Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 27, 2017 · 68 comments

  1. I had the privilege of receiving a behind the scenes tour of a Portland area Goodwill Outlet store yesterday, which of course was a total blast. (So interesting, and you can look forward to a stand alone blog post about it in a few days.) Afterwards I wandered around “the bins” for a bit, where I picked up a brand new pair of hand knit socks and a pair of classic vintage scissors. The total cost? 57¢. And yes, thank you for asking. I am an extremely practical person.
  2. I’m attending a consumer opinion focus group this evening, which will bring me $100 closer to my goal of exotic vacations, groovy clothing, gourmet restaurant meals, relaxing spa days paying for my sons’ college expenses. These are always very interesting and there’s something very Soprano-esque about being handed an envelope full of cash. I just wish they’d tell me that “you’re one of my top earners.”
  3. I borrowed my friend’s sweater shaver to tidy up a vintage needlepoint pillow that was looking a bit rough. This is a perfect example of how having a “mutually moochy relationship” supports a frugal life style. There is a 0% chance that the two of us will require this item at the same time, so there’s no need for duplicate ownership. She then has carte blanche to borrow anything that I own. Example? She borrows my rug shampooer from time to time.
  4. I accepted an invitation to meet up with the alumni outreach person from my college of nursing. He knew to not hit me up for a donation, and together we enjoyed delicious lattes on his expense account.
  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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The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

It was sure a lot more fun and satisfying to fix up this old mirror than it would have been to buy one online. And yes, the antique dresser was a curbside find.

  • Dinner out without ever having to worry about the bill.
  • This season’s hip new clothing without the slightest inclination to look at the price tag.
  • turnkey house where your only project is where to place your gorgeous furniture?

Sounds great, right?

Nope.

As dreamlike as it sounds to have access to everything you want at your fingertips, I feel like the reality of a limited budget sparks creativity and imagination that would otherwise lay dormant. 

Because the cost of taking four adults out for dinner, (Yup, teenage boys eat as much, if not much, much more than an adult) is staggering, so I end up having to cook at home. However, this doesn’t translate into frozen Costco lasagnas, as I like to prepare what I actually enjoy eating.

Take last night as an example. I’ve been craving Vietnamese salad rolls all week, (probably due to the fact that I spent an afternoon cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages, and basking in the aromas of the divine Jade Teahouse and Patisserie, the *best* restaurant, Vietnamese or otherwise in town.) So instead of wallowing in the sentiment of “Poor me,” I found a recipe online and whipped up a huge batch of salad rolls for the family. And no, they were not as pretty as Jade’s, but for the first time in my life I got to gorge on a delicacy, which before had always been an appetizer.

Such a luxury, and frankly, pretty damned satisfying. And now, I have a new skill! Some might even go so far as to call it self improvement. 

The harsh reality of not being able to buy the things you want, whether it’s a certain type of food, a decor item or the services of a professional can force you into learning new skills. And then, if your financial situation takes a nosedive, you already know how to fend for yourself. But you know . . . in style.

It’s a good thing that I wasn’t born an heiress. What a travesty that would have been. 😉

Agree, disagree? 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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This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

It can seem like half of the work of maintaining a clean home is the baffling challenge of stain removal. It would be easy if there was a single product that worked on very surface, but sadly such is not the case. Add in new materials such as synthetic workout gear and grandma’s go-to stain removers no longer pack the punch they used to.

However, three’s no need to reinvent the wheel, as other people have already done the hard work of solving your stain dilemmas. Here’s what they’ve discovered.

Sharpie

The beauty of a Sharpie pen is that it writes on almost anything and is permanent. Sadly, that’s also its downfall. Our own Alex Thompson Sadler discovered this list which should cover almost any disaster that your two-year-old can dish out:

  • Clothes: hand sanitizer.
  • Walls: toothpaste or hairspray.
  • Wood: rubbing alcohol.
  • Carpet: white vinegar.
  • Furniture: milk.
  • Ceramic or glass: One part toothpaste to one part baking soda.
  • Fiberglass: green and yellow sponge with Windex or alcohol.
  • Plastic: toothpaste and toothbrush or oil sheen hair spray and a cloth.

How to remove Sharpie stains from pretty much anything

Driveway oil stains

Believe it or not, people swear by kitty litter for this task, and if you believe the members of the Laundry Love & Cleaning Science group, “the cheaper the better.” You’re then instructed to step on it, “grind it in” and let it sit. Finish with a Dawn detergent/water scrub and then hose it off.

Urine

It might be due to a misbehaving puppy or a potty training child, but most of us have been in the situation where we’re dealing with the sight and smell of a urine stain. Luckily, there are enzymatic cleansers that break down instead of simply masking this unwelcome scent. One cleaning product that both parents and pets owners swear by is Odoban. Whether you’re working on upholstered furniture, hard surfaces or laundry, they have a product for all types of biologically based stains.

White board

White boards work perfectly in their write-on-wipe-off functionality until someone accidentally uses the wrong pen. Luckily hand sanitizer such as Purell works wonders to remove ink stains. Need more proof of hand sanitizer’s power? You need only to view this inspiring post from a few months ago.

Accidentally dyed laundry

We all know the classic advice to separate colors when doing laundry, but sometimes a brand new red sock still gets mixed into a load of whites. Your newly pink clothing may be a delight to your three year old, but not everyone wants to embrace the Disney princess aesthetic. Fear not, as an overnight soak in Oxyclean, (or the L.A.’s Totally Awesome Dollar store knock-off) should help to get your wardrobe back to normal. Repeat if necessary and do not put your laundry into the dryer until you’re satisfied with the result.

Workout clothing stench

You may feel all virtuous after a good workout, but traditionally laundered workout gear can retain unpleasant smells that are sure to ruin your endorphin high. However, an old stalwart cleaner has your sweaty back. Pine-Sol. That’s right, the same stuff your grandmother mopped her floors with has gained the respect of a new generation. The instructions for laundry are right on the bottle, instructing to “add ½ cup of Original Pine-Sol along with your regular detergent to boost a load of white or colorfast laundry.”

Blood

Blood stains can be a real pain to address. However, there’s one product that’s the #1 choice for removal. Hydrogen peroxide. Yup, just the regular cheap stuff in the brown bottle. Spray or pour the peroxide onto the stain and let it sit while it bubbles. Then rinse in cold water and repeat. Rub the fabric against itself for final stain removal and add in some Dawn detergent if necessary. Again, don’t put the piece through the dryer until the stain is fully removed.

Yellow armpit stains

Caused when “the aluminum in your antiperspirant or deodorant combines with the salt in your sweat,” yellow shirt stains can be a real embarrassment. However, a combination of baking soda, dish soap and hydrogen peroxide can bring your shirt back to life. Team Clark’s Mike Timmerman tested this technique, writing that it’s as simple as “applying the ingredients directly to the shirt, use an old toothbrush to work them in for a minute, and then let the shirt sit for at least an hour before putting it in the washing machine.”

Cheap and easy way to remove yellow sweat stains from your clothes

Hard water stains on toilets

It can be frustrating to have a perpetually dirty looking toilet despite regular cleanings. This phenomenon is usually due to hard water deposits, and even though you may have tried multiple cleaning products, a quick scrub with a pumice stone can remove the stain with minimal effort. Rave reviews such as this one have me convinced. “My pumice stone took all the nasty off and my potty looks brand new!”

Grass stains

Whether you’re the parent of a rambunctious pre-schooler or have a kid in sports, grass stains can be a challenge to address. Luckily there’s a powerful bar of soap that’s stocked in the laundry aside of most grocery stores. Fels-Naptha has been manufactured for over 100 years, and has been the go-to stain remover for multiple generations of launderers. Their website instructs that “All you’ve got to do is rub the stain with a wet bar of Purex Fels-Naptha and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wash your clothes as you normally would and say farewell to tough stains for good.” Users agree, sharing that “I use it on my son’s baseball pants and it works each time.”

Conclusion

However you address the stains in your life, make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions and to never ever mix random cleansers. Especially bleach and ammonia, as the combination will create chlorine gas, a toxic vapor.

If my research for this article has taught me anything it’s that there’s a cleaning solution for just about every stain, especially if you catch it before it goes through the dryer.

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 April 23, 2017 · 99 comments

  1. I finally used up my year-long Voodoo Donuts gift certificate to get a dozen donuts to take down for my son’s dorm mates. If I never see another donut in my life it will be too soon.
  2. I was able to write two Clark Howard articles while I was at Timberline Lodge. Making money while on a free vacation is pretty sweet.
  3. I’m reading a library copy of the book “Lab Girl.
  4. I turned off the heat and switched the hot water heater to low while we were out of town.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

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

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The Simple Beauty of Timberline Lodge

by Katy on April 21, 2017 · 31 comments

I’m currently staying at Timberline Lodge, as my husband has a work conference, and I’m nothing if not an unabashed freeloader. As a history geek, I am deeply appreciative for the privilege to stay here.

For those not in the know, Timberline Lodge was built in 1939 the midst of the great depression, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program that put artisans and unemployed Americans back to work. And for that reason, the lodge is rich with awe inspiring artistic elements.

Everywhere you look is a museum worthy piece of art.

I call these “Newel Post Porn.” These original carved animals are on every newel post, and they’re straight up adorable!

Fun fact: They’re made from recycled telephone poles.

I took the time to watch a looping documentary about Timberline, and learned a thing or two, including that Douglas Lynch was one of the original WPA artists, and he happens to be my friend’s grandfather! I texted his wife and she directed me to the room where his carved and painted linoleum panels are featured.

I learned that he was the last surviving artist from the initial construction, and that he snuck both himself and his wife into this artwork. His carved and painted linoleum panels are an important part of this historic landmark, and I’m not going to lie. I got a bit teary when I realized the connection.

Grandpa Doug Lynch:

And grandma Margaret Lynch:

His artwork is pure perfection!

 

This photo gives you a sense of the scale.

I’ve been giving some thought as to how this relates to non-consumerism, and it boils down to this. It doesn’t cost a thing to make the most of where you are or what you have in life. Whether I’m in NYC taking a free tour of the historic Fifth Ave Library or simply cooking inexpensive meals from scratch while my social media friends post about their delicious restaurant meals.

$28 entrees be damned! I’m content to eat the food I brought from home. As long as I get to wander about the facilities.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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What’s making me happy:

  1. I’m happy that the road to Timberline Lodge was freshly plowed so that my husband and I were able to avoid putting chains on the tires.
  2. I’m happy that the architects of Timberline Lodge included this little writing nook way back in the 1937, and that no one besides me wanted to claim it as their own in 2017.
  3. I’m happy that both my kids seem to be emerging as functional adults who know how to problem solve and take care of themselves. (This is prompted by my older son who figured out how to get himself to jury duty, despite it being in a different town than where he attends college. He successfully argued that he has classes he’s unable to miss, and then he figured out how to catch a bus back to campus. He didn’t even contact me once about the logistics, so I only heard about it afterwards!)
  4. I’m happy to have amazing neighbors who don’t bat an eye about keeping an eye on our cats while we’re out of town.
  5. I’m happy that I took the time to deep clean the house, so that we’ll come back to a fresh and inviting home. Nothing is more depressing than coming home from vacation to a stale smelling and messy house.

What’s pissing me off:

  1. An eBay buyer tried to scam my son by claiming that he’d sent the wrong size soccer jersey. Luckily the jersey that he returned had a different ID number on it, so I was able to definitely prove the deception. My son is not out any money, but I spent a fair amount of time and mental energy dealing with the return. However, I learned that you can block a buyer, which is a good skill to have.

Now your turn. What’s making you happy, and conversely what’s pissing you off?

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 April 19, 2017 · 42 comments

  1. My husband and I spent yesterday finishing up our taxes and rewarded ourselves with dinner and a movie. Of course, our frugality was on point. My father likes to take me to lunch once or twice a month at a local restaurant that offers punch cards. It takes forever to earn anything, but I was finally at the point where buying one entree would qualify me for a free one. Unfortunately, it ended up being a “happy hour” day, which meant that they weren’t punching cards. Luckily I was able to talk the server into charging me an extra dollar (the full amount) in order to qualify for the free entree.
  2. We walked home where I finished up a Clark Howard article, and then readied ourselves for round two. Our favorite refurbished art deco movie theater has bargain Tuesdays, which meant that the two of us paid just $2 apiece to see Star Wars: Rogue One. The grand total of the our adventures ended up being $15, including the tip! By the way, I loved the movie and its attention to detail, including that the Rebel Alliance fighter pilots had dorky mustaches, consistent to the 1977 Star Wars actors. Continuity matters!
  3. I received a free container of Barkeeper’s Friend cleanser in the mail yesterday, which I earned from submitting my own before-and-after for their website. Pretty funny, as the shipping far exceeded the cost of just buying one from my own grocery store. Hey, free is free!
  4. I did my kids’ taxes for them, but used TaxAct.com instead of TurboTax.com as the state filing was going to cost $29.99 as the period for free filing had passed. I meant to have the boys do their own taxes during spring break, but forgot as my focus was on my son’s oral surgery. I want full credit for this frugal act, as I had to start from scratch when I realized that I was going to have to pay to file his taxes. Kind of a pain, but I saved $60.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

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

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One thing that I really like about blogging is that I’m constantly learning new tricks. Whether it’s here or on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group, new ideas are constantly flowing in.

So today is your turn. Have a tip or trick that saves you a few pennies or a few dollars? Please share your unique money saving ideas in the comments section below.

I’m sure we could all use a new idea or two, so please, share what works for you!

Here, I’ll start. My main money saving idea to to tweak my attitude. Instead of feeling bummed out about not having money for all the fun things I could be doing, (Hawaiian vacations, etc.) I choose to focus on how great it is to not have to work all the zillions of hours it would take to earn the money for these kinds of expenses.

Tag, you’re it!

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 April 14, 2017 · 92 comments

  1. I worked the last two days, and of course I brought my own food and drank the free crappy coffee and the free delicious tea. I used cloth napkins and silverware from home, and all my food was packaged in reusable glass containers.
  2. I listed a few more things on eBay and quickly made two sales. One was a vintage key fob screwdriver that was included in a $2.99 bag of miscellaneous Goodwill sewing supplies, (sold for $19.99) and the other was an antique cast iron stove handle thingy that I bought a million years ago for 49¢. (Also sold for $19.99.) Both pieces were packaged in used padded envelopes, and I took advantage of free bubble wrap that a local business was giving away. I even arranged for a mail carrier to pickup from the house, which meant no extra errand for me! I just love that I was able to put these odd and specific items into the hands of people who will use and appreciate them!
  3. I’m looking forward to an upcoming freebie mini-vacation courtesy of my husband’s employer. He has a three-day work conference at an amazing historic mountain lodge, and his boss says that not only am I welcome to accompany him, but that I’m specifically invited! (For those of who’ve seen The Shining, this lodge was used as the exteriors for the movie!) I love this historic landmark, and have always wanted to stay there, but have never felt comfortable with the splurge. I’m already gathering library books and plan on doing some serious writing in in front of the massive lobby fireplace. I just hope to type more than “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
  4. My $2.99 bag of Goodwill sewing notions included two darning eggs. I gave one to a co-worker, and in exchange she insisted on giving me two hand knit potholders. My sons will both be living off campus in the fall, so I’m starting to think about the household supplies that they’ll need.
  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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This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

After your home, your car is likely the second most expensive purchase that you’ll make in your lifetime. And for that reason, it’s essential to treat it well. Keeping a clean interior should be on your priority list, especially since the average Americans drives 17,600 minutes (293 hours, 20 minutes) per year and your comfort is valuable.

Of course you could pay someone more than a hundred dollars to detail your vehicle, but with these simple tips you’ll maintain the look, comfort and value of your car for pennies on the dollar.

Unfog your vehicle’s headlights:

It’s normal for your headlight lenses to become cloudy after the thousands of miles that you spend on the road, so you may have been tempted to spend $19.95 on a cleaning kit.

Instead, grab a tube of toothpaste.

I’d heard that the gentle abrasive used in toothpaste works perfectly to clean and polish the plastic, so I thought I’d give it a try. I paired it with a soft cleaning cloth, as I didn’t want to scratch the plastic. I worked slowly and carefully in concentric circles, careful to not damage the paint.

Wow, what a difference! This photo does not do justice to how much better my headlights look after this super easy (and minty fresh) project.

 

 

Clean your windshield wiper blades with rubbing alcohol:

I’d read that rubbing alcohol does a good job of cleaning windshield wiper blades that are no longer at their functional best. And since you can pay up to $27 apiece for them, I figured this hack was also worth a try. Luckily, I always have a couple of individually packaged alcohol wipes on hand from my job as an RN, although you can certainly use a rag or paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol.

This task took just a few minutes, as it was a simple as lifting the windshield wipers to an upright position and then just gently dragging the alcohol wipes down the blades a couple of times. This removed the grit and left a fresh like-new surface. Luckily, I live in Oregon and only had to wait a few hours until I could test out the result. I was rewarded with perfectly functioning windshield wiper blades without streaks or other issues.

 

Sweep, don’t vacuum the interior of your vehicle:

Although it’s always very satisfying to vacuum out your car’s interior, this chore involves either paying at the carwash or dragging your own vacuum cleaner down from the house. I’m a fan of using a simple hand broom to sweep off my car’s seats, as well as the flooring. Unfortunately, I don’t actually own a whisk broom. However, creating one is as simple as removing the handle from a traditional broom. (Please excuse the extreme scrappiness of my ancient Costco broom, but I believe that as long as an item is functional, it doesn’t need to be replaced.)

You’ll be amazed by how much better your vehicle’s interior can look after just a couple minutes of manual sweeping.

 

Throw your floor mats through the dishwasher:

Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that rubber floor mats can go through a dishwasher — and your vehicle’s floor mats are no different. (Of course, you don’t want to run any dishes though the same wash.) You’ll need to make room by removing the top rack of your dishwasher, but that’s as easy as removing two small clips.

I simply arranged the floor mats with their upper surface towards the water spray, added a bit of dishwasher detergent and set the machine on its shortest cycle without auto dry. (Didn’t want to accidentally bake the rubber!)

The mats looked so nice and clean afterwards, and my hands on time with this project was maybe five minutes, including finding my car keys and removing the top rack.

If you have carpeted floor mats in your car, check out this woman’s post about how she washed hers in the washing machine!

19 things you didn’t know you could put through the dishwasher.

Use Windex glass cleaner for upholstery stains:

My last car hack experiment was to try standard Windex glass cleaner to remove fabric upholstery stains. I gotta say that I was really nervous about this one, as I was worried that the Windex would leave a blue tinge. Luckily, such was not the case.

Here’s how to remove a coffee stain:

  1. Fully saturate the stain and then dab/lightly scrub at it with a white cleaning towel. Switch to a clean/dry area of the towel every 15 seconds or so, as to not grind the stain any deeper.
  2. Respray the area as needed, continuing to gently scrub the area until the stain disappears.

The Windex smell continued to be present while the area was drying, but has since dissipated.

These five car cleaning hacks will not only protect your investment, but should make your driving experience more enjoyable and comfortable. And since they’re practically free, you can even afford to fill up your gas tank!

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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