Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 25, 2015 · 30 comments

Old rice

  1. I broke the handle off this Fiestaware sugar bowl a few years ago, and then pushed it to the back of the cupboard with full intent to glue it back together. (Since it was a clean break, I knew that a tiny bit of epoxy glue would bring it back to life.) One barrier to the project was that the bowl would need to stand on its side while the glue dried, despite the second intact handle. But then I realized that the super crappy rice that I keep on hand for drying out electronics would work perfectly for the job. (This rice is so truly awful, I will only eat it in an apocalypse situation.) So now the sugar bowl  has come back to life and my after-the-zombies-come rice has one again saved the day!
  2. I gave my used newspaper and bread bags to my father for scooping his dogs’s poop, and then I gave two small vials of Subaru specific paint to my mother’s friend. (She and I had the same color Subarus, but since ours was totaled, we no longer had need for the paint.)
  3. I’m planning a dinner tonight to try and recreate the Brian’s Bowl from my favorite restaurant, ¿Porqué No? I’ve already started pinto beans in the crock pot, and plan on scaring up some additional tasty tidbits to spice things up. This will be the perfect way to use up some random ingredients while also making a special meal for my family.
  4. My son is taking a weeklong lifeguard certification class that’s from 1 P.M. – 9 P.M. The students are told to “bring snacks.” (Umm . . . don’t they mean “bring meals?”) Instead of packing food from home we’re just stopping by Subway each day for a footlong sandwich, which is actually cheaper than it would be to pack the amount of food that a 19-year-old man would eat during those hours. And easier, so much easier . . .
  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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Better Than Before

My review copy of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before came in yesterday’s mail, and despite having a busy day on my plate, I did carve out some time to start the book. Although I’m only 12 pages into the book so far, it’s already started me thinking about what my habits are and how they effect my life. I don’t perceive myself as an especially self-disciplined person, but I realize don’t give myself enough credit for the good habits that I do have.

Rubin writes that “habits are the invisible architecture of daily life” and that “habits make change possible by freeing us from decision making and from using self control,” which rings true to me. If a person establishes a habit, then they’re able to get through a task (or avoid a behavior) without having to exert self control, and thus that self control is available for something else later in the day. Habits are automatic, whether they’re good or bad.

Here’s an example. I always fold my laundry as soon as it’s out of the dryer (or off the clothesline.) Always. It doesn’t even occur to me to do one without the other. But since it’s so automatic, I don’t pat myself on the back for doing something that would require motivation. It’s a single mindless task. But I know many people see the chore of removing laundry from the dryer and folding it as two separate tasks, which then requires self-discipline to complete.

The emptying the dryer + folding task is a habit to me, therefore it doesn’t get procrastinated.

Habits are less likely to be procrastinated.

I’ll be writing more about Better Than Before as I move past page twelve, and I’ll even be hosting a giveaway for a copy of the book. But right now I need to go put water on for tea and start a load of laundry. Because that’s part of my morning habit.

Have you given thought to your habits and how they influence you? Do you have a hard time establishing new habits? 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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When is it Worth it to Stock Up?

by Katy on March 23, 2015 · 41 comments

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

One of the basic tenets of frugality is to stock up on needed items when they’re on sale/cheap and then shop from your stash, instead of needing to run out to pay full price.

But this is not always practical or advisable. If your money is being spent stocking up on household supplies, then it’s not available for immediate needs such as paying bills, backup emergency funds or charitable giving. Plus, it takes up a lot of space to store all this stuff.

I am not someone who keeps a huge stash of sale items filling up my pantry. A) I have no pantry, and B) that’s just not my personality. But there are ways that I do stock up.

Items that I stock up on are those that have a long shelf life and are at a rock bottom price. Examples would be 2-pound blocks of Tillamook cheese for $3.99 or $1 jars of jam. Essentially though, it needs to be a loss leader or close to it for me to bother with buying much extras. I will not buy something just because it’s cheap or free. It has to be something I would normally buy. So no weird products, and minimal packaged food. Even if I have a coupon.

One method to efficiently stock up on groceries that I don’t take advantage of is to use a freezer. Yes, I have my above-the fridge freezer, but there’s only so much food that can fit in there. I try to simply not use it as frozen food storage, and it’s usually filled with extra loaves of bread, individually frozen chicken breasts and bits of this and that.

Another time that I stock up on food or household goods, is when the item is bought in a speciality store that I only visit infrequently. This can be the rice wine vinegar from the Asian market, or the three-packs of soap that I buy at the Dollar Tree store. Buying these items away from the traditional grocery store saves me a lot of money, so it’s worth it to stock up. Plus, it’s a pain in the tuchus to run out of these items, so I like knowing that I’m set for awhile.

Are you the type of shopper that keeps a deep stash of pantry staples, or do you buy food and other household items as you run out? 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 March 21, 2015 · 38 comments

Tillamook cheese Jenga

  1. I took advantage of Fred Meyer’s sale on Tillamook cheese this week. Even though the coupon had a buy-two limit, I was able to stop in four times while out and about. $4.99 for a two-lb loaf is a great deal, plus I stocked up on white cheddar and colby jack, which rarely go on sale. (Luckily, the store is a just a couple of blocks from the house, and I pass by it on a daily basis.)
  2. My breakfast this morning was a Tillamook yogurt I bought when they were priced 3/$1 at The Grocery Outlet. I cut in a couple of strawberries that my friend brought by as a thank you for having her son to the house.
  3. I’m on a roll with cleaning out our nasty garage. After donating the dregs of last summer’s garage sale and returning my mother’s huge tables, there’s starting to be some light at the end of the tunnel. So when someone on my local buy nothing group posted two brand new REI hanging bicycle racks, I quickly snapped them up. Like any Portland family we have too many bikes, so this was an opportunity to get a bit more organized without actually spending any money.
  4. I brought three magazines to the nearby Little Free Library on my way to Fred Meyer this morning. Magazines that I get for free from cashing in dormant frequent flyer miles.
  5. I drove my husband and his equipment across town this morning to teach his CPR class. He always picks up a jug of Starbucks coffee along the way, for which he’s reimbursed. He poured me a big creamy cup before sending me on my way. Although we have a second car we plan on buying, there’s a possibility it’ll fall through, so we’re continuing to make it do and get along with just the single automobile for our family of four.

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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Treating Myself on a Limited Budget

by Katy on March 20, 2015 · 41 comments

Since I write about frugality, the subject matter can veer towards self-deprivation and austerity. I didn’t get that coffee I wanted, or look at this hair-tie I found on the ground or I have a less than ideal possession, but I’m keeping them going for as long as I can. But I don’t want to give the impression that a frugal life is one without joy and indulgences.

My current budget is extremely tight, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t treat myself.

  • I binge watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, not once but twice.
  • I drink multiple big hot sweet cups of Red Rose tea throughout my day, and always take it as an opportunity to plop down on the couch and goof around on the internet, thinking to myself “even the scullery maid gets to sit down with her tea at some point.”
  • I indulge my odd aesthetic and buy completely impractical scratchy vintage throw pillows.
  • I take lengthy hot showers. Even if they are every other day to save money.
  • I bake inexpensive treats for no reason whatsoever. And I don’t obsess about my weight.
  • I check out library books that I don’t end up reading, simply because the process of choosing is enjoyable.
  • I talk on the phone to my NYC sister at least three times per day.
  • I perk up dull chores by always having a library audiobook downloaded onto my phone.
  • I wear comfortable clothes, always.
  • I plan inexpensive trips that fit within my budget. I may never stay in a foreign resort, but I can still step away from my home routine now and then. We’ve even staycationed at my mother’s guest cottages, even though they’re just fifteen minutes from the house.
  • I socialize with my friends without spending money.
  • I give myself permission to take pleasure in what others would find ordinary.

I don’t pressure myself to keep up the Joneses, which frees me from making life choices based on how I seem to others. Having an extremely limited budget doesn’t mean that life’s little, or even medium pleasures need to go by the wayside.

Today I may be spending the day cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages, but later I’ll throw together a couple of homemade pizzas and snuggle up in front of the TV with my beautiful and healthy kids.

Which is the ultimate treat.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on March 19, 2015 · 31 comments

Because I do The Compact and choose to only buy used, thrift shops are my go-to resource. I hit them up when there’s something that my family needs, and I certainly have been known to bring home a few items that I want.

And the other day my son needed a new computer mouse, so off to Goodwill we went. Finding a perfectly serviceable mouse was a matter of just a few minutes, which left us time to browse.

Used mouse

I was tempted by this vintage Tiki-style footed bowl, but I already have more than enough cool knick-knacks to contend with, so I left it for someone else to snap up.

vintage ceramic piece

I also appreciated this adorable Humpty Dumpty children’s lamp. So sweet, but not exactly age appropriate for my 16 and 19-year-old sons, so I left it on the shelf as well. (Fun fact, The Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme does not mention that he’s an egg. Seriously. Think about it!)

Asked of obnoxious teenagers

Of course, this targeted savings bank caught my eye. I do love how varied the savings goals are. Vacation, Cadillac, fishing, and of course the all important “golp.”

Golp, people. GOLP! Is your golp account fully funded?

Savings bank man

No shopping trip would be complete without the opportunity to purchase an opened box of thrift shop tampons. Yes I know they’re individually wrapped, but still . . .

Used tampons

I always take a stroll through the furniture section, as there are often diamonds in the rough that whisper my name. I was slightly tempted to pick up this set of vintage dinette chairs. As a frequent furniture reseller, I know that having the full set makes them much more valuable.

But do you see who’s also checking them out?

Dinette chairs

Look closer.

Bush afar

That’s right, it’s former U.S. president George W. Bush, taking a break from his watercolors to do a little thrifting in Portland, Oregon!

Bush close up

Kind of a surprise, but he’s probably just visiting to enjoy my fine city’s cycling culture, food carts and maybe even make a cameo in the TV show Portlandia.

Hey, you never know!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 18, 2015 · 35 comments

Found money

  1. I stopped into The Grocery Outlet yesterday while my son was having his Japanese tutoring, as they’re in the same neighborhood. (I batch errands whenever possible!) I didn’t spend enough money to use one of my $3-off-$25 coupons, although I did fill 2-1/2 bags with 3/$1 Tillamook yogurts, frozen pierogis, bananas, red potatoes, jam, avocados, tomatoes, sour cream, tamales and 99¢ kielbasa. I then found 7¢ in the parking lot, which has since been added to my Found Change Challenge jar.
  2. I was dangerously drooping after my grocery shopping, and still had another half-hour to kill while waiting for my son’s tutoring to finish. The library is attached to a coffee shop and I started fantasizing about how glorious it would be to sit down with a strong cup of coffee. But I changed my mind at the last second when I saw a sign proclaiming that they served “Infused Red Bull,” which is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard of. This shocked me out of my stupor, and instead I answered a few e-mails on my phone and picked out a couple of library books. And when I did get home, I enjoyed a 4¢ cup of strong and glorious Red Rose tea.
  3. My neighbors are going on vacation and stopped by to return a plate that I’d taken over with some pumpkin scones. She also brought the latest Sunset magazine for me, as she’d received an extra one. Having a give-and-take relationship with neighbors not only strengthens community, but also saves money.
  4. I’m transitioning my cats’ litter boxes from an upstairs hallway down to the basement, which means we currently have a three litter box upstairs-downstairs situation going on. Because having litter boxes in two areas is for a minimal period of time, I’d rather not buy an extra scoop. Instead of walking a scoop down two flights of stairs, I’m using an inside-out bread bag doggy style. It does the job without requiring an extra purchase to be made and an extra plastic doodad to be manufactured. This is definitely a make it doo opportunity.
  5. My older son’s computer mouse stopped working a few months ago, and he keeps stealing his brother’s one. Today I’m taking him to Goodwill to pick out a used one. It may not be pleasing to the eye and aerodynamically streamlined like a new one would be, but it’ll be functional. And peace will hopefully prevail again in our home sweet home.

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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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on March 17, 2015 · 17 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Getting both of my sons up and off to school.
  • Cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages.
  • Bringing home a bag of sugar from the guest cottage, adding to my canister at home, and then discovering it was infested with ants.
  • Throwing all of my sugar into the compost.
  • Shuddering.
  • Returning 24 empty beer bottles from the guest cottage to get the nickel deposits back.
  • Donating a load of leftover garage sale stuff that’s been sitting in my garage since last summer.
  • Cooking up a batch of black beans in the crock pot for tonight’s burrito dinner.
  • Talking to my NYC sister on the phone while she eats her $1/slice pizza lunch.
  • Picking my son up from his Japanese tutoring.
  • Not needing to bring a book to kill time while I wait for my son, as his tutoring is at the library.
  • Just having a regular, kind of boring day.

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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 16, 2015 · 31 comments

Cheap milk

  1. I stopped into Fred Meyer on my way home from dropping my son at school today. I bought the above gallon of milk which doesn’t even expire until March 21st, as well as two 2-lb loaves of Tillamook cheese for $5.99 apiece. I’ll make a couple more cheese runs this week, as the coupon limit is to only buy two at a time. I’m 100% brand loyal to Tillamook, which is how you can tell I’m a native Oregonian.
  2. I had to drive my son to a far flung suburb for a birthday party yesterday. Instead of simply driving home, I set my phone’s GPS for the nearest Goodwill and indulged in a quiet half hour or so of shopping. I ended up buying a brand new Land’s End long sleeve T-shirt for $3.49, which I paid for using a Goodwill gift card. I ruthlessly decluttered my clothing recently, and was left with not much at all. I actually need a few more items to fill out my wardrobe.
  3. I’m setting up a blog giveaway for Gretchen Rubin’s newest book, Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I’ll be receiving a review copy, which will save me money as I have a Compact (buy nothing new) exception for books written by friends. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book, as my self discipline leaves much to be desired. Plus, Gretchen Rubin has a gift when it comes to disseminating dry information in a way that resonates with the masses.
  4. My husband and I have been recent recipients of some terrific free stuff. I found two ponytail holders plus a stretchy headband on the turf at my son’s soccer game yesterday, while my husband was given an elite club seat ticket for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. (The ticket includes free food and beer.) Can you tell that I thrill more easily than my husband does? What can I say, I’m a cheap date!
  5. I’m eating bulk purchased oatmeal for breakfast, keeping the furnace off as much as possible, cleaning two of my mother’s guest cottages this week, convincing my husband to sell his dust collecting drum set, doing our taxes using Turbo Tax, washing our hands using a foaming hand soap pump dispenser that I refill using just a few squirts of liquid soap plus water, planning meals based on half-priced chicken and noting the blue skies and thinking it would be a perfect day to dry sheets on the clothesline.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 14, 2015 · 53 comments

Electrical tape spice labels

  1. Remember my new spice labels that I shared the other day? Well my husband noticed them, and asked if I’d made them from electrical tape. It was a huge ah-hah moment, because I’d noticed that the label stickers had been stretchy like electrical tape, although at the time I didn’t think twice about it. Of course, I had to try and replicate the labels using lowly, cheap (and on hand) electrical tape. The dimensions were different, but essentially the final product looked exactly the same. (The above paprika is a store bought label, and the dill label is from electric tape.)
  2. My sixteen-year-old son is signed up to take a $200 driver’s education class at his high school, although the class itself is through our local community college. So when my neighbor and I were going page by page through our Chinook books, the coupon for “$10-off any community college class” caught my eye. I called the college up and asked if the driving class qualified, and indeed it did! Spending $190 instead of $200 may not seem like tremendous savings to others, but I’ll take any savings that I can get!
  3. My husband and I have been keeping an eye out for a used car since our Subaru Outback was totaled in November. We’ve been doing okay with the single car, but it was never a long term plan. I’d given my information to our mechanic, asking her to be on the lookout for anyone selling a great compact car. She’d already sent one woman our way, but the car was too compact. (Safety concerns.) So when she called me again about a woman selling her 2007 Toyota Prius, we jumped. My husband and I researched the car, talked to the mechanic, as well as a few friends who essentially own the same car. We went ahead and test drove it the other day and decided that we’d finally found our second car. The woman selling it needs to find another car to buy before she can hand it over, but that’s okay since the price is around $1,000 more than we have set aside, and we want to pay cash. A perfect opportunity to sell some household items to both raise money and rid our home of a few extra things.
  4. I try to keep my husband’s work lunch items on hand, but I’d somehow overestimated how much deli meat I’d stashed in the freezer. This miscalculation meant a pound of $10.99/lb roast turkey came home with us from the grocery store. So first thing the next morning I swung by The Grocery Outlet and stocked up on $3/lb sliced roast chicken for sandwiches. Add in that I used a $3-off-$25 coupon and we’re now set for a month or so of frugal work lunches.
  5. Daily frugal things such as wearing clothes multiple times between washes, sharing garbage service with our next door neighbors, making sure to not be hungry when heading out the door, mending my son’s favorite pajama shirt, cutting the top off the toothpaste tube, staying away from impulse purchases, batching errands, drinking water for thirst, using my credit union’s app to deposit checks instead of driving, making pizza from scratch, listening to digital library audiobooks and multiple other tiny things.

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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