Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 9, 2016 · 11 comments

  1. My sister and I spent yesterday running errands, which included dropping off a few donations at the New Rochelle Goodwill. (She lives in The Bronx, so it’s easier to drive north to Westchester county than it is to drive south into Manhattan.) I found lots of great things to photograph for a future “Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will” blog post. But most importantly, I actually bought something, which was an Ibex brand merino wool black hoodie. It fits me like a dream and only set me back five dollars! These sell for $130 new, so this was a great score. I expect to wear this garment every day for the rest of the winter, so I just wanted to give ya’ll a heads up!
  2. We then stopped into a church thrift shop where I rifled through a huge basket of Christmas ornaments to pick out some adorable vintage specimens. I had hoped to use vintage ornaments for my holiday wreaths last week, so now I’ll be ready for the next time I attempt this craft project. And the price for all these adorable ornaments? $2.50.
  3. I spent a minutes or two on Yelp.com to find an Italian bakery near where my sister had a doctor’s appointment. The west coast simply doesn’t have the same kind of old school Italian businesses that can be found in the NYC area, so I like to take full advantage of the the cultural differences when I travel. Needless to say, it was money deliciously well spent. Plus, we were the only people there not speaking Italian, which was very cool.
  4. I relisted a couple of things on eBay that had expired.
  5. I e-mailed my boss to point out that a day that I’d called in sick was showing up as “unpaid.” She was able to go into the system and fix this error, which is important since it was the only shift for my next paycheck. I also signed up for the next hospital schedule and was able to get two 12-hour shifts per week, which is my goal.

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 December 7, 2016 · 59 comments

  1. I didn’t buy a $750 Christmas tree here in New York City. ($1000 when you include “extra like delivery and a stand”) Good thing I live in Oregon where a gal can either garbage pick an artificial tree or buy a fresh one for $25.
  2. I didn’t rationalize spending $20 by calling it as a $23.50 purchase. $23.50 rationalization

Especially since the example of the uncle’s gift is this bafflingly ridiculous moose eggnog glass, which is possibly absolutely the worst gift ever!

moose glass3. I was able to do my laundry in my sister’s washing machine, as well as borrow a long sleeve shirt, since I accidentally left my favorite one at home. Being able to launder while on vacation is key to packing light!

4. I took pictures of some books I want to put on hold from my own library while out and about yesterday.

5. I made dinner for my sister’s family, since she wasn’t home until 6:45 this evening.

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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Non-Consumer Photo Essay — NYC Edition

by Katy on December 7, 2016 · 9 comments

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

I’m still in NYC visiting my sister, although of course I’m not buying any pointless and cluttersome souvenirs. For example, this statuette of the Empire State Building. (Although this particular item is from a Portland, Oregon Goodwill.)

Empire State souvenir

My sister, niece and I started out our day by showing up for a first-come-first-serve tour of the main NYC library at 11:00 A.M. Luckily, showing up fifteen minutes ahead of time seemed to ensure we had a spot on the free tour.

I was enamored by this quote, carved into the stone of this “marble palace for book lovers.”

Free library NYC

Here are my sister and I waiting for the tour to begin.

sister love

You’re probably familiar with this amazing national treasure, known worldwide by its lion statues, named “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

Behold their mighty presence!

Lego lions

Oh wait, those are the Lego lions in the children’s wing. My bad.

Here’s one of the actual lions, all decked out for the winter season:

Actual library lion

The different wings of the library are ornately adorned as if for royalty. Check out the awe inspiring ceiling of this room. Funded by the Astors, Rockefellers, Hamiltons, Guggenheims and other prominent families so that ordinary citizens would have a free and beautiful place to access books. The library was required from the beginning to be open into the evening so that citizens could come after work.

ceiling

The children’s area has the original Winnie The Pooh animals that inspired A.A. Milne to pen stories for his son, Christopher Robin.

Original Winnie The Pooh

Look how adorable the tiny Piglet is!

Piglet

Afterwards, the three of us walked down to Koreatown, where we indulged in an amazing meal at Woorijip Authentic Korean Food. We enjoyed too many choices from the most amazing buffet. Seriously so delicious, check them out if you’re in the area!

Of course, I used Yelp to find a restaurant. See that “$” on the top right corner? That’s where I always start my searches!

http://woorijipnyc.com

Our next stop was to the Herald Square Macy’s to walk through their free Santaland. I forced everyone take the escalators to the eighth floor, as the upper floors still have their original wooden escalators from the 1920’s. They feel and sound like a time traveling adventure, and are an iconic slice of old New York. I even took a video, which I posted on Instagram!

Macy's elevator

The Santaland was sadly a shadow of what it was in 1988 when David Sedaris and I worked there as elves. It was around 25% of the original size and 1000% less magical.

This creepy tree face didn’t help.

horrible tree face

Oh New York, you never fail to deliver.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Non-Consumering Everywhere I Go

by Katy on December 6, 2016 · 33 comments

Jessica eBay

I’m day four into a week long trip to visit with my sister in NYC, and although that sounds very exciting, it’s mostly engaging in the same kind of activities that I would be doing at home. For example:

  • I taught my sister to sell on eBay so she can start to sell the excess cool stuff that she and and her husband don’t really need in their home.
  • We stopped at her local library to pick out books. (I got the newest Marian Keyes book.)
  • We shopped at Goodwill after buying groceries at Trader Joe’s. (I bought a lovely Lord & Taylor gift for my mother!)
  • Our plans today include going to the main library on Fifth Avenue for an official (and free!) tour. You know the library, it’s the one with the famous lion statues!
  • We’ll walk over to the Mood Fabrics store to geek out over Project Runway. And why yes, I will say “Thank you, Mood” when I leave the store!
  • We’ll then walk down to the Herald Square Macy’s to be herded through Santaland and get our picture taken with Santa. I worked there as an elf in 1988, so it’s not just David Sedaris who knows all the behind the scenes machinations and shenanigans! I’m excited to bring back the memories.
  • Although we’ll grab lunch, it’s likely to be something simple, maybe Korean food?

Note a trend? Nothing is expensive, a lot of our activities are free and I’m not planning on shopping as an activity.

It’s just me, in another city, pretty much doing what I do at home.

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 December 4, 2016 · 65 comments

Air Train signage

  1. I was able to successfully navigate the public transportation from Newark airport into Manhattan by taking the “Air Train” to Amtrak. I was nervous about figuring this out, but told myself that zillions of other people do this on a daily basis. Luckily, there is great signage throughout the airport. Plus, there were women wearing “Need Help?” buttons available to assist and answer questions. The cost was a flat $13, which was much cheaper than it would have been to take a cab. Plus, I was able to help an overwhelmed Oklahoma woman to do the same thing.
  2. I found a dime on the floor of the Newark airport bathroom. It was nowhere near the toilets, so yes . . . I picked it up. #collegefund
  3. We went straight from Penn station to go see Othello: The Remix, which was great. (So amazing and surprisingly funny, I highly recommend it!) My plan had been to leave my roll-aboard suitcase in the coat check area during the play, but it turns out that they didn’t have one. I ended up tucking it in a corner of the lobby next to the concession stand, which made me nervous about having it stolen. I didn’t have to tip a coat check person, so I guess this was frugal, although frankly I would been happy to pay for the piece of mind.
  4. I packed two sandwiches, a couple of bananas and some almonds for my nonstop flight from Portland to Newark. It ended up being more food than necessary, but it kept me from paying the inflated prices of an inflight meal.
  5. I packed my niece and nephew’s Chanukah gifts in with my luggage, which saved the cost of shipping.

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 December 1, 2016 · 88 comments

Othello: The Remix

  1. My sister has taken my practice of experiential gifts and bought me a ticket to go see Othello: The Remix for this weekend. Although my birthday isn’t until early January, we’ll be able to enjoy this off-Broadway show together during my visit. I picked up an adorable $2.50 Goodwill blouse to wear to the theater, as I’ll need to look a bit dressy for the occasion.
  2. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages yesterday, and was rewarded with the tenant’s leftover butter, salad mix, eggs and Tillamook cheese. Hooray for the extra money from side gigs that also include free food!
  3. I’m down to a single pair of jeans, which are sadly a summer length. I forced myself to try on jeans at Goodwill until I found a pair that I liked and fit well. They are perfect amount of skinny for tucking into boots, yet not so skinny to cause villagers to run for the hills. I have a Goodwill gift card which I’m using to fill in some wardrobe holes as well as holiday shopping. Nice to shop without actually spending any money.
  4. I stopped at Trader Joe’s and spent only $41, despite buying two full grocery bags plus a 12-pack of toilet paper. I normally buy just a couple of things there (toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, bananas, hummus.) I think the key is that I bought simple food and steered clear of desserts and booze. With the kids off to college, I can no longer throw candy cane Joe-Joes into the cart without fully admitting that they’re for me.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a gold plated apartment in the sky.

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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Non-Consumer Travel Hacks

by Katy on November 30, 2016 · 24 comments

Travel mug

I’m flying from Oregon to New York City in just a couple of days to visit with my sister. (You may remember that I jumped on a cheap promotional ticket awhile back.) And since I strive to be an organized and deliberate person, my to-do list is both long and detailed. Not only because I don’t want to forget anything important, but also because it takes extra forethought to travel in a non-consumer manner.

My goal is to minimize waste and avoid overpriced food/services. And with a little bit of preparation, these goals are completely attainable.

Non-Consumer travel hacks:

  • Download the free airline app, which allows you to check in using your phone, plus it gives you a digital boarding pass to save on ink and paper. Of course, you should also join the frequent flyer program for the airline.
  • Bring an empty travel mug and water bottle. Although you can’t pass security with more than 4 ounces of liquid, there are always water fountains near the gate. You can then fill your water bottle for the flight. The travel mug can be used for free coffee, tea or even soda on the flight.
  • Pack your own food. Airplane food is both expensive and whatever is the polar opposite of delicious. (Gross? Bland? Yucky?) So plan ahead to have simple meals and snacks on hand to satisfy both boredom and hunger.
  • Pack zero waste items such as bandanas, which can double as paper towels or tissues. Travel is no excuse to mindlessly create extra garbage.
  • Download Netflix shows/movies to your phone ahead of time. This is a new feature, and requires you to have the most up to date version downloaded through the app store. This hack allows you to watch your shows even while in airplane mode. 
  • Pack reading material. Avoid the temptation of the airport booksellers by bringing something from home, even a library book. (I prefer paperbacks when traveling as they take up less space.) For those who use an e-reader, download some free library e-books ahead of time.
  • Borrow instead of buy. Most luggage spends 99.99% of its life in storage, so put the word out among family and friends if you need an extra suitcase or two. My friend and I have been practicing this sharing economy hack for years without even a single incident.
  • Pack lightly. Avoid checked luggage fees by minimizing the stuff that accompanies you on your travels. Choose outfits you can mix and match, and then wear your clunkiest shoes during the flight. (You’ll notice that a large percentage of women wear their boots during travel instead of adding them to their suitcases.) Take advantage of laundry services, or simply wash out your lightweight items by hand.
  • Don’t bother traveling with items that you can borrow. Examples would be scarves, gloves, umbrellas, etc. My sister is a knitter/crocheter, so I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can borrow a scarf or gloves from her once I hit my destination.
  • Utilize public transportation. Getting from the airport to your destination isn’t as hard as it sounds. You can research the process ahead of time, which can usually be found online with just a couple clicks of the mouse.

Do you have a favorite non-consumer travel hack to add? Please share them in the comments section below.

Looking for NYC specific frugal travel ideas? Click HERE to read my blog post on that subject.

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 November 29, 2016 · 90 comments

Cheap Cole Haan-Nikes

  1. I did a quick TV appearance this morning on AM Northwest, and although I thought about freshening up my wardrobe for the occasion, I chose instead to wear my everyday clothes. I knew I wouldn’t be seen from the waist down, plus it’s not as if I’m a fashion or beauty blogger. I presented about making holiday wreaths from Goodwill ornaments and managed to work in the phrase “over manufacture of consumer goods” even though the segment was just a few minutes long. Click HERE to watch my TV appearance.
  2. My son scored a pair of $250 Cole Haan-Nikes for a budget friendly $12.50 at Goodwill. They were in excellent condition and exactly his size. Now I want a pair! Seriously, I would so rock these shoes!
  3. I listed two big bags of Christmas ornaments on my local buy nothing group just now. They’re leftover from the TV Goodwill crafting project, and will be much more welcome in someone else’s home than mine. I’ve been assembling the holiday wreath materials for a couple of months and am sick to death of the space that they take up!
  4. I learned that a close-by business will eagerly give away free packing materials such as bubble wrap and those awful bags of air. This was good information to tuck into my brain as I’d just used up the majority of my packaging stash for a recent eBay sale. I have a few fragile items that I’ve been meaning to list, so this should inspire me to put those listings together!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a gold plated apartment in the sky.

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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For most Americans, the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, a day dedicated to shopping, a day to take advantage of one-day only deals. It’s become controversial through the years, as customers crowd the stores and trample one another for cheap electronics and consumer goods. Few can argue that it’s anything but crass.

So emerged the one-day event known as Buy Nothing Day, described as “An international day of protest against consumerism celebrated annually just after Thanksgiving.”

I follow The Compact, and thus buy only used; although frankly at this point I hardly buy anything beyond consumables and the occasional second run movie ticket. So yeah . . . I won’t be pitching a tent outside Best Buy as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away.

My problem with Buy Nothing Day is that, like Black Friday it’s a one day event. Buy nothing this one day, but then shop normally the other 364 days. Yes, it gets people talking about our consumer society, and that’s a good thing, but it’s still just one day.

One day is not enough.

I propose that people treat the day after Thanksgiving as just another Friday. It’s a day when you have the day off from work or school, so go ahead and luxuriate in bed a few extra hours and then eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. (Did I not just describe the perfect day?)

Buy Nothing Day should be replaced with 365 days of conscious consumerism. An entire year where consumers citizens make deliberate decisions about the purchases they make and how those purchases effect this world we live in. Only buy products that are produced by companies that provide their employees a living wage and safe working conditions. Companies who do not engineer planned obsolescence into everything they manufacture.

So yes, go ahead and choose to buy nothing on Black Friday if that’s your inclination, but please don’t think that can shop with abandon the other 364 days just because you abstained for that single day.

Shop deliberately. Shop thoughtfully. Shop responsibly. Shop less.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Garbage Finds masthead

If you were the type of child who daydreamed about hunting for buried treasure, you’re not alone. Many of us assumed we’d have a career where paperwork meant a treasure map, featuring a great big “X” marking the location of a chest spilling over with gold doubloons, jewels and priceless artifacts.

Believe it or not, there’s a Montreal man who’s actually living this dream.

Twenty nine year old Martin Gregory has been supporting himself as a modern day treasure hunter since 2013, but instead of a pirate’s treasure map, he relies on an in-depth knowledge of the city’s garbage collection days, as well as a willingness to set squeamishness aside in the name of rescuing the great stuff that would otherwise be destined for Canada’s landfills. Gold, jewels, silver, historical artifacts? He finds it all, and luckily for us, Gregory’s been chronicling his adventures since 2012 on his blog GarbageFinds.com. (Aka “Things I Find in The Garbage.”)

Self described as a “professional scavenger and entrepreneur making a living selling curbside garbage,” Gregory spends his evenings digging through the garbage of Montreal’s diverse neighborhoods. He then researches and lists his finds on eBay, Craigsist and Etsy, as well as hosting regular garage sales that draw both readers and random passers-by who eagerly scoop up his eclectic finds. He also holds onto broken gold and silver jewelry until he has enough to sell for scrap to his local pawn shop. And electronics? He finds so many last generation phones, laptops and iPads that he has a “stock photo” to illustrate when he’s sold something.

Although Gregory searches for things he can turn over for a profit, he also considers himself an historic preservationist, as the blog serves “an archive for things beautiful and historic that would otherwise have been destroyed.”

Gregory recently took the time answer a few questions for the Clark Howard community.

1) What was your first big find that you were able to resell for a nice profit? Also, what have been your favorite finds?

One of my first great finds was an antique 14k gold Waltham pocketwatch. I ended up selling that to my aunt for $250. Early on I actually had very good luck with jewelry – on two occasions I found around a thousand dollars worth of gold jewelry, and on a few other occasions I found large collections of mostly costume jewelry. I haven’t had that same kind of luck with jewelry since, though I did come across a good haul of modernist jewelry last spring.

I’ve saved so much cool stuff that it’s hard to pick a favourite. I think my most interesting find though might be a Nazi German passport that belonged to a Jewish woman who escaped just before WWII. The history of that piece is really fascinating, as you might expect. Otherwise, some of my favourite finds are decorative, ie: my furniture and the art I put on the walls.

Nazi-era Jewish passport

2) What items have most surprised you in terms of their resale value?

The market for perfumes, especially vintage ones was very surprising to me. At a certain point years ago I realized that I should look up all my finds on eBay’s completed listings, and that’s how I figured out that perfume was actually worth decent money. Before that I really had no idea! I wasn’t really a perfume guy, and I had no idea how much money people spent on them. It turns out that the nice ones are very expensive, and that old formulas (which might only date back to the 80s or 90s) are often more desirable than the new ones. Over the last few years I’ve made probably around 3k from perfumes, which is great.

perfumes

3) What was the tipping point that made you realize you could support yourself with garbage picking?

At first I was just living a very frugal lifestyle, and I realized that I didn’t really need to make much in order to get by. My rent was around $250 for instance (I lived with a few different roommates) and I was able to keep my expenses pretty low. When I started doing this full-time I mostly just thought of it as a fun experiment – it certainly felt like a better idea that doing minimum wage work.

Over time though I just got better and better at finding trash, identifying what had value, and knowing how best to sell it. A fun way to sustain myself was becoming a legitimate “job.”

These days I feel quite confident that my line of work can sustain me. I made around 20k last year, which is just above the Canadian poverty line. Considering I live off trash I think that’s impressive! This year I think I’ll make around 24k (I’m still improving this approach) and I could see myself making around 30k if I continue on this path – maybe more if I get really lucky. That’s not bad for one person, especially considering I’ve kept my expenses fairly low otherwise.

4) What advice do you have for those looking to follow your lead?

I would say do some research before going in! I wish I had done this more when I started out. It took me years to figure out some things that are really quite simple if you just put the time into reading. In particular, my eBay skills took much longer than necessary to develop. I would personally recommend the Scavengerlife podcast and Reddit’s flipping subreddit as good sources of knowledge, though I’m sure there’s more out there that I’m not familiar with.

Also, it’s a good idea to know your bedbug. Sometimes things, especially furniture are thrown out with very good reason. Thankfully, the bugs are actually pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for. I have a section of my blog (How to avoid bedbugs) dedicated to helping you with that, so check it out.

5) I know you’re very motivated to keep usable and historic items from being needlessly buried in landfills, what’s your big message that you’d like to convey to Clark Howard readers?

I guess it would be not to be afraid of trash! People get very much caught up in the idea that anything in a garbage bag is absolutely disgusting, and sometimes that’s true. However, if you learn the right “screening” techniques (read my blog for tips!) you won’t get your hands dirty that often, and you might happen across some really great stuff. Occasionally I’ll make a thousand dollars or more from one trash pile, so just by keeping your eyes and mind open you might luck into some cash even if you’re not a “full-timer” like me.

Conclusion

You’re probably unlikely to quit your day job in the name of garbage picking, but maybe, just maybe you can get over you fear of germs in the name of your inner treasure hunter. You never know, you might strike gold!

Click HERE to read through the entirety of the GarbageFinds.com’s archives.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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