Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 26, 2016 · 50 comments

OREGON TRAIL BOY

  1. We went to a family wedding yesterday and the four of us were able to assemble formal outfits from clothes we already had on hand. If anything, we were overdressed.
  2. My younger son needed a haircut, so the two of us took the city bus downtown to his favorite barber. It was the last day for his city bus pass, which is provided from the school district, so we made sure to run this errand while it was still free. (I always have a free public transportation pass through my employer.)
  3. An old co-worker of mine read about how much we enjoyed our borrowed fire pit, so she gave me her’s that she wasn’t using. We can now return my father’s one and start enjoying our own urban campfires in the backyard.
  4. We’ve been getting by on leftovers and simple meals all week, as I simply haven’t felt like cooking. This has meant a lot of egg based meals and burritos. No one has been cheering about this plan, but nobody has died yet either.
  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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Pee-pee teepee

The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Although my college-age sons are long past the baby stage of their lives, I’m continuously aware of baby trends through my day job as a labor and delivery nurse. I see new parents agonizing over whether they’ve bought the correct baby essentials, and I feel their pain.

I remember my own worry as a first time parent, how I wanted to make sure that I’d accumulated all the stuff that would ensure my role as the perfect mother. By the time I had my second baby, I’d learned that not only is there no such thing as a perfect parent, but also that there are a few actually necessary baby products. However, there are endless unnecessary baby products.

Here, see for yourself:

Diaper wipes warmer

Unless you live in Antarctica, your diaper wipes are probably not that cold. Generations of parents have learned that holding a wipe in their clenched hand for 30 seconds or so quickly brings it to body temperature, but you never know that based on sales of wipes warmers. These single function items are not only an unnecessary baby item, but also a waste of electricity.

Baby towels

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve bathed thousands upon thousands of newborn babies. Do you think that my hospital uses specialty towels for this task? Of course not! These sweet babies are dried off using the same towels as any other hospital patient. There’s no need to buy extra baby only towels, as the towels you already own work perfectly well for your little bundle of joy.

Peepee Teepees

Anyone who’s ever changed the diaper on a baby boy has learned that they’ll often spray up when exposed to air. It’s certainly a surprise to the unprepared parent, but generations have learned to keep a washcloth or extra cloth diaper at the ready. Of course, there’s a product you can buy to address this single specific issue. It’s called a PeePee Teepee and is described as “A must have diapering accessory for newborn boys.” Apparently it’s a popular baby shower gift, but that doesn’t make it a “must have.” Instead, keep an extra washcloth within arm’s reach and have the new diaper ready to go before taking the old one off. Simple and frugal.

Infant shoes

Unless your baby is walking, shoes are more of a fashion statement than a necessity. And since shoes are kind of heavy, they have a tendency to fall off and get lost. Instead choose soft warm booties, simple socks or even, gasp . . . let your baby go barefoot. These teeny-tiny Timberland “crib boots”  will not only set you back up to $50, but last time I checked, a crib environment hardly requires a heavy duty pair of boots!

Changing tables

At the time it may seem like your baby is going to be in diapers until the end of the earth, but I promise you that Junior will eventually learn to use the potty. And that changing table? It becomes a useless piece of furniture when you finally buy that last Costco pack of diapers. A great alternative to changing tables are a regular dresser with a extra removable changing pad. These contoured changing pads not only have a handy safety strap, but can be placed on the floor or any other sturdy surface.

Screen time

Your baby learns about their surrounding world from the people and things in their lives. Interactive silly faces, long eye contact sessions with feedings, plus touch, feel and taste. What your baby does not need is an iPad screen that’s mounted mere inches from their face to distract them from the real sights and sound of their environment. This Fisher-Price Apptivity Seat has been greatly criticized for good reason, as the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended no screen time under the age of two, and this ill advised product is suggested for “newborn to toddler.” This purchase is not only a waste of money, but also a detriment to your baby’s development.

Crib bumpers

As adorable as it is to decorate your baby’s crib with a soft bumper, they’ve been shown to be a hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone so far as to call for a ban on crib bumpers, as “There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.” Save yourself both the money and the worry by leaving your baby’s crib bare not only of bumpers, but also of any suffocation risks such as pillows or stuffed animals.

Conclusion

The country of Finland has been providing free Maternity Packages to its citizens since 1949, which include a variety of practical baby items including clothing, blankets, snow suits and bibs. These boxes hold not only the supplies, but also serve as a newborn crib. Not a fancy wooden box, but a simple cardboard box complete with a fitted mattress. It’s even been linked to lowering their infant mortality rate!

Of course, outfitting a baby isn’t just about austere dull accessories, but it is important to be able to separate the necessary from the frivolous. And perhaps if you save a few dollars abstaining from unnecessary or even dangerous purchases, you’ll have enough money leftover to start funding that all important college fund. Which is something your baby actually needs.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on June 23, 2016 · 29 comments

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Photo Essay, because sometimes a photo is simply easier better than words.

I had the opportunity to interview Rachel Cruze this afternoon. I’ll be turning it into two separate articles, which you’ll soon see right here at The Non-Consumer Advocate.

Of course, it was a delight.

Rachel Cruze

I then drove across town to have lunch with my father to commemorate his 81st birthday.

81st birthday

My father had just baked his signature sourdough bread, and he made sure to give me a loaf to take home. Luckily my Prius comes with a built-in bread box. Handy.

Prius bread box

I went to my local Dansko shop, and cracked up when I saw how they were using one of those normally useless souvenir Dutch wooden clogs to hold the stockinettes. (Is that the word for these?) I usually point out these clogs as a classic example of a terrible and cluttersome souvenir, or as I call it “Dutch Tulip Fever.”

I stand corrected.

Wooden shoe

I bought this book at the Friends of The Library sale in Ashland, Oregon. It has wonderful illustrations, which I’ll share in a later post.

Health & Happiness

I bought this cast iron grill pan at Goodwill awhile back and have been absolutely loving it. It’s pretty much replaced our backyard barbecue at this point, as it’s simpler to use and doesn’t dry out the meat so much. Plus, it makes gnarly panini sandwiches when I weigh them down with a full tea kettle. I see these all the time in thrift shops. Go get one now.

Grill pan cast iron

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 June 22, 2016 · 85 comments

#Clotheslineselfie

  1. I had to go to downtown Portland twice yesterday, and took the bus both times. I get a free public transportation pass from my employer, so I saved on gasoline, parking fees and hassle.
  2. I took my younger son to a special event at the Portland Timbers (soccer) stadium yesterday that included activities, player autographs and free food. Normally my husband would go, but he had to work. We enjoyed a free meal, and for a significant period of time my son held the “speed kick” record for kicking a soccer ball into the goal. I had two vouchers for free craft beer, but I gave those to a friend as I’m not much of a drinker.
  3. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages last night, and although the tenant didn’t leave any fun food behind, I did find a quarter behind the couch. This house is in the process of being sold, so I likely only have a few more cleanings to go. I’ve enjoyed the extra income, but will not miss adding “clean someone else’s bathroom” to my to-do lists.
  4. I finally set up a squirrel-proof clothesline and air dried a load of laundry yesterday. I’d been thinking I needed to pick up some plastic clothesline, but my local hardware store has pain-in-the-tuchus parking, so I ended up buying it at a different hardware store without parking issues. Of course, this prompted a #clotheslineselfie!
  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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Hydroflask

When people refer to those dreaded Joneses we’re all supposedly keeping up with, it’s usually with an eye to vehicles, vacations and clothing. But really, it goes much further. Ask a hundred Portlanders whether they consider themselves to be trend driven with their purchases, and I doubt that many would answer in the affirmative. But there’s a certain sameness of luxury products that falls under the radar.

This example? Water bottles.

Yes, water bottles. When I started writing this blog, Portlanders were mad for their cute aluminum Sigg bottles. (I even wrote a blog post about it!) I was shocked by their $21.99 price tag, as you could buy an admittedly mundane version for $5 or less. However, trends change, and not just in the fashion world, but apparently in the water bottle world as well. Because no one carries a Sigg bottle anymore, because it’s now all about the Hydro Flask. And that $21.99 price tag? That’s nothing compared to the $30 to $90 that you can easily fork over for just one of these luxury insulated stainless steel bottles.

Yes, yes, yes. They keep hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold, so they’ve earned their respect. But I have to ask how did we got to the point where the perfectly chilled beverage became important as a fashion statement? Type #Hydroflask into Instagram, and you’ll be rewarded with over 54,000 results of beautiful people posing with their beautiful water bottles. Because when you take a selfie with a product, it becomes a statement purchase.

Whether you’re parking a BMW in the driveway or taking the perfect selfie with your $80 water bottle, you’re choosing to define yourself by your purchases. Maybe that definition is simply that you value the perfectly chilled ice water or piping hot coffee, but there’s no denying that they are this season’s it purchase for the effortlessly cool Portlander. An expensive purchase.

Of course, I define myself by my purchases as well. Just this morning I bought some hopefully squirrel-proof clothesline, and posted that photo to Instagram. And earlier, I parked myself in a locally owned coffee shop to kill a few hours while my son attended a meeting across town. A deliberate choice to spend my dollars within my own community instead of a national chain.

No one is truly immune to the effect that other’s people’s purchases have on us or we’d all be wearing home spun clothing and squirrel skin sandals. (Can you tell that I’m currently pissed at my neighborhood squirrels?) And truly, there’s no real harm in buying something that’s on trend as long as it fits within your budget.

I ask that you make your purchases with a critical eye and self awareness of whether you’re just keeping up with The Joneses.

EDIT: I completed my squirrel shoes. Thank you to everyone who wanted an update.

Squirrel shoes

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 June 20, 2016 · 56 comments

I’ve gone a few days without blogging as my computer was hit with a death-ray level virus that shut it down and required a complete erase and restart. I lost everything on my desktop, and only time will tell what important files and photos are now but a faint memory. I could wallow in grief or choose to move forward, and I choose the forward path. So here you go, a fresh blog post to cover the past three days that went wholly undocumented.

  1. I worked both Friday and Saturday, although I only brought food one of those day as my older son is home from college and leftovers are being consumed again. However, I took it as an opportunity to treat myself to the hospital salad bar, which has the most delicious poached salmon priced at the same amount as everything else.
  2. I threw a huge graduation party for my younger son at the house last night. I made all the food from scratch, served lemonade and iced tea, used our own dishes, cloth napkins and silverware instead of disposable, (even though it meant having to wash dishes halfway through the party) borrowed a fire pit to create a s’more station, bought zero grad theme decor and encouraged invitees to not bring a gift, as I want to promote frugality not just for my family but for our friends as well. It was a huge success and my son really appreciated the effort. I was in a panic an hour or so before the party, as I didn’t feel prepared enough due to working the previous two days. But in the end everything turned out perfectly.
  3. I brought my Dansko clogs home from work with a plan to replace the insoles. My feet have been torturing me after my 12-1/2 hour shifts lately, so this action will pamper my feet and give me a few more years until I need to replace the shoes.
  4. I made black bean and corn salad for the party using beans that I threw into the crockpot after work on Saturday night. By morning the beans were done cooking, and the dish was was as easy as throwing in a bag of frozen corn kernels, cilantro, minced red onion and some tea towel salad dressing. This dish is always a hit, plus it’s cheap, healthy and delicious.
  5. I bagged up some unused grocery store items that were specifically bought for the party. I’ll return them to the store this afternoon for a refund.

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 June 16, 2016 · 89 comments

Ugg sheepskin care kit

  1. I succumbed to an impulse purchase of cherries at the grocery store, as the bags were marked at $3.99. However, the price seemed too good to be true, so I kept an eye on the register. I about had a heart attack when the cherries rang up at over $9, so I quickly asked the clerk to reverse the charge. I was kind of bummed that I wouldn’t be enjoying a bowl of cherries that evening, until I remembered that our raspberries are currently ripe.
  2. Our dinner last night was leftovers from dinner out with my mother and step father the night before. There wasn’t quite enough for an entire meal, but each of us scrounged the fridge and were able locate enough to eat.
  3. I earned enough Swagbucks to buy a $25 PayPal gift card.  My goal is to earn $75/month, (which I haven’t been reaching lately) so I’m reminding myself to click around whenever I’m mindlessly watching TV.
  4. I brought home a brand new Ugg sheepskin care kit from one of my mother’s guest cottages that someone left behind. These sell new for $30, so I listed it on Craigslist for $10. (We tried to track down the owner, but were unsuccessful.)
  5. I got pulled over by the police a few weeks ago for driving with expired license plates. (Oops . . . ) However, the officer told me that he’d forgive the ticket if I registered the car within 30 days and contacted him. I’d been having a hard time getting through to the police station until today and was finally able to speak over the phone with the officer. I still need to jump through a few more hoops, but it’ll be worth it.

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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Link-O-Rama Mama

by Katy on June 15, 2016 · 5 comments

Clark Howard

It’s time for another Link-O-Rama Mama, where I lazily link to other people’s well written and thoroughly researched articles.

What if You Didn’t Buy New Things?

I recently gave a talk about non-consumerism to a local minimalism group, and although it was well attended, it was only an option for those annoyingly hipster enough lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon. Luckily, the group organizer blogs under the name My Best Year and wrote up a synopsis of my speech.

Click HERE to read it!

No Spend Summer

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration about living a frugal life, you might want to check out Carrie Willard’s blog post about how she’s planning a “no spend summer” with her family. You can even read a blog post about what she’s done to far to ready for her  goal.

Click HERE to read it!

 

More Clark Howard Articles

I’ve been continuing to write short articles for the ClarkHoward.com website, with a personal goal of two per week. However, they tend to publish in clumps, with three popping up just the other day.

How to optimize tax deductions when you donate stuff

How to squeeze every single last drop from household products

Just say “no” to these 5 kitchen unitaskers

Or if you’re simply interested in reading my 15 most recent articles, click here for my Clark Howard author page.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Frugality Tweet

I write my Five Frugal Things posts at least three times per week, and in the name of boredom-avoidance, I try to vary the information that I present. After all, I highly doubt that blog readers would return to The Non-Consumer Advocate if I repeatedly wrote that “I didn’t go anywhere today and then I heated up some leftovers.”

Those blog posts would hardly go viral.

I recently published a piece about the frugal things that my family did while picking my son up from college. Of course, me being me, there were many more than five frugal things that encompassed that trip. However, they were tiny things, so I didn’t include them. True frugality really is based on the tiny things. Just like you can nickel and dime yourself into the poorhouse, you can also nickel and dime yourself into financial freedom.

So I present to you, Five Six Tiny Frugal Things:

  1. When making one last stop to the campus to load up on cafeteria food for our ride home, I noticed a pair of socks lying in the parking lot. The school was deserted at this point, so I tossed them into the back of the car. They’ve since been washed and given to my younger son, as he goes through socks faster than Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics.
  2. I noticed a small pile of discarded items in one of the dorm common areas. It was mostly electronics, which I know nothing about, but there was a mostly full ream of paper which now sits next to my printer here at home.
  3. I was feeling tired and uninspired last night, which didn’t exactly prompt an exciting dinner plan. However, I was able to scrounge up the ingredients for some penne pasta with sauce. I had a small amount of hamburger leftover from last week, which elevated the sauce into something substantial. It fed the kids and myself and kept me from having to brave the grocery store.
  4. I remember my father at my dorm moveout day back in 1988, as he excitedly helped himself to the stuff that students were simply abandoning. He found a large amount of change in one room, as well as a cool vintage stapler that I think he still uses. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
  5. My husband and kids treated themselves to ice cream cones while wandering around Ashland, but I chose to abstain as I simply can’t pay $3.65 for a single serving of ice cream. Mind you, it didn’t bother me for them to spend the money, but I’d rather keep my money available for big picture stuff. I found three pennies on the ground and joked that they were my treat.
  6. My sons and I needed to use the bathroom while in town, so we went into Starbucks. However, we didn’t buy anything.

Nothing on this list is mind blowing nor a new idea for you to try at home. It’s really just abstaining from wasteful spending and choosing not to be picky about taking advantage of other people’s discarded stuff. Like I tweeted last night, It’s accepting “a non-exciting life.”

Content, happy, simple.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Goodwill

My family just now got back from picking my old son up from college, and since his college is located in the picturesque town of Ashland, Oregon, we turned it into a mini-vacation. Of course, no vacation, mini or otherwise is complete without some frugal maneuvers.

  1. The only shopping I did was at Goodwill and their local Friends of The Library sale. I bought a vintage Sasha doll for $3.99, which I’ll fix up to sell and will likely pay for the entire motel bill.
  2. We ate two meals at the University’s cafeteria, as my son son still had multiple guest passes left on his meal plan. We paid a pretty penny for that plan, so there was no freaking way I would let them go to waste! Luckily, our motel was across the street from the campus, so this was super convenient.
  3. Instead of shelling out big bucks to see one of the amazing Oregon Shakespeare Festival plays, we arranged one day to be able to watch one of the free performances on their outdoor green stage, which are daily at 6:45 P.M.
  4. I took a few minutes to peruse the dumpster adjacent to the dorms and was rewarded with a new looking Ikea bath mat. (It was actually hanging off the dumpster, not actually in it.) My sister has this mat, and I’m always tempted to pick one up for myself, but have never been willing to pull the trigger for this $9.99 item. Also . . . I follow The Compact and try not to buy anything new. So yeah, free bathmat! Or, if you prefer . . . $23,000 bath mat!
  5. Although we splurged on a delicious brunch at the Morning Glory Cafe, we made one last stop at the school’s cafeteria to get food for our 5-1/2 hour drive home. Because yes, my son still had additional guest passes left on his meal plan account. I brought in my tiffins and filled them up with cut fruit, cookies and ravioli. This action saved us between $20 and $40 depending on where we might have stopped for a meal.

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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