Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 18, 2018 · 38 comments

  1. My son and I found enough excess stuff in the house to warrant a donation trip to Goodwill. (Is there such thing as a finish line when it comes to decluttering?!) I didn’t find anything worth recluttering my home buying, but my son brought home a $12.99 turntable. He’d been keeping an eye out for a decent record player for awhile, so he knew to jump at this purchase.

    Luckily Goodwill has a great return policy, so there was zero worry about wasting our money on a non-functional item.

    I did not buy a set of hilarious vintage savings banks. However, I did photograph them for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome!

  2. I walked to the library last night as I had two overdue books. I ran this errand even though they were closed, as I simply wanted to cross this off from my to-do list.

  3. I came home from Seattle with a fresh eye aimed towards our grubby and mildly cluttery home. (Surely I’m not the only one who comes home from vacation and views their house differently.) However, I welcome fresh inspiration, and have spent a few hours cleaning, decluttering and reordering our front porch seating area, as well as the kitchen and bathroom.

    Our house isn’t perfect, but it’s slightly better and zero dollars were spent in the process.

  4. I brought a hostess gift of fresh hydrangea blooms to my friend Lisa in Seattle instead of something from a store. My backyard is rich with hydrangeas this time of year, and there’s an added benefit that my friend can compost her gift when they lose their freshness.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a вульгарная позолоченная квартира в небе.

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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In Defense of the Low Key Vacation

by Katy on July 17, 2018 · 30 comments

My son and I drove up to Seattle for a lovely little three day vacation. This was prompted by an invitation from my friend Lisa whose family was out of town, leaving her with an empty house and a generous mindset. Never being one to turn down an invitation for a free vacation, I consulted my calendar and booked our stay.

I’m kind of paranoid about being labeled “a mooch,” (writing as “The Non-Consumer Advocate” can lead people to believe that I’m miserly) so I made sure to show my appreciation by paying for restaurant meals and being helpful around the house.

My older sister and I have a running schtick about being one another’s “Helmutina,” who is a vaguely Scandinavian au pair whose sole mission in life is to keep an immaculate house and entertain the children. It’s a good mindset for the ideal house guest, so yes, I donned my Helmutina persona and washed the dishes, swept the floor and attempted to have our presence be a gift instead of a burden. (Helmutina is also extremely sexy, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

Unlike a regular vacation filled with activities that empty the wallet and require post-travel recuperation, this trip was low key and straight up relaxing.

What didn’t happen:

Space Needle
Pike Place Market
Museums
Street vehicles that transform into boats
Sporting events
Touristy restaurants
Sitting in crappy Seattle traffic while driving from one activity to another.
Purchasing of souvenirs.

What did happen:

Goodwill
Brunch
Capitol Hill farmer’s market
Walking through Volunteer Park
Groceries/goodies from Uwajimaya
Hosting a dinner that included another college friend. (Ed!)
Takeout sushi
Watching the World Cup soccer game from the comfort of Lisa’s couch.
Much, much conversation and laughter.

Truth be told, I prefer this style of vacation to one that costs thousands of dollars and involves extensive planning, sitting on the tarmac, exhausting activities and expensive admission fees.

Picture, if you will . . . a staycation in someone else’s house in someone else’s city. Ahh . . . .

Thank you, Lisa!

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 July 9, 2018 · 91 comments

  1. My son and I spent one night at my father and step mother’s Mt. Hood cabin over the weekend. We don’t have the cashola for official vacations this summer, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the free resources that are available to us. (Even though we finally have just one in college at this point, I do need to make sure that we have enough money in the bank for Fall’s tuition payment, as well as our regular expenses which currently include rent on two apartments and my husband’s medical bills.)

    We’ll also be driving up to Seattle this weekend to visit with an old college buddy and enjoy a nice mini vacation. She lives in a lovely home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and I look forward to hanging out with her and scoping out the area.

    These short trips dovetail into my work schedule, although my husband is too sadly too busy with his full-time schedule and volunteer commitments to accompany us. However, he’s taking vacation time in late August, so we’ll figure out some low/no cost vacation-y activities then.

  2. I’ll be helping my mother clean her guest cottage this afternoon as her tenants just left and new people arrive tomorrow. I’m not doing this as often as I have in years past, as this house rents for a minimum of 30 days, and she sold the one that was commercially zoned and thus could be rented for a few days at a time.

  3. I’m arranging to sell a small stack of Fiestaware plates that my mother had brought by for last week’s garage sale. A few sold on the day, but I didn’t want to donate them as I knew I could get decent money through a private sale. The buyer seems super enthused to come by, but I’ll count these chickens after they hatch.

  4. I work tomorrow and Wednesday and will prepare food to bring, I took my son to see the movie Isle of Dogs at a cheap second run theater, I’m using my backyard clothesline to air dry my laundry, I nabbed a perfectly small box from the neighbor’s recycling for my eBay sales, I planted new lettuce seeds as we’d eaten through the last crop, I’m reading a library copy of This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are and my son and I washed our car by hand rather than take it through a car wash.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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{ 91 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 4, 2018 · 68 comments

  1. My son went through his room and did a major purge of his clothing. (It filled one of those blue Ikea bags!) Ideally everything should have gone into last week’s garage sale, but somehow that didn’t happen. Instead we’re going to to take it to the Buffalo Exchange consignment shop in the neighborhood, and then donate whatever’s left to Goodwill.

    This bag-o-stuff has been sitting in our living room all week and was starting to annoy me, so I put it into the back of our car to simplify the selling/donating process.

    Remember, people:

    “Crap out of the house, money in!”

  2. We’ve been spending too much money on food over the past month, so I took a proactive step and threw two cups of kidney beans into the crock pot for tonight’s dinner. (Hello, Dollar Tree beans!) We’ll add in tasty tidbits like chicken, salsa, avocado, sour cream, lettuce, scallions and cheese to create a Mexi-bowl buffet. Yummy, healthy and cheap!

  3. I have zero plans for today, even though it’s 4th of July. No potluck to attend, no fireworks to light, no goofy red, white and blue desserts to create and no decorations to create/buy/discard. Ahh . . . .

  4. I worked the last two days and drank the free so-so coffee as well as the free delicious tea, I packed my own meals using zero waste supplies and enjoyed a couple of delicious See’s chocolates from an appreciative patient, I used a random “Patient Belongings Bag” from my husband’s surgery to line the kitchen garbage can, I’ve been wearing a couple “new” pieces of clothing that I picked up from an after-garage sale free pile, (a Ralph Lauren striped hoodie and an embroidered floral long-sleeve T-shirt) I put up a couple of listings on Facebook Marketplace and I lent my rug shampooer to a friend so her daughter could freshen up a second hand couch. Making belongings available to others is an important big picture tool in minimizing unnecessary purchases.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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{ 68 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 1, 2018 · 69 comments

  1. Our single day garage sale was a huge success, in terms of sales as well as crap that left my house never to return. (My secret tagline for this blog is “crap out of the house, money in.”) And although I did sell two bikes for $40 and $45 apiece, most sales were between 50¢ and $2. In total I brought in $300 from stuff that had been serving no purpose other than to take up space in my house. And with the exception of five items, all unsold item got immediately loaded into my minivan and driven straight to Goodwill for donation.

    Hopefully this round of decluttering will keep my home easy to manage and completely and effortlessly tidy. At all times. Because that’s a realistic goal.

  2. I work the next two days and have already prepped the food for my work lunches. Since I work 12-1/2 hour shifts, it can get expensive pretty quickly when buying food at the hospital. You know . . . because of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. I went to a friend’s party last night and brought homemade scones with a fancy 99¢ jar of lemon curd that I’d picked up from The Grocery Outlet. Super yummy yet frugal as can be, as scones are nothing more than sweetened biscuits.

  4. I brought in a DVD and X Box controller that I’d pulled from a university dumpster to the CD Game Exchange store in my neighborhood. They gave me $12.50 in store credit which my son used to buy himself a game that he’d been wanting.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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How to Run a Profitable Garage Sale

by Katy on June 25, 2018 · 14 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

Garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, boot sales. Whatever you call them, they’re a great way to make extra money while ridding your home of unwanted Stuff. A well-organized and well-stocked garage sale can bring in hundreds of dollars, so it’s important to plan them out properly.

I consider myself a bit of an expert on pulling together a kick-ass and profitable garage sale — I held another one just last weekend — so I thought I’d share my wisdom with The Non-Consumer Advocate community.

Here are my top tips for running a profitable garage sale:

    • Make sure you have enough stuff to warrant a garage sale. This may seem like a no-brainer, but having enough Stuff to make people get out of their cars is key. Start a garage sale pile as far ahead in advance as possible. I’m not suggesting that you bring Stuff into your home in order to later sell at a garage sale. (Garage sale prices rarely warrant a resale mentality; for that use Craigslist or eBay.)

    • Get help. Recruit a friend or family member to act as your backup. This will be important for potty breaks, busy times, safety, setup and entertainment. Otherwise, no one will believe it when you tell your story about the distinguished looking woman who specifically asked if you had any “1970s vintage porn.”

    • Keep it short. Friday, Saturday, Sunday sales are exhausting. I’ve been known to have one-day sales, put everything back into the garage (still on their tables), and then do another sale months later. Believe me: You’ll be zonked after one day, so know and respect your endurance.

    • Move your car from in front of your house. If shoppers can’t find an easy parking spot, they’re likely keep driving along. And while you’re at it, see if you can convince your neighbors to move their cars as well.

    • Talk to your neighbors about organizing a group sale. Neighborhood garage sales attract tons more customers, so spread the word ahead of time to arrange multiple sales. Or, better yet, hold your garage sale during an established entire neighborhood garage sale day. Talk to your neighborhood association.

    • Look beyond household Stuff as your merchandise. I have dozens of small euphorbiaplant starts that have volunteered in my front yard, as well as uninvited Lady’s Mantle. I will pot these up and sell them for 50¢ to $1 apiece. I also have some landscaping stone leftover from our stone wall project and will put that out as well.

    • Place individual Craigslist ads for your more desirable or bigger ticket items. I did this with our last garage sale two years ago and every single one of these items sold. I placed them as regular listings, but then wrote that they could be seen at my garage sale, with all the pertinent info. I also made sure to delete each of these listings as soon as they left the property. This may sound like a pain in the tuchus, but you can assemble the listing ahead of time, and then wait to approve them until the evening before.

    • Have a box of free stuff. Nothing is more fun than finding something for nothing, so I’ll be placing a large, well marked “FREE” box close to the curb. I’ll also mention the free box on the main Craigslist ad and place an individual Craigslist listing in the Free category.

    • Don’t price your stuff too low. People like to bargain, so allow some wiggle room. Also, you want to make money. You can always have a 50%-off sale over the last couple hours.

    • Price every item. If there’s no price on something, customers have no idea what a bargain it is.

    • Offer free lemonade or even just ice water. Most garage sales are held on hot days (except here in Portland, where everything is done in the rain), so a jug of watery lemonade or refreshing ice water is a nice gift to your customers.

    • Price items like a store would. I drink a lot of Red Rose tea, which comes with a tiny ceramic doo-dad in every box. I put these out at my last garage sale at “50¢ apiece or three-for-a-dollar,” and everyone, adults and children alike went nuts for them. And no one bought less than three.

    • Be friendly — but not too friendly. This may sound like odd advice, but I know that I mostly just want to be left to myself when I’m shopping, and doubt that I’m alone in this preference. I hate it when store clerks are too pushy, and garage sales are no different. Greet the person and then allow them to quietly peruse your crap.

    • Don’t base what you put out on what you would buy. I’ve been extremely surprised by what sells and what doesn’t at my garage sales. You never know if someone likes to fix broken things or is looking for materials for an art project. If it’s something you don’t want and it’s safe, put it in your garage sale.

    • Put up easy to read garage sale signs. Keep in mind that many of your potential customers are passing your sign at 35 miles per hour. Make the address and hours big and legible. You can always write some of the more juicy details in small script, but no one will come if they don’t know where you’re located. And when your garage sale is over, take your signs down! Otherwise it’s just graffiti and disrespectful to your neighborhood. It goes without saying, the best places for your signs are at intersections where cars have to stop anyway.

    • Place more exciting items closer to the curb. Got a ton of old magazines? Great, but don’t have that be what passerby see first. Put the awesome cool stuff out front and you’ll have more people stop by.

    • Make sure to have lots of small bills and change. Also bags. Nothing is more frustrating for customers than trying to pay and having it be a problem.

    • Keep the money somewhere safe. A lock box is great, but if you’re unable to constantly guard it, it’s worthless. I wear an apron with a big front pocket. Not only can I keep the money right on me, but it helps clarify who the seller is.

    • If you have the original box, keep it. Even if an item has been used, it’s somehow more appealing in the box.

    • Make yourself comfortable. You are going to have both busy and slow times, so put out a chair for yourself, slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat. Plan what you’re going to eat that day, and keep a bottle of tap water by your side.

    • Have a plan for what you’ll do with your unsold merchandise. Some non-profits will come pick up unsold garage sale Stuff, so research this ahead of time.

I ended up making $450 from my one-day garage sale last weekend. With the exception of a bicycle, this was all from low-priced items. The money now sits in a “Vacation Fund” savings account. Money in, crap out — what’s not to love?!

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 June 22, 2018 · 80 comments

  1. My son and I drove down to Eugene to complete the move out from his apartment, sign new lease paperwork and then indulge in a deep cleaning session. To say it was cathartic to clean a carpeted space that hadn’t seen the likes of a vacuum cleaner since September would be a massive understatement. (Remember the episode of Friends where Monica showed up to clean the apartment of Ross’ ex girlfriend? I definitely channeled my inner Monica for this task.)

    To leave a rental apartment as clean as possible is an important frugal act, as many landlords will charge you for any actual or perceived damage to the property. Needless to say, I took photos of the rooms after we’d completed our cleaning session.

  2. I renegotiated my son’s lease and was able to get a $300 kickback, even though we’d passed the official deadline for this bonus. I also successfully bargained against a rent increase and was able to arrange a ten month lease for the same monthly price as a twelve month lease. (Don’t want to pay for a summer apartment that we’re not occupying!)

    This may sound like some kind of sorcery, but all it took was to ask for the bonus and to say the sentence, “I’d rather not have the rent go up, is there any wiggle room on that?”

    Like any negotiation, the key was to kind and patient. Nobody does a favor for a jerk.

  3. We’re back on budget lockdown due to my daughter’s summer college expenses being significantly higher than I anticipated. (She’s taking two final classes to complete the requirements for her bachelor’s degree.) However, I enjoy a financial challenge. My son and I stopped into the Albany Costco for snacks after gassing up the minivan. I filled up on random free samples and he enjoyed a $1.50 hot dog. We didn’t get a chance for dinner until around 9:30 P.M., which ended up being a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza to share. Not the healthiest day, but our home diet is usually nicely balanced. Sometimes cheap wins the day to support big picture goals.

  4. – I sold a Eckhorn Stressless ottoman for $100 that I’d picked up at a Goodwill outlet for $5, (It took awhile to find a buyer, but it was too good a deal to pass up.)
    – I filled our reusable water bottles at home and was able to decline the offer of bottled water from my son’s leasing agent.
    – I picked up some $1 produce from the scratch-and-dent section at Fred Meyer. This included two heads of cauliflower, a bag of zucchini and a container of strawberries. Might actually make up for all the pizza.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 18, 2018 · 88 comments

  1. My husband, son and I drove down to Ashland, Oregon for our daughter’s college graduation. (Update: our oldest has transitioned to female and uses she/her pronouns.) We’re extremely proud of her accomplishments and so excited to cheer her on in person. There’s nothing frugal about putting someone through college, but our frugal choices made it possible to see her through college without student loans.

    She’s taking two last classes this summer to complete her requirements, but they still let her walk in the graduation ceremony.

  2. I took a stroll past the dorm room dumpsters, (as well as my daughter’s apartment dumpster) to peruse the merchandise.

    I found:

    – A boxed pre-lit artificial Christmas tree.
    – A fancy thermal coffee maker.
    – A crock pot.
    – A pair of Nike sneakers.
    – Notebooks, pens, files.
    – Three snap-top glass containers.
    – A Pokemon hoodie.
    – A sealed pack of gum.
    – Two skirts, two T-shirts, a dress shirt and a pair of jeans (Mostly in my size.)
    – Sealed plastic plastic food containers.
    – One shower shelf and one over-the-door hook thingamabob.

  3. Ashland is home to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but their amazing theater productions don’t fit in our current budget. (Tickets run $44 – $110 apiece.) Instead we enjoyed one of the free Green Show performances that run daily from June through October.  Am I sad that we’re currently unable to afford such an luxury? No, I’m just happy to have the circumstance to sit outdoors and listen to a free musical concert.

  4. We indulged in a few wonderful restaurant meals while in Ashland, but ate $1.50 Costco hot dogs while stopped for cheap gasoline in Roseburg, Oregon. I cannot stress strongly enough how extreme frugality allows for money to be available for the things that actually matter.

    For those who may be visiting Ashland, I highly recommend the Morning Glory Café, which serves the most delicious brunches in southern Oregon. (Just writing about them makes my mouth water.) Needless to say, I consider them to be a worthwhile indulgence.

  5. My son found $13.53 of coins outside a dorm on his campus, (click HERE to see the proof!) we were so stuffed from our Morning Glory brunch that we didn’t stop for food while driving back to Portland, I sold a thrifted lawn mower, a pair of gardening boots and a guitar case, I read a book I already owned (Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness) and then renewed my library books, our neighbor took care of our cats for free, (a reciprocal agreement) I used my AARP discount at the motel and I remembered to turn our hot water heater down while we were away.

  6. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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{ 88 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 13, 2018 · 56 comments

  1. I drove to Costco to pick up a few things, including a tank of gasoline. My husband had let our minivan gas drain down to a dangerous level, and I gotta say that I was a bit nervous driving across town on an almost empty tank. I could have filled up at a gas station near the house, but since Costco’s gasoline is consistently priced 40¢-per-gallon less than regular stations, I saved $7.60 with this gamble. I did go into the store for coffee beans and frozen blueberries, but you know that I snagged enough food samples to count as lunch.

  2. My son is home from school for the summer, and I have a tendency to spoil him rotten with restaurant meals and treats galore. (MY BABY!!) The two of us were readying for an afternoon out and about, so I made sure to fill our bellies with food from home before we headed out into the world. Sure, I bought him a $1.25 donut from the locally owned Helen Bernhard Bakery, but that was a much lower expenditure than an entire meal for two.

  3. My husband, younger son and I will be driving down for our oldest’s college graduation this week. We’ll be splurging on nice restaurant meals and a decent motel, but that’s only because we scrimp in the unimportant areas so that money is available for the stuff that does matter. And without the burden of student loans, our graduate will hopefully be set up for a sound financial future.

  4. I bought a semi-formal dress at Goodwill to wear to graduation, (as well as a memorial tribute to a family friend) my son painted an old pair of shoes for a new look, I sold a thrifted Bilibo baby toy through Craigslist, I’m in the beginning stages of planning a garage sale, I worked two days this week and foraged for food on a day that I didn’t bring a lunch and I enjoyed free food, booze and soccer tickets thanks to the Safeway Hometown Heroes award that my husband received. (Plus a $100 Safeway gift card!)

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 7, 2018 · 65 comments

  1. I needed to pick up a few things for my husband’s work lunches, so I made pit stops at Trader Joe’s and The Grocery Outlet, which are conveniently located just a few blocks apart. I bought nothing more than bananas at Trader Joe’s, as they’re 19¢ apiece, (a likely loss leader) and then completed the rest of my marketing at the random-inventory-but-man-is-it-cheap Grocery Outlet. Among other things, I picked up 25¢ bags of sunflower seeds, as well as 33¢ turkey dogs and 25¢ peppers from the clearance shelf. I love red and orange peppers, but hesitate to buy them in bulk as they can be a bit of a luxury item. I didn’t hesitate to buy all of them, as they’re easily sliced and frozen for future use. I spent $43.50 between the two stores and brought home four bags of groceries.

  2. I worked at the hospital on Monday and Tuesday and brought my lunch from home and drank the free so-so coffee. I had the opportunity to go home early on Tuesday, but chose instead to work on continuing education even though sitting at the computer for so many hours can cause time to slow to a glacial pace. Once I’m at work I always choose to stay. I’m there, I might as well get all my paid hours.

  3. I used the free public transportation pass that I get from my employer to go downtown. My transportation needs rarely mesh well with taking the bus, so I’m always happy when I can use this benefit.

  4. I sold two textbooks that I picked from a free pile, (or “freeple” as they’ve been cleverly titled by my niece) as well as a thrifted Jonathan Adler bookend, I finished a library book and just puttered around the house yesterday rather than going anywhere beyond the grocery store. Doing nothing is always the cheapest option.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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{ 65 comments }