re in more control, not the other way around. Seriously.

3. Credit cards are not evil, but even people with the best intentions can get conned by the marketing scheme. (Including Fred and me!)

4. Making more money seems exciting, but once you have more, it’s just more responsibility.

5. There is nothing you can buy that is more satisfying than paying off the debt that you owe. 

 

Kitchen

6. Never microwave coffee tumblers, especially ones that are metal (they will spark).

7. Mold grows the opposite colour of the of the food it’s on (ex. green mold on white bread so you can see it).

8. Rice does not freeze well. It tastes really mealy – not worth it.

9. Making things from scratch almost always saves money, and it tastes better (ex. chocolate chip cookies).

10.  Lemon juice cleans rust off of knives. 

 

Work

11. Doing what is expected of you doesn’t set you apart: you need to do more than is expected to be noticed.

12. It’s always better to over-dress than under-dress.

13.  Always plan to arrive early, especially for a job interview. Chances are you’ll be running a bit behind, and with that extra buffer, you’ll never be late. (And if you’re like me, it allows time to get lost if you’re headed to a new place.)

14. Talking to and becoming friends with your co-workers is important. Building relationships with them shows that you work well with others, and helps you enjoy your work time more.

15. Working somewhere just for the money isn’t enough to keep you there. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, quit. It might be harder in the moment, but in the long run, you’ll be happier and more fulfilled.

 

Marriage

16. Being married does not always mean you’ll be happy. 

17. Being married means that you’ll always have someone to talk to – even if you don’t like them all of the time.

18. It’s not helpful to have “his” and “hers” money – it creates division and secrecy (except for personal spending money, and only when you both know about the amount).

19. It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

20. Don’t compare yourself to other couples – it will make you unhappy. Your relationship is what it is – work with what you have.

 

Community

21. Friendships are stronger when you fight and work through things instead of ignoring the issues.

22. It’s important to celebrate milestones with people you’re close to – it builds community.

23. Every member of a community needs to be “all in” and trust the people around them for it to be truly meaningful and transformative. 

 

Random

24. Mason jars are the most versatile containers in the world. You can use them for almost a million things (candles, juice, leftovers, bathroom supplies, craft supplies, flowers, salads, and many more things).

25. Always bring a snack with you. You never know when you’re going to need one.

26. Flossing your teeth every day will save you hundreds (or thousands) in the long run because it will prevent cavities. (Trust me, I speak from super personal experience when I say this. Flossing saves money!)

27. Age is just a number. Your year of life is what you make it, and is not defined by your age category. 

 

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Conventional Celebration

IMG_8432

Having fun at our wedding 4 years ago

Today is Fred and I’s 4th anniversary. 

I’m currently sitting on a couch, watching Gilmore Girls and wearing my pajamas, and Fred is at a mandatory event at the school he works at. Some people might look at this situation and think “That’s so sad! Why aren’t you celebrating? I can’t believe you’re alone on your anniversary.”

But I’ve never been happier. 

We learned at a marriage retreat that year four is the most common year for divorce in Canada. Although it’s never been a real threat for our marriage, I feel like we have reached a significant milestone.

Last night we went out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday (which is tomorrow). We budgeted $80 for this dinner. I took it out with the rest of our cash for the month and put it aside so it would be there for our celebration.

As we were deciding where we wanted to eat to celebrate these two events, I said, “I don’t want to spend $80 on dinner. I’d rather put it on debt.” 

We took $40 and put it on the line of credit we hope to pay off by August (or at least by the end of 2014). We then took $30 and went to White Spot, where we enjoyed a simple meal. I got fish and chips, Fred got a burger and a salad, and we shared (the salad was for me – we split the fries because they’re endless).

Photo 2014-05-27, 6 55 17 PM

Post-anniversary dinner last night

It wasn’t fancy, but it was great. We came home, ate a dessert that I had made the day before, and spent the evening together. It was perfect. We loved having a night together to just hang out, and we realized that didn’t need to spend $80 to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company.

This whole experience really caused me to think about our society’s expectations for celebrating milestones in our lives.

I want to know when we decided as a society that staying together for another year can only marked by a fancy dinner, a vacation, or a huge gift.

Now I know that not everyone believes this, but I somehow had this in my mind that as a married woman, I needed to do a good job every year on this day by planning something fancy, buying a gift, or spending lots of money. I felt like a bad spouse when I realized that this isn’t what our anniversaries would like look as we were trying to get out of debt (or maybe ever).

I think the celebration should happen every day in the small moments: when you forgive each other even when you don’t want to, when you see each other every day and still want to spend time together, and when you make your budget for the month and it feels like a party because you’re on the same page.

I’m happy. My husband and I still like each other, we believe in the same things, we’re working together when it comes to our money, and we’re committed to each other. What dinner, or other conventional method of celebration for an anniversary, could encapsulate and properly honor all of that? 

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Snack Time

I don’t know about you, but I get hungry in between meals.

It seems that when I get hungry, I also get grumpy, and we’ve come to realize that Fred I often fight more when I feel hungry. To avoid these unnecessary fights, I’ve started thinking through some snacks that have protein and are healthy, don’t cost a fortune, and that I can throw in my purse and go.

I bought a few things that I like that I thought would fit well together, and put together my own little snack bags. I wanted to share some tips, and some things that I learned from this adventure.

Ready? Here we go:

1. Buy some well-priced, healthy ingredients for your snack bags. Also, buy or find some small plastic bags or tupperware (I chose the “snack size” ziplock bags). 

I chose pretzels, dried apple rings, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and honey-roasted peanuts. 2014-05-12 14.29.00

2. Start with one ingredient and divide them among your bags. 

I made 10 little bags – 5 for me, 5 for my husband, which would last us about a week. I started with the pretzels. 2014-05-12 14.32.263. Divide your other ingredients among them.

I divided one ingredient among all the bags, then moved on to the next, to save time.2014-05-12 14.37.07 2014-05-12 14.36.57

4 . Enjoy! 2014-05-12 14.39.37

I wanted to make sure I spent a reasonable amount on these bags, as we try to keep our grocery budget as low as possible.

Here’s my price breakdown: 

Apple rings: $4 (I used the whole bag)

Pretzels: $1.25 (I used the whole bag)

Honey-roasted peanuts: $5 (I used 2/5 of the jar)

Cranberries: $8 (I used a very small amount of this bag, probably around $1.50)

Chocolate chips: $10 (Again, I used a small amount, probably around $1.25)

Total: 

$4 (apples)

$1.25 (pretzels)

$2 (peanuts)

$1.50 (cranberries)

$1.25 (chocolate chips)

= $10

So, each bag cost me about $1 to make. $1 to make sure that I have a blast of protein and avoid a fight with my husband? Totally worth it. 

 

Now it’s your turn – leave me a comment to let me know about your snack tips! You can also tweet me (@classyfrugality). 

Portable Breakfast (+ Smoothie Recipe)

I hate getting up in the mornings.

I usually hit the snooze button 1-4 times each morning. My husband usually has to coax me out of the bed. I’m working on being better at this, but until I become a morning person that just pops out of bed, I need to find ways to save time in the morning. Something that I do to save time is taking breakfast with me on the go.

Two months ago, I shared my mom’s granola recipe and talked about how I like to take granola with me on the go. Today I want to share with you another great way to have breakfast on the go: smoothies!

Smoothies are great for many reasons. They are versatile, portable, healthy, and delicious. Today I’ll share a simple recipe with you, along with some tips for making them easily and simply, but keep in mind that the possibilities are endless.

1. I chop my fruit the night before to make it even easier in the mornings. All I have to do is dump and go instead of pulling out the cutting board! (I used mangos and strawberries for this smoothie) Photo 2014-05-11, 11 59 28 AM

2. Start with juice. Your smoothie needs liquid to be a smoothie. I use orange juice because it goes well with most fruits, but you can use any kind of juice or milk if you’d prefer. I use about a cup.

3. Add yogurt. This makes your smoothie creamy, and adds some protein.  I usually use 1/2 cup. Photo 2014-05-12, 8 25 30 AM

4. Add your fruit. In addition to my other fruit, I usually put in a half or whole banana. This makes the texture creamy.

Photo 2014-05-12, 8 26 25 AM

5. Put in a bit of wheat germ (optional). I do this so I won’t be hungry an hour later. Wheat germ has a bit of fibre and protein in it. You could add some other kind of protein powder if you’d like.

6.  Add ice (optional) and blend. (I like to add ice to make it colder and give it texture, but Fred likes it without the ice – it’s up to you!)

Photo 2014-05-12, 8 27 30 AM

7. Enjoy!

Photo 2014-05-12, 8 28 11 AM

Photo 2014-05-12, 8 30 25 AMI like to make enough for 2 smoothies and then share with my husband or save the rest for the next day. This makes breakfast the next day even easier!

If Fred and I don’t share, I put the second half in a portable container so that I can take it with me easily in the car. Now that I live 30 minutes away from one of my jobs, it’s perfect to take in the car and just sip away as I drive.

Here are some pros and cons about smoothies before you decide to make it a part of your routine or not.

Pros:

  • Great way to use up fruit that’s going bad (I sometimes overbuy fruit, strawberries in particular, so it’s a great way to use them up)
  • Really healthy (makes me feel energized to have so many servings of fruit right away in the morning)
  • Endless combinations (you could have a different kind of smoothie every day!)
  • Portable- easy to take on the go (if you’re like me, sometimes you’re not hungry first thing in the morning and this is a great way to have breakfast over a  longer period of time)

Photo 2014-05-12, 8 24 53 AMCons:

  • It doesn’t really feel like “eating” (because it’s a liquid it doesn’t seem very “filling” and just drinking something doesn’t always feel like a meal)
  • It’s hard to have a smoothie and coffee all at once (if you’re a coffee drinker like me)
  • You might find yourself visiting the washroom (or “bathroom” if you’re from the Land of the Free) more often (due to all the extra liquid)
  • Sometimes you feel hungry mid-morning (that’s why I add the wheat germ!)

Overall, I highly recommend smoothies for breakfast and have even started craving them. Getting your 5 fruits/veggies a day just might be easier if you add a smoothie to your routine!

Now it’s your turn! Leave me a comment below to share some of your smoothie tips!

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How We Moved and Turned a Profit

Some of you know that we made a radical decision to move to another town to save money, be closer to Fred’s job, and sell a car. (You can read all about it here if you missed that post)

As promised in my previous blog about our moving day, I wanted to share a few things we learned about moving expenses and selling things, and encourage any of you who want to make a change!

When we decided to move, we knew we would need to downsize, going from a 2 bedroom to a 1 bedroom, so we made a list of things we could sell to make space and get a bit of cash to cover moving expenses. That’s when things got crazy. 

Once I realized how easy it was to sell things on Craigslist and how much stuff we could part with, it became like a part-time job. I started combing through our stuff, managed my ads, listed things on eBay, and arranged for pick-ups.

Many of the things we sold we got for free or paid very little for, but they were worth something to someone else. As I was parting with the items, I was so grateful that I could give someone else a good deal and have less to move to our smaller home.

Here are some of our best sales:

IMG_1320Piano

We wanted to keep this but realized it would cost too much to move and we weren’t that attached to it. We received it as a gift and sold it for $300. I’ve never regretted this, and the piano has a new happy home with a family of 4 kids who will use it well.

Graphing Calculator

I found one in our desk drawer and figured it could be worth something to someone. Sold it for $50, and we never even used it!

IMG_1233Our Table

We found this table on the side of the road and realized its beauty and potential right away. In addition to having lovely chairs, it has a leaf to expand the table. We realized this wouldn’t fit in our new home, so we sold it for $75, then bought a smaller one for $35. It was sad to see it go, but the new owner was happy and now that we’re in our new home, I know we made the right decision.

IMG_1297Lawn chairs 

I found these on the side of the road (you can find the best things for free on the side of the road!) and didn’t really use them too much. I spent a few minutes scrubbing off the dirt and mold (because it rains so much here, mold is common for anything you leave outside) and then sold them to a friend for $10. I know she’ll use them, and I didn’t have room for them in our new house anyways!

In total I’ve sold 27 items and reached $898 in total sales – I was surprised at the amount of things that I was able to part with and how much I could make in about a month!

I have a few more items to sell, but I’m happy that this “project” not only allowed us to get a few things out of the house and a bit of extra cash, but also helped us pay for the inevitable moving expenses (moving truck, pizza for our friends, extra rent money for staying in our place a few days past the first of the month, and meals on moving day).

So here’s my encouragement to you: even if you feel like you don’t have anything of value, try finding a few things you’d be okay to part with, and get started selling them! It’s not too late to get organized and make some extra cash.

Leave me a comment below to let me know what your best sale has been! I’d love to hear from you.

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Moving Day & Our New Home

Last weekend we said goodbye to our home of 4 (5 for me) years, packed up our stuff, and brought it to our new home. (Click here to read about our decision to move

Seems simple, right? Well…

We had our share of adventures on that day, and I want to share a few of them with you, along with a few thoughts about our new pad.

First of all, renting a moving truck was not as easy as it seemed. We reserved a moving truck through a company (who shall not be named to honour them), but when we arrived our truck was not there. Long story short, we had to drive to 2 other cities (ending up in Burnaby/Vancouver), and got a truck that was twice the size that we wanted. We did however get $50 off, which was nice.

Photo 2014-05-03, 3 07 33 PMWe had some amazing friends help us move all of our stuff from one home to another. We bought Timbits and pizza out of our “moving expenses” envelope (which came from some of our moving sales – I’ll share more about that in my next blog!) and it was worth every penny. Wish we could have had a lovely steak dinner for all of them. Fred had arranged that I facilitated the cleaning process at our old home, so I literally didn’t have to lift a single box all day. It was fantastic. If any of you are reading this (you know who you are) THANK YOU so much!

The unpacking process is slow but steady. As I sit here typing this blog, I’m surrounded by boxes in our living room – the last of the ones that need to find a place in our new home. I had hoped we would be all unpacked sooner, but it’s been nice to organize and decide where to put everything. We hope to be done by the end of the weekend. Photo 2014-05-04, 10 45 36 AM

Here are some pros and cons about our new home:

Pros: 

  • Way more cabinet space – everything fit in my kitchen and I don’t have to have a makeshift “pantry” that I hide behind the TV anymore (yay)
  • Better storage space & bigger closets (our old home had teeny tiny closets and no coat or linen closet, and here we have a great little storage room, a coat closet, linen closet, and a big enough closet to share in our room)
  • Super affordable rent ($410 less than what we were paying in Langley)  Photo 2014-05-04, 10 45 45 AM
  • A clearly defined kitchen/dining room (which made room for Fred’s grandmother’s china cabinet that just wouldn’t fit in our old home)

Cons: 

  • Not having a backyard (or a compost)
  • Having to pay for laundry (you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone!)
  • Having a utilities bill (we still don’t know how much we’ll be paying)
  • A smaller oven, fridge and freezer (I had to get rid of my “normal sized” cookie sheets, but my casserole dish still fits, so I’m happy)

Overall, we feel happy and at home here. It’s been nice to downsize and decide what’s really important to us. Once we have everything all sorted, I’d love to share some pictures with you!Photo 2014-05-05, 8 24 50 PM

For now, you can see our boxes piled in the kitchen and all our our furniture in a big pile in the living room to give you a taste of how crazy it was in here!

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Thanks to you all for reading and supporting me on my frugal journey!

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