Non-Consumer Mish-Mash

by Katy on October 10, 2009 · 10 comments

Shop Smart MagazineIt’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

I discovered a new magazine while scrounging for reading material at work the other day. (I hate having the TV on during my lunch break, while I am supposedly decompressing.) This new (to me) magazine is called ShopSmart, which touts itself as “No Hype +No Ads+Great Buys.”

Actually, the magazine is published by the Consumer Union non-profit that also publishes Consumer Reports, a magazine I truly respect. Featured in the September 2009 issue were deals to be found in dollar stores as well as reviews of tooth whiteners. Both of which I found to be interesting. (Parenting rather blunt children has meant I get regular reminders on my pearly yellows.)

The subscription rate is $18 for six issues, which is a bit pricier than other magazines, but you’re paying extra to escape advertising. I haven’t checked around to see if there are lesser prices, but there may be.

Either way, I did bring the magazine home. You know, for research.

My neighbors drive a smart 2005 Volvo station wagon that they keep in tip-top shape. It’s always clean and they bring it in for scheduled maintenance. Then suddenly this car, which they hardly drive needed a brand new transmission to the tune of $4000(ish).

To say they were spitting mad would be an understatement.

So they wrote a letter of complaint to Volvo Northwest explaining their situation and ended up getting around $2000 off the repair.

Which is not a bad, not bad at all. And reminds me that crafting a well worded letter of complaint can be a highly profitable skill.

I’m still going strong with the No Heat Challenge. The nights and mornings are nippy cold lately, but we have held strong. All of us are sleeping on flannel sheets under flannel duvets, and are fine once we garner the bravery to get up in the morning. A mug of hot sweet tea warms our insides and I have yet to hear one word of complaint. This, despite the thermostat’s morning readings of 61°.

My goal of getting to November 1st may or may not last, as my family is more important than a silly blog challenge.

What? You’re leaving me for a woman who heats her house?!

But the suitcases appear empty so far, so I think I’m safe for now.

I spent an entire day cleaning and reorganizing my 11-year-old son’s bedroom the other day. Yes — an entire day!

I brought down the fish tank that covered his entire desk and put a table that appeared to serve no other function than clutter catcher out on the sidewalk. It was gone within 15 minutes.

Together we went through pile after pile of drawings and filled two grocery bags with paper recycling.

The end result is that his space has elbow room again, and we’ve made room for a reading corner. And a casual call to my friend Sasha revealed that she was about to get rid of a big cozy velvet armchair that would fit the bill perfectly.

We may never be featured on HGTV, but his room is organized and functional again. And a big cozy reading chair is hands down the best addition to any room.

I’ll just have to remember to add a comfy throw blanket to get him through to November 1st.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa October 11, 2009 at 6:14 am

I’ve crafted a few of those well-worded complaint letters too and usually had good results. Still, I’d be upset by the pricey repair needed despite the maintenance and newness of their vehicle. It’s frustrating that things are built so shoddily.

I’m still with you on the No Heat Challenge, but probably only because I have so many cats and a dog to snuggle with! This morning’s temperature in northern Arkansas was 38 degrees……bbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrr! A hot breakfast helped get me going though.

My adult son had stayed with us for about the past year. He moved out last weekend but will return for visits. I swapped the bedrooms around- placing his twin sized bed in the front bedroom and moving our full sized to the enclosed back porch area (where he had stayed). The bed fits as though it was built in, giving a cocoon effect that’s great for sleeping. Plus I don’t hear the street noise and neighbor’s teenagers anymore! At the other end of the room I created a reading/writing space and a work area for crafting. Sometimes small changes can make huge differences! Our former room still houses our computer but seems roomier with the smaller bed and furniture more spread out. Best of all, this redo was FREE!!!!


Louise October 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

What happened to the fish tank? Is it full of fishes?

I’ve had tanks for years. When I was a kid, I spent hours watching the fish swim, keeping careful track of their species, names, and ages. Tanks followed me to college and then into young adulthood, where they became clutter. While the tank always had a place of honor in the living room, I rarely watched the fish and cleaning the darn thing was a never-ending chore.

Many years later, I now have a small tank on my bedside table. I watch my four little buddies every night as I fall asleep, and find it peaceful and relaxing. Because I use and enjoy it every day, I don’t mind cleaning it. Definitely not clutter anymore!


Judy October 11, 2009 at 9:49 am

You crack me up! Glad the suitcases aren’t packed and hope it stays warm past Nov. 1 in order to keep your family intact.


thenonconsumeradvocate October 11, 2009 at 10:12 am


The 10-gallon fish tank currently houses a single neon tetra that won’t die.

The fish tank is currently on the kitchen table, which is actually better than my son’s room, as it’s easier to do the maintenance in a room with running water.

We never eat at our kitchen table, as the dining room is very central.

When this one fish (finally) dies I’m going to decommission the tank and put it in the basement, as I have a suspicion that the heater and filter are using more than their fair share of electricity.

Seriously, our electric bills were significantly higher this year than last.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Angela October 11, 2009 at 11:11 am

I LOVE the big cozy reading chair in your son’s room. That is indeed the best addition to any bedroom.

I’ve done some of my best writing in complaint letters- my husband still refers to my Allstate insurance letter of ’95. I’ve received cut fees, free flights, and free miles. I’ve only done it when there’s good cause, and less than 10 times over two decades.

Good luck with the no-heat challenge. It sounds like you’re doing great, and I highly doubt your family is conspiring to pack their bags. That’s funny though, the idea of leaving you for another woman who heats her house. It’s no problem here yet (in so cal) but I’m so glad it’s cooled down because it’s baking season! And that’s a great way to warm up the home.


Kris-ND October 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm

The magazine looks really interesting, although I usually find that grocery bargain helps don’t apply to me because I shop on base, and it is almost always cheaper than things on the economy, but it looks like an interesting enough mag to subscribe 🙂 thanks for the tip.

Good luck on your heat challenge. I had to turn the heat on much earlier than I thought. It has been in the 20’s and snowing for the last few days, and the other night we apparently had a low in the teens.

Today it has been a heat wave of 30 degrees and flurries. I don’t know if the heat is going to go off anytime


Jenna October 11, 2009 at 5:28 pm

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marianne October 12, 2009 at 6:35 am

Katy, there are other ways to keep your husband and you warm that will keep his suitcase empty. 😉

i was hoping to follow you on the no heat challenge but this morning when i finally rose and puttered to the living room i could smell the first scent of heat as my husband had turned it on to raise the temp to 63 degrees. well it was in the 30s this morning in New England.

Unfortunately, I can assure you that a cozy arm chair for any teenagers room will become a catch all for clothes, backpacks and books. but maybe he’ll get a week out of it!


thenonconsumeradvocate October 12, 2009 at 9:29 am


My 14-year-old son has had a reading chair in his room for the last year-and-a-half and it has not become a dumping ground. He sits in it for hours every day.

The new chair is in my 11-year-old son’s room, and I already talked to him about how he’s not to pile stuff onto it. We’ll see how that goes.

The catch-all quality of a chair is the reason why I don’t have one in my room. Our room is already the catch-all of the universe.

And by the way, I’m pretty sure my husband can last until we turn on the furnace. Nuff said. ; )

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate



Marj M. October 12, 2009 at 9:49 am

I caved on the no-heat a couple of weeks ago. We have had snow and still have it. Wyoming winds are not kind. I applaud all the things you do and in doing them……you have opened my eyes to a lot of avenues.
I have been a known “phone complainer” if the chicken breasts I paid for have not been plucked and other icky things. Maybe 5 to 6 calls a year. But it does get the job done. I do compliment them on the “good” things about their product too.
I have always been frugal…… have shown me new ways. Thank you.


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