Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 27, 2015 · 1 comment

College fund money

  1. I made good use of my library yesterday by picking up a hold copy of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. My son owns all the movies except for this one, and had been wanting to rewatch it. It took a few weeks to come in, but that made no difference as there was no hurry to watch what should have been titled “The Rise of Jar-Jar.” This movie is the worst, and I’m glad I didn’t spend a penny to procure it. Funny how all four of us gravitated towards it though . . .
  2. I’ve been looking for an easy budgeting tool, so I decided to give Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar a try. (Of course, I chose the free version instead of the one that’s $99/year.) I was well on my way to inputting all our May information when my credit union’s website suddenly went down for “schedule maintenance” last night. The online program is extremely user friendly, and I can see myself keeping up with it. I’ve tried other methods, but never been able to stick with them, so I’m hoping this will be the one. 
  3. My scrappy sandals finally bit the dust. (Remember how I snipped to repair them last year?) I was walking an errand yesterday and thinking about how loose and floppy they’d become when I suddenly became aware that my left shoe had suddenly become unattached from my foot. “Hmm . . .  I thought to myself. I guess this is the ‘wear it out’ part of ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.’ ” I’ll now take them at a shoe recycling drop-box and add “buy sandals” to my thrift shopping list.
  4. I stopped at The Grocery Outlet yesterday to stock up on groceries and cat litter. I had a $3-off-$30 coupon from a previous receipt, so I carefully added up as I went along. I ended up having to add an extra box of cat litter to my cart to spend enough, but in the end I bought three bags of groceries plus two boxes of litter for only $30. In all I bought:
  • 2 insanely heavy boxes of cat litter.
  • 4 cans of diced tomatoes.
  • 1 bottle of ketchup.
  • 2 boxes of organic cereal.
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 4 avocados.
  • 1 package of chicken thighs.
  • 4 cans of tomato paste.
  • 2 bags of black beans.
  • 6 containers of schwanky yogurt.
  • 1 honeydew melon.

5.  I returned a bag of library books and renewed everything to avoid any fines, used up the last of some barbecue sauce that came with my son’s birthday dinner, hung laundry on the clothesline, left laundry on the line all night to get rained on, negotiated with my son’s gym to get a better rate, batched errands, retuned bottles left behind by guest cottage tenants and 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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Keeping a Frugal Mindset

by Katy on May 26, 2015 · 28 comments

Like any other lifestyle habit, it can be difficult to stay motivated when it comes to frugality. Why? Because frugality, especially the extreme frugality that I practice involves a fair amount of choosing to “do without.” I cook from scratch, (even when I crave a restaurant meal, which is frequently) I wear the same clothing over and over again and I get most of my entertainment from library books and whatever freebies I can scrape up.

From the outside, I can see how my life might appear grim. Especially when friends and family conspicuously consume and seem to be living the high life.

However . . . because I do put a lot of forethought into how I spend (and don’t spend) my money, my frugality is a conscious decision that I control.

My control. My choice.

Staying out of financial trouble gives me peace of mind that wouldn’t be possible if I were to spend like the average American. So instead of viewing my financial restraints as limiting, I choose to see them as freeing. I’m not tied down by traditional societal expectations. I have no shame about plucking things from free piles to sell or even give as gifts. (My older son’s main holiday gift last year was an art portfolio that someone had put out for free!) We’ve never been to Disneyland or a resort, and most of our vacations involve a friend’s $65/night Oregon coast beach cabin.

Crafting an enjoyable and satisfying life for my family is a challenge that I enjoy.

I don’t feel deprived, so I’m not. As long as I have food, shelter, reliable transportation, health insurance, decent thrift shops and a few extra dollars, I’m good to go. And staying motivated year after year? Easy, as my family wants for nothing and the internet overflows with tip, tricks and inspirational stories of of individuals who’ve accomplished amazing things without the benefit of a trust fund or a corporate career.

Sustained Frugality is so much more a state of mind than it is numbers on a ledger. And it’s such a great place to be.

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 May 25, 2015 · 27 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Going to a friend’s staged reading, and bringing two canned goods, which is the price of admission.
  • Happy that the birthday party that my son went to was a “no gifts” event. My son will have a sleepover with friends next weekend, and he spontaneously told me that that he wants his party to be no gifts as well.
  • Thinking it’s funny that my son worked at his job yesterday, and then went to a sleepover afterwards. This boy is straddling the line between adulthood and childhood.
  • Bringing my receipt back to Fred Meyer to get a refund on some sausage that tasted spoiled. They were marked down, as the sell-by date was imminent, but I had to run to the bathroom to spit it out. This was a first for me, as I always choose the marked-down food, and it’s never been rotten before. Blegh!
  • Arranging to come by work one day this week to catch up on continuing education. I could do it at home, but I’d rather clock in and be paid for required work. Even if I have to drive 18 miles.
  • Sitting near a south-facing window instead of turning on the overhead light.
  • Not doing anything particularly different due to the holiday. My family has no traditions that are tied to Memorial day.
  • Done reading Little Heathens, and looking forward to picking up my copy of Beverly Cleary’s A Girl From Yamhill when the libraries open again tomorrow. (I’ve read it before, but it’s been at least twenty years.)
  • Clicking Swagbucks while writing this blog post. My goal is to earn a $25 PayPal gift card every month.
  • Pleased that my fridge is full of work and school lunch necessities.
  • Pretty much just taking it easy.

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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Non-Consumer Mish-Mash

by Katy on May 24, 2015 · 18 comments

Free Ikea meal coupon

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

Celebrity Homing

I was reading through the Sunday paper this morning when I came across the syndicated Hot Properties column which features celebrities selling their insane multi-million dollar estates. It’s my guilty voyeuristic read, and it always reminds of Ed Begley Jr. who lives in a normal upper middle-class neighborhood. This is both for environmental reasons, as well as keeping his expenses in check in an industry where actors can rake in millions of dollars one year, and nothing the next. I remember reading that he made this choice partially in order to pick and choose his roles, and not be forced to sign onto bloated and terrible productions simply for the money. (No millionaire-files-bankruptcy narrative for him!)

The one celebrity sale that caught my eye this morning was Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito’s sale of their 14,579 square foot house which includes:

“A projection room, living, family and dining rooms, an office, an art studio, a bar, a den, a gym and a wine cellar. There are also five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.” Bah, blah, blah . . .

Hold up there, partner. Five bedrooms? In 14,579 square feet? Umm . . . my 1,800 square foot house has four bedrooms, plus an unfinished upstairs space that could easily be converted into a fifth.

Odd.

Addendum: I just found out that Ed Begley Jr. is building “North America’s greenest, most sustainable home.” and documenting it on a web series. I guess he wasn’t unable to resist a bit of celebrity lifestyle inflation after all.

Driving Miss Katy

My 17-year-old son is learning to drive, which means that we’re on the road a lot more than normal. Instead of minimizing driving whenever possible, we’re looking for any and all excuses to get behind the wheel. He’s finally gotten to the point where I can unclench my sphincters trust his in-town driving, so we took the frightening, yet all important step yesterday to brave the freeway. At first I thought we’d just do a small amount, but he ended up driving all the way to Mt. Hood, where we dropped in on my father and step-mother at their cabin. In all, he logged 3-1/2 hours of freeway/highway, for which I am very proud. Almost worth the paltry two hours we spent at the cabin.

He’s taking a community college driver’s ed class, which then proctors the behind-the wheel DMV exam. My favorite part of this class is that if he passes, he’ll be given the DMV paperwork which can then be swapped for the actual license. But he has two (two!) years to bring it in and it make it official. This is important to me because my insurance agent quoted me a horrifying extra $1000 per six-months to add him onto our plan. (And this is with the discount for good grades and the official driver’s ed class!)

Yes, that actual license can wait.

I Spy-a an Ikea Coupon

My husband and son have season tickets to the Portland Timbers soccer games, which is normally not part of our frugal life. However, the season tickets come with free tickets to reserve games, which feature younger players, but are apparently fun to attend. I noticed my husband’s spent tickets on the dining table yesterday, and an upside down one caught my eye.

Why?

Because it featured the word “free,” which is my kind of fun. Specifically a coupon for a free meal at Ikea, up to $5.99! (Sadly the second ticket had a coupon for a tires, which was much less exciting.) I went and checked all the tickets and found that half featured this coupon.

Meatballs for everyone! Except me. I like the salmon.

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 May 22, 2015 · 43 comments

Craigslist fiestaware

  1. My husband’s health insurance uses an online pharmacy that dispenses 90-day prescriptions for the normal price of a 30-day scrip, so we try to use it whenever possible. However, one of my husband’s prescriptions ran out without us noticing. This meant I had to fill it at our nearby Walgreens. So me being me, I was kicking myself and chalked it up to paying the dreaded stupid tax. I stopped off this morning to pick up the pills and was presented with a bill for $1.04. $1.04! So all my angst was for nothing. Such a ridiculous waste of self flagellation.
  2. I listed two items on Craigslist and one item on eBay yesterday. No interest so far, but all it takes is that one person who wants my things. Good stuff, so I should pocket a few extra bucks.
  3. I gassed up my Prius yesterday, as the fuel ticker was flashing on and off. (Not good.) Sadly I was too far from Costco to get the cheap gas, so I resignedly pulled into my local 76 station. My eyes were drawn to a placard about free tickets to Portland Thorns (women’s Major League Soccer) games when you filled up your tank. I asked the attendant about it and he gave me two vouchers good for four free tickets! My family already has two season passes, but this means all four of us can attend a game together, and then sell our other tickets! So buying the pricier gasoline potentially garnered me an extra $20! Baby, I got hustle!
  4. We are finishing up emergency medical services (EMS) week, and my husband’s employer is hosting a free barbecue tonight. Nothing fancy, but we’ll all drive down for a nice low key and free meal. I do love taking a break from figuring out dinner once in a while!
  5. Last night’s dinner was homemade pizza. However, I had no canned tomatoes on hand, so I knew I’d have to make a reluctant trip to the grocery store. But then I remembered that I had a jar of kale pesto in the back of the fridge. I went ahead and diluted the pesto with a drizzle of olive oil and used it in place of tomato sauce for a delicious yet lazy solution. I was able to stay away from any grocery store temptations and support my lifestyle as a secret (and generally unsuccessful) agoraphobe.

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 May 21, 2015 · 37 comments

Thrifty Fiestaware

  1. I downloaded the Apple Podcast app onto my phone so I can listen to Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft’s free Happier With Gretchen Rubin podcasts. I love distraction from dull tasks, I love Gretchen Rubin and I certainly love free!
  2. I’m currently reading Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, as well was listening to Phillippa Gregory’s The Red Queen. Both from the library. Have I mentioned how much I love my library?
  3. My sons and I went over to my father’s house for one last birthday celebration last night, and we came home with a loaf of my father’s homemade bread. Full of every grain known to woman, it’s the perfect start to a busy day.
  4. I stopped at a couple thrift stores the other day after dropping my son at school. I came home with an $8 brand new looking pair of Danskos and five vintage Fiestaware pieces underpriced at $3.99 and $7.99 apiece. I gave a Fiesta plate and platter to my father and will sell the rest. I’ll also sell the Danskos, as the style normally retails for $130. I had gift certificates to both thrift shops, so I didn’t actually spend any money.
  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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Birthday For a 17-Year-Old Boy

by Katy on May 20, 2015 · 23 comments

Bowling shoes

Yesterday was my younger son’s 17th birthday, and as always we made a rather enormous to-do about it. Which for us means a Birthday Day of Adventures over the weekend, plus a celebration on the actual birthday.

I know it seems like I write about nothing besides birthdays lately, but that’s only because my focus has been entirely consumed by birthdays over the past week as my husband and son’s birthdays are a mere three days apart. I already wrote about what we did for my husband’s 50th birthday. (a Day of Adventures on Tuesday, plus cupcakes and home cooked steaks on his actual birthday.)

On Sunday I planned out a day of fun and frugal Day of Adventures, round two:

  • First we took our sorry selves to a nearby bowling alley for a game. I had printed out four coupons for free bowling by watching this short promotional video, which dropped the price to the cost of the shoe rental. ($16 for the four of us.) Why did I write “sorry selves?” Because not one of us can bowl for sh*t. Seriously, we’re laughably awful! The highest score any of us bowled was a 57! Still though, very fun. (Yes, we asked for bumpers, but were told they were “just for kids.” Says who?!)
  • Our second stop was to grab lunch. My son loves falafel, so I searched through Yelp to find an inexpensive joint. My research totally paid off, as the unassuming Gyro House on 82nd avenue was knock-your-socks-off amazing! We’d hit up a yummy falafel food cart last year, but the somewhat Rockefeller-esque cost was $10 apiece, so the $5 falafel at Gyro House was much more within our Wolk-Stanley-esque budget. My husband and older son ordered gyros, and I chowed down on a salad with lamb. So delicious!
  • Next up was the Asian super store Fubonn, where the kids each picked out a Pocky treat. (They both chose green tea/matcha flavors, although my older son picked the long slender box while the birthday boy grabbed the short squat ones.)
  • We then drove across to town where we sat down for Starbucks drinks. My husband buys their drip coffees while at work, and had earned two free drinks, plus had his free birthday coffee burning a hole in his pocket. The boys both ordered enormous green tea frappuccinos, and my husband indulged in an enormous caramel macchiato. I abstained, as I wasn’t in the mood for an overly sweet treat. (I did have a blog reader come up and introduce herself, which is always fun. Nice to meet you, Rachel!)
  • Our last stop was the historic Mission Theater, where a Sunday evening flick set us back just $4 apiece. We watched the Colin Firth movie The Kingsmen: Secret Service, which we all liked, although it was bizarrely inappropriate for most kids. (I had wondered why it was rated R.)
  • Our plan had been to grab slices at Escape From NY pizza, but we were still all stuffed from our lunches, so by unanimous decision we drove home to recuperate from our adventuresome lifestyle.

The day was a huge success and set us back a mere $64. For an entire long day of food and activities!

My son was completely satisfied with his birthday celebrations, (which included takeout fried chicken with family yesterday) and is set for the countdown until his eighteenth birthday. My husband did buy our son a $50 soccer jersey, but that was it. Teenage boys like to eat and do stuff. They generally don’t want things, which fits perfectly with my simple living proclivities.

I love celebrating my family’s birthdays, but am ready for a rest now. No more family birthdays until October!

What does your family do for birthdays? Please share your traditions 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 May 18, 2015 · 29 comments

Volunteer tomato plant

  1. My family spent yesterday celebrating my younger son’s 17th birthday. Because we ate a filling lunch in the late afternoon, we didn’t end up needing a dinner.
  2. I finished reading my library books, but have two waiting to be picked up.
  3. My friend dropped off her volunteer cherry tomato, which was quickly transplanted into a large planter that I permanently borrowed from my mother a few years ago.
  4. I mended a pair of my son’s favorite flannel pajamas.
  5. I brought three dozen birthday cupcakes to my husband’s soccer game on Saturday. I used the wacky cake recipe, (which has no eggs) and whipped up a batch of cream cheese frosting using the last of some 50¢ cream cheese packets, as well as loss leader butter and powdered sugar given to me as a thank you from a neighbor. The total cost was maybe a couple of bucks including the 59¢ paper liners. There was even enough to share with the opposing team, even though they beat us 5-0.

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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Too Cheap

by Katy on May 17, 2015 · 9 comments

My husband had a soccer game yesterday, and I spent a fair amount of time walking around the surrounding track and spying treasures that were free for the taking.

Of course, not every free item is a bargain I want to take advantage of . . . .

Free condom!

This condom may have been new in package, but I still had to pass.

It turns out you can be too cheap!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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50th birthday

Although my family’s birthdays are generally spread out throughout the year, we do have a few that clump up in the middle of May. First around the bend is my husband’s on May 16th and then my younger son’s on the 19th.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t each get their own celebration. And in my family, we do a Birthday Day of Adventures. (Although we also call it a “Birthday Day of Surprises.”) Essentially I plan out an entire day of fun for the family, and each component is a surprise and individualized towards what the birthday person actually likes to do.

For example, my son’s 19th birthday included an Indian food buffet, a $2 movie at a local historic theater and free outrageously sweetened Sawbucks coffees, (which my husband earned from buying drip coffees.)

I spend weeks figuring out what the day should entail, and it leans heavily towards what can we do for free or almost free? I enjoy the challenge and hoard discount vouchers throughout the year.

This year my husband’s Day of Adventures came a few days early to accommodate his work and volunteering schedule. (I decided to have his day be just the two of us, as we rarely get out as a couple.) My plan had been to start out by taking him to lunch, but he slept too late, so I fixed him bacon and eggs at home. We drove out to Ikea, where we sat in the cafeteria and lingered over free coffees using our Ikea Family cards. We then walked down to the food section and I used my $20 store voucher to purchase bags of frozen meatballs and gravy packets. This would cover dinner.

We then drove to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens to walk around the park. It normally costs a few dollars to enter, but Wednesdays and Thursdays are free. It had been threatening rain, so we almost had the park to ourselves. The rhodies are are in bloom right now, so the garden is at its gorgeous, gorgeous peak. (Seriously, so gorgeous!) We really enjoyed strolling through the grounds and reminiscing about when we used to bring our energetic sons here to run off steam and feed the many varieties of ducks and geese.

At this point we’d worked up an appetite, so I took my husband to Porque No, a local Mexican restaurant. I had enough completed punch cards to pay for his lunch, although I did pay the $8.50 for my meal, but that’s certainly within our budget.

Dinner at home was the four of us and included the Ikea meatballs with gravy, as well as mashed cauliflower and peas.

I didn’t buy my husband any gifts, although I did tell him he could treat himself to something that he’s been wanting for a while. (A soccer jersey.) The actual day of his birthday is tomorrow, and he plays a soccer game in the evening. I’ll bring a couple dozen homemade cupcakes to the game for his teammates, and then we’ll come home for a scratch cooked dinner and birthday cake.

Then Sunday we’ll spend the day celebrating my younger son’s 17th birthday, and of course I’ve stashed coupons and planned cheap activities planned for the day. I love how this tradition is fun for the entire family, and not just the birthday guy. (It’s almost like we each get four birthdays per year!) And of course I love the creative challenge to fill the day with activities and treats that keep within our budget.

Not one of us needs more possessions or clutter, but we certainly do need to step back from our busy lives to spend time together and explore this great city we live in.

Experiences trump things.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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