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

Why buy new?

It’s school supply time and despite the glossy ads featuring pretty new pens, pencils, binders, scissors and whatnot, it’s actually okay to *gasp* reuse the stuff you already have. That’s right, fellow non-consumers, last year’s scissors will still work this year, and that slightly used pencil can be resharpened. And that grubby binder? Try giving it a scrub and laying it out in the sun to dry. You’ll be surprised how fresh it can look.

Sure, there are some school supplies that do have to be bought new such as 3-ring notebook paper and boxes of Kleenex, (umm . . .  not sure how you would buy used Kleenex.) But I’m usually able to get away with only buying a couple of things for back-to-school.

So dump out and organize your pens, pencils, scissors and general office-y mayhem; scrub out your binders, backpacks and winter coats and make do with what you already have. You’ve already paid for it, it’s already been manufactured and any excessive packaging has already happened.

It’s one of those win-win situations. It’s sustainable and will save you money. And you don’t have to be a member of The buy-nothing-new Compact to make these decisions.

So happy shopping . . . from your own stash!

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 26, 2015 · 40 comments

  1. I booked a motel room to stay in during my son’s two-day college orientation next month. He stays for free in a dorm, (ha, not really free at all!) but I needed a place for little ol’ me. I spent some time clicking around AirBnB, HomeAway, Priceline, TripAdvisor and such and finally chose a place. My son’s college is in adorable Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and more cutesy-wutesy than the Dionne quintuplets. (Like my timely reference?) However . . . this means that the hotels are expensive. We stayed in a nearby untrendy town last year, but the 30+ minute drive added up. I went ahead and booked a non-fancy, but recommended motel (with kitchenette!) that’s almost on campus. I’d planned on staying three nights since I didn’t relish a five hour drive at the end of an orientation day, but we need our money for tuition, not motel stays! To make the most of any discounts I booked through eBates –> Priceline, making sure to compare the price of booking directly with the motel. (I always pat myself on the back when I remember to use eBates!) This may sound like a pain in the tuchus, but I saved $20+ per night. Plus . . . kitchenette!
  2. I plan on being deliberate and judicious about bringing our own food and drinks on this trip. Hello . . . rest stop picnics and thermos coffee breaks!
  3. I worked the past two days and brought my lunch and drank the crappy free coffee instead of walking down to one of the hospital’s cafes for a lovely latté.
  4. I stopped by The Grocery Outlet the other day and stocked up on 33¢ packages of organic angel hair pasta, $1.50 boxes of Luna bars and 3/$1 fancy yogurts. Man, do I love that store!
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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 July 23, 2015 · 52 comments

Clothesline selfie

  1. I relisted three things on Craigslist, started a new listing and sold five free pile half-pint jars to my local terrarium shop for $20. I also signed up for work shifts through mid-September.
  2. I reminded myself that even though my son’s college expenses seems high, having him away from home will save us some money. No groceries for him, less electricity, no Crossfit membership and no long showers. I’m sure there are many more ways in which it was save us money to have him away from home, but for now I’m too busy fighting an emotional breakdown to think clearly. My baby . . . 
  3. I walked to the grocery store for cereal and milk. I found two pennies on the ground at the store, and then spied a dollar bill on the grass outside of another store. Not only did I save money by walking instead of driving, but I made money in the process!
  4. I hung a load of laundry on the clothesline, I prepared a dinner of white bean soup from scratch, I brought home a pretty glazed flowerpot from a free pile, my husband and I slept on a fitted sheet from someone’s garage sale leftovers, I watered plants using mystery drips that I catch in a bowl at the back of the refrigerator and I packed a lunch for tomorrow’s 12-hour shift.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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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Taking One For The Team

by Katy on July 23, 2015 · 54 comments

Gross yogurt

My older sister and I are dedicated non-wasters. We mend and repair, barely ever buy new and we watch our families’ food waste like a hawk. This means that our refrigerators are ripe rife with many small containers of leftovers just waiting to be consumed. Sometimes those leftovers are in high demand, but often they aren’t.

Need an example?

Leftover salad that’s been marinating in salad dressing and is starting to lose its crispness.

Yeah . . . not so desirable.

However, the two of us joke about “taking one for the team,” which boils down to eating something no other family member will in the name of food waste avoidance. And when we do, we call each other on the phone and announce that “I’ve taken one for the team.”

Just today my sister announced that she’d eaten the last of some salad, while I countered that I’d eaten a watermelon flavored yogurt that had been sitting in my fridge since before I visited her in New York. (I bought it not noticing that it was “light yogurt” and artificially sweetened.)

Was that yogurt my favorite thing ever? Hardly. But it was okay, and it certainly did me no harm and functioned to sate my appetite.

I took one for the team.

Food waste is not only a huge waste of money, but is also an ethical issue when so many around the world and within our own communities do without.

If you’re interested in learning about the farm-to-table-to-garbage-bin issues related to food waste, I highly recommend Jonathan Bloom’s WastedFood.com blog. A fascinating subject we should all be familiar with.

C’mon, fellow non-consumers. Take one for the team.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 54 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 21, 2015 · 40 comments

Found change receipt

  1. I cashed in my Found Change Challenge jar as we’re gathering any and all available money to send our older son off to college. It contained $23.21 in coins plus $26 in bills, which added up to $49.21! Not quite enough to fund a year of college, but not a bad addition either.
  2. I Craigslisted a small black and white striped rug that had been in my younger son’s bedroom. I sold it for $15, even though I’d bought it years ago at Goodwill for only $10. It was replaced by one I pulled from a garbage can and shampooed back to life. Buy low, sell high, people.
  3. My husband was given an extra ticket to tonight’s Portland Thorns women’s MLS soccer game. Our team includes a few members from the U.S. World Cup champions, and there will be a special ceremony at the game. I expect there will be many tears of happiness. (And not just because of free tickets.)
  4. I checked out two books from the library today. Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Revisited. 
  5. My son had a friend over this afternoon. I served home popped popcorn drizzled with honey butter and bottles of icy tap water. I also prepared a large quesadilla. Just because my sons are teenagers doesn’t mean they require expensive and unhealthy junk food.

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’ve had an anxiety dream on repeat ever since we bought our overwhelmingly difficult fixer-upper house in 1996. In this dream my husband and I buy a falling down house and put all of our time, money and energy into the house only to give up and sell it at a loss. The subsequent buyers do a couple of tiny and inexpensive projects and are able to bring it to a magazine-worthy state. In short, we do 99.99% of the work, yet don’t get to enjoy any of the results from our backbreaking labor. My husband and I are then heartbroken and filled with regret.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had this dream, and had kind of forgotten about it.

Until last night.

But my running dream took an unexpected turn to the left.

Last night’s dream featured my husband and myself visiting the new owners of the house only to discover that yes, some projects looked impressive from the outside, but the interior stairs were falling apart, the living room had unfinished splintery floors and the fancy painted ceiling was collapsing. My husband and I left the house whispering to each other about how smart we were to have sold the house when we did, and how happy we were to be in our current home.

You don’t have to be Freud to make the connection that I just got home from visiting my sister for two weeks, and that I’m very happy with the life my husband and teenage sons have crafted in our 1914 fixer-upper.

Yes, almost everything we own is either thrifted or hauled home from someone else’s castoff pile, and there are more than a few embarrassingly unfinished projects. But those things are just that. Things . . .

Our fixer-upper used to feel like a burden and cause me a lot of anxiety. Not only did I regret taking on an endlessly expensive project, but it put a lot of pressure on my husband to spend all his spare time being a contractor, which he isn’t. Stressful for him and guilt inducing for me. Oh, joy!

But our project heavy house holds countless wonderful family memories, all surrounded by unfinished wood trim, a never-built second bathroom and a hideous basement. We raised our sons in this house, yet I highly doubt that they’ve ever been bothered by the bare wood trim or the mostly tiled bathroom. What they have noticed is the love and attention they’ve received through the years. Home cooked meals in the dining room, the four of us snuggled up watching library movies on our got-it-for-free television and endless Lego sessions on the living room floor.

A magazine worthy house would be great, but it just can’t be my main priority. Not when there are meals to be enjoyed and Lego castles to construct.

Our house may be incomplete, but our home has everything it needs. Thanks Freud for once again pointing out the obvious.

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 20, 2015 · 37 comments

City Island

  1. Yesterday’s plans to visit a friend in Queens and grab delicious Indian food went kaput when she forgot about our plans and left town. The weather was hot and humid, which threw a haze over our normally keen decision making skills, so we ended up deciding to see a movie instead of some fabulous and envy-inducing NYC adventure. Instead we drove north of the city to New Rochelle, where we parked easily (and for free) and walked in the air conditioned bliss that is a summertime movie theater. I won’t tell you the movie we saw for fear that you will judge my parenting, as the movie was surprisingly sexually graphic. Oops. . . (Okay, okay . . . it was Trainwreck which was the height of hilarity, but probably not exactly what my 17-year-old son wanted to watch with his mother.) We didn’t use Fandango or buy snacks, and our matinee tickets only set us back ten bucks apiece.
  2. I put on my brave-woman pants and figured out how to get to Laguardia airport by subway and bus instead of opening a financial vein for a cab. $2.75 apiece instead of $40 plus tip? You betcha! I was nervous that we’d mess something up along the way, but the process was smooth sailing. (My sister thanked my for “beta testing” the route as she’d never tried getting to Laguardia this way.)
  3. I’ve found 22¢ on the ground at the airport so far.
  4. My son and I packed fresh bagels with lox spread for the trip so we wouldn’t be tempted to buy the overpriced food on our flights. I should have brought a refillable bottle, but we’ll just use the water fountains before the flight and the free non-alcoholic beverages once we board.
  5. I didn’t buy one souvenir during my two-week trip to NYC. Since I brought gifts, I’m actually going home lighter than when I arrived. Decluttering by way of hostess gifting for the win!

A huge thank you to my sister and her family for hosting us in their lovely Bronx City Island home. Right on the Long Island Sound, yet right outside the city. A perfect combination!

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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NYC Blog Reader Meetup is Today!

by Katy on July 17, 2015 · 5 comments

bethesdafountain

Just a quick reminder that the NYC Non-Consumer Advocate blog reader meetup is today at 6 P.M. at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park!

I’m really looking forward to meeting you!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Bit of Daily Life in NYC

by Katy on July 17, 2015 · 18 comments

Katz's Deli

Sorry to have left the blog dormant the past two days. I try not to let that happen too often, but daily life gets in the way and there’s simply no way I’m going to sit down at the computer to blog when I see my sister working to put a meal on the table and then work to get it cleaned up afterwards.

Can’t be that type of houseguest.

Here’s what you’ve missed:

  • I used my friend Jeff’s corporate pass to attend The Whitney Museum with my old pal Pam.
  • I found $25 on the ground yesterday. I also found two pennies and a quarter as the day went on.
  • Pam and I then walked down to Avenue C in the East Village to eat at a wonderful (and frugal) Puerto Rican restaurant.
  • My 17-year-old-son and his 10-year-old cousin have been going to the beach every day to catch hermit crabs, which they then incorporate into elaborate sunken sand castles.
  • My sister and I have been readying for tomorrow’s garage sale, although I admit that I haven’t been as helpful as I could be. (Sleeping on an inflatable mattress is exactly as restful as one would think.)

Today we hit up The Tenement Museum, where we’ll do a “Hard Times” tour which includes an extra discussion. (My idea of hot times in the city!)

Thanks for your patience with my spotty blogging schedule. As I tell my kids, “I’m doing my best, but sometimes my best is less than perfect.”

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on July 14, 2015 · 32 comments

bethesdafountain

Today I am . . . 

  • Arranging a get together with my friend Pam for Thursday.
  • Very appreciative that my friend Jeff from college is lending us his Whitney Museum workplace passes.
  • Excited to walk the Highline, poke through the Whitney and then have lunch with my friend Pam!
  • Starting to plan out my sister’s garage sale this Saturday at her house on City Island.
  • Pleased that I’ve been able to remotely run my Craigslist resell bidness from afar. So far I’ve sold eight women’s soccer tickets, one curb-picked duvet cover and a horrifically scratchy kilim throw pillow that always gave me the heebie-jeebbies. Not too shabby to bring in $105 of bonus cash while vacationing 3,000 miles away! (I simply tell my husband to put particular items on our covered porch, and then buyers put money in our locked mailbox.)
  • Mailing out the too-narrow Birkenstocks that I bought on eBay. Katy so sad . . .

Making a decision about the when and where of the Non-Consumer Advocate reader meetup. You can bring food or not. Please don’t feel you need to make or bring anything special whatsoever.

Where: Bethesda Fountain in Central Park

When: Friday, July 17 at 6 P.M.

Why: Stare at me. Meet fellow NYC non-consumers!

  • Trying to get teenagers out of bed so we can go to The Bronx Zoo this afternoon.
  • Driving to Trader Joe’s in Larchmont to replace the large bag of groceries that my sister left behind the other day. (My sister called ahead and prearranged everything.)
  • Now your turn. What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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