Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Category: Behind the blog (page 1 of 2)

I’m Going Back to School!

I know it’s been a while. It’s been almost 11 months since my last post. I could use this post to share with you about how we packed up our lives and moved to Guatemala. I could tell you about the steep learning curve I’ve been on, learning how to teach English and mentor other English teachers. I could tell you how I thought I knew Spanish but each day I realize there is so much more to learn.

But that’s not what I want to share with you today. Instead, today I have decided to share an exciting announcement with you…

I’m going back to school!

I shared in my last post that I was taking some courses last fall to get an TESL certificate so I could be better equipped to do my job teaching English here in Guatemala. Long story short, I ended up only taking 3 courses and did not do the whole TESL certificate (due to time). However, the courses were extremely helpful, and I started thinking around April how nice it would be to finish up this certificate. In emailing with a professor at the university I went to, she told me it would likely be a better use of my time to do a Masters in TESOL.

A Masters degree. Whew.

I had always anticipated that I would likely go back to school to get a Masters degree, but I never knew what in. The more I started thinking about this, the more I started to see the dots connect: I have an a BA in English, and a B. Ed (Education). I love languages. I love teaching English. It seemed like the perfect fit, and like all the things I am passionate about all rolled into one. Plus it would help tremendously in my current job teaching English.

After talking about it with Fred, the big question that came up was, “How are we going to pay for this?” 

If you know me or have been following me, you know that we became debt-free about a year ago after paying off almost $100,000 in student loan debt. Since becoming debt-free, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s “baby steps” and have built an emergency fund and starting putting away 15% for retirement. Since we don’t have kids or a mortgage, we have disposable income, which for the last several months we used to get what we needed to move to Guatemala (we both needed new computers, Fred needed a camera for work, etc.) and also to set up our home in Guatemala (we bought some furniture and some home decor). We definitely took a pay cut to come down here, but we have been very comfortable with our income level.

Then we factored in the numbers for this program, and it definitely wasn’t what I wanted to see. I didn’t think we would be able to afford it, and in talking it over with the school to discuss financial aid, they suggested a student loan.

If you scroll up just a little bit, you’ll see that we paid off almost $100,000 in student loan debt. There was NO WAY that we were taking out another student loan to pay for it.

Time went on, and I started doing the orientation for the program just in case we found a way to make it work (the only entrance point in the program is July, so if I missed it this year, I would have to wait 12+ months to start). I was still on the fence about this decision for most of May and June, and then, the financial pieces started coming together. I found out I got some financial aid. We were able to budget what I would need each month for school and make it work with our salaries. And I started feeling more confident about it.

So after two months of back and forth, I have decided I’m diving in! I’m doing this program to not only do better in my current workplace, but also to prepare for the future. Although this program is quite an investment, it will have a rate of return in the future that makes it more than worth it. The best part is, the program is 100% online, and I can do it while working. It’s the perfect way to make the most of my experience teaching English, and I’m thrilled to be doing it!

In this process, I’ve realized how liberating it is to be debt-free. If we were still in debt, I wouldn’t be able to do my Masters. I would probably feel stuck and frustrated. Instead, I get to invest in my career in a tangible way, and I’m not stressed about it. Life is good!

Photo credit: The incomparable Fred Brown

Now What?

Sometimes big events are anti-climatic.

I shared in my last blog post how Fred and I recently became debt-free and compared it to my recent experience running a 5K. Both events were big for me – milestones in my life that I will look back on with pride and fondness, and yet, both events felt a bit disappointing in the moment.

Don’t get me wrong – I am so glad for both of those things, and I am proud of both of those accomplishments. But sometimes you look forward to something for so long, that when you finally get there, you think “Now what?”

Fred and I paid off our last loan payment on July 1. We punched in the numbers, pressed send, looked at each other and then I eloquently said…”Now what?”

We have been paying on our student loans for 5 1/2 years. It’s been a long journey, and I didn’t ever think it would end. We had talked about what we wanted to do when we became debt-free, I just didn’t anticipate how I would feel once I actually got there.

Photo 2016-07-26, 7 08 59 PMAfter we became debt-free, people kept telling us, “You should celebrate!” We didn’t fully know what we wanted to do, but once we got the official “Your student loans are paid in full!” letter, I knew that it was time to commemorate our freedom somehow. So we took our “date night envelope” and we went to The Keg (a fancy steakhouse). We hardly ever go there but we both love the food, so it seemed fitting to splurge a little. We dressed up, we ordered a bacon-wrapped steak, we ate, we talked. We told our waitress why we were celebrating, and then she gave us each a free dessert (so amazing). We took a picture. We discussed what we wanted to do with our money now that we wouldn’t be making student loan payments anymore.

Photo 2016-07-26, 8 06 56 PMAfter we ate our free dessert and paid the bill, we went home and opened up a bottle of Martinelli’s that Fred insisted we keep from our wedding (that’s 6 years ago, folks). Thanks to refrigeration, a good seal, and some preservatives, the sparkling cider tasted just as delightful as it would have 6 years ago. We toasted being debt-free, we took more pictures…

And now here we are. Life still mostly looks the same – we budget each month, we still use our envelopes of cash to keep us on track. We’ve slightly increased our date fund and our personal spending money (much to Fred’s delight). We still pay our bills, we just don’t pay student loan payments anymore.

As time has gone on, I think the reality has sunk in a bit more. It’s very surreal coming out from a burden you’ve had for years. I took out my first student loan when I was 18. Now, at age 29, I’m re-surfacing from 11 years of being indebted. I’m learning that sometimes freedom takes time, and it’s not all about feelings. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I’m grateful to learn it.

You may be wondering, “What will you do with all of your extra cash now, Browns?”  Great question. (That’s what I would be wondering if I was reading someone else’s blog about being debt-free.)

As many of you know, Fred and I recently accepted jobs with a nonprofit and we will be moving to work and live in Guatemala (starting in January) for the next two years. I’ll be teaching English as to students in a Guatemalan school, so I’m actually going back to university part-time in September to get my TESL certificate.

For me, this has been the coolest thing about getting out of debt. I’m going back to the same university where I started 11 years ago with just a dream in my heart and student loan in hand. This time, I’m going back without a student loan, paying in cash. I couldn’t be happier.  I have come full circle and I know that I am never, ever borrowing money again…and that feeling is worth all of the years of sacrifice and payments.

We’re Debt-Free!

(Some of you have already heard this news, and some of you haven’t. Either way, I’m going to share some of my thoughts about our journey to becoming debt-free. Enjoy!) 

imageIt finally happened.

6 years ago, when Fred and I got married and had almost $100,000 in debt, I didn’t know when we would ever be free. Despite the large amount of money we owed to both the Canadian and American government, we have paid faithfully every month, and on July 1 we made our last payment on our last debt. We’re debt-free!!!

Paying off our debt has felt like a marathon – ebbs and flows of feeling energized (“I’ve got this!”) to feeling defeated (“We’ll never finish…”) and moments of steady perseverance, one foot in front of the other, thinking about something other than how tired we felt and how much I wished it was over.

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Sitting on the couch after we made our last student loan payment on July 1!

In June, I ran a 5K race – not a lot to some people, but to me it felt like a big accomplishment. I was never much of a runner before January: I would get winded running for a few seconds. However, I decided that I wanted to participate in a charity fundraiser on June 11, so I got a free app to help me build a running plan (shoutout to Runkeeper!) and I started running. It was slow at first. I stopped a lot and felt like I would never be able to run for 1 minute, much less for 5K. Slowly, over time, I gained endurance. I was able to run for the length of a song before getting winded. Then 2 songs. Then 10 minutes. It was working – I was becoming a runner!

I admit that some days I walked more than I needed to because I didn’t want to run, and on race day, I didn’t run the whole thing. I ran most of it, but stopped to take breaks as needed, and tried to focus on the finish line. One step in front of the other, asking my running friends to tell me stories, anything to get my mind off the fact that I was hot, tired, sweaty, wanted a drink of water, wanted to stop running…

And then I saw it. The big red arch and the words “Finish” in big white letters. “I see it!” I called out breathlessly to my two running companions. “We’re almost done!” With a new burst of strength I ran towards the finish line and crossed it, pumping my arms over my head like I was in a movie.

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Post-5K selfie!

“I did it!” I called out. “I did it!” And then like a true millennial, I shouted, “We need to take a selfie! I need to gram this!” I wanted to share this moment with the world – I did something that was something out of character for me, something I had been working on for months, and people needed to know about it.

We snapped our picture, we high-fived people who had finished before us, we ate apple slices. We stretched. We chatted with friends. I went up to people and told them triumphantly, “I did it! I didn’t think I could run 5K, but I did it!” I couldn’t believe it. I knew that I had just finished something I never thought I could. Even though I didn’t run the whole thing, and it took me 42 minutes when it took others much less, I was proud of my pace. I was proud that I did it.

Reflecting on this experience, I can’t help but think how much it reminds me of our debt repayment journey. There have been some seasons where we have chosen to fly somewhere to visit family or to celebrate an event rather than pay off debt. We’ve given to charity when we could have put that money towards our student loan. We didn’t cut out fun money, we gave ourselves date money every month. We jogged or walked some moments when we could have run in our budgeting. But we did it. We accomplished something great.

Looking back at our journey, I am proud. I know we could have paid off our debt in less time. I know we could have cut out some fun things, given less, done less trips, not updated our old iPhones, and scrimped more. But we didn’t. We took the time we took and we still feel proud. At the end of the day, I know we ran the race and we crossed the finish line. We’re debt-free, and to us, that’s what matters.

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on what it has been like to be debt-free, and some exciting upcoming life changes!

Things I’m Into – July 2015

Photo 2015-07-14, 4 33 54 PMSo…it has been a while since I have written a blog (3 months and a few days, to be exact).

I often have really good ideas for my blog, but life has been so busy with travel and work that I haven’t had the time to sit down and actually type them. I have two awesome blog ideas in my head for traveling on a budget (stay posted!) but today I will be sharing the things that I have been into this month.

Food

Fred and I went a road trip this month and our favourite snack food was Chicago Mix. This is a beautiful blend of cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn. So incredibly delicious.

We seriously ate it almost every time we had a long driving day, we had some at Disneyland, we ate some on the beach…you get the idea. If you’ve never had it, you should pick up a bag as soon as you can. You won’t regret it!

To Wear 

Photo 2015-07-19, 9 53 49 PMI’ve always wanted to find ways to wear things that are super comfortable that make me feel good. Fortunately, jumpers (a.ka. onesies that are socially acceptable as grown-up outfits) are in fashion right now, and I bought one when I was in Edmonton this month.

Love it. I’ve worn it at least twice a week since I bought it 3 weeks ago.

Audio

On our road trip, we spent a lot of time in the car, and we listened to music, an audio book, and lots of podcasts. My favourite thing that we listened to is a new podcast called Mystery Show. I used to think that podcasts were just sermons, but there are hundreds (well, at least dozens) of interesting podcasts out there that feature a broad range of topics.

Mystery Show has 5 episodes so far, and every one is a winner. Download the first one to listen to, and you’ll want to listen to them ALL.

Television

Photo 2015-07-19, 10 11 44 PMA few months ago, Fred checked out the last season of The Office from the library. I know it’s been two years since the show ended, but we really enjoyed watching it.

I loved it so much that I went back and I have been watching through the series lately. It’s so funny, and has been the perfect background noise for my current hobby.

Hobby

Photo 2015-07-19, 11 39 54 AMWhen people get married and have babies, I like to crochet something for them. For weddings I make potholders, and for baby showers I make baby blankets.

It’s fun, frugal, and personal, but it does take a lot of time, so it’s nice to be able to have something else to do/watch/listen to while I am working. The Office has been great for that!

So that’s a little glimpse into my life this month. What things have you been into lately?

Leave me a comment below and share with me. I’d love to hear about what you’re into!

Setbacks and Catapults

Sometimes unexpected things happen in life. We call those setbacks.

Last month, we had a big setback. The check engine light in our car came on and the heat simultaneously went out. So, like responsible adults, we took it to our mechanic. He looked into it and we found the cause: we needed a new engine.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had to replace the engine in your car (you’re lucky if you haven’t), but it is one of the most expensive things to replace. Our bill was $4,718 after it was said and done (and that was a used engine). YIKES.

We had planned to pay off a chunk of our debt in March and so instead of doing that, we saved that $1,132 to put towards our bill, but we were still short. That month, we received some cash from generous friends and got a significant tax return. We were able to pay the bill without having to dip into our emergency fund.  It seemed that the crisis had passed.

We then had the check engine light go on in our OTHER car this week, about 4 weeks after our little engine fiasco. We took it to the mechanic (who feels like a member of the family, it seems like we see him so often) and found out we needed a new transmission. Now, transmissions aren’t as expensive as engines, but it still felt like a setback. The cost to replace the transmission and another piece that was broken (which made the gas light go on all the time) was $2,004.

This normally would have caused us to freak out. Almost $7,000 in car repairs in the span of 4 weeks is significant, and usually people would probably go into debt. However, we had some financial surprises waiting for us. These last two months have brought in unexpected income from a few different source. $14,500 to be exact.

So although it felt sad to put almost half of this amount towards car repair rather than paying down debt, we were glad that we had that income to pay for these repairs, which could have set us back really far and might have even caused us to go into debt.

So that’s where we’re at right now. We’re grateful for the unexpected income, not too phased by the unexpected expenses, and are looking forward to the day when we can pay off my student loan. We’re both working hard and are continuing to make strides towards being debt-free.

Photo 2015-04-17, 12 54 40 PMAfter we paid off the line of credit in October, we had 2 remaining debts – my U.S. student loan and Fred’s Canadian student loan. Since November, we have paid off  $6,060.60 on my U.S. loan, even with the horrendous exchange rate (we lose 30 cents on the dollar when we transfer money to make a payment).

We anticipate paying the remaining $7,638.18 by June, and we are grateful that even with a $6,722 setback, we had a $14,500 catapult. Sometimes life can surprise you that way. We are blessed.

Ways to get involved with the blog: 

  • Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!
  • Tweet me (@classyfrugality) to share your thoughts. 
  • Follow me on Instagram (@classyfrugality) to see glimpses into my everyday life. 

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

Confessions of a DINK

It has been 2 months and 6 days since my last post. Although you should never make excuses, mine has been summed up in one word: work.

I shared with you how Fred and I were both working full-time and how that was a new season for us. I’ve decided to share some of the pros and cons of being a (true) double income no kids (affectionately known as “DINK”) family.

Pros:

  • MONEY.  Fred and I were blown away at how both of us bringing in a full-time income allowed us to have lots of money, (most of which) went towards knocking down our debt load. We paid off a line of credit and made significant progress on my student loan (see picture).

    Here is the progress we have made on my student loan since last February. The orange strip under the blue line until the top has been paid since August - around $6,000.

    Here is the progress we have made on my student loan since last February. The orange strip under the blue line until the top has been paid since August – around $6,000.

  • Never being bored. I know that this is a bit of a new concept to people, the idea of being bored, but I will admit that sometimes it happened to me (not very often, mind you). With a full-time workload, being bored was never an issue. There was always something to feel guilty about that I was not doing.
  • Feeling important. This sounds silly, but it’s nice to feel like your life is “meaningful” and that your days “have a purpose.” I was working two part-time jobs, both of which I was passionate about, and that made me feel like my life was important.

Cons: 

  • Not much free time. When you work full-time, your days are…full. For me, having always had some days off, it meant that my weekends were used for resting and errands, and then before I knew it, Monday rolled around again. Life was…full. And not always fun.
  • Tiredness/sickness. I never thought of myself as a sickly person, but last fall I was constantly sick. My immune system was having trouble adjusting to working 40+ hours, and it seemed that working like a normal person was too much for me. I said no to a lot of things I wanted to do, and canceled a lot of plans on account of my weak immune system.
  • Having more money than time. This is an interesting concept that I have been aware of for the past few years. Sometimes, you have more time than money. Other times, you have more money than time. I have never been in that position before, and so, I did some things that seemed very foreign to me, like buying gift cards as presents instead of making something, or buying things at the store that I would normally make from scratch. It could be that I just wasn’t used to this, but I didn’t love this. I prefer to have time to do the things that save me money.

I’m intentionally reflecting on this season because once again, our season has changed. Fred and I both had 5-month teaching contracts that ended this month, and we are both substitute teaching. I am still working part-time at a non-profit, but my days are suddenly much freer. For example, today I did not get called in to teach but already had a plan for getting in my work hours, so I had the whole day to myself. After a really busy season, this made me feel guilty. Fortunately, I pushed those feelings down and had a lovely restful day (which included a nap).

We know that this new season will hold a different kind of lifestyle for us. More flexibility, more days off, less traction with our debt, and more time together. Although it’s not exactly what we had in mind when we decided to “go gazelle” and get our debt paid off, we are taking this season with expectation that it will work out just as it should. And we’re going to try to enjoy our days off, too. 🙂

Get involved with the blog!

  • Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!
  • You can also tweet me (@classyfrugality) to share your thoughts. 
  • You can now follow me on Instagram (@classyfrugality) to see glimpses into my everyday life. 
  • Also, make sure to subscribe to my e-newsletter to make sure you never miss a post!

Contentment vs. Comparison

For most of my life, I have struggled with contentment.

I remember even back to my elementary school days, where I always wanted what I didn’t have: boys, clothes, friends, toys, you name it. This flaw has remained with me to this very day where I still compare my life to others.

I know we can all relate to this.

As wonderful as social media is, it gives us a chance, through several mediums, to compare ourselves to those we know. Pinterest sometimes makes me feel like my cooking is not good or creative enough. Facebook reminds me that I am not going through an exciting life change like many of those around me. Instagram can trick me into thinking that other people live more glorious lives than I do.

And it goes on and on. We compare.

We compare our lives, no matter how wonderful they might be, to other people. “I wish my wedding was that beautiful.” “I wish I was having a baby right now.” “I wish my meals looked like that.” “I wish I had important and funny things to say on Twitter.”

This influences the way that I view wealth as well. I have come to believe that I am poor – that I don’t have as much as other people have, and therefore, I am poor.

What a ridiculous idea.

Sure, Fred and I are still paying off debt, and sure, we don’t have as much money as other people, but there has never been a day in my life where I am lacking something that I truly need. I might want a more glamorous home or phone or car or wardrobe, but I truly have more than enough.

In those moments, I need to remind myself that I am not poor – that I have more than enough, and that comparing my life to other people’s will not make me happier.

This week I joined Instagram. Seems funny, seeing as I mentioned above how it sometimes makes me feel less glorious, but there has been a freedom in it for me. To show the parts of my life that I want to share with the world, the parts that aren’t necessarily fancy, but give a glimpse into something that gives me joy.

This week, I have the privilege of being on a trip with my job in Mexico. I am with friends that I love, and we are eating delicious things and seeing interesting sites, and that has been fun for me. Next week, I will be back home, and I want to resolve that even when I am not eating delicious food or lounging on a beach, I can still be content.

I can still be happy with my life the way it is right now – I don’t have to wait until I am debt-free or have a family or have a bigger and better [fill in the blank].

Will you join me?

Will you remember with me that contentment is better than comparison? That we can be happy where we are, with what we have, without checking to see if others have it better?

I’m going to give it a try. Worst case scenario, I can log in to Facebook and start comparing again tomorrow.

But I think more joy will come if I remember that I am truly blessed.

Get involved with the blog!

    • Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!
    • You can also tweet me (@classyfrugality) to share your thoughts. 
    • You can now follow me on Instagram (@classyfrugality) – remember there is no need to compare – I’d love to see your life too!
    • Also, make sure to subscribe to my e-newsletter to make sure you never miss a post!

Paletas en el Centro de Villa de Alvarez (popsicles in the centre of Villa de Alvarez) #popsicles #Colima

A photo posted by Beth Brown (@classyfrugality) on

Game Changer

The game is constantly changing.

Maybe it’s a bit trite to call paying off our debt a “game” – maybe I should say “our reality is constantly changing” – it’s more accurate, right?

Anyways, you’re probably wondering what has changed. Let me tell you.

Two months ago, I shared that my husband had lost his job. It was disappointing, and we knew it would slow our debt repayment down, but we would be okay. We’d still be able to pay the bills, and Fred worked hard to get on teacher on call (TOC) lists and had committed to being the house husband. We adjusted to our new reality.

Fast forward to 12 days ago, when I started my part-time teaching job and entered into a new season of working two part-time jobs to a total of more than 40 hours a week. Everything was working – Fred was cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking care of the bills while I was working, working and working.

We were just getting used to our new roles. I was finally letting go of not planning meals and taking care of the home, and starting to enjoy the idea that all I had to do was work and help out around the house, not take charge of the household responsibilities like I had done in the past.

Then, something crazy happened.

Fred was TOCing at the school he worked at last year, and the principals approached him and asked him if he would be interested in some part-time work, 2-3 days a week, including a bit of teaching and some administrative work. He said yes, and we weren’t really sure what that would look like. This seemed exciting, and we were open to the idea of him doing this and still TOCing in other schools on the other days of the week.

The next day, he got asked if he wanted full-time work until January (the end of the semester) to add support to oversized classes and relieve a principal of a part-time class.

We were shocked. Both of having full-time work? Both of us loving what we do? Both of us being able to bring in a decent amount of money?

This changed everything. 

This is more than just a boost to our income, and more than just a solution to help us pay off our debt more quickly. It was also encouraging to Fred that he got to be back in the school that he loves. It felt right – like this is how it was supposed to be all along. 

So, the game has changed.

4 years ago, we didn’t know how we would ever pay off the almost $100,000 total in debt that we owed. We’ve never both had full-time work.  We’ve been doing what we can with what we have, and now, we’re in a new season.

We’re earning more than anticipated, which does increase our ability to put more on our debt. We are teasingly close to paying off one of our three remaining debts, and are feeling hopeful about the idea of being completely debt-free in about 2 years. Our responsibility and anticipation is growing.

Now, we’re just re-adjusting our expectations of what it will look like to both be working full-time, sharing the household responsibilities like we never have, and seeing the light in the tunnel get closer.

The game is afoot! 

Stay connected and interact with the blog!

  • Leave a comment below to tell me about a time in your life where something that happened to you, job or otherwise, changed everything for your finances. 
  • Tweet me (@classyfrugality) to share your thoughts. 
  • Also, make sure to subscribe to my e-newsletter to make sure you never miss a post!

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.* 

Set Yourself Up For Success

I’ve come to realize that no two people’s lives are the same.

Now, this may have been obvious to you, but for me, this was a very freeing realization. The more time I spend on social media, the more I come to question my own lifestyle. I so desperately want to pin those delicious looking recipes that I see littering my home feed on Pinterest, but then I realize that trying to make the perfect looking meal doesn’t fit in with my simple budget.

I need to find things that will work with my life the way it is now. I can’t start doing all of the things that I see other people doing if it’s not relevant to my lifestyle.

I recently starting working full-time as a teacher and doing Communications for a non-profit on the side, which means my time is limited. I need to make sure things are in place so life can keep rolling and I can be successful in my job(s).

So, here are some things that I have learned that I want to share with you so you can set yourself up, whatever your life may look like, for success:

1. Get comfy in the kitchen.

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My homemade hot pockets

This may seem like a sexist thing to put out there, but I do believe that to come out ahead in your budget and always have something to eat, you’re going to need to make a few things in your own kitchen. This may look different for everyone.

For me, I always bring my lunch to school, so I keep things in the freezer for those days when there are no leftovers in the fridge. I like making my own hot pockets (click for amazing recipe from A Beautiful Ruckus – one of my favourite blogs to read!) and burritos for lunches, and muffins for rushed breakfast.

I also keep granola and yogurt on hand for breakfast on the go. Check out my granola recipe here.

Having these things stocked up means that I am not tempted to eat lunch or breakfast out. It means there will always be food for me, no matter what happens.

My homemade granola

My homemade granola

2. Don’t neglect the little pockets of free time.

For me, this means that I try to avoid sitting around wasting time (I’m still working on this – I do love to sit down and watch a good Full House episode and just relax). It might mean that I’m doing the dishes in the 10 minutes that it takes my husband to get the coffee ready and pick out his outfit for the next day, or using the time when I’m watching a TV show or movie to crochet a gift for someone, catch up on emails, or write a blog.

Using these little free moments means that I don’t feel behind in my home even though I work 5 days a week. If I stay on top of things, I know that I will feel less overwhelmed.

3. Be prepared (financially). 

This simply means that you’re ready for when “life” happens. For us, we have a little emergency fund in the bank (baby step #1 of Dave’s plan – told you I might mention him from time to time!) and having medical insurance in place. This ensures that if something happens, it’s more of an inconvenience and a waste of time rather than a waste of money. (Click here for a personal story about how having money in the bank saved us from a crisis!)

4. Keep your house tidy.

I really believe that having a tidy house will change the way you live. If you come home to a clean house, I think that this will allow you to relax more easily, and you’ll take better care of the things that you own – this keeps you content on those days when you wish you had the newest piece of furniture or kitchen tool. It also helps to be able to find things in your closet in the morning when you need to grab an outfit. It saves time when you’re getting ready to go out of the house if you know where things are. 

These 4 things have kept me grounded as I’ve started working more and had less time around the house.

5. BONUS TIP! 

When you’re not in a busy season, it’s great to plan for the times that you’re busier.

This might mean…

  • Baking/cooking things and stocking up your freezer for those times when you have less time in the kitchen
  • Planning ahead for birthday/wedding gifts and cards
  • Shopping for a professional wardrobe before you start a job, so that once you start you’ll have clothes on hand
  • For me, it means writing blogs ahead of time and then posting them when I have less time to work on them (like this one – I started writing it back in March and was glad I had it in the vault)

What tips do you have to set yourself up for success? Leave me some ideas below!

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