Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 20, 2015 · 19 comments

Free Geek

  1. Last night’s dinner was a black bean chili using beans cooked in the crock pot. It included a small amount of nice Grocery Outlet ground beef, as well as some leftover tomato sauce and bulk purchased spices. I served it with the last crumbles of some corn chips and leftover grated cheese from the other night.
  2. I stopped at a consignment shop where I’d dropped off a few things last month. Nothing had sold, but I bought a Queen Bee purse for only $25 that I currently have up on Craigslist for $50.
  3. My husband and I went to Portland’s Free Geek in search of a used replacement keyboard for my laptop. Unfortunately they didn’t have one, although I did come home with a free plastic bin for recyclables. It had been the bottom of a shredder, but it’ll work perfectly for the back porch. (The above picture is my why-didn’t-they-have-what-we-need-for-my-laptop sad face.)
  4. I just downloaded the library audiobook of Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread onto my iPhone. I had to wait a few weeks for it to be available, but Anne Tyler is one of my absolute favorite novelists, so I’m super excited to start listening to it. I pair the joyful activity of audiobooks with unpleasant or dull tasks to keep myself from falling behind with housework or errands, which works perfectly for me.
  5. I’m starting to plan next month’s birthday day of adventures for my husband and son, my son splurged on some purchases but spent his own money, I hung a few loads of laundry on the clothesline, I turned the dull task of waiting for guest cottage tenants to show up into a treat by bringing along Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives and thinking of it as rare peaceful and uninterrupted reading time.

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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{ 19 comments }

Do Not Put Your Computer in the Oven

by Katy on April 19, 2015 · 22 comments

Burnt keyboard

Today’s blog post will be both short and to the point, as it is being written on my iPhone.

Why the iPhone?

Well . . . I spilled some tea into my laptop, so my husband quickly took it apart to dry it out and minimize the damage. He also posted about it on his Facebook page. He received the advice to put the keyboard piece into the oven at 200 degrees and then turn the oven off.

He set the oven to 200, and instead of turning the knob clockwise to off, he turned it counter-clockwise to broil.

Broil!

The toxic smell of melting plastic quickly filled the house and alerted us to the fatal error.

So yeah . . . no computer for me today.

We did order a used keyboard piece, but it’ll be a few days until it comes.

I think this will be funny later on, but I’m not there yet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, burn it up, make it do or do without .”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 17, 2015 · 20 comments

Big Eyes Redbox

  1. My son and I watched Big Eyes last night thanks to the never ending Redbox promo code of PLKMP982. (It actually expires on April 30th.) Great movie at a great price! I think I’m going to go into withdrawal next month when I can no longer watch an infinite number of Redbox movies. (For those keeping count, we’ve used this code to watch The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Interstellar and Big Eyes so far!)
  2. We’re having guests over for dinner, but are planning an inexpensive burrito buffet featuring homemade tortillas, (okay it’s a mix from The Grocery Outlet) and slow cooker pinto beans. Entertaining doesn’t have to be expensive.
  3. I kept myself very busy and productive yesterday, and as a result was 100% uninspired when it came to dinner preparation. Even though I’d served it recently, I whipped up a batch of white bean rosemary soup with biscuits. This incredibly simple and cheap meal is a bizarrely huge hit with my sons.
  4. I hung a load of towels on the clothesline yesterday, which I think is a first for 2015 as towels need a good long while to dry in my shady Oregon backyard. I also set up a clotheshorse on the sunny front porch in a tucked away spot. Not that I’m completely averse to displaying our underwear for the world to see, but perhaps it’s better for neighborhood morale if they’re hidden away.
  5. I found 12¢ on the ground yesterday, spent an hour reading in the library during my son’s Japanese tutoring instead of sitting in the oh-so-tempting attached coffee shop, I renewed a c listing for some antique mirrors I’m selling, I bought nothing beyond food, didn’t buy this Goodwill mug that looked like a characature of my husband.

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 is a Throwback Thursday post from 2010. Enjoy! 

It’s no secret that I’ve been working hard to declutter my enormous five bedroom, one bathroom house. This has been a seemingly never ending task, not to mention gut- wrenchingly exhaustive. Because anyone who tells you that objects do not hold emotional meaning is full of crap. A stuffed animal is not just a stuffed animal. It belonged your adorable preschooler, who once dragged it around every day and sucked on its ears. Never mind that your once adorable four year old now shaves, eats more than Andre The Giant and is more rugged than adorable. That object is still imbedded with a giant emotional anchor.

But I’ve been able to talk myself down from this proverbial rooftop, and I’m now able to part with all kinds of emotionally taxing items. Toys, books, dress-ups. They all get the Craigslist/Goodwill treatment. And I’m a better person for it.

But there is still a category of belonging that tugs at my illogical heart strings and that is things I paid too much for. Case in point is this stupid underbed Ikea basket that I paid $25 for at a thrift store. Granted, this huge lined basket costs $50 new, but I spent a gift certificate I received as a Christmas present on it, so not only did I overpay, (and remove the price tag so it was non-returnable) but it was my *Christmas present* from my sainted mother. And guess what? The damned thing doesn’t fit under my damned bed.

I tried putting it on Craigslist, but no one wanted it. So there it sat, cluttering up my living room for at least a month, mocking my inability to part with this brief but expensive lapse in judgement.

I am fully aware that $25 is not that large an expense, even to me. But the regret that hitchhiked onto this inanimate object was priceless.

I finally decided yesterday that I would bring it by the hipster consignment store in my neighborhood, and if they didn’t want it, then it would get a one way ticket to Goodwillsville. Sadly, the store was not open when I stopped by. So what did I do? I gave it to my mother, who thought she should be able to use it in one of her guest cottages.

The basket is out of my life, but it’s still occupying a place in my mind that should be devoted to charitable works and world peace. I don’t feel satisfied with how I dealt with the basket. I made getting rid of it too complicated. I should have just put it on Freecycle and let someone else get some use out of it. But no, I felt like I should get at least some of my money back.

Are you holding onto items that you paid too much for, even though they are now essentially worthless and drag you down whenever you see them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Imperfectly yours,

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 15, 2015 · 37 comments

Free cone day

  1. Yesterday was Ben & Jerry’s annual Free Cone Day, which is a special event in my household. So as soon as dinner was over (white bean rosemary soup and a homemade french bread sandwich to use up some miscellaneous cold cuts) we hoofed it down to our local scoop shop and waited in line with the other cheap sugar addicts. My younger son got a New York Super Fudge Chunk cone and I took the advice of a reader who had just braved the line and got a Salted Caramel cone. Mmm . . . ¡muy rico! My older son had been through the line earlier and my husband bafflingly chose to not come. Weirdo.
  2. My older son is taking an art class at the local university and needed a new sketch book. I noticed that a few of his items from last quarter were still in their original packaging with attached priced tags. He and I walked over to the local art supply store and I brought his never used stuff along for the ride. Although I no longer had the receipt, I was able to exchange everything, as well as buy what my son needed without paying a penny. I actually got $7.15 cash back from the transaction, which of course went straight into the boys’ college fund. (Of course, it helps that my younger son works at this store, so they know to trust me.)
  3. I stopped at The Grocery Outlet this morning after dropping my son at school and bought two bags of food for $16.30. This included yogurts, mangos, avocados, nice salami, cereal, a huge container of plain popcorn and cream cheese.
  4. I finished listening to my library audiobook of The Boston Girl and have downloaded Shopaholic to The Stars onto my iPhone4. What can I say? I like a variety of different literary styles!
  5. I stopped at Goodwill on my way home from dropping my older son at school today. Ostensibly it was to A) Find diamonds in the rough to resell or B)Photograph weird stuff for the blog. I somehow bonded with this wonderful $3.99 velvet throw pillow that had no choice but to follow me home. Luckily, I still have most of a $50 Goodwill gift card, so no money left my wallet.

See you great the pillow is?

Velvet pillow

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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{ 37 comments }

Craigslist coffee table

Five things that make me happy:

  1. I made $100 selling a cool antique (but thrifted) coffee table that my mother wasn’t using. She and I had spent a few hours going through the back of her kitchen and she’d encouraged me to sell anything she’d otherwise be getting rid of. (I think she was more excited about the sale than I was!) Plus, it went to a collector of the Hispano Moresque style of tiled tables, so I know it went to a good home. #collegefund
  2. My sixteen-year-old son is learning to drive and we’ve started letting him do all of the driving for errands, which means that he’s getting better very quickly. It’s a joy to see him taking on adult responsibilities with confidence. Even if it means having my hair go completely white within a matter of months. (Seriously, I think being in the car with a new driver is the greatest gift of love a mother can give to her child!)
  3. Fred Meyer has had some very practical loss leader sales lately including milk, butter and eggs. Being able to inexpensively stock up on these staples frees up our grocery budget, which is very helpful.
  4. I came up with an absolutely amazing idea for my father’s 80th birthday gift. (I can’t share it here, but I will after June 23rd.) Not only will the gift be personalized, but it will also be very, very frugal.
  5. I am extremely happy that I was able to opt my son out of his university’s health insurance plan for the current quarter. The $694 I wasted last month still makes me burn.

One thing that’s pissing me off:

  1. I somehow spaced out Fred Meyer’s annual Fuchsia Saturday event where they sell fuchsia starts at 5-for-$3 and even include the potting soil! This is my one gardening expenditure for the year, and I love seeing my hanging baskets on the back porch. I already used last year’s soil in other areas, so the wire baskets are currently swinging empty in the breeze. I guess I’ll just figure out something that I already have to go in the baskets, but I’ll be sure to mark my calendar for next year’s fuchsia day! Seriously, I’m kicking myself over this!

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 13, 2015 · 39 comments

  1. Saturday night’s dinner was a little of this, a little of that in order to clear out the refrigerator and avoid food waste. But worry not, no one was served an old crusty bottle of mustard, as there were multiple previous meal tidbits. Not one of us was served the same meal, but everyone left the table satisfied. On the menu was pizza, lentil soup, chicken drumsticks, and egg salad. It created some elbow room in the fridge, freed up a few Pyrex containers and fed us all perfectly.
  2. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages and brought home peanut butter, frozen peas, a half-bottle of wine and a mini quiche.
  3. We’ve been driving our new Prius instead of the mini-van which had always been our first go-to car. It’s now been weeks since we’ve bought gasoline!
  4. My husband was planning on attending the opening game of the Portland Thorns women’s soccer game over the weekend, but would’ve been late to the game due to his own soccer game. Instead he sold the tickets, which put an extra $20 back into our pockets.
  5. I batched errands this morning to stop at Fred Meyer to pick up loss leaders, (eggs, milk and butter) and to look at some historic photos that a friend had told me about. I then stopped at my father’s house to visit with him. I’m listened to a library audiobook of The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and am planning on spending the day getting my house in order and working through a big to-do list. I will buy nothing.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been doing?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 39 comments }

Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on April 11, 2015 · 29 comments

Yesterday was a teachers’ planning day in Portland, so all public school students had the day off. I called my mom up and proposed an afternoon of hijinks and camaraderie. We first indulged in some comfort food and pie at the Village Inn and then hit up the nearby Goodwill thrift shop. She’s been cramming for her master’s degree orals and I knew she needed a break.

My mother was looking for a blouse, I was looking for weird stuff to photograph and my son, as always was looking for soccer related bargains.

He quickly located this Argentina national soccer team jacket, priced at $13. And since they normally sell for $90, a certain 16-year-old was happy to let his grandmother buy him a treat.

Argentina national jacket

He was also drawn to this American national soccer team jacket.

USA jacket

But was less excited about the word “sample” written across the back. Had the jacket been priced appropriately, we would have been happy to bring it home and use a solvent to remove the ink. But since the two jackets were priced the same, there was no contest on which one to buy.

Sample jacket

I had a brief but intense love affair with this hand crocheted afghan. Such great colors and lovely flower detail!

Handmade afghan

But $19.99 was too high a price for me to bust out one of my Goodwill gift cards. (Yes, it costs more than $20 to buy the yarn for such a large project, but what can I say? I like a bargain!) Plus, you know . . . I need another lap blanket like I need a hole in the head.

$20 afghan

I did appreciate the $1.99 price tag on this Kleen Kanteen beverage container. I know Kristen from The Frugal Girl would have popped this lil’ guy into her cart, but we currently have the perfect number of water bottles. Plus, it’s for little kids.

$2 Kleen Kanteen

I had a deep appreciation for this framed glass-grapes-on-black-velvet artwork, especially since it was one of a pair. So perfectly kitchy! It weighed approximately 754 pounds, which I think deserves some respect. Sometimes I wish I was a set decorator for the movies, and then I could spend my days scooping up weird vintage items.

Framed glass grapes on velvet

The one thing I did snap up was this $4.99 miniature end table. With quality that rivals most Ikea items, I had a strong suspicion it was an official American Girl Doll accessory.

And my instincts rarely fail me, as this turns out to be Kit Kittredge’s table, and here’s one that recently sold on eBay for over $42. But I didn’t buy it with an eye for resale. Nope. I bought it for my ten-year-old niece Emma.

American Girl Doll table

Last summer I took my one and only beloved niece to the American Girl Doll flagship store in New York City. But despite her dearest hopes, I wasn’t actually the kind of aunt who was able to treat her to her heart’s retail desires. Instead, I told her that we were going to treat the store like a museum, and just look at the stuff and appreciate everything. I also told her it would sharpen my eye for when I was thrifting. (Don’t worry, she already has two dolls and a number of accessories.)

So I owe her.

Emma’s mother and I were mad for our Sasha dolls when we were kids, and are still unabashedly obsessed with anything that’s the right size for our dolls. (So yeah . . . The American Girl Doll store was as much for me as it was for Emma.) Which is how my sister sent me these tiny Tabasco sauce bottles for my birthday this year.

Sasha doll

Of course, no Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will post would be complete without a what the fü¢& were they thinking item. This umm . . . back massager. With the rather virile and masculine handle. NOT OKAY TO BUY USED! NO!

A totally legitimate exception to the buy-nothing-new Compact.

Okay to landfill this bad boy.

Goodwill "back massager"

Do you go into thrift shops and marvel at the oddity of merchandise and pricing until you find that one perfect item? 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 April 9, 2015 · 37 comments

  1. Yesterday was a crazy busy day and the dinner that I’d planned on making suddenly felt like too much work and a mess to clean up from. I was sorely tempted to get takeout, but instead I walked down to New Season’s Market and bought a loaf of French bread and a knob of fresh ginger. I quickly put together a pot of red lentil soup and a huge toasted open faced sandwich with turkey, white cheddar and tomatoes. Dinner was easy, delicious and frugal. My favorite combination.
  2. My 19-year-old son just received confirmation that he’s been hired for another summer of lifeguarding. He started working as a lifeguard when he was 15, and with the exception of last year has worked every summer since. He’s always had the money for anything he wanted, and possesses a solid work history for when he starts applying for jobs later in life. We’ve never handed out allowances, and instead have encouraged the boys to figure out ways to earn their own money. This included lemonade stands and selling outgrown toys and books when they were little and jobs when they were old enough.
  3. My 16-year-old son has started his driver’s education classes, which will last for a month and a half. I learned that the Oregon Department of Transportation subsidizes $210 of the cost, which I appreciate. (I was also able to use a Chinook Book coupon for an additional $10 discount.) The best part of the class is that my son’s instructor will be the one to proctor his DMV driver’s test, which will help him to take the test without the normal anxiety most people have when it’s a stranger. They then give him a card showing that he passed the test and he’ll have up to two years to bring it to the DMV to trade it in for an actual license. This makes me really happy because I wasn’t planning on having my son get his true license until he needs to start driving alone. Adding a teenage boy to our car insurance is not going to be a pretty thing, and I’d like to minimize the cost as much as possible. Even if it’s just a few months of financial repreive.
  4. I bought a couple of things using a Goodwill gift card, but changed my mind after I got home. I was later able to return them for store credit. Even though there was no actual cash involved, I’d like to save the gift cards for when there’s something I truly want or need.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been doing?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Thank You, Dear Readers

by Katy on April 8, 2015 · 38 comments

Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group

The Non-Consumer Advocate blog has a companion Facebook group with more than 7,000 members. It’s a great place to bring ideas, ask questions and expand the non-consumer community. It’s open to all and is an extremely active space to hang out. It brings together diverse discussions that are 99% amazing.

But oh . . .  that 1%!

It’s not that big of a deal though, as someone is bound to tag me in any inappropriate threads so they can be dealt with. I moderate the group with an eye of keeping it respectful. You know, because we’re all adults.

This morning a new member decided to rant against the group, and it was a few hours before I had a chance to sit down at the computer. At that point a number of group members were upset enough to leave. I wrote a little something that I’d like to share here as well:

Here’s a shout out to everyone who works to make The Non-Consumer Advocate a positive, helpful, non-judgmental and safe place to share ideas and inspiration.

With more than 7,000 members, we are a varied group. We come from different backgrounds, countries and cultures. But we can all respect one another’s perspectives.

I have learned so much from everyone here, and I welcome those who bring a respectful mindset to the group.

As much as readers have shared that they find ideas and inspiration from The Non-Consumer Advocate, it goes both ways. I find constant inspiration and fantastic ideas from you, my blog readers.

So thank you, dear readers. You mean everything to me.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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