Is The Non-Consumer Advocate Miserly or Frugal? You Make The Call!

by Katy on April 22, 2010 · 49 comments

My WordPress Dashboard page shows an updated list of internet articles that link to The Non-Consumer Advocate. So when a new article on titled “I Came, I Saw, I Shopped: Three Approaches to the Joys and Ills of Consumerism” showed up today, I clicked the link to take a look.

What I read took me by surprise:

“Wolk-Stanley often pre-emptively justifies some of her choices with arguments that come off more miserly than solidly environmentalist. “I sold our old washing machine on Craigslist for $20,” she wrote in a recent blog entry. “This may sound hardly worth the effort, but since we bought it around eight years ago for $45, it actually was. Because we had eight year’s washing machine usage for $25. That’s $4.12 per year. Sure, there’s the added cost that this machine was not the most, ahem . . . energy efficient model. But I’ve always washed with cold water, and Oregon is far from drought ridden.”

I get Wolk-Stanley’s point: we can have happy, comfortable lives without spending so much money.  But here at least, she’s not really accounting for the costs in water and electricity of using that machine, so that “$4.12″ a year rings a little hollow.

Money also represents time, energy, and freedom, which one can squander while trying to save a little cash.  When I bought a $1200, Energy-Star-rated refrigerator last year, and had its 20-year-old predecessor carted off for disposal, both my ecological conscience and my bank account felt deep pangs of regret.  But the time spent unloading that hulk on Craigslist would easily have added up to full day of paid-by-the-project work, and would have extended the use-life of an outdated, power-hungry appliance.  It also would have been as fun as, say, hitting my head with a rubber mallet.”

Did the author think I did nothing but sit around the house waiting for the Craigslist buyer to come and take away my old washer? There’s even a bit in the article about how unwanted “critters” are often part and parcel of buying a used appliance. Okay . . . now my used washer was filled with insects and rodentia?

I quickly wrote a reply to the article in the comments section:


It may seem like the effort required to sell my old washing machine on craigslist for $20 is more than than it’s worth, but I beg to differ. I didn’t have to haul it away, and it will continue to be a practical and useful appliance for someone who otherwise was not able to afford a washing machine.

I was able to put that $20 towards the money required for my son to go on a class trip to Japan, which I payed for entirely from garage sale, craigslist and other miscellaneous funds.

In an ideal world, all washing machines are high efficiency models, but this not very realistic. Are you criticizing those who cannot afford the best of the best?

My choices to stay frugal are NOT “miserly,” as I am in no way, shape or form denying anything to myself or my family. My frugality allows me to work part time, which means less commuting and more energy for sustainable living activities like cooking from scratch and growing my own food.

We live a rich life without a lot of money. I’m sorry that you see that as miserly.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Oddly, the premise of this article is “Live simply that others may simply live.” Yet there’s an underlying “Time is money” tone as well.

My response may have been a bit defensive, but I felt the need to well . . . defend myself. I guess it was how the author called me “more miserly than solidly environmental.” It is exactly this attitude among some proclaimed environmentalists that turns people off from making sustainable choices.

I could play this game, (My family’s energy usage is half of the average American’s) but I think I’ll just go take the laundry off the backyard line instead.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Fox April 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Wow. Talk about privilege. Due to my financial situation, I’m stuck using the nearby laundromat. It’s expensive (a dollar a week, “not really accounting for the costs in water and electricity of using that machine”) and those machines are probably ancient.

I definitely don’t buy (pun intended) into the trendy green thing. Not everything can be solved by throwing money at it, and that goes double for the environment. Personally, I think that buying oneself green is a cop-out. It’s too easy (for most people, anyway) to just buy all the nifty “green” gadgets that everyone tells you to, and leave it at that. It’s much harder to make the lifestyle choices (like simple/tiny/non-consumerist living) to truly *be* green.

And I still question if buying a more efficient appliance is really green or not. I also question if the author’s “disposed” washing machine was recycled or merely trashed. Trashing a very resource-intensive product like that may negate any benefits of the new machine’s efficiency. Metal is neither cheap nor eco-friendly to extract.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl April 23, 2010 at 1:20 am

Exactly….oftentimes the greenest thing to do is to keep the appliance you have instead of getting rid of it (which often means throwing it away).


Raffaella April 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Exactly! Buying a “green”, power-efficient gadget is great if you really *need* it, but replacing an item which still works is silly. And unfrugal, of course.


Raffaella April 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm

And I’ll add: buying new green trendy gadgets is like greenwashing your conscience 😉


Fox April 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Hahahahahaha! I like that!


Laura April 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm

You are frugal. And you were right not to let anyone try to say otherwise.

Why, it almost sounded as if someone was either trying to justify spending $1200 on a refrigerator or letting everyone know what she spent to be green.


Donna Besst April 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Ya you know the next thing she’ll be writing is that you “brag” about “batched” errands…You are so evironmentally friendly…after all 😉
Shame on her…smiles for you! Keep on keeping on Katy..we love you!


elena April 22, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Kathy, her text was pretentious and I really agree with your feelings!
In addition to the good points raised by the other comments, I also see the problem with upgrading as a question of trust in the new household appliances of today. Looking at what happened to my two (two!) dvd-readers I’m left to wonder if these So-Earth-Friendly-SuperA-Star-Appliances will need to be replaced in 5 years instead of 30…


Jenna Ann April 23, 2010 at 1:06 am

I LOVE what Fox said here: “I definitely don’t buy (pun intended) into the trendy green thing. Not everything can be solved by throwing money at it, and that goes double for the environment. Personally, I think that buying oneself green is a cop-out. It’s too easy (for most people, anyway) to just buy all the nifty “green” gadgets that everyone tells you to, and leave it at that. It’s much harder to make the lifestyle choices (like simple/tiny/non-consumerist living) to truly *be* green. ”

I wouldn’t worry over it. I don’t know the other person’s life situation so I can’t comment on that. But as a Freecycler and Craig’s List fan, I think you did the right thing.


Becky April 23, 2010 at 4:25 am

Okay, I’m really pissed for you Katy! You kept an appliance out of a landfill, she didn’t. Oh yeah, she’s greener than you. This hypocrisy is exactly what makes people crazy.


BagelGirl April 23, 2010 at 7:55 am

I’m with you. Miss Environmentalist didn’t give a “greener” alterntive to Katy selling her older, less efficient washer. Should she have kept it forever? Carted it to the dump?
The criticism didn’t make a lick ‘o sense.


Peggy April 23, 2010 at 4:56 am

Katy, You keep up your good work! One of the reasons I enjoy your writing so much is that you have a common sense approach to everything, instead of a “buy the latest, greenest, techiest new item no matter what” motto. You are frugal and thrifty, which in my book are major good qualities. You save so you can use what you save on someting that really means something to you and your family. Too many people who unload “old” appliances and items to replace with new and green stuff, don’t take into account the disposal footprint of the items they are discarding. And one final rant, “time is money” doesn’t apply to everyone. It only works if you have a job in which you can choose to work extra, payable hours. My husband earns good money but he still cuts our grass because hiring someone to do it while he goes into work and makes more money than he would pay the yard people is not an option. Have a happy day!


Judy April 23, 2010 at 5:26 am

The writer definitely had a pretentious attitude. I think it would have taken you more time to figure out your water and electric usage than the time to sell your item on Craigslist. Bottom line is you kept something out of the landfill. To me that is “green”.

Keep up the good work Katy!


Kayla K April 23, 2010 at 5:29 am

The greenest appliance is always the one you already own.
I am so annoyed by people going out to buy the latest, newest, greenest thing to save the world. You’ve posted on this before, I think… is the “green” movement a phase, or a marketing ploy? I vote marketing ploy.
People who are frugal aren’t just about saving money. We’re about saving resources. We are careful with our time, money, space, etc. We realize that we need to care for the earth because it’s a limited resource. “Wearing it out, using it up, making it do, or doing without” is the best attitude for the environment.


Ann April 23, 2010 at 7:50 am

I agree, Kayla. The greenest appliance is the one you already own. Also, I prefer “reduce and reuse” with “recycle” as the final resort because recycling often requires (by law or custom) additional processing…which can increase energy consumption. I like Katy’s mantra of “Wearing it out, using it up, making it do, or doing without” for the same reason.


Mary April 23, 2010 at 5:43 am

I think you’re a great example Katy. Being an environmentalist isn’t a competition. We’re not going to kick someone off the earth because they can’t afford (or choose not to buy) some new green appliance. I guess it’s hard to write a blog and somehow not seem like you’re bragging on yourself but you manage to do that. I feel like encouraging others to make a difference is the best way to spread the word. Thanks for being encouraging & fun!


BarbS April 23, 2010 at 6:28 am

*steam coming out of my ears*

I’m going to try to forget that I ever even heard of that Emily person. I definitely won’t be reading her blog or supporting her work, as with this one post she has shown that her values are so different from mine, and her attitude so condescending, that it would be very difficult for me to learn anything from her.

Katy, your blog (and your values/attitude/activities) are an inspiration to many. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Katy April 23, 2010 at 6:39 am


I dreamed about you last night. I don’t remember any details, just that you were there.




Beth April 23, 2010 at 7:20 am

“It is exactly this attitude among some proclaimed environmentalists that turns people off from making sustainable choices.”

No kidding. That’s something I like about your blog, Katy–you encourage others to choose a sustainable lifestyle, but recognize that some steps you take won’t be viable for everyone. It isn’t as though only the most Pharisaical of the environmentally-minded can make a difference.


Gail April 23, 2010 at 8:04 am

Go, Katy, go! I have never responded before, but wanted to throw in my support today. I look forward to reading each and every one of your posts. They are often a highlight in my day because of your witty writing style, down to earth practicality, and your refreshing forthright nature. I chuckle at, or learn something from each of your well written posts.
I am a fan!


Ame April 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

Her whole post smacked heavily of self-justification for buying a brand new, expensive fridge. To paraphrase Kayla K, I believe the greenest appliance is the one that already exists. And after posting all those links to excellent studies on consumerism and “things”, you’d think that Ms. Gertz might realize the same.

However, she seems to be buying (mentally and monetarily) into the idea that saving some time, energy and water in a country where those things are still arguably abundant is somehow better than saving one more appliance or thing from being produced. Your choice to sell the “inefficient” washer on Craiglist has prevented the harvesting of raw materials, the exploitation of labor, and the pollution of production and distribution that a new machine would have created, not to mention providing someone else with a time/money/sanity saving item.

Ms. Gertz “[has] to believe that there are decently-priced washers on the used market in Portland that are more recent and efficient makes.” Well isn’t it just precious to believe that everyone in America must be able to afford a recent and “efficient” appliance. Well it’s great to allow people in 3rd world countries to “live simply” while condemning those people who live in 3rd world poverty next door to slap their laundry against the rocks unless they can afford something more efficient.

I didn’t mean to get so riled up. You just keep living the life, Katy!


Katy April 23, 2010 at 8:31 am


Rile away baby, rile away!



jenniwaka April 23, 2010 at 9:55 am

Nineteen comments here supporting Katy are great, but there are only 6 over on the original blog. Everybody commenting here should copy what they wrote and paste it over there to put Ms. Gertz in her place!


WilliamB April 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I tried – I also wanted the read the source material and not just the quotes. But my computer settings, which I have to keep, don’t work with most Captcha systems.


CC April 23, 2010 at 10:17 am

I say this as a person who live in a poor area with lots of people making do. There is a big need for used items, washers, dryers, fridges. Even the crushing of old cars left out the needs of people who can’t or never will be able to go into a place of business and buy new. Selling your washer gave someone a chance to wait a bit longer before buying new. When my son moved into his house he couldn’t go out and buy everything. A friend sold him a washer, dryer, couch, microwave all for $40. The dryer lasted a couple of months then he bought a new one. The washer lasted a year before needing to be replaced. Then the item went to a neighbor who scraps stuff. So that old washer and dryer helped a couple of people instead of being hauled off to the dump.

When I read some of the blogs, what I see is people thinking every one lives like they do and have the same choices. That is why I might visit a place once, I don’t have time for the bashing. I come here everyday because Katy covers a range of topics very nicely. Same reason I visit The Frugal Girl everyday. They both have very different lives than me but they do a good job making me feel welcome.


Queen Lucia April 26, 2010 at 10:02 am

I hear you, CC. We are a family who buys nearly everything used, but we are able to buy on the better side of used than other people we know. When we replace something, we offer the old stuff to friends of ours who are renowned for taking something old and clunky and using it till it dies – cars, washers, electronics, furniture, anything. I think of it as a chain of usage – we’re getting someone’s cast offs, and then we give ours.


Katy April 26, 2010 at 10:06 am

You do know that my “new” washing machine was the one my mother was replacing. Not because it didn’t work, but because she needed a larger capacity washer for all the sheets and towels she washes as part of her rental cottage business.



Jeanine April 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

Perception is reality to some folks, and maybe she called like she saw it. What’s frugal to you appears miserly to her.

Doesn’t make her right, or you wrong, or vice versa….just an opinion, and should be treated as such.


Lisa April 23, 2010 at 11:01 am

Feel better, Katy, by reading the link on Naomi Seldin’s blog today (Simpler Living). There’s an article about “Eco- sinners”. I say, “Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”

P.S. You might even suggest this little link to the old gal that accused you of being miserly.


Simpler Living April 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

Here’s the link so you don’t have to hunt for it:

(Hi, Lisa! Hi, Katy!)


Katy April 23, 2010 at 11:50 am


Thanks. I Tweeted that.



Beth D. April 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I just read the other article and commented there. The whole thing was so poorly written, it was confusing as to what exactly she doesn’t like about your way of life. Apparently, she doesn’t know what “frugal” means and certainly doesn’t try to incorporate it into her own life so she can’t possibly understand why you would not just trash something old. (I’m starting to think she was the mastermind behind “Cash for Clunkers” one of the least frugal programs I have yet to see.) Just keep doing what you’re doing. I love your posts and have come here every since the article on saving money at the grocery store (I think from a link from GRS….)


Miss Roman Apartment April 23, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Ah, why is it so much fun to put on my Bitch Face in the defense of others? I’m so hoping that Emily is the same girl who argued that you owning a sofa was a symptom of your bourgeois brainwashing, because that would be so hilarious!

I’ve enclosed my angry screed below. I encourage others who are commenting here to comment directly to the article on the website. Sometimes I learn a lot from other people’s comments on crap articles. I think this is one of those times.



Hi Emily–

So, I’m confused–It’s totally okay for you to buy a new refrigerator and trash your old one because you have a fear of bugs and don’t have the time to put it on Craigslist, yet this other writer of the Non-Consumer Advocate is the bad example because she sold her old washing machine?

Are you actually arguing that it’s environmentally better to trash used appliances that aren’t that efficient?

You do know that recycling things also uses resources and energy right? And that not every part on an old appliance are even recyclable? You do know that this type of recycling is done oversees in countries with more lax pollution control than ours? I have to assume that you know theses facts even though it’s totally not clear from your arguments that you’ve made this connection.

Did you factor in the amount of energy and water used to create and transport your new refrigerator to you when you bought it and did you compare that to the amount of energy used to create Ms. Wolk-Stanley’s old washer (zero) and transport (the gas for the truck between two homes in the same community) it to it’s new location?

You also failed to consider that Ms. Wolk-Stanley could have sold her old washing machine to a single person with less laundry than her four person household. Fewer loads, even on an energy hog, ultimately means less resources used.

You’re demanding that this other writer factor in her “real costs” of running that old appliance, yet your own arguments against her are badly researched, not to mention entitled, classist, and mean spirited. You should reconsider using words like “miserly” to be provocative. If the result of frugality, is a greener over-all life, why criticize that? Not everyone can afford to buy a new appliance or their green street credibility.


Magdalena April 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Katy, you are frugal, I’m cheap. If I can’t get the use of a washer for free I’ll use washtubs. I’ll go to bed early rather than spend money on lights. I’ve said this before: if you were miserly then you would not even think of spending money on your son’s school trip. He would stay at home and make toys out of cereal boxes he got out of someone else’s curbside recycling.

You’ve got a bit of the blues right now. I say you take the contents of your coin jar and go buy yourself and DH a nice dinner. Cmon, it’ll do you good. Date night!


Katy April 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Not really the blues, just kind of tired today.

I am happy that:

1) I was able to return the frames I bought for my son’s trip, even though the receipt said “No returns or exchanges on sale items.” That was have been a hard $54 pill to swallow.

2) I had a really nice lunch with my father yesterday, and I discovered today that he had tucked $21 into my fruit bowl. He used to do this when my husband went back to school and we were really struggling.

3) It’s not raining today, which means I’m partaking of my solar powered backyard clothes dryer.

4) When my son was grumpy and acting out yesterday, he and I were able to get past that and enjoy a $1 movie while eating big bowls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

5) That my wonderful readers will stick up for me when a total stranger calls me names on the internet 😉

Not blue at all.



Donna Besst April 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

..that part is easy breezy ..we know you and love you..


Lisa P. April 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Oh goodness ~ you are far from miserly (defined as characterized by or indicative of lack of generosity hence clearly the author needs to check her vocabulary usage), you were very generous in allowing someone who may not have been able to buy a new washer a chance to get some more use out of this one. Additionally, you were generous to share your story with others so it would cross our minds to do the same in a similar situation.

I relate miserly to miserable ~ we have a couple acres to mow, if we were miserly we would have opted for a non-power, push mower ~ it doesn’t get much “greener” than that but we splurged on a nice riding mower. We’re frugal, happy and our bodies (& my pastey-skin that dislikes the sun) are very grateful. Frugal is fabulous!


Scribe April 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

By selling your washing machine on Craig’s List, you more than likely enabled someone to stop trudging to the laundromat and spending their money to wash clothes. Perhaps having a washing machine at home will be the catalyst to start them saving and living a frugal life.

It’s going to take a long time for Emily’s $1200 refrigerator to pay for itself with the energy savings, hope it lasts that long!


Shannon April 23, 2010 at 8:08 pm

A miser calls to my mind someone who lacks generosity, creativity, or compassion. You should have no worries because that’s not you 🙂


Katy April 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm

You guys are the best imaginary friends a Non-Consumer Advocate could ask for.




Leah April 24, 2010 at 3:21 am

I would add “holier than thou” to the “time is money” tone of her comments. Why does an energy efficient refrigerator have to cost $1200 is what I want to know? Just as I want to know why “milk from Connecticut Cows” has to cost twice as much per gallon as say milk from cows from New York or Massachusetts? I am not willing to pay that much more for something just because someone says it is more energy efficient or “green”.

For the most part, I think the high price of green products is not warranted, and until they become affordable, I don’t think we should feel guilty for not purchasing them, especially someone like you who is both financially and environmentally responsible in every aspect of your life.


Marie-Josée April 25, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Leah, I have to disagree with you with respect to the price of green products being unwarranted. Organic food, personal care products or cleaning products are costlier to produce and the expense is handed down to the consumer. The prices will come down when more consumers will purchase them.


Tara Morrison April 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

I read the article and had to direct my comments to her article. Your philosophy is one I admire her’s is not!


Angela April 24, 2010 at 7:19 am

I thought the tone of that article was dreadul and well done to you for giving them the facts. I live in the UK and this morning on one of the channels they showed an episode of Wife Swap USA. Bet one of the wives on there (she was from New Jersey and swapped with someone from Virgina) would have been on the side of the article writer. She was horrendous in her attitude to being eco friendly and her house looked like it lit up their whole street!! Can’t believe people like that. They just want to bury their heads in the sand over being more eco friendly, reducing waste and reusing things. You should have heard her language when her temporary family took her to a thrift store!!!


Jay April 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’m so glad you’ve got a ton of comments defending you already, because you’re totally right on this one!

It’s easy to write a blog about being frugal and/or eco-friendly. The tough part is to write it in a matter-of-fact and non-preachy tone. I personally think you nail this tone, no question. Keep it up!


Jessica Wolk-Stanley April 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I’ll bet she’s sorry she messed with The Non-Consumer Advocate! But seriously…this is a great conversation for everyone to be having. I think the issue of buying new and “green” vs. using what you already have can be very informative for those new to frugality, and for those who may not have thought it through as much.


Marie-Josée April 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Environmentally, analysis indicates that it IS actually greener to replace older appliances by newer, more efficient ones, with production and transportation energy costs factored in. Even more so if the appliance consumes electricity generated by a coal plant.

Until everyone can afford new appliances, the old ones will have to make do. Unless, of course, Emily is graciously willing to wash the laundry of all the unfortunate people who can’t afford state-of-the-art green washers. Or perhaps she can haul everyone’s laundry to the laundromat, because obviously, as others have already commented, those huge machines are truly energy efficient…

We can disagree without resorting to judgment. Shame on Emily for the tone of her post!


Aly R. April 26, 2010 at 4:28 am

Wow, it is a big turn off! Thanks for standing up for yourself and others like you.


Krista@CommitmentisLibearting April 27, 2010 at 6:39 am

Everyone has said all already – just another word of support and encouragement! I’m glad you took the time to stand up for yourself!


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