Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Page 2 of 5

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.


  • 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.


  • 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!

Day of Preparation

I don’t know about you, but I love days off.

I love being able to stay in my pajamas all day, in my house, where I can get all the things done that I want to do the other days of the week but often just don’t have time for.

I wanted to share with you some ways that I use my days off wisely as a “day of preparation” so I can set myself up for success for the rest of the week. Feel free to use some of these ideas!

1. Make a snack that you can eat throughout the week. 

This week I made some pumpkin bread (3 loaves!) so that Fred and I have something to snack on in the evenings or afternoons. (Check out this awesome recipe!)

Having something like this around the house allows me to keep going when I am hungry, because I have something quick that I can grab and enjoy.

Photo 2014-11-22, 1 23 06 PM

2. Make a large meal.

Today I decided to make a big lunch and dinner so that I can stock up leftovers for the rest of the week, making lunches an easy and fast part of my day, rather than a hassle. This saves time and drama throughout my week.Photo 2014-11-22, 1 25 15 PM

3. Put something in the freezer for later. 

I love to stock up on things in the freezer that will make cooking dinner in the future easier. Today I cooked up a large batch of ground beef which I will use later for soups, spaghetti, tacos, chili, or shepherd’s pie. Having it all cooked at once allows making a ground beef dinner even faster and easier in the future.

I’m all about planning ahead so that my future self can reap the benefits. Now that it’s cooked, I can just take a chunk from the freezer and bam! I’ve just saved myself 15 minutes in a future meal cooking time.Photo 2014-11-22, 1 10 52 PM

4. Work on a fun hobby.

I love to make candles (which I also sell), and it has been something that has been on the back burner this semester due to my busy lifestyle which includes full-time work, but I had someone place an order, which gave me an excuse to work on something that I love to do.

Adding something fun that I like to do makes me feel like I am not just doing things I “should be doing” but also doing something that gives me joy.

Photo 2014-11-22, 1 27 14 PM

I did all of these things today in about 3 hours, and I feel way more organized and ready to take on another busy week.

Give some of these things a try next time you have a day off. You just might love having your own day of preparation!

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

Finally Free!

One day, I look forward to sharing the news of being debt-free.

Today is not that day.

However, I wanted to share the story of another person whose life has been changed forever, and how her story affects us.

Like most of you know, when Fred and I were first married and recently graduated, we had over $90,000 in debt – the bulk of which was student loans, and a line of credit used to help pay for school and our vehicle.  When we started paying off our debt after that lovely six-month grace period, we were not paying on the line of credit that Fred and his grandma had taken out.

We were making ends meet, making minimum payments on several loans, and then we started feeling guilty.

Fred’s grandma was paying this line of credit off for us (the balance was around $27,000), and we knew that we needed to help. So about 2.5 years ago, we started making double payments with grandma, and we started seeing some progress.Debt thermometer

In February of this year, the balance was at $16,728. We started envisioning paying this off by the end of the year, so that grandma could enjoy as much time of the rest of her life being debt-free.

We started putting big chunks of money on this debt as much as we could. To keep us motivated so we could see how much progress we had made, I made a thermometer that I kept on the fridge that marked our progress.

You can probably guess the end of the story – we paid it off on October 3. It felt like such a huge burden being lifted – $27,000 that we didn’t owe anyone, and the end of a large monthly payment. We were so excited!

To celebrate, we took Grandma out for a nice meal. We splurged and went to The Keg (a fancy steakhouse, for those of you in America who aren’t familiar with it), where we each got a steak and ordered dessert.

(Sidenote: Each person getting their own meal sounds normal to most people, but usually Fred and I split a meal and only sometimes order dessert. This felt decadent. We spent over $100 on one meal – something we have never done before!)  

photo 2 (1)

At The Keg with Grandma

As we talked and celebrated over dinner, we asked Grandma how she felt now that she was debt-free. She said, “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in debt.”

This was a moment I will always remember – someone’s life being changed by finally being released from the chains of debt.

We joked with her about getting another loan or having a balance on her credit card, and she just chuckled and said “No, I’ll never borrow money again.” 

Even though she is 91 years old, we know that her choices have changed the rest of her life, and will change her family tree (as Dave Ramsey often says).

BMO Bank of Montreal Online Banking cropped

What Grandma’s online banking says now that she had paid this loan off!

We still have $43,000 left to pay off, but we are are thrilled that we are past the halfway mark.

4 out of 6 of our debts are GONE.

We are working hard to pay off the remaining ones as quickly as possible. We want our chains to be broken too!

Get involved with the blog!

Cook Like A Mom

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get overwhelmed trying to make dinner look like a Pinterest post.

I really like Pinterest – don’t get me wrong. I love getting new ideas and seeing all of the clever DIY ideas, but I know that with our grocery budget, we value cost and health over beauty.

Growing up, my mom always made simple dinners that were delicious, healthy and cost-effective. I thought that once I started making my own meals, I could follow this example and it would be the best way to go.

That’s when I realized that not everyone cooks like my mom.Photo 2014-06-25, 6 15 35 PM

Simple casseroles, crockpot meals, and family-style dishes are all well and good, but they are certainly not very “trendy” right now. Right now it’s trendy to have tasty and creative meals that are a step below gourmet, whether or not you’re on a budget.

When I cook meals, I think about how much it costs and how many leftovers it will make. I usually never make a meal that only has 2 servings. We don’t have the time to make small meals that don’t also function as lunch for the next day.

Now that my husband and I are both working full-time (a first for us in our marriage), we need to make simple, nutritious dinners that taste good and allow us to have left-overs that are necessary to keep ourselves on budget.

My “secret” is to to make large portions and then put them into individual portions so they are all ready to go for the next day. I don’t know if you can relate, but I am often in a rush in the mornings and need to be able to throw together a lunch quickly. Having your leftovers in ready-to-go portions saves time and effort in the morning.

So that’s my secret to share with you today.

Photo 2014-06-25, 6 16 02 PMHere it is in just three easy steps:

1. Don’t try to make your meals look perfect.

2. Make large, simple meals with several portions.

3. Put in individual containers for an easy left-over.

Bing, bang, boom. A simple way to make your life (and your budget) easier!

Get involved with the blog!

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!

Ode to the Library

Some people have been using one of the best free resources out there.

I wasn’t one of them.

I knew that the library was awesome, and that there were a lot of great things that you could check out, but I didn’t quite believe it or utilize it.

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of books or movies, but I was missing out on the cornucopia that was available to me.

When we moved to Abbotsford, we realized we were a 5 minute walk from the library, and my dear husband encouraged me to go with him one night to check it out.

I fell in love that night.

I walked into the library and realized that there were a ton of free resources available! I could rent a movie, check out a book, learn about whatever I wanted to, and not spend a single dollar. It was mind-blowing.

Let me tell you some of the perks of and the resources that the library offers:Photo 2014-09-06, 5 57 01 PM

1. It’s FREE.

I know that sounds funny, because it’s common knowledge, but seriously people – FREE. When you are getting out of debt, this should be music to your ears.

2. Expansive book collection

This is what a library is known for – but for me, this has always been something I have loved. I could spend hours in a bookstore – I love that I can find books on any topic that I can read and learn from.

3. DVD collection

Okay – seriously – you can check out movies and seasons of shows from the library. We’re not talking just old movies – I rented some great movies and shows that have been released in the past 2 years that I either wanted to see or had seen and didn’t own.

I know that a lot of people have Netflix these days – but we don’t. So when we want to watch a movie, we go to a mom-and-pop video rental place and pay $1 or $2 – which is still a good deal compared to going to the theatre. But it can’t compare with free.

(P.S. We rented Downton Abbey – what could be better? They had all three seasons – that’s hours of fun right there!)

4. Exercise DVDs

I’m working on being more healthy and exercising more, and I’ll admit that sometimes I would rather not leave my house. But, I can rent DVDs that I can work out to in the safety of my own home. I can rent new ones all the time and not get sick of a workout. (Bonus: I can turn it off if I’m done – not worrying about walking/running home or driving home from the gym!)

5. Free internet

If you don’t have internet in your house, usually, you’d go to Starbucks, right? (I would/do when I need to.) Instead, you can get an hour of free internet access at the library. Total score. (No coffee buying required!)

6. Books on tape/CD

If you commute a lot and wish you had time to read books, consider books on tape! You can listen while you drive or transit, and “read” all those books that you’ve always wanted to get around to.

7. Bonus: Fraser Valley Regional Library

If you live in the Lower Mainland, all the FVRL branches are connected, so you can check out books/movies/resources from any branch in the LM.

So if you live near a small branch (like, cough, Walnut Grove), you can reserve books from other branches and not miss out on all the great things that are out there!

The Verdict

I’m in love with the library. I want to go every week.

I know that I’m usually really frugal, but I am working on saving money wherever I can. I believe that the library can help me fill the void inside of me that wants to rent movies and get new books without spending a penny.

Now that’s a good deal.

Stay connected and interact with the blog! 

  • Leave a comment below to tell me how you feel about the library. 
  • 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!

How To Shop For Produce on a Budget

Note: This is part of the “How To – On a Budget” series. Click here to read more ideas for doing life on a budget (building a wardrobe,  having a baby, and giving gifts).

We’ve all heard it: “Get your 5-a-day!”Photo 2014-07-08, 6 18 49 PM

But let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s hard to invest in produce when it seems so expensive.

Today I’m going to share with you some of my tips and tricks for shopping for produce on a budget so you can have a happy and healthy life and diet.

1. Shop local.

I usually shop at a local produce stand as opposed to picking up my fruits and veggies at whatever store I’m already in. The prices are better, and there are usually options to buy from local farms, which is cheaper than importing from other countries.

2. Shop discount. Photo 2014-07-08, 6 19 15 PM

I love the discount section! I have found some truly amazing things in this section. It’s usually on a shelf away from normal sight, so hunt for it or ask an employee. This is where the produce that is going bad gets put. Sometimes you find moldy and mushy things, but other times, you find things that still have a bit of time left in them.

This picture is an example of a really good day on the discount shelf. I got a bag of perfectly good tomatoes, delicious plums, just ripe mangoes, organic bananas, and local strawberries. Each item was $1.00 – total score!

If you do find some items that are only going to be good for a day or so, buy a bunch of veggies to make a stir-fry or make a batch of jam with ripe fruit.

3. Shop in bulk (for certain things). Photo 2014-06-25, 4 48 47 PM

I buy certain things in bulk that I know I will use and that won’t go bad. Some good examples are apples, potatoes, carrots, and onions. These items last a long time, and I use them on a regular basis. Make sure to store them in a cool, dry place or in the fridge to make sure they keep.

Buying things in bulk will save money. Take potatoes for example. Instead of paying $1.40/pound, I buy a 10 lb. bag for $3.50-$5.00. This lasts me a long time, and I pay 1/3 of the price with the bulk option.

4. Shop smart (don’t overbuy). 

Sometimes I get so excited about the discount section, or I want to try new things, and I buy too much. This wastes money if you let it sit in the fridge and it goes bad. I generally shop twice a month for produce, spending about $20-$25 each time. That means $40-$50 gets my family our 5-a-day for a month – what a deal!

Now it’s your turn! What tips and tricks do you have for shopping for fruits and veggies?

The One Cookbook You Need to Have

Photo 2014-07-30, 4 16 35 PMToday I’m going to recommend the one book that you NEED to have in your kitchen.

I have quite a few cookbooks, some that I use more than others, but this one surpasses them all in my mind.

My mom got me this cookbook shortly after I graduated from university and needed to start paying back my student loans. She knew I needed to learn how to cook good food on a budget. I’ve been in love with this cookbook ever since! 

This cookbook is called Healthy Meals for Less: Great-Tasting Simple Recipes Under $1 a Serving. It has tons of amazing recipes in it, and the thing I love most about it is that the ingredients are things that I actually keep in my cabinet.

I wish that I could buy you all a copy and send it to you, but alas, I cannot. So what I am going to do is recommend that you pick yourself up a copy. On Amazon, the Kindle version is just $8, and the cheapest used copy is only $4. Talk about a bargain!

I seriously use this cookbook all the time. Here are some of my favourite recipes:

  • Honey chicken (crockpot meal – I add sweet potatoes to the chicken and honey sauce – yum!)
  • Oven-roasted vegetables (the most tasty way to spice up carrots, potatoes and peppers)
  • Hot chocolate mix (that’s right – just 3 ingredients to make your own – saves a bundle on this tasty drink!)
  • Sweet potato soup (tasty, healthy, and inexpensive)
  • Biscuit mix (so helpful to have on hand to throw together for a complete meal)

This cookbook gives nutritional information along with average price to make the item. (It does use U.S. pricing, so it’s a bit different for those of us who live in the Great White North, but still a helpful pricing guide.) This helps me see the health and dollar benefits of each recipe. In addition, all of the recipes are very simple to make.

So if you get a chance or have a few dollars in your budget to get a copy, please do! You won’t be sorry.

Now it’s your turn! What cookbooks/kitchen books have changed your cooking style?

*Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. That means that if you use this link to buy this book through this link, 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! I was not compensated in any way to discuss this product.* 

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2018 Classy Frugality

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow buttonFeel free to follow!