Five Decidedly Un-frugal Things

by Katy on December 10, 2017 · 115 comments

I’ve been sharing my New York City frugal thing lists over the past week, but it would be disingenuous to hold back the truth, which is that not everything was perfectly frugal. Because, let’s face it . . . shit happens.

  1. I carefully and lovingly packed up yummy snack food for my six-and-a-half hour flight back to Portland. I even included a meal to enjoy at the airport, as well as enough for dinner on the plane. Instead I left the whole damned thing (including my newly thrifted neoprene lunch bag) in my sister’s refrigerator! This left me at the mercy of airport food options like dried up $13 sandwiches and gummy $4 muffins. I was pretty hungry and verging on tears by the time I’d braved three subways, one train, one airport shuttle and then one very long security line. I finally admitted defeat and ordered a bowl of soup and a coffee from the Ruby Tuesday next to my departure gate. Luckily the waitress took pity on me and plied me with extra Saltines, for which she received a very healthy tip. Thank you, Taheera!

  2. I already mentioned that I took a late night Lyft from my friend Greta’s apartment back to my sister’s house in The Bronx, but I’m going to bring it up again because it set me back $48!

  3. I spent a lot of money eating out. Period. Not as much as a normal New York tourist would. . . but still.

  4. I only found 17¢ on the ground while out and about in the big apple. I prefer it when I find folding money, like the time I came across a twenty dollar bill that was innocently blowing around outside of the Whitney Museum.

  5. I was only able to fit in a single trip to the Greatwill Goodwill up in New Rochelle. I really need a few more clothing pieces, and had hoped to pick up some amazing bargains. (This store is riddled with castoffs from the 1%-ers.) Instead I found a $9.99 Patagonia down jacket that which unfairly fit my sister. I walked out empty handed and never got a chance to return. Also, we only had a short time to shop as my sister’s dog went on a solo adventure right as we were leaving this house, which ate up a half hour or so.

Now your turn. What un-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 6, 2017 · 82 comments

  1. Yesterday was another envious New York day of writing for me and studying for my sister. We were able to sneak in lunch at The Nautilus Diner up in Westchester County, where we were approximately 70 bajillion years younger than the other clientele. (My sister’s friend shared that it was nicknamed “The Naughty Lust Diner” back in the day.) We split a Reuben and each enjoyed a cup of soup. Of course I had to order the matzoh ball soup. Nothing naughty. Very little lust.

  2. We then settled ourselves at the nearby Mamaroneck library where we spread out our study materials and try not to be too distracted by the surrounding wall art. This historic library is clean, quiet and obviously well funded. Even the wooden chairs are hand crafted and comfortable. We then discovered a basement store filled with used library books that were priced to sell. My sister made plans to bring her daughter back on a subsequent visit and I helped myself to a free 1973 paperback of Judy Blume’s Deenie. Such a great classic that’s the perfect length to read on the airplane. (By the way, I already donated my library purchased Tony Hillerman book to my sister’s Bronx library.)

  3. I then caught the 4 train into the city to meet up with my friend Greta. I was about an hour early, so I walked over to the Art Students League to see if there were any exhibitions to peruse. Sadly the student gallery was locked, and there seemed to be no one around to answer questions or point me towards another area. I was tempted to park my butt in one of the many coffee shops, but I was still caffeinated from The Naughty Lust and didn’t feel like spending any money. Instead I just walked around the neighborhood and took full advantage of the people watching opportunities that Manhattan is sure to provide.

  4. Greta and I took the F train into Queens to pick her son up from school and bring him to basketball practice. She seemed surprised that I wanted to join her for such a mundane activity, but when the company is good anything can be a treat. We then walked home and prepared a meal which was perfectly lovely and featured having time for actual conversation with full grown up sentences. I got to know her boyfriend who’d I’d previously only been introduced to and was then tucked into a Lyft for the ride home. I briefly considered taking the subway back to The Bronx, but it was already 11 P.M., and I didn’t relish that idea for a number of reasons. I spent $48.20 for the trip, but the door to door experience was worth every penny.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet, an I ♥ NY T-shirt, a Statue of Liberty snow globe, a taxi cab paperweight, a Phantom of The Opera mask 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 December 5, 2017 · 71 comments

  1. I’d somehow not given my one and only niece anything for her 13th birthday, so I promised her that we’d do something special when I came to New York. So today the two of us walked over to the nail salon in her neighborhood and I treated her to an indulgent manicure. (The manicurist even added an extra flower detail to each forefinger, which was very generous of her.) The total was a budgetary $12, even with a $4 gratuity. (Frugal tip: I encouraged my niece to bring her own nail polish, so she’ll be able to touch up any chips from home.)

  2. We then floated over to a high end Italian restaurant where she selected an individual chocolate lava cake from the dessert menu. Although I only sipped coffee I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more, as her enjoyment of such a luxurious after school snack was contagious. The cost was $16 with tip, which brought the afternoon’s total to $28. I easily could have just bought her a thing, even a cute thing. But that thing would have ultimately been set aside to gather dust. The food will digest and the nail polish will wear off, but the memory of our fun afternoon together will linger.

  3. You may have noticed that the manicure and dessert were just for my niece. I would certainly have enjoyed my own indulgent treat, but my sons’ double college payments are mere weeks away, and having enough money to cash flow the bill is going to be tight. However, I’m more than willing to take one for the team, as the point of the afternoon was to make my niece feel special and loved. Doubling the bill would have done nothing to support that goal.

  4. My sister and I spent the afternoon working at her neighborhood library as part of our writer’s retreat/homework hell project. (She’s heading into finals week and it ain’t pretty.) I stepped away from my project to use the bathroom and was met by the prettiest midcentury chair. I snapped a picture for my Instagram account as I knew it was a special piece, and was immediately informed that it was in fact a “Knoll executive side chair, designed by Eero Saarinen.” These chairs sell for at least $400 apiece online, but sadly this one was not for sale. Simply a great classic piece for the lucky patrons of this tiny Bronx library.

  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 December 3, 2017 · 49 comments

Yes, this post published twice, but since they both have comments, I’m just going to leave them as is.

  1. My sister and I continued our parallel playing to include the library that’s just a few blocks from her house in the Bronx. It’s decidedly not the spendlor of yesterday’s library on Fifth Avenue, but it turned out to be a great place where my sister could study and I could focus on writing. And when we started to get tired, I was able to pick up a couple of $1 coffees from the deli across the street. NYC might have a reputation for being expensive, but it can be insanely cheap once you venture away from the touristy areas and hipster neighborhoods.

  2. I convinced my sister that we should visit the New Rochelle Goodwill that’s just north of The Bronx, even though it was almost 8 P.M. and a mere hour before closing. Although I didn’t locate anything that I’m currently keeping an eye out for, I did find a Patagonia down jacket in my sister’s size for just $9.99. This may not sound like an uber-bargain, but this same coat currently sells for $229, and is the perfect cozy New York jacket. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a coat like this for myself, but was happy that at least it fit her.

  3. I enjoy doing household tasks for my sister that she has zero-point-zero time for, as she’s a full-time student, wife and mother. Although I didn’t show up with a hostess gift, I’ll leave her with a cleaner more organized house. This costs nothing to accomplish and it’s vastly more appreciated than a bottle of wine or a pretty dust collector.

  4. Today was a decidedly non-touristy and extremely frugal endeavor, but tomorrow will bring us into Manhattan where my niece has a appointment in the morning and my sister has an afternoon event at the Museum of Natural History. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing in between, but I do know that we won’t use it as an excuse for recreational shopping. (My preference would be to find a nice spot to quietly write, but I think that would be a hard sell.) Luckily the weather forecast is for a dry day in the mid-50°s, so I can safely anticipate lots of walking.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar 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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{ 49 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 3, 2017 · 10 comments

  1. My sister and I continued our parallel playing to include the library that’s just a few blocks from her house in the Bronx. It’s decidedly not the spendlor of yesterday’s library on Fifth Avenue, but it turned out to be a great place where my sister could study and I could focus on writing. And when we started to get tired, I was able to pick up a couple of $1 coffees from the deli across the street. NYC might have a reputation for being expensive, but it can be insanely cheap once you venture away from the touristy areas and hipster neighborhoods.

  2. I convinced my sister that we should visit the New Rochelle Goodwill that’s just north of The Bronx, even though it was almost 8 P.M. and a mere hour before closing. Although I didn’t locate anything that I’m currently keeping an eye out for, I did find a Patagonia down jacket in my sister’s size for just $9.99. This may not sound like an uber-bargain, but this same coat currently sells for $229, and is the perfect cozy New York jacket. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a coat like this for myself, but was happy that at least it fit her.

  3. I enjoy doing household tasks for my sister that she has zero-point-zero time for, as she’s a full-time student, wife and mother. Although I didn’t show up with a hostess gift, I’ll leave her with a cleaner more organized house. This costs nothing to accomplish and it’s vastly more appreciated than a bottle of wine or a pretty dust collector.

  4. Today was a decidedly non-touristy and extremely frugal endeavor, but tomorrow will bring us into Manhattan where my niece has a appointment in the morning and my sister has an afternoon event at the Museum of Natural History. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing in between, but I do know that we won’t use it as an excuse for recreational shopping. (My preference would be to find a nice spot to quietly write, but I think that would be a hard sell.) Luckily the weather forecast is for a dry day in the mid-50°s, so I can safely anticipate lots of walking.

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

by Katy on December 2, 2017 · 48 comments

  1. Yesterday was a full-on travel day from Portland, Oregon to Newark, New Jersey. And although the flight itself was a dreamy non-stop endeavor, the day itself was long, long, longity long, as my hostess-with-the-mostess sister lives in The Bronx, not Newark. She had classes at her college in the aforementioned Bronx that afternoon/evening, which meant that my public transportation adventure included the tram, the railroad, the subway, the subway, the subway and a wee bit of walk just to meet up with her. So yes, a loooong day! However, hooray for New York/New Jersey’s amazing public transportation!

  2. I had an odd assortment of almost empty NYC Metrocards, which I consolidated into a single card totaling $5.49 which was enough for two subway trips. The crazy thing is that they all expired exactly yesterday! So random.

  3. I was able to assist with a fellow passenger’s medical issue during my flight from Portland to Newark, which I was happy to do. In return I was issued $50 in airline credits as well as four adorable bottles of gin. (Is there a name for a grouping of gin bottles? If not, may I suggest a “genius of gin” or “gerbil of gin.”) I didn’t actually drink on the plane as A) I like to keep my wits about me when traveling alone, B) I rarely drink and C) It’s a terrible idea to identify first responders and then get them drunk. However . . . hostess gifts!

  4. I prepared all my own food for yesterday’s flight and packed it in my handy Goodwill Outlet lunch bag. (It’s super light, so I probably paid around 20¢ for it.) I overpacked food, which worked out well as my sister’s classes didn’t end until 10:10 P.M. and I like to snack. Of course I brought my own reusable water bottle and coffee mug which saw their fair share of action throughout the day.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky. Even though I did walk past one today, and I do have to say that my creaky 103-year-old bungalow trumped its vulgar opulence.

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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A NYC Writer’s Retreat

by Katy on December 1, 2017 · 7 comments

The Rose Room ceiling of the New York City library on Fifth Avenue provides the perfect writing environment.

I’m currently in New York City visiting with my sister, which turns out to be an extremely frugal way to travel/rationalize a vacation by reframing it as a “writer’s retreat.” Sure, I paid $241 for a round trip ticket, but I’ll make sure to knock out some paid writing. But more importantly, I’ll work on a book proposal that’s been thwarting me for almost two shameful years.

Distractions of home? Banished!

However, I don’t want to squander the sights of New York, so I’m engaging in a category of tourism titled “Destination Writing.” Which essentially means that I’ll take my laptop to unique/inspiring/minimally distracting locations to work under the glow of history/inspiring architecture/coffee/close access to a subway stop/indoor plumbing.

My sister is currently a full-time student, which means that her free time is beyond nonexistent. However, I think I can rope her into my writing adventures, as I feel this is the perfect opportunity for us to parallel play towards our independent goals.

Today was day one of this plan, which due to circumstances related to accepting a lunch invitation from a dear old friend nutritional needs didn’t actually begin until 2 P.M.

Today might not end up as my most productive writing day, but only because I’m feeling the effects of a long travel day and some significant jet lag. Definitely not from eating a large and indulgent lunch.

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 27, 2017 · 136 comments

  1. Yesterday was the last day of my sons being home from college, and I wanted to put together a nice brunch for them. I walked to the grocery store to buy bacon, but otherwise assembled everything from grocery staples on hand. I baked up a small blueberry coffeecake, which used up the last of some streusel topping that had been sitting in my freezer for ages, (I’d made too much for a different recipe) and then scrambled up some eggs. The smell of bacon and coffeecake pried them from their beds and I was even able to send my older son off with leftovers for his long drive back to school. The coffee cake was deliberately small, as I didn’t want unhealthy leftovers after days of Thanksgiving gluttony. Urp . . . . 

  2. I sold some thrifted Christmas stripe Hanna Andersson pajama bottoms on eBay and packaged them up in a padded envelope that my husband had just received in the mail. Actually, I used half of the padded envelope, as it was pretty big and I figured I could get double usage from it. My next door neighbor let me know that she had a stack of used envelopes for me. Hooray for reuse and free shipping supplies!

  3. I’m starting to get organized for my week in NYC. It’s tempting to use this as an excuse to buy new stuff, but instead I’m figuring out how to make use from what I already own. Living in Portland, Oregon I don’t own a winter coat that can handle New York style low temperatures. However, it looks like the next week is forecasted to be in the 50’s, which is well within my outerwear’s limitations. I probably should own a serious winter coat, but I’d prefer to find one for just a couple of dollars, which requires some platinum level patience. (Heck, I’ve been very impressed with the Goodwill near my sister’s grocery store, so maybe I’ll luck out there.) Either way, I’m not falling prey to the mindset that travel should trigger a bunch of new purchases. And souvenirs to bring home? Those’ll be chocolate covered cannoli from one of the many Italian bakeries in the Bronx. (The chocolate covered ones don’t get soggy so quickly.)

  4. I’m not spending the day scouring the internet for super ah-mazing Cyber Monday deals. Everyone on my gift list already owns more than their fair share, and want or need for zero additional items in their homes. It doesn’t matter if a $300 item has been marked down to $100, it’s still $100 that you no longer possess. Don’t go broke in the name of saving money.

  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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{ 136 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on November 25, 2017 · 91 comments

  1. I sold three eBay items on Thanksgiving and packaged them up in free used shipping materials. I then dropped them off at the post office on my way back from dropping my son at a friend’s house. (Batching errands.) The eBay app on my phone makes a “cha-ching” sound whenever a payment comes through, and it’s just as dopamine-tastic as the obnoxious but oddly satisfying bells and whistles on a Vegas slot machine. (All the fun of a gambling addiction without the heartbreak.) I did buy a book of the Ezra Jack Keats Snowy Day stamps while at the post office that I’ll gift to my sister for her birthday. (She’s too busy with pre-grad school to read the blog.)

  2. Yesterday was Black Friday here in the United States, but I didn’t set my alarm to scoop up any 75%-off 5 A.M. deals. Instead I slept in and then puttered around the house and ate my way through a tremendous amount of leftovers. (This particular cheesecake stalked me throughout day.) My father stopped by in the afternoon and we enjoyed tea, conversation and yes, cheesecake. I put together a couple of eBay listings as shopping season is apparently upon us. There’s nothing frugal about buying stuff at Goodwill “to sell,” and then letting it languish in what’s referred to as a “death pile” in the eBay community.

  3. I put out the word in my Buy Nothing Group that I wanted uncut pumpkins for puree and then life got in the way. I finally picked up a couple on Wednesday night and baked one up, which provided a full ten cups of yummy pumpkin puree. I used four cups for two pies, and then froze the rest in two-cup portions for future use. I still have another enormous pumpkin to precess, as well as an acorn squash. (Since Target sells a small can for $1.69, this one pumpkin saved me $16.90.)

  4. I lent my stock pot to a neighbor, I gathered a full grocery bag of random stuff to drop at Goodwill, I considered setting up my garbage picked artificial Christmas tree and then decided to wait as I have about a week, maybe a week-and-a-half of looking at Christmas decor before I activate Scrooge mode. 

  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 }

The following is a reprint of the previously published post.

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

Were Americans always so lucky?

No.

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

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

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

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

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

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

Read that again, the stairwell was locked.

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

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

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

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

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

Or any year.

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

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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