Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Month: November 2015

Ways I’m Practicing Thanksgiving This Christmas Season

Photo 2015-11-27, 8 45 09 AMAs an American living in Canada, I have the privilege of celebrating Thanksgiving day twice (and having a wonderful reason to eat a big turkey meal with loved ones in October and November)!

This year, I realized that I want to practice Thanksgiving not just on those days set aside and given to us off of work, but always. Especially with Christmas coming up.

This realization came mainly as I was planning my Christmas present list. I LOVE giving gifts (probably one of my main love languages) and last year Fred and I spent way more than originally planned. Sure, we budgeted for it and paid cash for everything, but we definitely wished we had planned better. Giving gifts is wonderful, but there has to be a better way to appreciate those we love in our lives rather than overspending and under-planning, right?

I was also thinking about what I wanted to buy with my own Christmas money that I would likely receive and started feeling frustrated. Instead of thinking how nice it would be to have a little money to spend on something for myself, I started thinking about how it wouldn’t be enough to buy everything that I wanted.


I couldn’t believe I had slipped into such a greedy place. It shocked me enough that I knew that I needed to pause and reflect. I like to fancy myself very content, frugal, and appreciative. However, as a person living in a North American context, it’s so easy to get caught up in being focused on material things. Especially as Christmas approaches, greediness is not only culturally okay, but even encouraged (I write this on Black Friday – a prime example of this).

I realized that I often forget about being thankful. Thankfulness is the best cure for greediness in my experience – and this Christmas season, here is how I am going to practice the art of giving thanks to combat greediness:

1. Giving away what I don’t need or use. 

This has been my new favourite thing lately. I’ve been going through clothes, drawers and closets to find things that I have just kept because I forgot about them or wanted to keep them “just in case.”

So far I’ve given away a few boxes of things that I definitely don’t need and have freed up some valuable space in our conservative apartment. It feels amazing to get rid of things – you should give it a try!

2. Appreciating what I have.

Once you get remove the things that you don’t need from your home, you’re left with the things that you actually use and you can appreciate them more. I find that if I think about using the things that I actually have rather than focusing on what I don’t have, I am more thankful.

Photo 2015-11-27, 8 57 00 AM3. Celebrating progress.

As Fred and I continue to pay off our debt  (with just $21,726 left to pay out of over $95,000!) I am choosing to focus on what we have accomplished instead of being frustrated with what we still have left to pay off.

I shared on social media how we paid off my U.S. student loan last month and never wrote a full blog to commemorate it. Today I share that I am thankful that we have paid off this $22,596.75 loan in just under 5 years. (This would be over $30,200 CAD with the current exchange rate.)

This is a huge accomplishment and instead of thinking that we still have one loan left to go, I need to remember we have paid 5 out of our 6 loans. For that, I am thankful.

4. Making my Christmas gifts.

Instead of just buying something and checking something off a list, I am making the majority of our Christmas gifts this year. It reminds me how thankful I am for the person I am giving it to, rather than just giving them something that I “picked up.”  (Bonus budget tip: This is also a great way to save money as homemade gifts usually cost less if done right!)

Fred and I affectionately call these my “Christmas crafts” (inspired by Dave Ramsey telling people to “make Christmas a craft” when paying off debt.) In addition to saving money, I am actually having so much fun and am more thankful for people as I spent more time making something for them!

5. Focusing on being thankful instead of on what I don’t have. 

This is the main thing that keeps me thankful. Sometimes I look around my house and say out loud “I am thankful for my chair and couches that I didn’t pay for” or “I am thankful that I have a nice place to live.” (Side note: Our lovely ’70s couch featured in this blog’s title picture. It just seemed right.)

Just acknowledging out loud that you are thankful for something really shifts something in your heart and mind and I really believe it can change the way we view our circumstances. Feel free to give it a try today!

How do you practice thankfulness? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share with me. 🙂 

How to Travel on a Budget (Part 2)

Photo 2015-09-01, 4 52 58 PM3 months ago I shared how to travel on a budget, particularly when it comes to trips where you do mostly driving in your own country. However, many times travel involves flying and going international.

My family and friends know that I travel a lot for my job, which is great fun for me and such a privilege. In my many travels, I have learned a few things about budgeting and saving money on an international adventure, and I want to share some of my tips with you today!

1. Bring your own food. Airport food is a rip-off. Some of you may already know this, but it is ridiculous. Sometimes you have no other option but to buy a meal in the airport, and that’s the way that it goes, but sometimes you have the luxury to plan ahead.

If it works with your travel schedule, bring a meal or snacks that you made at home or purchased at the store. Even buying snacks like chips and granola bars at the grocery store ahead of time will save you a ton of money compared to the prices in the airport and on airplanes. (I never travel without a snack in my bag – you never know when you’ll need to eat something and you’ll thank yourself when your only option is a $4 bag of chips or a $3 bottle of water!)

I once saw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at an airport for $5. Let’s stop the madness – bring your own food (and water bottle) if possible.

2. Think about what souvenirs you want to buy ahead of time. Knowing what kinds of gifts and souvenirs you want to bring home before you go shopping is a great thing to do to help you eliminate unnecessary shopping. When I am in a local market or souvenir store, I want to buy everything because it all looks so cute and fun. One of the things I ask myself when I am looking at something I want to buy is “Will this still be cool when I get back home?” Usually the answer is no.

Photo 2015-05-10, 1 57 47 PM (1)If you travel a lot, it may be helpful to think of one thing that you like collecting or buying for certain friends and family members that can be your “go-to” souvenir. For me, I really like nativity scenes, and can usually find ones that are decently priced when I travel. These are a fun decoration that I bring out for just a month or so every year, and they remind me of the place I visited (see the llama one I picked up from Peru – hilarious!).

For some of my good friends, I always buy them some kind of carved or crafted bird (usually a duck if I can find it). Knowing what I want to buy allows me to have a focus when I shop for souvenirs so that I am not distracted by all of the “cool” things I could bring home.

3. Think local. If you’re able to find a nice local who will show you around town and show you where the locals shop – you’re bound to get a better deal. Tourist markets often have marked up prices because they assume that you as a tourist might not know better. Having a local friend will change the price that you’re given at a market.

Even better is if you have a few phrases memorized in the local language so that you can bargin like a pro!

4. Dive into the culture. Don’t just hang out with all of the white people – go to local places to experience culture and food. You’ll save a bit of money eating local, and you’ll have a much more authentic experience of the place you are visiting. The best tacos I ever had in my life were outside of someone’s house on a little street in Mexico. My Mexican friends trusted the owners and went with me – and we had the most delicious meal without spending much at all!

5. Research. Make sure you do a little researching beforehand to know what you want to see when you are there so that you can plan your trip out before you go.

We once had a layover in London overnight, and Fred researched a fun local restaurant to eat at and printed a map of the subway before we went so that we knew what we were doing. It ended up being so helpful to have a route mapped out because we didn’t have a lot of time to see the sights!

6. Bring US dollars to exchange for local currency. For my American friends, this makes sense, but it’s a good reminder for those of us who live in Canada. Many places don’t take Canadian money when exchanging, so it’s good to save the hassle and come prepared. You’ll save a hefty bank fee and a headache.

These are just a few of my tips for travelling! What are some of your travel tips? Comment below – I’d love to learn from your experiences! 

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