A Blur of Non-Consumer Productivity

by Katy on February 27, 2017 · 12 comments

The last week-and-a-half have been a blur for me. Not due to anything exciting like winning an Oscar for best picture and then immediately losing it, but because I’ve had the worst cold of the millennium. Coughing, wheezing, body aches and a general malaise that didn’t allow for any focused productive work.

And if you know me, you know that I pride myself on being a bit of a productivity junky. I write out long daily to-do lists, and although I rarely cross off every single thing, it’s still an impressive accomplishment by the end of the day. So it’s been driving me batty to lay about doing nothing and watching endless TV. (Okay, the first day was fun, I admit it.)

However, even though I’m not back to full power, I was finally able to get a few things done both yesterday and today.

  • I transplanted an indoor plant into a big glazed flowerpot that’s much bigger and more of a bold decor piece. Didn’t spend a penny on any part of this project, which is my favorite.
  • I listed an always-in-the-way vintage wheelbarrow in my Buy Nothing Group. (I used to plant lettuce in it.) It’s been probably four years since I’ve been able to muster even an ounce of enthusiasm for gardening, so it was a wonderful thing to send it off to a new home.
  • I cut open an ancient flat bed pillow to harvest the batting for a leather armchair that needed some extra stuffing. The seat cushion unzipped in the back, so this project was super easy and also cost zero-point-zero dollars. This hack worked perfectly, and the chair feels great again.
  • I filled not one but two huge yard debris cans with cut up branches from our tree which suffered badly during the last wind storm. Although it barely made a dent in the huge branch pile that currently fills my backyard patio, I’ll only finish this task like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.
  • I finished writing a Clark Howard article that I’ve repeatedly started and abandoned. Hard to write anything coherent when your head is swirling and swimming.

Do you consider yourself a “productivity junkie” like I do? Please share your thoughts and recent accomplishments in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Going to a doctor’s appointment can be a frustrating experience. Endless waits in both the waiting and the exam rooms, and then getting home to realize that you’ve forgotten to discuss an important health issue. It’s no wonder that many people procrastinate even making an appointment.

However, with a bit of deliberate planning, you can get the most from your medical appointments by following these tips:

Time your appointment:

Ask for the first appointment of the day or the first one right after the lunch break. This way the doctor is less likely to be behind schedule due to patients visits that run long or extra appointments that get squeezed in.

Pay attention to when your appointment is:

Women’s annual appointments usually include a pap smear, which is a standard cervical cancer screening. Unfortunately this test cannot be performed while menstruating, so make sure to track your cycle in order to not lose out on this important test. Women’sHealth.gov states that “The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.”

Be on time for your appointment:

Aim for being fifteen minutes early for your appointment, especially if it’s a new provider that may requires sheafs of paperwork to fill out. Late patients run the risk of losing precious minutes with their doctors.

Make a list:

It’s easy to get flustered or distracted when sitting one-on-one with the doctor, so you do yourself a favor and write out a list of what you want to discuss. To also include should be any medications you take, (both prescription and over the counter) as well as the dosages. Also, you should prioritize this list, in case you don’t get a chance to hit every topic.

Be concise with your information:

Everyone in your life may love your stories about great-aunt Ethel’s crazy health issues, but you need to make every minute count. Many offices schedule a mere fifteen minutes for each appointment, so going off topic takes away from the time to discuss your own health issues.

Always ask about generic medications:

Although not all medications are available in a generic form, many are. Pharmaceutical companies deliberately make their brand names easier to remember and pronounce than the generic, which makes memorization more difficult for everyone, even the doctors. Make sure to request generics whenever you receive a new prescription.

Ask for a 90-day prescription:

It can be less expensive to fill a 90-day prescription, rather than three 30-day ones. Plus, it cuts down on the time spent keeping your prescriptions filled. This is a great plan for long term medication usage.

Ask for free sample and coupons:

Pharmaceutical reps provide copious amounts of samples that are not just for low income patients. So make sure to nicely ask both your doctor and their nurse if you can get samples for new, long term and even over the counter medications. Don’t forget to ask for any additionally available coupons while you’re at it!

Ask about specialty programs:

Many pharmaceutic companies have programs to assist with the cost of medications for low income patients. You may have to research these ahead of time, as not all doctors are aware of programs available to their patients.

Confirm that specialists and labs are in-network:

Each doctor works with a myriad of different labs and specialists, many of whom may not accept your insurance. This may sound like an intimidating project to delve into, but it’s usually just a matter of a phone call or two. These minutes on the phone can keep you from a surprise bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Don’t assume you need to see the doctor:

Not all medical needs require you shell out for a co-payment to see the doctor. Examples may include immunizations and quick procedures such as a strep test. Call ahead to your doctor’s office to clarify their policies.

Shop around:

A single medication can vary in price much more than you realize. Websites such as GoodRx.com take the legwork out of comparison shopping, and even have links to discounts and coupons to bring your price down even further. A good tip is to go directly to the pharmaceutical companies’ website for discount programs that can take a huge chunk from the cost of your prescriptions.

Conclusion:

However you schedule your doctors’ visits, just make sure to be as organized and well informed about your own medical conditions and insurance coverage. And lastly, bring a book. Because you can do everything in your power to be seen on time, yet still end up waiting around.

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 February 23, 2017 · 65 comments

  1. Day one of being sick was all adorable, with nicely organized (and zero waste) supplies, but this plague has now hit day six, and honey, it ain’t pretty. I’ve run through all my washable hankies/rags/napkins for the endless blowing of my nose and coughing, and have moved onto rolls of toilet paper. (Trader Joe’s, which is manufactured using 100% recycled content.) I’ve watched approximately 752 episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Firefly/Girls/Angel and am finally taking antibiotics to deal with a delightful ear infection that hopped along for the ride. (It did give me the opportunity to joke to the doctor that “That makes sense, since I’ve been really cranky and want to nurse all the time.”) Needless to say, very little money has been spent.
  2. I went through my inbox and deleted over 1,500 e-mails this morning. This reminded me to repost three Craigslist ads that never sold from a few months ago. (Okay, maybe not actually “this morning,” as I slept until 12:46 P.M.)
  3. I didn’t use lying in bed as an excuse to do any online shopping, even though there was much hubbub about $7-off ($9?) if you spent $50 with Amazon yesterday. (Or the day before? The days are swimming together for me.) I deserve extra props for this as I have an unspent Amazon gift card, but I couldn’t think of even one thing I truly needed.
  4. I picked up an extra hospital shift next month, as a co-worker needed it covered and I was only signed up to work a single 12-hour shift that week. Our next double college tuition/room/board payment is on April first, which looms closer and closer. Luckily, March will be another five paycheck month for my husband and I.
  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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One Frugal Thing

by Katy on February 20, 2017 · 58 comments

  1. I’m sick, that is all. I’m nothing but spaced out in front of Netflix, and my voice is so gravely that my boss jokingly called me “sir” when I called in sick. That is all. Sick.

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 February 17, 2017 · 105 comments

  1. My husband and I went to see a movie on Valentine’s Day, and because we chose a second run movie, (and it happened to be two-for-one Tuesday) we paid a mere $4 for the two of us! By the way, saw the movie Loving, based on the true story of the couple whose 1967 Supreme Court case legalized interracial marriage throughout the entire United States. Great movie, catch it while it’s still in theaters!
  2. The restaurant that we’d planned on going to on Valentine’s Day wasn’t doing their normal happy hour menu, so we opted to go to an old British style pub and split a $17 order of fish and chips. Of course we ordered extra French fries, as no marriage is strong enough to share a single order of fries. Even on Valentine’s Day.
  3. I’d been craving biscuits since seeing Loving, so I combined homemade biscuits with the last of some leftover hamburger to create yummy little sliders. Needless to say, they were delicious!
  4. I spent the day puttering around the house and ticking off little tasks from a to-do list. Very satisfying and certainly very frugal. So now I no longer have potting soil spread over my porch from a knocked over plant, the passenger seat of my Prius is refreshingly free from coffee stains and the jumble of entryway shoes has been relegated to people’s closets.
  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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2017 · 103 comments

  1. My sister asked me to keep an eye out for a Life Factory brand glass water bottle, so I didn’t hesitate to snap up this $24.99 one at Goodwill the other day. Of course I only paid $3.99, which was made even sweeter by it being brand new with the original tag.
  2. I worked yesterday and brought my own leftovers for lunch, and then drank the free crappy coffee and delicious tea. Someone brought chocolates and it’s none of your damned business how many I ate.
  3. My husband and I planned a Valentine’s Day meal in an historic and fancy schmancy restaurant. Of course we’ll be dining in the bar and ordering  from the inexpensive happy hour menu.
  4. I proposed and was given two new Clark Howard assignments, I’m wearing a 100% thrifted outfit, I’m wanting to get my hair cut but am waiting until my super cheap hair stylist is available, I’m not fighting the natural greying of my hair and have made plans for two frugal friend dates for later in the week.
  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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The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

You may be aware that a gorilla-shaped Flaming Hot Cheeto just sold on eBay for $99,900. Yes, you read that right, $100 shy of a hundred-thousand dollars for a single snack nugget! Why did this particular Cheeto sell for such an exorbitant amount? Because it was described as being shaped like “Harambe gorilla.” (Although really I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch, which makes it the Rorschach test of salty snacks.)

I reached out to eBay seller Valuestampsinc to get more information on their listing, but most importantly to ask the question on all of our minds:

“Did that highest bidder actually pay?”

Sadly, the answer was no, or at least not yet. “They haven’t paid and most likely they won’t, unfortunately.” Adding that, “I think people just fell into the craze of things and had no intentions of buying it.” Such a disappointment for those of us who’d added Flaming Hot Cheetos onto our grocery lists.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a seemingly worthless item has been bid up to an exorbitant amount on eBay. Although many of these listings have been for charitable causes, others have simply caught the public attention and escalated the price beyond anyone’s expectations.

You may already be familiar with these infamous eBay listings:

Pharrell’s signature hat:

Singer/songwriter Pharrell famously listed his goofy hat on eBay in 2014 to support the charity From One Hand to Another. The hat ended up selling for a staggering $44,100 to the fast food chain Arby’s, whose logo is humorously similar. This prompted Arby’s to tweet to Pharrell that “We’re HAPPY to support a great cause and get our hat back.”

Half a grilled cheese sandwich:

Although this sale goes back to 2004, it’s an absolute must on any list of crazy eBay sales. Because when you accidentally grill the face of The Virgin Mary onto the surface of your lunch, and later sell it for $28,000 on eBay, it becomes the stuff of legends.

A snippet of Justin Bieber’s hair:

Ellen Degeneres turned straw into gold after being gifted with a thatch of Justin Bieber’s hair clippings back in 2011. (Peak Bieber-fever.) Listing it on eBay in support of The Gentle Barn Foundation, the hair eventually sold for $40,668, which included a trip to the Ellen show to meet the young Bieber.

An M&M wrapper:

Sold way back in 2004, this eBay listing went for an insane $2,815.43 to the Golden Palace Casino, who has curated a Museum of Oddities, (as well as some cheap publicity) by overbidding on ridiculous and infamous items. And yes, it was simply an ordinary candy wrapper, nothing more.

Whale vomit: 

Although the jury is still out on whether ambergris comes from the front or end half of a sperm whale, it’s still going to be the luckiest day of your life if you come across a lump of it. Described as a waxy ball that smells “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure,” this rare item is used in high end perfume. So when a British couple came across a lump of it while walking their dog last year, they gleefully wrapped it in a scarf and brought it home. Expected to sell for $70,000, it was certainly the find of a lifetime. No news on the fate of the scarf though.

Although you may never find your own chunk of ambergris or have enough elusive celebrity caché to bring attention to a wacky eBay listing, you can still strike gold from otherwise overlooked items. Although far from $100,000 Cheeto, members of an eBay seller’s group had these stories to share:

Samantha:

“A Sadler Tea Set of tea pot, sugar basin and creamer. 1940’s/50’s era worth about $250 normally . . . went ballistic . . . bidders fighting in the last few mins .  . . sold for $1920.00. It was amazing timing as it was desperately needed at the time.”

Angela:

$2191.79 for a vintage Gillette Fat Toggle Razor.”

Jen:

“I started selling on eBay in 2005 when Macy’s announced they had bought Marshall Field’s. I could visit my local Marshall Field’s store and buy literally anything with their logo and sell it on EBay for 2-3 times the amount I paid. The highlight was after Christmas that year when I found an unmarked large white box on a clearance table which turned out to be a huge snow globe shaped like the downtown Chicago store; I paid $15 and sold it on eBay for $520.

Katy:

This last story is mine from back in 2004, when eBay was hot, hot, hot. I’d been to Goodwill and discovered a jumble of vintage Sasha dolls priced at $3-$5 apiece. (I recognized them from having owned one as a child.) I scooped them up and quickly listed them on eBay. I ended up making over $2000 from the dolls, including one that sold for $1000, as she was apparently a rare specimen. I’ve since found two others, although sadly the pre-recession days of wanton spending are behind us, so they only sell for $100 or so.

New to eBay and need a tutorial on how to get started? Check out this Clark Howard piece on how to use eBay’s Completed Listings section to research how much things actually sell for. You’ll likely be surprised, as what you think is valuable may not be so, but what you consider to be worthless may just be your Harambe-shaped Cheeto or maybe even your own priceless chunk of whale vomit.

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 February 12, 2017 · 45 comments

  1. I borrowed a beautiful hardback book about Timberline Lodge from my father in preparation for sneaking into inviting myself to my husband’s work conference in April. I absolutely love all the WPA artisan work from the 1930’s, and reading about the history and process of building the lodge is fascinating.
  2. I went up to Mt Hood on Friday and popped into the newest Goodwill Superstore in Sandy along the way. Although I didn’t buy anything, I was impressed by the organization and vastness of the space. One employee told me how much she’s looking forward to working in the new facility, especially since the old building apparently had problems with heating and cooling.
  3. I assembled a mishmash of refrigerator tidbits and created a delicious stir-fry using cabbage, onion, carrot, cauliflower and noodles. We’ll be eating leftovers for days, which is as it should be.
  4. I’ve already packed my work lunch for tomorrow, (the last of some chicken and rice) I continue to keep the house at 63° during the day and 58° at night, my father gave me a loaf of homemade bread and I realize that I’ve bought nothing beyond food and absolute essentials in 2017.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear jet or a vulgar and ethically questionable 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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{ 45 comments }

Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on February 10, 2017 · 46 comments

It’s time for another Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will blog post, as it’s been a couple of months since I’ve published one of these goodies. Today’s items are from a few different visits to my Portland area Goodwills.

First off I present to you this framed print showcasing a couple of famous characters from the TV show Portlandia. (Because when thrifting in Portland, it’s pretty much inevitable.) Plus, I want you to enjoy that both Carrie and Fred are framed by vaginal goodness.

Of course there were a number of targeted savings banks, of which the rocking “Retirement Fund” granny is a popular example. I sometimes wonder if people buy her and simply donate her back, and I’m just seeing the same one over and over again.

I like to think that her name is “Penny.”

I was a bit horrified by this “Mommy’s Little Wingman” onesie, as my understanding of “wingman” is that it mostly refers to a buddy who helps you to pick up members of the opposite sex while barhopping.

I was super intruiged by this vintage burl wood standing lamp. At once turd-like, but also like something dear old grand-dad would have crafted in his workshop.

Check out the detail in the wood, it even had an imbedded stone towards the bottom! I can actually see how this lamp would look really cool topped with a crisp lampshade.

In the category of only-given-as-a-gift, I offer up this pillow/remote control. And yes, it was a real remote, as I could feel the clicks when I pressed on the buttons.

The one item I saw, and really should have bought was this vintage quilt:

The pastel colors would have looked perfect in my spare bedroom, but somehow I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Even though it was only ten bucks.


Another piece that I should have bought was this groovy Steelcase office chair. This is a prime example of sturdy timeless mid-century design that will never go out of style. (And holy hell, that chrome is to die for!) However, I think it was priced higher than I wanted to pay. Although looking at this photo now, I noe believe that I made a grievous error.

For those who consider themselves a germ-o-phobe, (or for those who simply shy away from putting their mouths on thrift store items) I want you to revel in this shelf of used recorders.

You know that unattended kids have probably been blowing them on all day long.

That gag reflex? It’s my gift to you.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 46 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 8, 2017 · 102 comments

  1. I worked at the hospital all yesterday, and as always I brought my own food, drank the free crappy coffee and steeped mugs of delicious free tea. I packaged my leftovers in reusable Pyrex, and brought my own silverware and a cloth napkin. However, I broke my most recent Goodwill mug. But that’s okay as I saved the silicone lid, which I’ll match to a new Goodwill travel mug.
  2. I spent some random frequent flyer miles to order subscriptions to Real Simple and Money magazines. It’s not an airline that I regularly use, so those miles would never have added up to enough for a free flight. The website is MagsforMiles, and they contract with almost all the major airlines.
  3. I made my almost daily phone calls to senators Jeff Merkely and Ron Wyden to thank them and encourage them to continue fighting against Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Citizen involvement is free.
  4. My friend gave me a guitar-shaped Wilton cake pan, (which I’ll use for my son’s birthday) I renewed my library books, I fine tuned our February budget, I texted my daily to-do list to my sister, I picked up Costco dog food for my father, as he doesn’t have a membership and I proposed and was then assigned two new Clark Howard articles.
  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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