The Economy of Swapping

by Katy on March 24, 2019 · 8 comments

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


I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood that provides pretty much everything I could hope for within easy walking distance. Restaurants, library, a Boutique Goodwill, food carts, groceries and one of my favorites, Old Portland Hardware. (Note – this stores has since moved.) My neighbor Nancy and I were leisurely walking home from a breakfast outing yesterday when we stopped in for a look-see. This store’s motto is “Pieces of history for your home.” although I see it more as “Eye candy for your home,” because the objects and creative reconfiguring of antiques are sweet enough to incur the wrath of dentists worldwide. Seriously, check out this photo:

I wasn’t there to shop, as my family’s finances are still reeling from this year’s tax bill, but this store is always worth a visit. I was wandering through admiring everything, when my eye fell upon a couple rows of the most darling antique Kerr canning jars from 1903. Wavy glass, air bubbles, hefty weight, these jars had it goin’ on! What drew me to these jars was the addition of the word “Economy,” jauntily flowing up at a diagonal. Priced at $4 apiece. But wait, I had a vintage faucet that my mother had passed along to me a few months back when she converted her clawfoot tub into a shower.

Thinking these would make the most adorable vases, I walked home and brought the faucet back to the store. The owner happily swapped out three jars for my faucet. No fuss, no muss, and no money switched hands.

Man, do I love my neighborhood!

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 March 23, 2019 · 40 comments

  1. I drove four-plus hours yesterday to bring my son home for spring break. On my way out the door I realized that I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I quickly assembled a PB&J,  as well as grabbing a banana and water bottle. He and I did stop at McDonald’s to splurge on Egg McMuffins as their app had them buy-one-get-one-for-a-penny. We also hit Costco midway for cheap(ish) gasoline. Nothing too earth shattering, but it did save money over eating in a restaurant. I ended up bringing our minivan instead of the Prius as it was raining after a dry spell and I was feeling paranoid about safety.

  2. I knew I’d be pooped last night, so I threw some chicken drumsticks into a down and dirty Asian-style marinade before I left the house. Based on this recipe from Struggle Meals, it’s a big hit at our house. Sure I added powdered garlic powder and ginger as I was in a massive hurry, but there were no complaints and it kept us from eating takeout or other random stuff. Although this recipe has to be assembled ahead of time, the hands on prep time is just a couple of minutes.

  3. I’d love to take the family on a fabulous trip for spring break, but it’s simply not in the budget. Instead, I’m planning at least one cheap diversion per day that gets us out of the house to enjoy Portland and her surrounding area. For example, a local second-run movie theater has 2-for-1 admission on Tuesdays, which makes it an affordable activity. (Hello, $2 movie tickets!!) And since they’re showing Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in The Sky, this one’s a no brainer. I do plan on spending out a bit in other areas, but strategically.

  4. I sold a vintage telephone and sauce pan on eBay, my husband and son are going to a free minor league soccer game tonight, I walked to the grocery store for milk, I’ve spent no money on anything other than food/groceries for at least a couple of weeks and I created a cat bed using towels I sourced from a free pile.

  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 March 21, 2019 · 79 comments

  1. I just finished reading a library copy of the book Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. In this memoir, Land chronicles the years she spent cleaning houses while simultaneously single parenting her young daughter. She is a deeply gifted writer, and her stories of how she survived this era are both vivid and informative. Poverty is a complex multi-generational issue, and I highly recommend this gripping book for anyone who’s interested in the human experience.

    And yes, I returned it to the library before it accrued any late fees!

  2. I did a large grocery shopping trip to Winco Foods, which is a regiobnal no-frills chain. It’s not in the neighborhood, (which is a tremendous pain in the tuchus) so I give myself a pat on the back whenever I schlep myself across town in the name of frugal adulting. Winco is employee owned and stories abound of long time employees with millions of dollars in their retirement accounts. Their prices are often half of those such as New Seasons or even Kroger, and I brought home six full bags of groceries for just $78. (It was only that high because I’ve been buying gluten-free items for my daughter. Think $5 loaves of bread and $4.50 packets of tortillas!) I really respect this company and feel good giving them my dollars.

  3. I somehow assembled a pan of enchiladas on a day when the refrigerator appeared to contain nothing more than Zuul, the gatekeeper of Gozer. (Ghostbusters, anyone?) I pulled together frozen corn tortillas, as well as leftover rice, beans, cheese, plus frozen shredded chicken and corn. I even had a random can of gloppy green enchilada sauce that I’d picked up from The Grocery Outlet, which completed the assemblage. It would impress zero-point-zero foodies, but it was filling and tasty. It certainly kept me from hitting the grocery store that day, which I call a frugal win!

  4. I convinced my daughter to hold off from getting her hair cut until the Supercuts training center is giving free cuts again, (probably next week) I batched errands to hit the credit union, library and grocery store, I hung laundry on the clothesline and I made sure to turn off the furnace since I was opening windows to get fresh air in the house.

  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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Walk into a Goodwill thrift store and you can pull a like-new items off the shelf. That’s great, but sometimes I’m in the mood for a project. Something I can mend, glue back together or scrub back to life. Something that requires a healthy dose of elbow grease.

Something like this Trek brand children’s bicycle. The tires were caked with mud, and the rims were crusted over with rust. However, it was a quality bicycle and priced at a mere $4.99 and worth the gamble. Especially since the current equivalent of this bike would set you back $210!

I’ve successfully used Bar Keeper’s Friend in the past, so I thought I’d see what kind of magic I could conjure using nothing more than scouring powder and elbow grease.

And boy howdy, did a simple scrubbing do the trick! Check out the mirror finish on the rims, as well as the mud-free tires, which came back to life using nothing more than water and a cleaning brush.

May I remind you how rusty/crusty/disgusty this bike’s wheels were before I worked my magic?

Another Goodwill find brought back to life! Not too shabby for five bucks and 20¢ of Bar Keeper’s Friend.

Want to know more about Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette and how they serve our community? Check out MeetGoodwill.org and ShopGoodwill.com.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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This post was sponsored by Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette. All opinions my own.

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

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of frugality vs. sustainability, which is a tricky subject. Yes, we want to be buying locally made and grown products, but not at the expense of our financial stability.

So which should we choose?

Luckily, things are never so black-and-white.

I went to a reading for my father’s recently published novel a few weeks ago. It was held in a small, locally owned book store. In the introduction, the owner said that, “Your decisions of where you shop truly determine your community.” I was struck by this notion and spoke with her afterwards to make sure I got the wording right. At this time more than any other in our lifetimes, our weak dollars are powerfully strong. We can choose to save a few bucks here and there buying from national chains that do not support our local communities, which has the potential to destroy our communities. Or, we can decide to support the businesses that we want to keep in our neighborhoods.

Does this mean I’m spending $2.50 a pound to buy locally grown organic apples? No. I choose to work part-time so that I can be the parent I want to be, and have time in my life to do the things that give me pleasure and satisfaction. Life is about balance and moderation, and I try to live as frugally as possible without being cheap in my decision making. It’s a fine line and I definitely straddle both sides. I’m very deliberate in my spending, which makes all the difference.

Sometimes I make the sustainable choice, but other times I make the purely frugal choice. I would like to be making 100% local and sustainable choices, but that would mean working full time. Which goes against how I want to be spending my energy at this stage of my life.

There are some areas where I’m willing to spend more to support my values. I pay extra for green energy, choose a locally owned bookstore over Amazon.com and let my kids spend their money at our favorite neighborhood art supply store.

Do I buy our groceries at New Seasons Market, our locally-owned-mostly-organic-and-local supermarket?

Sadly no, as this would at least double our food expenditures.

There are very few absolutes in life. I make neither completely frugal nor completely sustainable choices in my life. Every purchase I make, (or don’t make) is a opportunity to create the world I want for my family. Spending too much means driving 20 miles to work and back, and being away from my family. Getting the cheapest deal at any cost means supporting a disposable consumer culture that perpetuates the type of consumerism that I try to not support.

In the ideal situation, the most sustainable solution would also be the most frugal. An example of this is line drying one’s laundry or repairing something instead of replacing it. But to buy an energy efficient washing machine that uses less water does cost more money. A lot more money. (My $45 craigslist non-Energy Star model is still going strong five years post-purchase.)

Besides joining The Compact, (buy nothing new movement) what’s a Non-Consumer to do?

Beyond suggesting that each and every life purchase should be individually scrutinized, I don’t really have an answer on this issue. But I am curious to read your thoughts on the matter. Please share your take on frugality vs. sustainability in the comments section below.

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 March 17, 2019 · 86 comments

  1. I sold a push reel lawn mower through Craigslist, as well as a set of educational flash cards, a signed Edward Gorey book and another Starbucks travel mug on eBay. (I thrifted three brand-new travel mugs last month.) I also sold a couple of vintage houseware items to a local shop. The lawnmower took months to sell, but I wasn’t worried, as few Oregonians are in the market for a lawn mower in the middle of winter.

  2. My husband brought home a large bag of nice clean bubble wrap from work, which makes me very happy as it otherwise goes into the garbage. I can’t take it all as I only mail out 2-5 sales per week, but I can play a small role to keep plastics out of the landfill.

  3. I turned off the furnace and opened the windows as Portland is enjoying a rare warm and sunny weekend. I hung some laundry on the clothesline and spent a hour or so relaxing on the front porch with a library copy of the book Maid. So well written!

  4. I researched discounts for a dinner I’m being treated to by my mother, (10% AARP discount!) I packed leftovers for work lunches, I listed a couple of thrifted cast iron skillets on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, I returned library materials on time and I washed my sheets and immediately put them back on the bed as we don’t own many sets of sheets. Much cheaper this way.

  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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{ 86 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 12, 2019 · 88 comments

  1. I sold a pair on Danskos through Facebook Marketplace as well as a Starbucks travel mug through eBay. I rewrote a couple of Facebook Marketplace listings and then cross posted them on Craigslist, and body surfed coasted on the momentum to list a few new things on eBay.

  2. I was almost out of checks, so I stopped by my credit union to have them print out a dozen free “temporary checks.” Because I rarely write checks in the internet age, these ones will likely set me for the entirety of 2019. This may seem hardly worth the effort, but the cumulative effect of a thousand frugal decisions keeps me financially on track.

    Whatever it is that’s the opposite of “death by a thousand cuts,” this is it. Maybe “success by a thousand frugal hacks?” Not as catchy, yet ever so practical.

  3. I brought home and laundered a nicely hand-knit glove that I found in the library parking lot. (It looked like it had been there for a couple of days.) The sad thing was sodden and filthy, so I doubted the library could put it into their lost and found box. Now it’s nice and clean, so I’ll drop it off the next time I stop by the library. Hopefully it’ll make its way to its owner. If not, at least I gave it one last chance.

  4. I stopped by my husband’s workplace to pick up free boxes for a friend  who’s moving, I’m repeatedly enjoying scratch cooked black beans with roasted sweet potato cubes for meals, as they’re damned delicious and ridiculously frugal, I went on a “Goodwill Outlet date” with my friend Lise, where I picked up two pairs of pants, (“trousers” for you Brits) as well as a nest of vintage curtain rings. I’ve listed the curtain rings on eBay, and have have already worn both pairs of pants, which miraculously both fit perfectly.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or pay $500,000 to bribe my kids’ entrance into college.

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 March 8, 2019 · 75 comments

  1. I sold a college diploma case and the inner canister to a Dyson vacuum cleaner on eBay. Both items were thrifted and I kept to the general rule of thumb to not list on eBay unless I can make at least $20.

    I had to shell out money for packing tape, but I stood in the store aisle for a good five minutes figuring out which tape was the cheapest per linear foot. I ended up buying two three-packs, as there was a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal on tape, which hammered home the truth that broke people pay more for stuff. How? I paid a larger amount to get a better price per roll by buying a larger amount, but had I been financially insecure I would have picked the single roll which was more expensive per linear foot. I go through enough tape that I’ll actually use six rolls of tape in a reasonable time, and am happy that I’m at a point in my life where I can make these spending choices.

    But I sure as hell remember paying more for stuff simply because I didn’t have enough money to take advantage of bulk deals.

  2. I took my mother out for a Day of Adventures as her Christmas present. I won’t go into too much detail as I’ll write it up as a separate blog post, but it featured admission into the Portland Art Museum courtesy of a free library cultural pass. This alone would normally have set us back $37 for admission. She doesn’t need more stuff, and the day’s experiences astronomically outweighs a pretty scarf or sweater.

  3. I got called off from another 12-hour hospital shift, but am sending out invoices for freelance writing and will easily be able to pay my bills. Having more than one iron in the fire or a ‘patchwork income” gives breathing room to my family’s budget.

  4. I picked up organic Orowheat bread at the Dollar Tree, I wore thrifted clothes, I stopped into Goodwill while running errands and picked up a couple things to sell, I stopped at another Goodwill and bought nothing, I spent a couple days binge watching my library copy of Star Trek: Discovery with the family, I cooked up a big batch of black beans in my Instant Pot so I can create mixed whatever bowls from refrigerator contents, (rice, cheese, peppers, onions, salsa, sour cream, avocado, etc) I mailed out my eBay packages using second hand supplies, (other than the tape, I haven’t figured out a way to source used tape) and I gave a stash of plastic food packaging bags to my father for his dog’s poop.

  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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Edit: This giveaway has ended. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter their name, and congratulations to Kathi whose name was randomly chosen to win a copy of “Outer Order, Inner Calm.”

It’s a happy day in the publishing world because Gretchen Rubin has written another book! This time, our favorite happiness guru has shifted her focus towards how, (for most people) outer order contributes to inner calm. 

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room For Happiness, and am here to say that this book is a delightful gem. Filled with tips that delve deeper than “buy matching baskets,” Rubin explores the big picture, in essence, the why behind an ordered home. Tips that will launch you on your own ordered journey.

And today’s your lucky day, because one lucky Non-Consumer Advocate reader is going to win their own copy of “Outer Order, Inner Calm!”

How?

Just write your name in the comments section below. That’s it. I’ll randomly pick one winner on Thursday, March 7th at 9 P.M. PST. 

Best of luck, may your entire home be an ordered oasis of calm. Or something similar. Okay, maybe one room. Just one side of one room. The top of the kitchen table? Damn, I needed this book.

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 March 4, 2019 · 94 comments

  1. I sold a snowboarding jacket that I’d picked up from the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill bins, as well as a vintage florist’s frog and a bizarre kit that converts food into a frothy substance that frankly looks like saliva. I’d received it as a gift, and it’s now on its merry way to Puerto Rico. I could easily have let it sit on a shelf or donated it to Goodwill, but instead I turned it around for $45 and some random dude across the world gets that one thing that he’s been wanting.

    It may seem hypocritical for “The Non-Consumer” to sell things, but I’m pairing difficult to find items with people who would otherwise buy new.

  2. Things were slow at my labor and delivery unit this week, and I was ordered to stay home for eight hours of a 12 hour shift. My phone rang as I was on my way in, but I didn’t answer it as A) I was driving, and B) I pretty sure they were telling me to stay home. I’d already confirmed that I was to come in, so I continued my commute. They were indeed giving me the opportunity to stay home, but my union has specific rules for these circumstances so I’ll receive my four hours of pay. And you already know that I enjoyed a cup (or two) of their free so-so coffee. Plus, there was enough work for me helping others with their deliveries.

  3. My stepfather had a birthday, so we hosted the gang at my house for dinner. I made an Asian style chicken vaguely based on this recipe, as well as rice and broccoli. I baked up a gluten-free box cake that was not only dry but also flavorless, although I balanced it out with a polar vortex of icing. My gift was the meal, plus I deliberately prepared enough to send him home with enough leftovers for another full supper. Nobody needs more stuff, but we do all need delicious food!

  4. I picked up the first season of Star Trek: Discovery from the library. (I think it put it on hold summer of 2018, which says a little something about how much Portlanders love both Star Trek and their libraries.) I’d binged it using a free 30-day trial last year, but wanted to watch it again. My daughter hasn’t seen it yet, so we now have three weeks to blow through it together. This newest Star Trek series really does hold up to the hype! I’m hesitant to make such a bold declaration, but I think I like it even more than The Next Generation.

  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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