The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

If you’re a fan of Clark Howard, you probably make a habit of scanning the internet for fresh money saving tips. Sadly, most articles offer the same tired advice such as “lose that latté habit” and “pack a work lunch from home.” As a personal finance writer, nothing annoys me more than clickbait articles that promise original content and deliver absolute zero. However, every so often I come across a frugal hack that ventures beyond the obvious.

Try these frugal tips to further your budget:éé

Scoop less:

Many of us mindlessly fill the scoop that comes with our laundry detergent, which means we end up using far more product than necessary. Instead, remove the big scoop that comes with the product and replace it with a smaller scoop. (I use the tiny scoop that comes with my knock-off Oxyclean.) If you read the small print on your laundry and dishwasher detergent, you’ll see that the larger amounts are only recommended for truly filthy loads. You can always add more if necessary, but I’ve found that a small scoop does the trick for my family’s minimally soiled laundry.

Cut it in half:

Kitchen sponges and steel wool pads are both perfect candidates to be doubled by the simple act of cutting in half. Especially the steel wool pads, as they often lose their integrity after a single use. Still in good shape after that use? Avoid rust by popping it in the freezer for later.

Choose the inconvenient parking spot:

Instead of burning fuel by circling the lot, pull into a less desirable parking spot that cuts down on your driving and adds a few extra steps into your day. Save gas while increasing your exercise? Win-win!

Be kind to your socks:

If you find that your socks wear out too quickly you may want to follow this tip. Keep your toenails clipped short and your heels soft and moisturized. Rough heels and long toenails are hard on socks, which decreases their life expectancy. Gross but true.

Fill empty space in your freezer:

An empty freezer requires more energy to stay cold, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a bundle in the frozen food aisle. Instead, take clean plastic milk jugs and and fill them 3/4 full and set into your freezer. (The water will expand as it freezes.) Screw the lids back on once frozen and enjoy the savings.

Become a stain removal scholar:

The internet is rich with stain removal advice, but I’m a fan of the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dawn detergent combination to remove even set in stains. I’ve scored some stained but otherwise amazing items from thrift stores that just needed this TLC to bring them back to life. Don’t give up on fabric items just because they’re stained.

Switch to LED lightbulbs:

Gone are the days when energy efficient LED bulbs cost upwards of $8 apiece. Dollar Tree sells them for a buck apiece and many utility companies offer them for free through state specific green living initiatives. I even had someone tell me that their utility company gave them out for free when paying their bill in person.

Find your local Buy Nothing group:

Buy nothing groups have sprung up all over the world, and are a great boon to those looking to step away from traditional consumerism. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, these neighborhood specific online groups can stretch your hard earned dollars. Click on BuyNothing.org to find your local group.

Portion out less to small children:

Any parent will attest to the fact that little kids waste a lot of food. Make it a habit to serve less with the opportunity for seconds instead of portioning out full servings that inevitably get scraped into the compost.

Scope out your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore:

Habitat ReStores may have random inventory, but they may still contain the exact supplies you’re looking for. Since the cost of your paint, stain or home maintenance supplies are pennies on the dollar when compared to a traditional hardware store, you’re sure to stay on budget. Click HERE to find your closest ReStore. (Plus there’s the benefit that your money is directed towards helping those in need.)

Cut it open:

Whether it’s a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of lotion or a beauty product, chances are that you’re missing out on a significant amount of product due to the packaging design. You’d be surprised how much can cling to the sides of a bottle or tube even after it’s been turned upside down.

Check out your local library:

You already know that libraries have free books, and you’re probably already aware that they offer e-books and various digital downloads as well. But you’re likely unaware of all the additional free stuff you can source for free. From cultural passes to toys, kitchen supplies to SAT prep classes, your local libraries offer more than you know.

Track your spending:

It’s easy to ignore small regular expenditures like lunches out or pick-me-up purchases, but writing it down makes it real. Budgeting not only quantifies your spending, but gives a concrete incentive to cost cutting measures such as cooking at home or avoiding mindless impulse purchases.

Unsubscribe to retail emails:

It’s easier to resist temptation if you’re never exposed to it in the first place. Every commercial email should have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, which not only serves to minimize shopping temptation, but also clears up your inbox.

Listen to financial podcasts for entertainment:

You probably already know that you can listen to the Clark Howard show through your computer or smartphone, but there are countless other podcasts that offer both ideas and inspiration to keep you on the financial straight and narrow. Need suggestions? You could take a listen to Pour Not Poor, NPR’s Planet Money or You Need a Budget to transform your otherwise dull commute into a lesson in financial literacy.

Put your embarrassment aside:

This tip is easier said than done. But if you can be that person who plucks reusable gift bags from the garbage at work, accepts hand me downs and finds contentedness from the simple things in life, you have the potential to save thousands of dollars throughout your life. Pride can be a significant barrier to living within your means. Set it aside, and remind yourself that you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. 

Conclusion:

It’s doubtful that all sixteen of these frugal tips will be new to you, but if you incorporate even a couple into your daily routine you’ll still set yourself up for savings. I’ve been writing about frugality for almost two decades, but I still come across the occasional new idea. Hopefully there’s one or two in this list to make your life and finances a little easier.

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 19, 2018 · 73 comments

  1. I noticed that my refrigerator was empty while my freezer was full, so I spent a hour or so remedying the situation. I was able to pull out enough food for multiple meals and make use of my already paid for food. I only composted a few items, most notably the above wrinkly orb that bore a striking resemblance to . . . umm . . . a certain male anatomical feature. There’s something so satisfying about creating order from chaos. Makes me feel happy, certainly doesn’t make me feel testy.

  2. I walked to the grocery store this morning, even though it was the last thing on earth I felt like doing. (It was very cold out, and I am an unabashed wimp!) However, I found a dime on the ground, which would certainly not have grabbed my attention had I been driving. I used coupons for 40¢-off eggs as well as a free box of cereal.

  3. I worked over the weekend and although I only brought my lunch the first day, (note the above reference to am empty refrigerator) I did pack snacks such as fruit and eggs. This way I only had to buy my main meal from the hospital cafeteria. ($4.40 for salmon and a kale salad.) However, I waited until after 2 P.M. when the salad bar price went down 25%. I also make myself a cup of coffee on the labor and delivery unit even though I’d been floated to another unit.

  4. I saved up my plastic bags to give to my friend who uses them when walking her dog, I set aside a couple of bowls and mugs for my Buy Nothing Group, I made an appointment for some preventative medical care and I cut up severely bruised apples and topped them with frozen chunks of pie crust to create a weird mini-pie as an afternoon treat.

  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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I wrote this blog post after the Sandy Hook school shooting. I’ve decided that I will repost it after every school shooting in the United States. I hope to never publish it again, but I know I will.

It’s been a difficult three days for America, as we’ve gone from shock to deep mourning for the murdered children and staff of Sandy Hook elementary school. And however you feel about the growing debate surrounding gun control, one consensus has come out of this tragedy, which is to hold your kids tightly.

Appreciate the gift of life that is more fleeting that we can bear to admit.

So when I woke up yesterday to a kitchen full of dirty dishes, a mountain of laundry to put away and living room full of cat hair choked furniture, I asked my younger son if he wanted to go on a day of downtown adventures. (My older son was sleeping, and my gift to him was to let him continue with his favorite hobby as long as he wanted. After I kissed him a couple dozen times, of course.)

The chores could wait.

We chose to take public transportation, as we both have free passes, plus it frees us from the shackles of having to stay close to our parked car. We stopped first at the local Einstein’s Bagels to get a free pumpkin latte to share, as well as a toasted and buttered jalapeño bagel for my son, which we did not.

We stood in the rain and waited for the bus, and talked about nothing and everything and passed the overly sweet latte between the two of us. And I ached for all the Connecticut parents who had these future moments stolen from them.

No shepherding a child into adulthood, no shared coffee drinks, no worries about high school grades that will determine college opportunities.

My son and I wolfed down food cart falafel in the rain, browsed expensive European soccer magazines (him) and decor books (me) at Powell’s bookstore; ogled the couches at West Elm and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (me) and hunted through the clothing at Buffalo Exchange (him.)

We made a joint decision to check out the westside Goodwill and hailed another bus for the short yet uphill and wet journey. I picked up a few small things for my sister’s birthday and my son lamented that all the new looking Vans shoes were either too small or bizarrely overpriced.

The bus ride home ended with a long and chatty walk that included a detour through the holiday lighting of Peacock Lane and free slices of cake from a Walgreen’s grand opening. We were both good and tired by the time we staggered home, although I did load the dishwasher enough to run a single load. Our evening consisting of a couple of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (me) and the newest Saturday Night Live (him.)

No laundry, no chores, just me staring at my son and holding him tightly.

And when my older son needed me to drive him far across town for a poker game, I did not whine about it. Even when he needed to picked up at 11:30 P.M.

For today I have these kids, and I will hold them tightly.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Two Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2018 · 49 comments

1. I threw some Dollar Tree pinto beans into the crockpot in a pointless desperate gesture to balance out having just spent thousands of dollars maintaining our 2005 minivan. I joked to the mechanic that I was going through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – It couldn’t possibly cost that much, this must be some kind of joke!

  2. Anger – Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Bargaining – Hey there, friendly mechanic. Would you like to trade good and services for some mushy pinto beans?

  4. Depression – Will this nightmare never end? I think I need a nap.

  5. Acceptance – I guess I’m just going to have to eat a lot of dried beans. Ooh look . . . my minivan suddenly drives much smoother now.

You know. Normal stuff that’s part of regularly scheduled automobile maintenance.

2. I ate pinto beans for dinner.

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 February 13, 2018 · 98 comments

  1. Our mechanic called yesterday afternoon to review all the things we’re having fixed on our 2005 minivan. This included a non-functional seat belt switch for the air bag circuit. However, she suggested that I call a Honda dealership to investigate whether this repair would be covered under the original warranty as it’s a safety issue. Unfortunately the dealership where we bought the car is no longer in business, so I left messages with a couple other ones. I got a call back, and after a few phone calls I got the good news that yes, Honda would pay to repair this issue. This saves us $238, which is always a “frugal thing.”

  2. I sold a pair of vintage boxing gloves and a Build-A-Bear Workshop outfit on eBay, and am also negotiating on a pair of 1965 Snoopy waterskis that I picked up at Goodwill awhile back. The buyer doesn’t like the shipping cost, but they’re solid wood and heavy which is out of my control.

  3. I spent an hour or so raking leaves and doing general outdoor landscaping maintenance. Very few people hire this out in my neighborhood, which is a different story from where my parents live. I really didn’t feel like exerting myself and getting dirty, but the sun was out, the driveway was empty due to car being at the mechanic and I told myself that sometimes “being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do.” Of course the hardest part was getting myself to start the chore, which ended up being benignly pleasant and satisfying in the end.

  4. I walked to the grocery store and bought grocery staples without succumbing to any impulse purchases, I physically mailed my younger son’s rent check as the money somehow didn’t automatically come out of our account as it normally does, (and I talked to someone to let them know that I wouldn’t be paying the $50 late fee as the problem is on their end) I put together a couple of new eBay listings and I’m using up a small bar of hotel soap that I brought home from dropping my son off at school last month.

  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 Fails

by Katy on February 12, 2018 · 110 comments

  1. You may have noticed that The Non-Consumer Advocate was down for a couple of days with this message:

    My web hosting company shut down the blog due to mysterious malware. Here’s the message I received:

    “There are multiple suspicious files detected on your website, I am afraid that we cannot allow the public access to your website as it puts our whole server infrastructure in risk of inheriting a bad reputation.” (“A bad reputation?” Sounds like the other girls at school might start whispering about her. Wouldn’t want that to happen!) I finally threw some money at the situation, ($79 to be exact) and hired wpfixit.com to fix the issue. Money well spent. But, damn!

  2. My husband and I have been driving the same Honda minivan since 2005, which finally rolled past 100,00 miles. It’s never given us any a moment of trouble, but 13 years is a lot of time and our mechanic had increasingly been suggesting maintenance and repair work. We’re finally pulling the trigger. The mechanic called to confirm the bid this morning, which caused me to ask if “that quote includes a month in Europe.” She laughed. I didn’t.

    Goodbye, Gdansk. Hello, functional minivan.

  3. I drove eight hours over the weekend to pick up my son and then return him back to college. His friend was having an art opening here in Portland, and I really wanted my son to support him. Of course having my son in town prompted a number of restaurant meals, which were delicious but exponentially more expensive than home cooking.

  4. I bought a $2 cup of coffee after dropping my son off at school and spontaneously decided to sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. The “sprinkle” turned into a deluge and ruined my late night treat. I tried to get the clerk’s attention, but she was busy with other customers and I wasn’t in the mood to play the role of “pushy customer.” I valiantly tried to drink it down as I abhor food waste, but finally dumped it down the drain. Blegh.

  5. My cats have utterly ruined the arms of the amazing $30 vintage love seat that I picked up a few years ago. They’d never ruined any other furniture, but you know . . . cats are jerks. My mother is going to sew antimacassars as my birthday gift, but I’d rather it not be ruined in the first place. However, the recent Buttload of Cats song from Crazy-Ex-Girlfriend put a humorous spin on the situation. I’m not sure that two cats can be considered a “buttload,” but they can still enact some major damage.

Now your turn. What frugal fails have been derailing your non-consumer efforts?

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 February 5, 2018 · 155 comments

  1. My friend Lise and I took a spur of the moment trip to the nearest Goodwill Outlet for some thrifting and middle-aged lady bonding hijinks. Lise bought a duvet cover, some jeans and a few other items. I bought a Heywood Wakefield(ish?) table, a Pink Floyd concert T-shirt, a pair of cashmere socks, a sweater and an ancient rusty cast iron skillet. (Which cleaned up spectacularly!) I documented the trip on my Instagram HERE.

  2. I sold a pair of sneakers on eBay and then I listed my freshly scrubbed and seasoned cast iron skillet on Facebook Marketplace. It goes without saying that I used secondhand packaging supplies for the shoes. I even arranged a free USPS pickup to avoid a trip to the post office!

  3. I spent the weekend laying low at the house. Sometimes I feel kind of guilty that I mostly just hunker down at home, but it’s a dark and drizzly time of year that offers zero outdoor temptation. (Besides, there’s nothing more frugal than snuggling up under a blanket and partaking from what I already have at home.) But instead of guilt, I choose to reframe it as hygge and simply embrace my lazy indoorsy lifestyle.

  4. I worked Friday and brought leftovers for lunch, I renewed my Chinook Book coupon app, (which will save me more than the $15 I spent on it) I cooked up a large batch of Dollar Tree pinto beans in the crock pot for burritos, I scheduled a dental appointment as preventative care saves big bucks in the long run and I accepted an invitation to be treated to lunch by my father.

  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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 1, 2018 · 130 comments

  1. I stopped by the outpatient pharmacy at my hospital and picked up 100-count bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, which allowed me to use my employee discount. I paid $6.59 instead of $16.78 and simultaneously found a penny on the ground. It probably would have been cheaper to buy mega-huge bottles at Costco, but I’d rather imagine a world where and my husband and myself don’t require such enormous numbers of anti-inflammatories.

  2. I sold an antique photo on eBay that I bought at the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet. I’d estimate that I spent 20¢ on it, which makes the $14.99 a decent profit. I pretty much only buy items for resale if it’s something that I personally like, and this old collegiate team photo ticked that box. I think I’d had this up on eBay since last spring and am surprised that it finally sold. Luckily I keep my inventory very organized and it’s always easy to find items when they sell. (It’s in a corner of our spare bedroom.)

  3. Neighbors are moving and set out furniture and boxes of random items with a “free” sign. I stopped by and rifled through the boxes and helped myself to an unopened bag of sun/shade grass seed from a local nursery. I have long given up on having a lawn in the backyard as A) its’s extremely shady, and B) it’s far from a priority for me, C) I’m unwilling to waste water by watering a lawn and D) I hate gardening. However, I am willing to sprinkle the seed over the supposed lawn area and let nature take its course. Portland will be extremely rainy through mid-June, so I have nothing to lose. Click HERE to see the Instagram photo of said free pile.

  4. I renewed my books through the library website, I got called off from work on Tuesday, (which means I lose 12 hours of paid work) however my husband and I live below our means and can handle income fluctuations, I arranged work shifts through the end of March, I worked on a couple of different Clark Howard article drafts, I bought dull grocery staples at Fred Meyer (Kroger) even though I was in the mood for some fancy Trader Joe’s comfort food and I renewed a couple of Craigslist listings that had expired.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar solid gold toilet.

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 Non-Consumer Advocate blog post written in 2011, when Americans were beginning to pull themselves out of a recession mindset.

I awoke yesterday to the headline Frugal frenzy may be all spent: Recession-born shopping lessons are likely to be quickly forgotten by Laura Gunderson in my Oregonian newspaper. Of course I had to read the entire story. The gist of the article was that although consumers say that the recession has made lifelong changes in their spending, current studies say otherwise.

One paragraph from the article really stuck in my mind, which was:

“Consumers who lost jobs or had pay cut likely will stick with the money-saving tactics longer, Perner said. Those who simply felt the recession emotionally, are more likely to default on budget-cutting plans and be back at Starbucks sooner.”

Actually losing your job affects you more than watching others lose theirs.

I for one, felt and feel (Oregon unemployment is still over 10%) the recession more than I was actually affected by it. I’ve been in the same well paying job as an RN for almost 16 years. I have never at any point felt that my job was in jeopardy. Although my husband was laid off from his dream job in January of 2009, (they technically had him quit in order to later rehire him, which meant that he didn’t qualify for unemployment) he was able to find work again within a few months. (Don’t ask, it was complicated.)

I would like to think that the frugal living lessons brought about over the past few years are tools to be utilized through our entire lives. The difference between wants and needs; and the ability to use our creativity and community to weather financial difficulties.

Yes, American Express is reporting record spending, but I use mine for Costco purchases such as cat food, coffee, olive oil and my son’s prescription glasses. I am not using it for restaurant meals, Hawaiian vacations or designer handbags. I like that it has to be paid fully every month, and yes, I like that I get a yearly annual Costco voucher in the amount of at least a hundred bucks. (We already have our eye on a chest freezer that would allow us to stock up on great food deals and cook in bulk.)

I concede that many employ frugal tactics solely due to situations out of their control, and are happy to shed their latte-free lifestyles, but many others recognize the empowerment that comes with knowing how to control your finances. To lose the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck. To learn how to not have life’s pleasures be tied to a fat wallet.

Researchers may disagree with my conclusions, but I truly feel that frugality once learned is a powerful tool. It may get set aside here and there, but it’s still available in a pinch.

Are you moving away from frugality in your life? Are you anxious to start up your formerly spend-happy life? Please share your thoughts 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 January 29, 2018 · 165 comments

  1. I worked both Friday and Saturday and brought leftovers from home both days. (Of course I drank the free coffee and tea in a thrifted travel mug.) I still had a $5 food voucher for the cafeteria, so I went down and bought cookies which I then shared with my co-workers. I work with a team of kick-ass labor and delivery nurses and it’s important to show my appreciation now and then. Without them I would have changed careers a million years ago.

  2. I used last week’s paycheck to pay off our one credit card. We don’t carry a balance on the card, but had been succumbing to it a lot over the past month. We normally only use it for gasoline and out of town purchases, (and always pay off the balance) but the last month was insanely expensive due to the winter term tuition payments, renewing my nursing license, a surprise computer repair, an unexpected out of town trip and holiday expenses. We made a lot of financial sacrifices over the past month to continue our debt-free journey and it’s a relief to move forward. This paycheck included a bonus that I received for working over a certain number of hours in 2017, but only ended up as a normal amount as I had an entire week of work cancelled due to low hospital patient levels. The next double tuition payments aren’t due until April, so we can breathe again while we scurry to pile up another mountain of cash.

  3. I sold two items on eBay including a brand new NBA branded fleece robe that I’d picked up at Goodwill. I actually bought two at $9.99 apiece as I saw that they were selling for between $50 and $75. I priced mine at $50 and sold it within a few days of putting the listing together. The other item was a pair of Starbucks mugs that are on their merry way to Lancashire, England. Most of my listings, both on eBay and Facebook Marketplace are pretty dormant right now, but I’m not worried as January is always a slow month for sales. People are recovering from the holidays and hunkering down at home. I know I am!

  4. I sautéed a pan of 5-for-99¢ Grocery Outlet peppers for burritos, I washed up a sodden filthy towel to use as a cleaning rag,  (see above photo) I wore the same wool socks three days in a row, I found a quarter and five pennies on the ground while out and about and I walked to do my grocery shopping and ended up strolling home to chat with a neighbor which wouldn’t have happened had I driven.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar solid gold toilet.

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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