Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Month: July 2014

How To Build A Wardrobe On A Budget

1796903_626695766306_7837435356870734377_oThis is a guest post written by my friend, Tessa Hughes. I asked her to write some tips for all of us who aspire to build a great wardrobe on a tight budget. She and her husband became debt-free last year, and she managed to keep up her fashion while paying off $19,000 in debt (and raising 2 kids)!

Tessa runs a styling company out of Vancouver where she helps people build great wardrobes on any budget. Check out her business and photo blog at

(This is post #3 in my “How To – On a Budget” series. Check out How to Have a Baby on a Budget and How to Give Gifts on a Budget for more inspiration!) 

8eedd7e2b8dd1d9c50581cb22260d391Building a wardrobe on a budget is not as hard as you might think– and it doesn’t have to involve wearing boring or ugly clothes, either. I’ve put together some basic do’s and don’t’s in order to keep it really simple.

I often find myself repeating the same basic “rules” to my clients when doing a wardrobe makeover, so they know how to shop when I’m not there to help them. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but more just helpful guidelines to keep you on the “straight and narrow” of good fashion on a budget:


1. Shop “fast fashion” for basics

Stores like H&M, Joe Fresh, Forever 21 and Zara often have fabulous basics in neutral colours for very affordable prices. Avoid super trendy items, and look for basic tees, tanks and jeans. You’ll find them at decent prices and you’ll avoid falling into any major fashion pitfalls.

2. Thrift leather

I’m a huge advocate of real leather (SORRY PETA!) but if you buy it thrifted, it’s more ethical, environmentally friendly, it will last longer, AND it’s light on your wallet! To me, that’s a win-win-win-WIN. Keep your eyes out for clean and simple leather pieces that are in good shape. Think wallets, handbags. If you’re willing to buy used shoes (some people aren’t), look for basic black, and check where they’re made. Any shoes made in Spain or Italy will be higher quality.

3. The designer sale rack 246d7cdc073124a44fe7e29a9b0f4de8

This one you really need to be careful with. Stick to really simple designs that are clean and timeless. The sale rack tends to be full of overly trendy items that can be a big mistake.

Again, basic colours are better (black, white, khaki, grey), and since sales are usually at the end of the season, it’s good to try and think ahead and buy items that will hopefully still be in style next year. Keep in mind if a certain item has been “hot” for a few seasons, it’s probably on it’s way out.

Hint for parents:

If you’re a little bit savvy, you can shop the sale rack at more expensive kid’s clothing stores like Gap and J.Crew one year in advance. For example, if you have a one year old, and it’s August so summer clothes are on sale, buy 2/3T from the sale rack for next summer.

Kids clothes are less trend-based and it’s great if you can get your hands on some higher quality goods because kids tend to really rip into their clothes (literally). This is a little bit risky because you never know if your kid is going to have a crazy growth spurt but this works well for kids ages 3-5, as kids’ growth slows down a little bit as they get older.


1. Buy something that doesn’t fit you perfectly because it’s on sale (or at the thrift store) thinking you’ll grow into it, lose weight, or get it altered.

That’s just a waste of money and it will probably end up collecting dust.

2. Get sucked into crazy trend items that are really cheap.

(Hellooooo Forever 21!). This is probably the most tempting thing, because when you’re in those types of stores, these are the pieces that seem so appealing: “Ohhh I’ll look so cool in that!” but you’ll probably get sick of it after a week. Stick to pieces that have longevity. Your wallet (and personal sense of style) will thank you for it.

3. Make a habit of buying ONLY fast-fashion.

This is the danger when you’re trying to live on a budget, but as a long-term plan it really doesn’t work. Always remember to try and save up for those bigger wardrobe basic items (like a great, black leather purse).

If you buy everything super cheap all the time, it doesn’t last and you end up spending three times as much over a few years because none of it lasted. Remember that quality, even if it costs more up front, will pay for itself in the end, by lasting much, much longer.

Last Tips & Resources

For those pieces you’d like to save up for, I’m including some resources of where to find what I call “affordable luxury.” These are stores that aren’t as expensive as high-end designer, but carry higher quality pieces that are worth saving up for:

For some specific ideas, here are some of my favourite wardrobe basics that I’ve collected on a Pinterest board.

Also feel free to check out my personal style blog,, for more inspiration!


Ways to Get Involved With the Blog: 

How To Have a Baby on a Budget

This is a guest post written by my good friend Kristen Foley. She blogs about her life as a nurse and mother on her blog, Scrubs and Pastries. I’m excited for her to share her tips for how to have a baby on a budget, a phase in life I have yet to experience. 

Kristen and her adorable daughter Abreanna (Aby)

Kristen and her adorable daughter Abreanna (Aby)

My husband and I had a baby girl in January of this year. One day last summer when it was hot out and pregnant ol’ me needed a Slurpee, I glanced over at the magazine rack while paying for my treat. I saw a headline that made me stop in my tracks. “Million-dollar Babies.” – Mclean’s. I quickly opened the cover to find that the average cost of raising a child in Canada is $670,000! So, if I’m correct with my math and we have two children, that puts us at over a million dollars to raise them? That can’t be right! Can it?

The article is a good read actually and lays out costs you might have forgotten about along with predicted costs (so we don’t really know how accurate the predicted costs are). I can’t really speak to raising a “family” yet as we only have one child (and we aren’t paying for daycare/a nanny yet) and she is just five months old. I can, however, tell you ways that we have learned to cut costs and spend wisely with a baby.

1. Start lumping small amounts into a savings account when you find out you are expecting

We started saving small amounts every month for purchases that we knew we needed to make in the following months before the baby came. Having saved up a little at a time to buy bigger items (like a crib) helped us avoid putting a huge dent into our budget when the time came to buy something. This also helped us see how much was in the “baby fund” and to budget for items accordingly.

2. Buy some things second hand

It is amazing what you can find second hand. We have used sites like Craigslist and Bidwars as well as thrift stores and consignment stores (Once Upon a Child) to find bigger ticket items that are crazy expensive to buy brand new! We found a pack n’ play (playpen) second hand on a site called Bidwars for $25 dollars (that is usually $150 brand new!). We also bought our crib on Craigslist for $250. That sounds like a lot, but the crib converts into a toddler bed with a railing and a twin bed frame for down the road when she is older. It was also $600 originally.

3. Invest into big items

As stated above, our crib was a bit pricey, but it was a good investment because it will last our girl until she is well into her teens!

Are you planning to breastfeed? Maybe invest in a breast pump (that you can use for all of your children!) or a double stroller if you know you want to try soon for a second baby and will need to wheel around two young children.

4. Cloth diapering

Some people may be grossed out by the idea but it’s honestly not any grosser than using disposable diapers to me. They cost a bit of money up front (about $200-$300 – we were fortunate that ours were gifted) but can save approximately $300-$400 per year or about $1,200-1,500 per child until they are potty trained. Everyone has their own estimates about this, but let’s face it, cloth diapers (along with being green) DO save money!

5. Breastfeed

I could go into the many benefits of breastfeeding but I won’t.

Breastfeeding saves a ton of money (and is so good for your little one too!). Breastfeeding can save between $1,000-$3,000 per year (approximately) depending on the type of formula you use. There are costs to breastfeeding (buying a pump, nursing bras, nipple creams and reusable nursing pads), but those costs are one time and breastfeeding would still save you money in the long run over formula feeding.

Side note: I do, however, understand that it’s not always a reality for every woman to breastfeed and circumstances can make breastfeeding nearly impossible. What you might not know is that your local public health unit (in the Lower mainland at least) offers free one on one breastfeeding support with a nurse specialized in breastfeeding (often a lactation consultant) and there are support groups (La Leche League) in many areas all over the country to help moms who are struggling and/or need help/have questions.

Another side note: If you do buy formula, download the app “Checkout 51” and you could save money! This app gives you money back when you upload receipts with the items they have listed. I saw a Similac cash back offer for $5.00 this week if you purchased Similac formula (they have other great grocery items on there too).

6. Don’t go out and buy tons of toys and gadgets for baby right away

We learned this the hard way. We spent $50 on a swing (used and regularly $100) that our daughter ended up using twice because she didn’t like it. Instead, try out toys in the nursery at church or at a friend’s house to see if your baby likes it before you spend an arm and a leg on it!

One of her favourite toys at the moment is a $3.50 shape sorter we got from our local thrift store (which I kind of want to keep a secret because of how great of a store it is!). 

We get creative with play time. The other day I got out some plastic bowls and spoons for her to play with and she had a great time! We also read (appropriate) adult novels out loud, look at photo books together and play outside!

Play time doesn’t have to be expensive!

7. Avoid name brands whenever possible

Just the other day I asked my husband to pick up some breast milk freezer bags from the grocery store. The pack of name brand bags (50 count) usually costs me about $14.99 but he found the store brand breast milk bags at $6.99 for 50! Some cost comparison can go a long way!

8. Acquire some baby clothing in neutral colours/styles

Clothing shopping for girls is very fun but it can also break the bank. Everything is so cute! I have tons of items in pink/purple with lace and frills. I’m all set if I have another girl, but if I have a boy, I don’t have much to offer him!

have since learned that neutral colours and styles are helpful to reuse. I have some orange, green and yellow onesies that I plan on saving for future children.

To sum things up, having kids does cost money (and I’ve only just begun parenthood!) but there are ways to cut costs and save money along the journey.

Planning for expenses has been a big part of what has helped us stay on budget with a baby. We continue to put $50 aside each month for upcoming costs for our girl. A high chair is next!

What are your ideas for saving money while raising kids? I’d love to hear more from you!

You can also check out one of Kristen’s latest blog posts, 100 Fun Things to Do With Your Kids, for some other ideas on how to save with your children. 

Ways to Get Involved With the Blog: 

How to Give Gifts on a Budget

I love giving gifts. 

There are a lot of things that are hard to do on a budget, and buying gifts is is one of them. I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned with you today so that giving wedding, birthday, and shower gifts doesn’t break the bank for you.

I’m hoping to start a series that will will give tips on how to do the inevitable things on life on a budget. There are some things that human beings have to do: grocery shop, buy gifts, have kids, cook, and clean. These things can be hard to do on a budget. I’m asking some friends to help give tips on how to succeed in these areas and still meet your financial goals. Stay tuned!

Today’s post will give you some ideas on how to save a bit when you give gifts. If you’re around my age (mid-twenties), you likely have a lot of friends getting married and having kids, and that can cause a bit of financial stress if you get extravagant gifts for each of them. Today I want to offer some alternatives to traditional gifts.


A set of crocheted potholders

1. Crochet or knit goods

If you know me, you know that I love to crochet gifts for people. I show up to almost every wedding with a set of crocheted potholders and every baby shower with a crochet blanket.

In our parents and grandparents’ generations, crochet gifts were common, but in our generation, these are becoming less common. If you can learn a basic stitch or two, you can easily make potholders, scarves or blankets which make lovely and thoughtful gifts.

Two of the best ways to buy yarn are to buy in bulk and use coupons. 

One of my crochet baby blanket creations

One of my crocheted baby blanket creations

As you can see by my pictures, I use a little bit of patterned yarn, and a lot of plain colours. That’s because you can usually get twice as much plain yarn for the same price as a patterned skein (ball) of yarn.

As for coupons, I usually buy my yarn at Michael’s, which has a great selection. You can usually get a 40% coupon online, which allows you to get one item at 40% off. Sometimes they have better coupons – last week I got 15% off my total order with a coupon I found online. Also, because I’m a teacher, I always get 15% off at Michael’s in Canada (American teacher friends, it’s something to ask about), which helps bring the total price down.

I usually spend about $8 to make a set of 4 pot holders, and $12 for a baby blanket. It takes a bit of time, but I’m always pleased with the result, and I’ve gotten great responses with these handmade gifts.

If you don’t know how to knit or crochet, you can look up basic stitches online, or ask your mom or grandma!

Not as perfect as Starbucks' cake pops, but still delicious

Not as perfect as Starbucks’ cake pops, but still delicious

2. Baking

This seems simple, but time and time again, I find that certain friends just don’t bake, and are thrilled to receive baked goods for Christmas or birthday gifts. 

Some of my favourite things to make are granola (click here for my mom’s famous recipe), bread from scratch, and cut-out cookies (sugar or chai spice) in Christmas shapes.

If you’re brave you can try something like cake pops – they are fancy and really hard to make, so they make a great gift.

Pinterest has tons of ideas and recipes for creative baked goods. You can also make nice mixes for people for cookies, hot chocolate, or breads/muffins out of the dry ingredients, put them in a mason jar, and print out a little recipe and attach it to the jar. So cute, frugal, and fun to receive!

3. Quality Time

I know that this seems like a childish gift, but my parents are always thrilled to receive this as a gift. They live far from me, so I send them a little coupon for their birthday or Fathers/Mothers Day, and then take them out for lunch, coffee or a movie when I go home for Christmas.

It’s also a great gift for friends that you don’t get to spend a lot of time with or for your spouse/significant other. Quality time with someone is more valuable than another item that they don’t really want or need. You can also package it in a creative way.

Examples of quality time packages:

  • Movie night: Find or buy a plastic popcorn container from a dollar store, and fill it with some treats and a gift card to a movie or some movie options that you already own.
  • Picnic: Find or buy a basket, put in some sandwiches, homemade dessert, a candle, a mixed CD or playlist on your phone/iPod, and a blanket.
  • Coffee date: Find or buy a cute mug, and put in a gift card for a coffee shop and an appointment card that you can fill out together with a time for your date.

4. Candles

If you know me, you’ll know how much I love candles and how much I love to make them and give them as gifts. Once you find a good candle supply store, you can make candles for less than it would cost to buy them. (I use Voyageur – a great place in Surrey for all you lower mainland folks).

You’ll need to invest in some supplies (wax, colours, scents, wicks, and a pot to melt the wax in), but once you have them, you can make tons of candles at a great price.

I like to put candles in mason jars that people give me or pasta sauce containers (some brands use Atlas mason jars – a great brand). You can also find them at thrift stores or buy them in bulk at grocery stores.

Candles are lovely and thoughtful gifts – and so fun to make!

Some fun candles I made for Christmas - candy cane inspired

Some fun candles I made for Christmas – candy cane inspired


These are just a few ideas that I use to make gifts for people, and it allows me to give a creative and thoughtful gift while keeping our gift budget low.

Giving gifts should be about showing someone you know that you care about them and want to celebrate and bless them. You can do that on any budget with just a hint of creativity and a willingness to think outside the box.


Get Involved 

I’d love to hear some of your ideas for making creative gifts! Leave a comment below to share with me. You can also tweet me! (@classyfrugality

Also, feel free to subscribe to my e-newsletter to get notified every time there is a new post you don’t miss out. 

When Life Gives You Lemons…Count Your Lemons

My husband no longer has a job.

This wasn’t really a surprise for us, as he was told 2 months ago that he was being let go due to enrollment (he’s a teacher). We had hoped that somehow things might change and that there might be a place for him, but the end of the school year came, and the decision was final. He officially wasn’t going back to the school he’s worked at for the past four years.

Fred has been the primary breadwinner since we got married, and although I’ve been working part-time for three years (and doing lots of substitute teaching this year), he’s always out-earned me. I’ve always been fine with that – we’re definitely a team, and I have found that I do really well working part-time and managing the home part-time.

Now things are going to change.

Life will look different than we planned: I’ll be working more, Fred will be substitute teaching and maybe doing some other work on the side, and our traditional roles in the home are likely going to shift a bit. Life has certainly panned out differently than we hoped or planned.

You know, I hate that old expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” because it implies that the only thing you can do when you get thrown a curve ball in life is to simply to try and hope to make something delicious out of it. I think there’s another approach.

The news that our biggest source of income being lost should have made me feel scared. It should have made me freak out and worry about how we’re going to eat and pay the bills.

Fortunately, thanks to Dave Ramsey and the advice we picked up out of his book The Total Money Makeover and the principles he teaches, we were prepared. We already knew that Fred’s contract ended in June, so we’ve been saving for 6 months to make sure we had money to live off of in the summer.

We also have a little emergency fund of $1,000 in the bank, just in case (click here to read another story about how having money in the bank saved us from financial drama), which makes me feel extra secure. On top of that, I have a part-time, short-term contract starting in August teaching grade 6, which combined with my other part-time job as a Communications Coordinator, keeps us fed and paying the bills until Christmas. 

So the biggest thing that happened when Fred got this news was that we were emotionally disappointed that he was leaving a job he loved, and really grateful that we had savings.

No drama. No fights. No staying up all night wondering if we’ll make it.

Life gave us lemons, we counted our lemons, and we know we are going to be just fine. 

Want to respond from your own personal experience? 

  • Leave me a comment below to share about a time in your life that you were thrown a curve ball 
  • You can also tweet me (@classyfrugality) to share your thoughts!

Also, make sure to subscribe to my e-newsletter to make sure you never miss a post!

*Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. That means that if you use this link to buy the book that I talked about, I’ll get a little something to support the blog and our journey to becoming debt-free. No pressure to use it, I just wanted to warn you! Also, I was not compensated in any way to discuss this product – I just really like it.* 

© 2018 Classy Frugality

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow buttonFeel free to follow!