When Life Hands You Bird Shit . . .

by Katy on April 30, 2017 · 57 comments

You know how life’s great challenges seem to come in groups of a million three? Yeah, it’s been one of those days.

Here, let me start from the beginning . . .

One or possibly both of my cats have been missing the litter box. It could be due to their massive girth, (I swear I’m only feeding them a 1/2 cup per day!) or it might be because they’re cats which inherently means they’re jerks. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it was one of the two litter boxes in our unfinished basement. But no, it’s the litter box that sits on our beautifully refinished fir floors.

I finally decided that I would simply remove the litter box and keep all three in the basement. I sprayed the area with an enzymatic cleaner and instructed all family members to shut their bedroom doors as I knew we’d have some pissed off cats. Unfortunately, my husband left our bedroom door open, which we all know is the universal language for “come pee on my bed.”

Unhappy, (but still able to cope) I removed the linens, put them in the wash and attacked the stain with the aforementioned enzymatic spray. I then closed the door and slept on my son’s trundle bed.

And then guess what I did this morning? Yup, I left the bedroom door open for a couple of minutes. However, that’s all it took. I rushed through the spray cleaner routine again, and then ran out the door to drive my son back to school. (I’ll let you imagine my coping at this point. Let’s just say that I may have invented some clever new swear words.)

I get to the car and find . . . close to a half gallon of bird shit dripping down the driver side door and window. (Seriously, it looked like an ostrich might have built a nest in the tree!)

So wet, so gloppy and certainly not what my already frazzled nerves needed.

I decided I would splurge on a car wash on my way out of town as I need to stop for gas either way. Unfortunately the simple drive-through wash was seven bucks! And maybe I’m a time traveller from a less expensive era, but that’s simply too rich for my blood. Luckily, I spied the windshield washer scrub/squeegee thing and a lightbulb went off in my head.

I quickly grabbed the scrubber and got to work. It took a few minutes to clean off the bird crap, but in the end the car was back to its inoffensive exterior and I’d saved myself a decent chunk of cash.

Weirdly, it erased my bad mood. I felt somewhat in control of my life, as if I could actually face whatever the world had in store for me. And when I got back from the five-hour round trip journey to deposit my son back at his dorm, I was able to efficiently shampoo my mattress back to a level of general cleanliness.

Now, about those ostriches.

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 April 30, 2017 · 45 comments

  1. My son came home for the weekend, so the two of spent yesterday having fun about town. Our first stop was to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant for lunch, but you know that we were deliberate with our spending. Part of our frugal plan was to order bowls of udon noodles as soon as we were seated, as they’re just $2, yet very filling. In the past we’ve waited farther into the meal to order the udon and ended up too full. The total for the two of us was $12.50.
  2. There was no choice but to stop into the nearby Goodwill as it was walking distance from the restaurant. Neither of us found anything to buy, although I was tempted to pick up a $10 Specialized bike, but changed my mind as the chain was super rusty and I’m not in the right mindset for a new project.
  3. We then walked over to The Dollar Tree where I bought three 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, ginger snaps, knock-off Nature’s Miracle and two 7-ounce containers of “Steakhouse Seasoning.” I don’t remember why I ever bought this stuff in the first place, but I’m glad I did because this mix is the best! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it in the stores, so I stocked up. The same amount of Penzy’s brand steak seasoning would be $36, so this stuff is a screaming deal! (I use this in almost all my savory dishes, and it really livens up the flavor.)
  4. The two of us then wandered around the mall as my son wanted to see the new sneakers in person. However the only thing we bought were two 90¢ lollipops from See’s Candy. The man behind the counter was feeling generous and gave us four fancy chocolates, which my son happily enjoyed.
  5. The last stop was to New Season’s Market. (Like Whole Foods, but local.) I needed a half-pound of ground beef for spaghetti as were having my mother and step father over for dinner. My definition of frugality is to be deliberate and thoughtful with my resources. What that looks like is the illogical combination of canned tomatoes from a dollar store, but ground beef from an expensive source. The one choice creates the room for the other. The evening was topped off with ginger snaps and an episode of the new Mystery Science Theater 3000. No Lear Jets were harmed in the making of this blog post.

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 April 27, 2017 · 75 comments

  1. I had the privilege of receiving a behind the scenes tour of a Portland area Goodwill Outlet store yesterday, which of course was a total blast. (So interesting, and you can look forward to a stand alone blog post about it in a few days.) Afterwards I wandered around “the bins” for a bit, where I picked up a brand new pair of hand knit socks and a pair of classic vintage scissors. The total cost? 57¢. And yes, thank you for asking. I am an extremely practical person.
  2. I’m attending a consumer opinion focus group this evening, which will bring me $100 closer to my goal of exotic vacations, groovy clothing, gourmet restaurant meals, relaxing spa days paying for my sons’ college expenses. These are always very interesting and there’s something very Soprano-esque about being handed an envelope full of cash. I just wish they’d tell me that “you’re one of my top earners.”
  3. I borrowed my friend’s sweater shaver to tidy up a vintage needlepoint pillow that was looking a bit rough. This is a perfect example of how having a “mutually moochy relationship” supports a frugal life style. There is a 0% chance that the two of us will require this item at the same time, so there’s no need for duplicate ownership. She then has carte blanche to borrow anything that I own. Example? She borrows my rug shampooer from time to time.
  4. I accepted an invitation to meet up with the alumni outreach person from my college of nursing. He knew to not hit me up for a donation, and together we enjoyed delicious lattes on his expense account.
  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 is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

It was sure a lot more fun and satisfying to fix up this old mirror than it would have been to buy one online. And yes, the antique dresser was a curbside find.

  • Dinner out without ever having to worry about the bill.
  • This season’s hip new clothing without the slightest inclination to look at the price tag.
  • turnkey house where your only project is where to place your gorgeous furniture?

Sounds great, right?

Nope.

As dreamlike as it sounds to have access to everything you want at your fingertips, I feel like the reality of a limited budget sparks creativity and imagination that would otherwise lay dormant. 

Because the cost of taking four adults out for dinner, (Yup, teenage boys eat as much, if not much, much more than an adult) is staggering, so I end up having to cook at home. However, this doesn’t translate into frozen Costco lasagnas, as I like to prepare what I actually enjoy eating.

Take last night as an example. I’ve been craving Vietnamese salad rolls all week, (probably due to the fact that I spent an afternoon cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages, and basking in the aromas of the divine Jade Teahouse and Patisserie, the *best* restaurant, Vietnamese or otherwise in town.) So instead of wallowing in the sentiment of “Poor me,” I found a recipe online and whipped up a huge batch of salad rolls for the family. And no, they were not as pretty as Jade’s, but for the first time in my life I got to gorge on a delicacy, which before had always been an appetizer.

Such a luxury, and frankly, pretty damned satisfying. And now, I have a new skill! Some might even go so far as to call it self improvement. 

The harsh reality of not being able to buy the things you want, whether it’s a certain type of food, a decor item or the services of a professional can force you into learning new skills. And then, if your financial situation takes a nosedive, you already know how to fend for yourself. But you know . . . in style.

It’s a good thing that I wasn’t born an heiress. What a travesty that would have been. 😉

Agree, disagree? 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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This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

It can seem like half of the work of maintaining a clean home is the baffling challenge of stain removal. It would be easy if there was a single product that worked on very surface, but sadly such is not the case. Add in new materials such as synthetic workout gear and grandma’s go-to stain removers no longer pack the punch they used to.

However, three’s no need to reinvent the wheel, as other people have already done the hard work of solving your stain dilemmas. Here’s what they’ve discovered.

Sharpie

The beauty of a Sharpie pen is that it writes on almost anything and is permanent. Sadly, that’s also its downfall. Our own Alex Thompson Sadler discovered this list which should cover almost any disaster that your two-year-old can dish out:

  • Clothes: hand sanitizer.
  • Walls: toothpaste or hairspray.
  • Wood: rubbing alcohol.
  • Carpet: white vinegar.
  • Furniture: milk.
  • Ceramic or glass: One part toothpaste to one part baking soda.
  • Fiberglass: green and yellow sponge with Windex or alcohol.
  • Plastic: toothpaste and toothbrush or oil sheen hair spray and a cloth.

How to remove Sharpie stains from pretty much anything

Driveway oil stains

Believe it or not, people swear by kitty litter for this task, and if you believe the members of the Laundry Love & Cleaning Science group, “the cheaper the better.” You’re then instructed to step on it, “grind it in” and let it sit. Finish with a Dawn detergent/water scrub and then hose it off.

Urine

It might be due to a misbehaving puppy or a potty training child, but most of us have been in the situation where we’re dealing with the sight and smell of a urine stain. Luckily, there are enzymatic cleansers that break down instead of simply masking this unwelcome scent. One cleaning product that both parents and pets owners swear by is Odoban. Whether you’re working on upholstered furniture, hard surfaces or laundry, they have a product for all types of biologically based stains.

White board

White boards work perfectly in their write-on-wipe-off functionality until someone accidentally uses the wrong pen. Luckily hand sanitizer such as Purell works wonders to remove ink stains. Need more proof of hand sanitizer’s power? You need only to view this inspiring post from a few months ago.

Accidentally dyed laundry

We all know the classic advice to separate colors when doing laundry, but sometimes a brand new red sock still gets mixed into a load of whites. Your newly pink clothing may be a delight to your three year old, but not everyone wants to embrace the Disney princess aesthetic. Fear not, as an overnight soak in Oxyclean, (or the L.A.’s Totally Awesome Dollar store knock-off) should help to get your wardrobe back to normal. Repeat if necessary and do not put your laundry into the dryer until you’re satisfied with the result.

Workout clothing stench

You may feel all virtuous after a good workout, but traditionally laundered workout gear can retain unpleasant smells that are sure to ruin your endorphin high. However, an old stalwart cleaner has your sweaty back. Pine-Sol. That’s right, the same stuff your grandmother mopped her floors with has gained the respect of a new generation. The instructions for laundry are right on the bottle, instructing to “add ½ cup of Original Pine-Sol along with your regular detergent to boost a load of white or colorfast laundry.”

Blood

Blood stains can be a real pain to address. However, there’s one product that’s the #1 choice for removal. Hydrogen peroxide. Yup, just the regular cheap stuff in the brown bottle. Spray or pour the peroxide onto the stain and let it sit while it bubbles. Then rinse in cold water and repeat. Rub the fabric against itself for final stain removal and add in some Dawn detergent if necessary. Again, don’t put the piece through the dryer until the stain is fully removed.

Yellow armpit stains

Caused when “the aluminum in your antiperspirant or deodorant combines with the salt in your sweat,” yellow shirt stains can be a real embarrassment. However, a combination of baking soda, dish soap and hydrogen peroxide can bring your shirt back to life. Team Clark’s Mike Timmerman tested this technique, writing that it’s as simple as “applying the ingredients directly to the shirt, use an old toothbrush to work them in for a minute, and then let the shirt sit for at least an hour before putting it in the washing machine.”

Cheap and easy way to remove yellow sweat stains from your clothes

Hard water stains on toilets

It can be frustrating to have a perpetually dirty looking toilet despite regular cleanings. This phenomenon is usually due to hard water deposits, and even though you may have tried multiple cleaning products, a quick scrub with a pumice stone can remove the stain with minimal effort. Rave reviews such as this one have me convinced. “My pumice stone took all the nasty off and my potty looks brand new!”

Grass stains

Whether you’re the parent of a rambunctious pre-schooler or have a kid in sports, grass stains can be a challenge to address. Luckily there’s a powerful bar of soap that’s stocked in the laundry aside of most grocery stores. Fels-Naptha has been manufactured for over 100 years, and has been the go-to stain remover for multiple generations of launderers. Their website instructs that “All you’ve got to do is rub the stain with a wet bar of Purex Fels-Naptha and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wash your clothes as you normally would and say farewell to tough stains for good.” Users agree, sharing that “I use it on my son’s baseball pants and it works each time.”

Conclusion

However you address the stains in your life, make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions and to never ever mix random cleansers. Especially bleach and ammonia, as the combination will create chlorine gas, a toxic vapor.

If my research for this article has taught me anything it’s that there’s a cleaning solution for just about every stain, especially if you catch it before it goes through the dryer.

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 April 23, 2017 · 99 comments

  1. I finally used up my year-long Voodoo Donuts gift certificate to get a dozen donuts to take down for my son’s dorm mates. If I never see another donut in my life it will be too soon.
  2. I was able to write two Clark Howard articles while I was at Timberline Lodge. Making money while on a free vacation is pretty sweet.
  3. I’m reading a library copy of the book “Lab Girl.
  4. I turned off the heat and switched the hot water heater to low while we were out of town.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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

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The Simple Beauty of Timberline Lodge

by Katy on April 21, 2017 · 31 comments

I’m currently staying at Timberline Lodge, as my husband has a work conference, and I’m nothing if not an unabashed freeloader. As a history geek, I am deeply appreciative for the privilege to stay here.

For those not in the know, Timberline Lodge was built in 1939 the midst of the great depression, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program that put artisans and unemployed Americans back to work. And for that reason, the lodge is rich with awe inspiring artistic elements.

Everywhere you look is a museum worthy piece of art.

I call these “Newel Post Porn.” These original carved animals are on every newel post, and they’re straight up adorable!

Fun fact: They’re made from recycled telephone poles.

I took the time to watch a looping documentary about Timberline, and learned a thing or two, including that Douglas Lynch was one of the original WPA artists, and he happens to be my friend’s grandfather! I texted his wife and she directed me to the room where his carved and painted linoleum panels are featured.

I learned that he was the last surviving artist from the initial construction, and that he snuck both himself and his wife into this artwork. His carved and painted linoleum panels are an important part of this historic landmark, and I’m not going to lie. I got a bit teary when I realized the connection.

Grandpa Doug Lynch:

And grandma Margaret Lynch:

His artwork is pure perfection!

 

This photo gives you a sense of the scale.

I’ve been giving some thought as to how this relates to non-consumerism, and it boils down to this. It doesn’t cost a thing to make the most of where you are or what you have in life. Whether I’m in NYC taking a free tour of the historic Fifth Ave Library or simply cooking inexpensive meals from scratch while my social media friends post about their delicious restaurant meals.

$28 entrees be damned! I’m content to eat the food I brought from home. As long as I get to wander about the facilities.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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What’s making me happy:

  1. I’m happy that the road to Timberline Lodge was freshly plowed so that my husband and I were able to avoid putting chains on the tires.
  2. I’m happy that the architects of Timberline Lodge included this little writing nook way back in the 1937, and that no one besides me wanted to claim it as their own in 2017.
  3. I’m happy that both my kids seem to be emerging as functional adults who know how to problem solve and take care of themselves. (This is prompted by my older son who figured out how to get himself to jury duty, despite it being in a different town than where he attends college. He successfully argued that he has classes he’s unable to miss, and then he figured out how to catch a bus back to campus. He didn’t even contact me once about the logistics, so I only heard about it afterwards!)
  4. I’m happy to have amazing neighbors who don’t bat an eye about keeping an eye on our cats while we’re out of town.
  5. I’m happy that I took the time to deep clean the house, so that we’ll come back to a fresh and inviting home. Nothing is more depressing than coming home from vacation to a stale smelling and messy house.

What’s pissing me off:

  1. An eBay buyer tried to scam my son by claiming that he’d sent the wrong size soccer jersey. Luckily the jersey that he returned had a different ID number on it, so I was able to definitely prove the deception. My son is not out any money, but I spent a fair amount of time and mental energy dealing with the return. However, I learned that you can block a buyer, which is a good skill to have.

Now your turn. What’s making you happy, and conversely what’s pissing you off?

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 April 19, 2017 · 42 comments

  1. My husband and I spent yesterday finishing up our taxes and rewarded ourselves with dinner and a movie. Of course, our frugality was on point. My father likes to take me to lunch once or twice a month at a local restaurant that offers punch cards. It takes forever to earn anything, but I was finally at the point where buying one entree would qualify me for a free one. Unfortunately, it ended up being a “happy hour” day, which meant that they weren’t punching cards. Luckily I was able to talk the server into charging me an extra dollar (the full amount) in order to qualify for the free entree.
  2. We walked home where I finished up a Clark Howard article, and then readied ourselves for round two. Our favorite refurbished art deco movie theater has bargain Tuesdays, which meant that the two of us paid just $2 apiece to see Star Wars: Rogue One. The grand total of the our adventures ended up being $15, including the tip! By the way, I loved the movie and its attention to detail, including that the Rebel Alliance fighter pilots had dorky mustaches, consistent to the 1977 Star Wars actors. Continuity matters!
  3. I received a free container of Barkeeper’s Friend cleanser in the mail yesterday, which I earned from submitting my own before-and-after for their website. Pretty funny, as the shipping far exceeded the cost of just buying one from my own grocery store. Hey, free is free!
  4. I did my kids’ taxes for them, but used TaxAct.com instead of TurboTax.com as the state filing was going to cost $29.99 as the period for free filing had passed. I meant to have the boys do their own taxes during spring break, but forgot as my focus was on my son’s oral surgery. I want full credit for this frugal act, as I had to start from scratch when I realized that I was going to have to pay to file his taxes. Kind of a pain, but I saved $60.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold-plated apartment in the sky.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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

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One thing that I really like about blogging is that I’m constantly learning new tricks. Whether it’s here or on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group, new ideas are constantly flowing in.

So today is your turn. Have a tip or trick that saves you a few pennies or a few dollars? Please share your unique money saving ideas in the comments section below.

I’m sure we could all use a new idea or two, so please, share what works for you!

Here, I’ll start. My main money saving idea to to tweak my attitude. Instead of feeling bummed out about not having money for all the fun things I could be doing, (Hawaiian vacations, etc.) I choose to focus on how great it is to not have to work all the zillions of hours it would take to earn the money for these kinds of expenses.

Tag, you’re it!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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