Today I am . . .

by Katy on September 21, 2016 · 25 comments

Today I am:

  • Busy readying my younger son for college and trying to appreciate his last full day at home.

That is all. I may be taking a bit of a blogging break, as this week is all about settling my two sons at their respective universities. My focus is where it should be.

What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 19, 2016 · 81 comments

  1. My sons both wear prescription glasses, although my younger son hardly ever wears his. Today we finally gave up on trying to find the pair I thought were misplaced, but turned out to be lost. He and I just now sat down and chose a new pair through Zenni Optical, and he’ll be receiving a new pair in “14-21 days” for the low price of $11.21, which includes shipping. I used a promo code through RetailMeNot.com for an extra 10%-off the glasses, even though it only took 69¢ from the price.
  2. I had my husband drive our Prius to work yesterday so I could take the minivan to Costco for cheap gasoline. I also picked up cat litter, coffee and dog food. (I buy this for my father’s dog.) The coffee had an instant $3.50 rebate, which meant the organic was cheaper than the regular beans. I only bought what was on my list and I was in and out in under ten minutes. Then I got home and realized that I needed to have bought one more thing. Because, of course . . . .
  3. We’ll be doing a fair amount of long distance driving this week as part of dropping our two sons at their different universities. We have an appointment tomorrow to have our mechanic work on some deferred maintenance on our minivan. Although this’ll likely cost us an arm and a leg, it’s actually a frugal practice, as maintaining an older car is much, much cheaper than buying a new car. We bought our Honda Odyssey in 2005, yet only have 87,000 on it. With proper care, it should last us at least another 100,000 miles. It hurts in the short term to fork over the money, but in the long term, it’s the smart choice.
  4. Local pseudo-healthy chain Burgerville had a promotion yesterday for National Cheeseburger Day, (yes, that’s a thing!) where they sold their original cheeseburgers for $1 apiece. Burgerville is normally a splurge, so I drove through and bought a bag of burgers for the family. I served them with cantaloupe to balance the meal and there were no complaints.
  5. I continue with an eye on frugality to ready my sons for their year away at university. They’ll be bringing bedding they already own, (or bought at the Goodwill Outlet for $1.69/lb) supplies from our house and generally inexpensive necessities. I talked to a friend the other day who said that she’d spent $1000 to outfit her daughter for school, which did not include electronics! I need every penny I can spare for the tuition/room/board, so yes, my sons will not be competing in any dorm room decor contests.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 17, 2016 · 77 comments

Free stuff

  1. I sold a pair of girls’ figure skates on Craigslist for $30. These were a pair that I picked up for free from garage sale leftovers when my sister was in town. In all, I made $115 from the stuff I found that day. (Rocking chair, blanket/sham set, cloth diapering kit and the figure skates.) I kept a great spatula for myself from that day, and my sister kept a brand new pair of Danskos, a life vest, clothing for her daughter and an addictive wooden toy.
  2. I’m exhausted from working the last couple of days and plan on doing absolutely nothing today. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ll finish reading my library copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child today. And laundry. Always laundry.
  3. I re-listed all my Craigslist listings this morning. Although some items sell immediately, most things take awhile to find a new home. For example, I listed those figure skates when my sister was in town, which means that they took almost a full month to sell. But that’s no bother to me, as they took up almost no room and it costs nothing to use Craigslist.
  4. I helped myself to a huge box of nice fabric and brand new Chinese lanterns that were set beside a dumpster behind an antiques mall. I gave the fabric to my friend Lise, who’ll turn them into tote bags to sell, and I’ll see if my local consignment shop wants the lanterns. If they don’t, I’ll make them available for my Buy Nothing group. This is the fourth (fifth?) time that I’ve gleaned stuff from this spot to sell, which has made it a logical place to cruise past when I visit my mother’s neighborhood. From this spot I’ve found and then sold a vintage dining room chair, a cute vintage American Tourister train case, a vintage plant stand and something else that’s slipping my addled mind.
  5. My husband went to the Portland Timbers soccer game today, and was proud to show me how he’d packed a sandwich so he wouldn’t have to buy expensive stadium food. Aww . . . he does love me!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 14, 2016 · 54 comments

Alaska deal

  1. I jumped on a special Alaska Airlines flight deal for $119 one way tickets from Portland to Newark, so I now have a week long NYC trip to look forward to in early December! (I actually clicked on the above Facebook advertisement to spontaneously buy the tickets!) My sister and her family live in New York, so I always have a free place to stay. I can work a single hospital shift and easily cover the airfare and associated expenses. I haven’t seen prices this low since the 1990’s, so I’m very excited.*
  2. I drove across town for a dental appointment and worked in a few errands that matched the neighborhood. You’ll be happy (or indifferent) to know that I got a clean bill of health, so I will not be looking at an enormous dental bill. (Always a relief.)
  3. I stopped at the library on my way home to pick up my reserved copy of J.K. Rowling’s The Cursed Child. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that my eyes watered and my nose began to burn as I snatched it from the shelf.
  4. I upgraded some marinara sauce with some hamburger and a handful of secret lentils to top tonight’s pasta dinner, I have someone who wants to buy some figure skates that I picked out of a pile of garage sale leftovers, I took my son to a Lego store to trade in some mini-figures for a piece he really wanted and I used coupons to buy 50¢ boxes of cereal.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

*This is not a sponsored post.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 13, 2016 · 46 comments

Lane table listing

  1. I took a quick trip to Fred Meyer this morning to pick up Tillamook cheese, as it’s on sale for $4.99 per 2-lb brick. I’ll likely stop in a few more times this week, as the expiration date is around six months out. I also picked up a $1.39 gallon of 1% milk, which was nearing its expiration date. We usually buy whole milk, but I make an exception when it’s so deeply discounted. #WhatAmIaRockefeller?
  2. I hung three loads on laundry on the clothesline at the same time, which may be a record. It took a lot of hangers and doubling up on a few lightweight things like fleece blankets, but in the end, everything was dry. I know this probably only saved me around a dollar, but it gives me great pleasure, plus our clothing lasts a heck of a lot longer.
  3. I finally listed my thrifted Lane table that I refurbished. I’ll be sad to see it go, but we’re about to pay out an enormous amount of college tuition for the fall term, so any bonus money will be welcome. I also signed up for a month of hospital shifts yesterday, which was much simpler as I no longer need to work around the kids’ schedules. Sniff . . . 
  4. I darned a pair of my son’s socks which had two holes and one about-to-be hole. It took awhile to complete, but I had Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the movie Sisters to keep me company.
  5. I stopped into a fancy women’s clothing consignment store the other day, as they always have a basket of free hangers for the taking. My son will need these for his dorm room, and the way I figure it, every dollar saved is an extra dollar for tuition, room and board.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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It’s time for another Non-Consumer Advocate Photo Essay, as sometimes photos are better than words.

I took my younger son to the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet yesterday, as I’m keeping an eye out for one more fitted twin sheet for him to take to college. (Oregon state schools don’t begin until the end of the month.) Although I didn’t find a sheet that I liked, I did spy a few goodies, most of which I photographed and left in place, although I did buy a couple of things.

I was sorely tempted to buy every single one of these cut pieces of vintage flour sack fabric:

jumble of flour sacking

Instead I bought three already pieced portions of what looks to have been the beginnings of a double wedding ring quilt for my mother, who is a textile historian.

pieced flour sacking

I also bought this uncut piece, which I knew my mother would appreciate. When you’re paying $1.59-per-pound, fabric scraps are a bargain!

flour sacking

Although I didn’t buy it, this sturdy rattan couch would be a great DIY refurbishing project, as it would look co cute painted and reupholstered. Priced at a mere $5, I know someone will snap it up!

rattan couch

I always take a moment to glance through vintage Little Golden Books, as they were often illustrated by the wonderful Garth Williams, who is most famous for The Little House books as well as Charlotte’s Web. Often uncredited, Williams’ style is unmistakeable.

baby animals book

I hate opposums, but even my hard hearted heart melted a wee bit at this sweet drawing.

opossum

This photo is from a traditional Goodwill, and I snapped a photo as the lamp is very bold and sculptural:

lamp

Unfortunately, you know that someone in the room has to face the back angle of the lamp. Stay classy, people!

unfortunate view

I was handed a couple pairs of branded cheap sunglasses while at my younger son’s college orientation. They’re handy to keep in the car for passengers, or when I forget my own sunglasses. However . . .  I’m not a big fan of advertising.

Luckily, there’s much in life that can be fixed with the judicious use of a Sharpie pen.

Hilton glasses

Not perfect, but they can now be described at “neutral,” which in my book is a frugal win. (By the way, what you’re looking at in this photo is called an “Oregon tan.” You’re welcome!)

neutral glasses

My favorite Portland pizza joint is American Dream Pizza. Their doughy pizzas are to die for, which is apparently due to their garlic-butter crust. We only get it every few years, as they’re on the pricey side, so I decided a create my own facsimile.

Here’s my attempt, which featured a crust brushed with a melted butter-garlic powder slurry solution.

Delish!

pizza

In the end, my son and I bought $6.43 worth of stuff from the Goodwill outlet.

  • 1 pair of G-Star Raw pants.
  • 1 T-shirt.
  • 1 pair of brand new looking Nike Elite socks.
  • 1 pillow case.
  • 1 gorgeous Mama Ro brand tablecloth, which is the perfect size for our dining room table.
  • The fabric pieces.

And since the pants alone would have cost $140 new, that’s a pretty good bargain!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 11, 2016 · 70 comments

Vaginal tarp

  1. I sanded and stained my thrifted midcentury Lane end table from a few weeks ago. I’d love to keep it, but it doesn’t really fit with our 1914 house. I’ll photograph it for Craigslist later on today, but if it takes awhile to sell? That’s fine, as I enjoy looking at it.
  2. I’ve been resurrecting my habit of daily detailed to-do lists, which got set aside during my sister’s 2-1/2 week visit from NYC. It helps me to be more productive and resist the sinister draw of the internet. I’ve found inspiration by this quote from Gretchen Rubin, “Things that can be done at any time are often done at no time.” I don’t know if she’s quoting someone else, but I just love the truth in this simple statement. So much of what I do has no external deadline, which makes it too easy to procrastinate.
  3. My neighbors are out of town, which means we’ll be rolling their garbage cans and recycling out to the curb. This is always a good opportunity to go through our house for anything we can add to their pickup. (They know we do this and encourage us to add to their bins.)
  4. I used a free mango teabag from the sample section at New Seasons to make sun tea, I found five pennies and a nickel on the ground at Fred Meyer, I cooked black beans in the crock pot for Mexi-bowls, I cut my husband’s hair, I’ve hung daily loads of laundry on the clothesline, I needed vanilla ice cream to accompany a blueberry crumble, but chose the small $1.50 tub and I used a sterilization wrap from work for my furniture staining project, which delightfully featured the word “vaginal.”
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 9, 2016 · 92 comments

  1. I made a large crockpot of chicken noodle soup from a leftover meal a few nights ago. Everyone seemed happy to eat it, and I spent maybe $1.25 to create the meal. There’s enough left in the fridge for multiple lunches, which should help stave off the “Mom, there’s nothing to eat!” complaints.
  2. I finally used up all the pages from my twenty-year-old son’s Crayola sketchbook. (I’d been using the pages to make large monthly family calendars.) I was thinking that I’d need to actually buy a large desk calendar, but them I realized that, duh . . . I could just tape a few pieces of paper together to create what I needed. Whew . . . crisis averted!
  3. I was texted a Redbox code, and I used it rent the movie Eddie The Eagle. My husband and I lived in London in 1988, and fondly remember the hype surrounding Britain’s goofy olympic ski jumper. The movie was no Oscar contender, but we enjoyed it anyway.
  4. My younger son and I stopped in at The Dollar Tree to pick up dorm essentials of shampoo, conditioner, soap and dental floss. Less money spent on stuff = more money available for tuition.
  5. I’ve been deep diving into the archives of the Things I Find in The Garbage blog, and am more inspired than ever to continue on my journey to resell, repurpose and just say no to to casual throwing away of useful items. Things I Find in The Garbage (genius title!) is written by a Montreal based man whose entire living is composed of reselling stuff he finds in the garbage! I consider myself an informed garbage picker, but I am nothing compared to this guy.  I highly recommend that you ch-ch-check it out!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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The following is a reprint of a previously published post. 

I am a lucky person. Why? Because I was lucky enough to be born into a country that values workers’ rights. As a hospital nurse, I take for granted that my enormous hospital has multiple fire extinguishers, fire doors, fire prevention protocols and policies that keep both people and structure from igniting.

Were Americans always so lucky?

No.

The industrial revolution hit our cities hard, and the influx of fresh immigrants meant that labor was both cheap and easily replaceable. Complain about your working conditions? Well there were many others who would be happy to take your job, so keep your mouth shut or get fired was pretty much the policy around the turn of the last century.

The New York City 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a wake up call to America industry, and it allowed for the union movement to start bringing safe and reasonable working conditions to our workers. Child labor, unending work hours, locked work spaces and other blatantly unsafe working conditions finally got the scrutiny they deserved.

It wasn’t immediate or easy, but unions brought safe workplaces to America.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

American manufacturers, now saddled with  the cost of paying working wages built overseas factories in countries that did not require the same workplace safety measures. Where cheap unending labor was once again easy to find and where abject poverty was the norm.

I wrote in 2010 about a factory fire in Bangladesh that killed a least a hundred people, where most deaths were attributed to workers jumping from upper story windows because a gate to the stairwell was locked.

Read that again, the stairwell was locked.

This garment factory was producing clothing for Gap, JCPenney, H & M and Wal Mart.

And now the story of another Bangladeshi garment factory fire has hit the news. 

“The Tazreen fire is the latest in a series of deadly blazes at garment factories in Bangladesh, where more than 700 workers, many making clothes for U.S. consumers, have died in factory fires in the past five years. As previously reported by ABC News, Bangladesh has some of the cheapest labor in the world and some of the most deplorable working conditions.”

I like a bargain as much as the next person, probably more. But there is a cost, a human cost to all those super cheap deals.

I will not be taking advantage of all the awesomely cheap consumer goods to support my holiday shopping this year.

Or any year.

Join me and buy used, buy American, buy local, buy from manufacturers who certify their safe labor practices.

And keep those poor workers and their families in your thoughts. They are just as deserving of safe working conditions as you and I.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy! Click HERE to read the original post which has 130 comments with some great advice and ideas!

One of the great things about The Non-Consumer Advocate is that it has evolved from a traditional blog to a genuine community. There are often conversations between readers within the comments section, that occur without any of my input.

And the conversations on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group? They’re insanely fantastic, sometimes it’s all I can do to a word in edgewise! It’s pretty common for readers to pose questions about sustainability, gardening, simple living, how to get a particular used item or, you guessed it, money issues. And while I’m thinking through how to best answer the question, a dozen or more readers will jump in with really thoughtful answers that knock my socks off. I often get great ideas and inspiration from the group.

But sometimes, a reader will write a question that begs for a larger audience than the 14,054 current members, and I bring that question over to the main blog.

Today is one of those days, so please help Amy, who is asking for ideas on how to get by on a very small income:

I’ve been an on again off again frugal person with more on time than off. Currently I find myself in a situation of almost an impossibly TIGHT budget. I’m talking $100 a month for food and a few necessities for 2 people hopefully that will increase a bit after the first of the year. A little background, It’s just my hubby and I plus pets (2 small dogs and a very old cat) . About 6 years ago hubby was in an accident and suffered a brain injury which left him unable to work. We were doing okay with his WC income and SSD but then the Social Security people said they goofed up the math and overpaid him so for the next 2 years they are withholding his SSD to make up for the overpayment. It’s crazy and it frankly it makes my brain hurt to think about it. Anyway I’m here to learn and to share and maybe we’ll make it through this tight spot in better shape than we entered it.

Here, I’ll start:

Amy, first of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your husband, I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you. My family has been in situations where our income hardly covered our expenses, (husband in school, me working part time with tiny children) but we always knew it was temporary.

Here are a few ideas to bring your expenses down:

  • Stop buying most anything disposable. This means paper towels, paper napkins, plastic silver wear, Kleenex.
  • Stop buying drinks when water will do. This means soda, juice, alcohol, and the like. Make coffee and tea at home, and keep a pitcher of tap water in the fridge, so there’s always a cool drink available. Make ice tea from tea bags instead of a mix. And it goes without saying, no bottled water!
  • Buy your food wherever it’s cheapest. This might mean fruit from one store and cereal from another. And certainly say goodbye to any brand loyalty. Buy whatever is on sale that week rather than having a set grocery list that doesn’t waver. This means only buy strawberries in early summer, pears in the fall and asparagus in the spring. Look into ethnic grocery stores, as they often provide great bargains. Also, take a look at dollar stores.
  • Eat less meat, and embrace the bean! Dried beans cooked in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker are the best protein bargain in town. Vegetarian chili, lentil soup, black bean burgers, rice and bean burritos and enchiladas are all tasty without sacrifice.
  • Study all of your set expenses. Are you paying extra for low deductible home owners insurance or add-ons on your phone line? Call your insurance agent and let them know if you’re driving less and ask about any new discounts. Call all the customer service numbers and negotiate lower rates. I have done this, and it’s easy! If you have a cell phone, then cancel your landline.
  • Get to know your library for what they offer beyond books. DVD’s, CD’s, audio books, whatever. And then, (this is important here) return everything on time.
  • Take advantage of all the free events that your city or town offers. Concerts, movies, museum nights, readings, lectures, dances performances, etc. There is no reason to sit at home just because you have no money.
  • If there’s something that you need, see if any of your friends or family have an extra one. Facebook is great for this. And if it’s something you just need to use rather than own, see if you can borrow it.

But sometimes employing frugal practices is simply not enough, and you need to be bringing in more money, in which case you should consider:

  • Sell unused items from your home. It doesn’t have be a priceless object, as unwatched DVD’s, books, electronics, furniture, clothing, video games, sporting equipment and kitchenware can also plump up your bank account. Try Craigslist, as it’s free without the annoyance of shipping.
  • Start using Swagbucks for your internet searches. This website gives out points (A.K.A. “Swagbucks”) for searching the web, which can then be used to buy different items, (although I always choose the Paypal gift cards.) You won’t get rich from this, but you might as well earn money something you’d be doing anyway.
  • However, be aware that your government benefits may cap the amount of income you can bring in, so be careful here.

Now your turn. What money saving/money earning advice do you have for Amy to help her through this difficult period of her life? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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