I wrote this blog post after the Sandy Hook school shooting. I’ve decided that I will repost it after every school shooting in the United States. I hope to never publish it again, but I know I will.

It’s been a difficult three days for America, as we’ve gone from shock to deep mourning for the murdered children and staff of Sandy Hook elementary school. And however you feel about the growing debate surrounding gun control, one consensus has come out of this tragedy, which is to hold your kids tightly.

Appreciate the gift of life that is more fleeting that we can bear to admit.

So when I woke up yesterday to a kitchen full of dirty dishes, a mountain of laundry to put away and living room full of cat hair choked furniture, I asked my younger son if he wanted to go on a day of downtown adventures. (My older son was sleeping, and my gift to him was to let him continue with his favorite hobby as long as he wanted. After I kissed him a couple dozen times, of course.)

The chores could wait.

We chose to take public transportation, as we both have free passes, plus it frees us from the shackles of having to stay close to our parked car. We stopped first at the local Einstein’s Bagels to get a free pumpkin latte to share, as well as a toasted and buttered jalapeño bagel for my son, which we did not.

We stood in the rain and waited for the bus, and talked about nothing and everything and passed the overly sweet latte between the two of us. And I ached for all the Connecticut parents who had these future moments stolen from them.

No shepherding a child into adulthood, no shared coffee drinks, no worries about high school grades that will determine college opportunities.

My son and I wolfed down food cart falafel in the rain, browsed expensive European soccer magazines (him) and decor books (me) at Powell’s bookstore; ogled the couches at West Elm and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (me) and hunted through the clothing at Buffalo Exchange (him.)

We made a joint decision to check out the westside Goodwill and hailed another bus for the short yet uphill and wet journey. I picked up a few small things for my sister’s birthday and my son lamented that all the new looking Vans shoes were either too small or bizarrely overpriced.

The bus ride home ended with a long and chatty walk that included a detour through the holiday lighting of Peacock Lane and free slices of cake from a Walgreen’s grand opening. We were both good and tired by the time we staggered home, although I did load the dishwasher enough to run a single load. Our evening consisting of a couple of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (me) and the newest Saturday Night Live (him.)

No laundry, no chores, just me staring at my son and holding him tightly.

And when my older son needed me to drive him far across town for a poker game, I did not whine about it. Even when he needed to picked up at 11:30 P.M.

For today I have these kids, and I will hold them tightly.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Two Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2018 · 47 comments

1. I threw some Dollar Tree pinto beans into the crockpot in a pointless desperate gesture to balance out having just spent thousands of dollars maintaining our 2005 minivan. I joked to the mechanic that I was going through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – It couldn’t possibly cost that much, this must be some kind of joke!

  2. Anger – Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Bargaining – Hey there, friendly mechanic. Would you like to trade good and services for some mushy pinto beans?

  4. Depression – Will this nightmare never end? I think I need a nap.

  5. Acceptance – I guess I’m just going to have to eat a lot of dried beans. Ooh look . . . my minivan suddenly drives much smoother now.

You know. Normal stuff that’s part of regularly scheduled automobile maintenance.

2. I ate pinto beans for dinner.

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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{ 47 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 13, 2018 · 98 comments

  1. Our mechanic called yesterday afternoon to review all the things we’re having fixed on our 2005 minivan. This included a non-functional seat belt switch for the air bag circuit. However, she suggested that I call a Honda dealership to investigate whether this repair would be covered under the original warranty as it’s a safety issue. Unfortunately the dealership where we bought the car is no longer in business, so I left messages with a couple other ones. I got a call back, and after a few phone calls I got the good news that yes, Honda would pay to repair this issue. This saves us $238, which is always a “frugal thing.”

  2. I sold a pair of vintage boxing gloves and a Build-A-Bear Workshop outfit on eBay, and am also negotiating on a pair of 1965 Snoopy waterskis that I picked up at Goodwill awhile back. The buyer doesn’t like the shipping cost, but they’re solid wood and heavy which is out of my control.

  3. I spent an hour or so raking leaves and doing general outdoor landscaping maintenance. Very few people hire this out in my neighborhood, which is a different story from where my parents live. I really didn’t feel like exerting myself and getting dirty, but the sun was out, the driveway was empty due to car being at the mechanic and I told myself that sometimes “being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do.” Of course the hardest part was getting myself to start the chore, which ended up being benignly pleasant and satisfying in the end.

  4. I walked to the grocery store and bought grocery staples without succumbing to any impulse purchases, I physically mailed my younger son’s rent check as the money somehow didn’t automatically come out of our account as it normally does, (and I talked to someone to let them know that I wouldn’t be paying the $50 late fee as the problem is on their end) I put together a couple of new eBay listings and I’m using up a small bar of hotel soap that I brought home from dropping my son off at school last month.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 98 comments }

Five Frugal Fails

by Katy on February 12, 2018 · 110 comments

  1. You may have noticed that The Non-Consumer Advocate was down for a couple of days with this message:

    My web hosting company shut down the blog due to mysterious malware. Here’s the message I received:

    “There are multiple suspicious files detected on your website, I am afraid that we cannot allow the public access to your website as it puts our whole server infrastructure in risk of inheriting a bad reputation.” (“A bad reputation?” Sounds like the other girls at school might start whispering about her. Wouldn’t want that to happen!) I finally threw some money at the situation, ($79 to be exact) and hired wpfixit.com to fix the issue. Money well spent. But, damn!

  2. My husband and I have been driving the same Honda minivan since 2005, which finally rolled past 100,00 miles. It’s never given us any a moment of trouble, but 13 years is a lot of time and our mechanic had increasingly been suggesting maintenance and repair work. We’re finally pulling the trigger. The mechanic called to confirm the bid this morning, which caused me to ask if “that quote includes a month in Europe.” She laughed. I didn’t.

    Goodbye, Gdansk. Hello, functional minivan.

  3. I drove eight hours over the weekend to pick up my son and then return him back to college. His friend was having an art opening here in Portland, and I really wanted my son to support him. Of course having my son in town prompted a number of restaurant meals, which were delicious but exponentially more expensive than home cooking.

  4. I bought a $2 cup of coffee after dropping my son off at school and spontaneously decided to sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. The “sprinkle” turned into a deluge and ruined my late night treat. I tried to get the clerk’s attention, but she was busy with other customers and I wasn’t in the mood to play the role of “pushy customer.” I valiantly tried to drink it down as I abhor food waste, but finally dumped it down the drain. Blegh.

  5. My cats have utterly ruined the arms of the amazing $30 vintage love seat that I picked up a few years ago. They’d never ruined any other furniture, but you know . . . cats are jerks. My mother is going to sew antimacassars as my birthday gift, but I’d rather it not be ruined in the first place. However, the recent Buttload of Cats song from Crazy-Ex-Girlfriend put a humorous spin on the situation. I’m not sure that two cats can be considered a “buttload,” but they can still enact some major damage.

Now your turn. What frugal fails have been derailing your non-consumer efforts?

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 110 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 5, 2018 · 155 comments

  1. My friend Lise and I took a spur of the moment trip to the nearest Goodwill Outlet for some thrifting and middle-aged lady bonding hijinks. Lise bought a duvet cover, some jeans and a few other items. I bought a Heywood Wakefield(ish?) table, a Pink Floyd concert T-shirt, a pair of cashmere socks, a sweater and an ancient rusty cast iron skillet. (Which cleaned up spectacularly!) I documented the trip on my Instagram HERE.

  2. I sold a pair of sneakers on eBay and then I listed my freshly scrubbed and seasoned cast iron skillet on Facebook Marketplace. It goes without saying that I used secondhand packaging supplies for the shoes. I even arranged a free USPS pickup to avoid a trip to the post office!

  3. I spent the weekend laying low at the house. Sometimes I feel kind of guilty that I mostly just hunker down at home, but it’s a dark and drizzly time of year that offers zero outdoor temptation. (Besides, there’s nothing more frugal than snuggling up under a blanket and partaking from what I already have at home.) But instead of guilt, I choose to reframe it as hygge and simply embrace my lazy indoorsy lifestyle.

  4. I worked Friday and brought leftovers for lunch, I renewed my Chinook Book coupon app, (which will save me more than the $15 I spent on it) I cooked up a large batch of Dollar Tree pinto beans in the crock pot for burritos, I scheduled a dental appointment as preventative care saves big bucks in the long run and I accepted an invitation to be treated to lunch by my father.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 155 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 1, 2018 · 130 comments

  1. I stopped by the outpatient pharmacy at my hospital and picked up 100-count bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, which allowed me to use my employee discount. I paid $6.59 instead of $16.78 and simultaneously found a penny on the ground. It probably would have been cheaper to buy mega-huge bottles at Costco, but I’d rather imagine a world where and my husband and myself don’t require such enormous numbers of anti-inflammatories.

  2. I sold an antique photo on eBay that I bought at the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet. I’d estimate that I spent 20¢ on it, which makes the $14.99 a decent profit. I pretty much only buy items for resale if it’s something that I personally like, and this old collegiate team photo ticked that box. I think I’d had this up on eBay since last spring and am surprised that it finally sold. Luckily I keep my inventory very organized and it’s always easy to find items when they sell. (It’s in a corner of our spare bedroom.)

  3. Neighbors are moving and set out furniture and boxes of random items with a “free” sign. I stopped by and rifled through the boxes and helped myself to an unopened bag of sun/shade grass seed from a local nursery. I have long given up on having a lawn in the backyard as A) its’s extremely shady, and B) it’s far from a priority for me, C) I’m unwilling to waste water by watering a lawn and D) I hate gardening. However, I am willing to sprinkle the seed over the supposed lawn area and let nature take its course. Portland will be extremely rainy through mid-June, so I have nothing to lose. Click HERE to see the Instagram photo of said free pile.

  4. I renewed my books through the library website, I got called off from work on Tuesday, (which means I lose 12 hours of paid work) however my husband and I live below our means and can handle income fluctuations, I arranged work shifts through the end of March, I worked on a couple of different Clark Howard article drafts, I bought dull grocery staples at Fred Meyer (Kroger) even though I was in the mood for some fancy Trader Joe’s comfort food and I renewed a couple of Craigslist listings that had expired.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar solid gold toilet.

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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{ 130 comments }

The following is a reprint of a Non-Consumer Advocate blog post written in 2011, when Americans were beginning to pull themselves out of a recession mindset.

I awoke yesterday to the headline Frugal frenzy may be all spent: Recession-born shopping lessons are likely to be quickly forgotten by Laura Gunderson in my Oregonian newspaper. Of course I had to read the entire story. The gist of the article was that although consumers say that the recession has made lifelong changes in their spending, current studies say otherwise.

One paragraph from the article really stuck in my mind, which was:

“Consumers who lost jobs or had pay cut likely will stick with the money-saving tactics longer, Perner said. Those who simply felt the recession emotionally, are more likely to default on budget-cutting plans and be back at Starbucks sooner.”

Actually losing your job affects you more than watching others lose theirs.

I for one, felt and feel (Oregon unemployment is still over 10%) the recession more than I was actually affected by it. I’ve been in the same well paying job as an RN for almost 16 years. I have never at any point felt that my job was in jeopardy. Although my husband was laid off from his dream job in January of 2009, (they technically had him quit in order to later rehire him, which meant that he didn’t qualify for unemployment) he was able to find work again within a few months. (Don’t ask, it was complicated.)

I would like to think that the frugal living lessons brought about over the past few years are tools to be utilized through our entire lives. The difference between wants and needs; and the ability to use our creativity and community to weather financial difficulties.

Yes, American Express is reporting record spending, but I use mine for Costco purchases such as cat food, coffee, olive oil and my son’s prescription glasses. I am not using it for restaurant meals, Hawaiian vacations or designer handbags. I like that it has to be paid fully every month, and yes, I like that I get a yearly annual Costco voucher in the amount of at least a hundred bucks. (We already have our eye on a chest freezer that would allow us to stock up on great food deals and cook in bulk.)

I concede that many employ frugal tactics solely due to situations out of their control, and are happy to shed their latte-free lifestyles, but many others recognize the empowerment that comes with knowing how to control your finances. To lose the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck. To learn how to not have life’s pleasures be tied to a fat wallet.

Researchers may disagree with my conclusions, but I truly feel that frugality once learned is a powerful tool. It may get set aside here and there, but it’s still available in a pinch.

Are you moving away from frugality in your life? Are you anxious to start up your formerly spend-happy life? 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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{ 47 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 29, 2018 · 165 comments

  1. I worked both Friday and Saturday and brought leftovers from home both days. (Of course I drank the free coffee and tea in a thrifted travel mug.) I still had a $5 food voucher for the cafeteria, so I went down and bought cookies which I then shared with my co-workers. I work with a team of kick-ass labor and delivery nurses and it’s important to show my appreciation now and then. Without them I would have changed careers a million years ago.

  2. I used last week’s paycheck to pay off our one credit card. We don’t carry a balance on the card, but had been succumbing to it a lot over the past month. We normally only use it for gasoline and out of town purchases, (and always pay off the balance) but the last month was insanely expensive due to the winter term tuition payments, renewing my nursing license, a surprise computer repair, an unexpected out of town trip and holiday expenses. We made a lot of financial sacrifices over the past month to continue our debt-free journey and it’s a relief to move forward. This paycheck included a bonus that I received for working over a certain number of hours in 2017, but only ended up as a normal amount as I had an entire week of work cancelled due to low hospital patient levels. The next double tuition payments aren’t due until April, so we can breathe again while we scurry to pile up another mountain of cash.

  3. I sold two items on eBay including a brand new NBA branded fleece robe that I’d picked up at Goodwill. I actually bought two at $9.99 apiece as I saw that they were selling for between $50 and $75. I priced mine at $50 and sold it within a few days of putting the listing together. The other item was a pair of Starbucks mugs that are on their merry way to Lancashire, England. Most of my listings, both on eBay and Facebook Marketplace are pretty dormant right now, but I’m not worried as January is always a slow month for sales. People are recovering from the holidays and hunkering down at home. I know I am!

  4. I sautéed a pan of 5-for-99¢ Grocery Outlet peppers for burritos, I washed up a sodden filthy towel to use as a cleaning rag,  (see above photo) I wore the same wool socks three days in a row, I found a quarter and five pennies on the ground while out and about and I walked to do my grocery shopping and ended up strolling home to chat with a neighbor which wouldn’t have happened had I driven.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar solid gold toilet.

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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{ 165 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 23, 2018 · 165 comments

  1. I spent yesterday thrifting and then gorging on delicious leftovers with my friend Sarah. (Really, is there any better combination?!) The meal was at her home, and consisted of reheated dahl soup from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook, as well as warm little rounds of naan. I picked up a few bargains at the Goodwill Outlet, (we hit both locations) and then came home embarrassingly exhausted. What did I buy? A like-new wool throw blanket, (I’d sent my favorite lap blanket to school with my son) a creepy little Danish wooden figurine, a vintage cookbook, a sterling silver spoon, and handful of miscellaneous Brio trains, a vintage wooden document tray, (to help contain the chaos of mail and paperwork) a Silpat baking mat, and a cool wooden toy spaceship to sell.

    But my #1 favorite find of the day was a Case Logic brand binder with over 100 CDs and liner notes in it. Metallica? Check. Guns-N-Roses? Check. Plus every other classic metal band that my son enjoys torturing me with. The cost of the case alone would have been less than what I paid for this entire music collection! Needless to say, my son is psyched!

  2. I arranged to get together with a friend later in the week for a chat and a cuppa coffee. Both of us have two kids in college right now, so she didn’t blink when I suggested we schlep over to Ikea for their free caffeine instead of hitting up our normal coffee shop. Can’t be too self conscious about pride and appearances when choosing to set extreme financial goals.

  3. I gathered a paper bag full of ribbons for someone in my Buy Nothing Group who apparently has an “ongoing project” that requires them. I was surprised by how many I was able to locate, especially since not one of them was something that I’d bought or deliberately brought into my home. My gift wrapping supplies (100% reusable gift bags) now fit much more tidily in their container, and I’ve put something back into use that was just cluttering up my home. Living a frugal life is also about providing frugal opportunities for others.

  4. I sold a Dansk lid on eBay, I bought five bags of grocery staples at the Grocery Outlet for just $47, I invited a family member over for dinner as they were alone for the week, I reused my neighbor’s shipping supplies which she’d have otherwise trashed, I arranged a couple paid articles, I’ll be attending a paid four-hour meeting at work, I’m using a silicone menstrual cup that I bought in 2008, (which has saved me countless dollars) and I somehow didn’t leave the house today, which ends up being frugal as hell.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 165 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 21, 2018 · 156 comments

  1. I offered to stay an extra four hours at the hospital for a 16-1/2 hour shift. (I had a lovely patient assignment, which I was more than happy to extend. Especially at time-and-a-half plus night shift differential!) I put in a request for a meal voucher, which means that I’ll now be able to spend $5 in the cafeteria when I work next. I’ll still bring food from home, but will be able to enjoy a treat as well.

  2. I went to my husband’s fancy workplace banquet last night, enjoying a free delicious meal, but did not indulge in anything from the no-host bar. I made do from my minimal wardrobe and avoided any temptation to purchase fancy clothing or footwear. I ended up chatting with another wife all evening and look forward to having her as a buddy for future work related events.

  3. I started listening to a friend’s new personal finance podcast. It’s called Pour Not Poor, and each episode intertwines a financial topic with a specific craft beer. I know one of the podcasters (Joel Larsgaard) through my work with Clark Howard, as he was my first editor there. Great guy who I hope to meet in person some day. I’m not a craft beer fan, (I rarely drink alcohol) but enjoy personal finance enough to let that one go.

  4. I sold a thrifted suitcase, put together a couple new eBay and Craigslist listings, walked to the store for grocery staples, am arranging a thrifting date with my friend Sarah from Portland Sampler, am eating down a fresh batch of red lentil soup with ham, and I Facetimed with my son for a couple hours instead of driving the four hours to hang out with him.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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{ 156 comments }