Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 7, 2019 · 33 comments

  1. My daughter and I are sorting through her immense amount of stuff, and we’re being very deliberate with how everything is distributed. (Seriously, she has so much stuff!) Anything Japanese goes to the local Japanese language immersion program, a few things are listed on eBay, clothing is donated to Goodwill and special items are being gifted to her friends. The goal is to transition her childhood bedroom into a studio apartment of sorts, which requires some ruthless decision making. She’ll get her own apartment at some point, but we’re happy to have her at home for now.

    I also went through a bit of my son’s stuff and donated his expensive martial arts outfit back to his old studio. There’s no reason for it to take up precious space in our home when it no longer even fits! My sister jokes about how there’s an inverse relationship with how much you spend on martial arts supplies and how interested your kid is in the classes. But really, this could apply to all kid activities.

  2. I’m giving my couch one last chance after having been peed on by a certain cat a few weeks ago. (Hyena, it was Hyena!) I literally poured the enzymatic cleaner onto the cushions in the desperate hope that it’ll soak as deep as the urine. I’ll then spray the heck out of them with a power washer once the solution had a chance to eat away at the offending nastiness. Portland is forecast for multiple days of rare hot and sunny weather which should dry out the thick cushions. It’s definitely a last ditch effort to save this miserable couch. I could buy a new (to me) couch, but the last thing I want to do is to repeat this buy-couch-ruin-couch cycle.

    For those worrying about our two cats, they’ve been pronounced healthy and currently enjoy a luxurious numbers of litter boxes which are liberally sprinkled throughout the house. Specifically right next to the couch. So gross.

    I’ll understand if you prefer to stand when visiting our home.

  3. Sarah from Go Budget Girl published her YouTube video of us “Treasure Ranger-ing” at the Goodwill outlet bins. The audio at the beginning is clanky, but if you can power through the first few minutes it’s worth the effort. The video is part one of two, the second of which will air on Thursday.

    Click HERE to watch the video!

  4. My husband fixed a dresser drawer which had split, I walked to Fred Meyer for lettuce and bought nothing more than lettuce, (so challenging as it was after dinner and the ice cream aisle was whispering my name) I proposed more freelance article ideas, I reached out to a high end store about buying one of my gorgeous thrifted mirrors, I’m planning a Seattle mini-break, complete with free housing, (thanks, Lisa!) and I picked up various lovely bread items at the Dollar Tree.

  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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{ 33 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on May 4, 2019 · 84 comments

  1. I spent a couple hours pruning my backyard hydrangeas, as well as hacking away at some oppressively low maple tree branches. I then swept and raked the brick patio for an overall tidy/well kept aesthetic. (Note the lack of words such as “impressive” or spectacular.”) I don’t want to make you jealous, but I filled two rolling yard debris containers!

    The patio furniture cushions were impressively grimy, so I treated them to a spa day soak in my beloved Dollar Tree Oxyclean. The end result? Perfectly fine. Not perfect, not magazine ready and certainly not like new. They’re now completely acceptable and I kept them out of the landfill for one more year.

    The mindset to replace things when they’re dirty or broken is important to resist. Especially when consumer goods seem cheaper than ever. The environmental ramifications of buying-and-tossing is killing our planet, so I challenge you to give your stuff a second chance whenever possible.

    Click HERE to see the before and after.

  2. I didn’t end up buying Fred Meyer fuchsia starts for my three hanging baskets this year. Even though they’re priced at just 5-for-$3, I didn’t feel like spending the $9. I’d been rooting some free spider plant babies on the kitchen counter and realized that there were enough to fill one of the hanging baskets. (My dad has a huge spider plant in his kitchen that I occasionally snip from.) I now have a filled planter which cost me $0.00, and there’s an extra $9 in my credit union account. Click HERE to see the planted basket.

    Bonus win — no plastic packaging!

  3. I ran out of milk yesterday, so I walked to the grocery store where I was delighted to find half-price 2% gallons for just $1.49! (Yes, “delighted.” I stand by this word.) The expiration date isn’t even until May 13th!

  4. I finished listening to a free audiobook through the library’s Libby app, I sold a vintage marmalade crock for $25 after having paid $1 for it, I crisped up three almost empty boxes of stale Chex cereals in the oven, I unscrewed and then cleaned up a gorgeous old doorknob from a dumpstered door, I chose to do some writing at Ikea to take advantage of their free coffee and battery recycling, I listed more stuff on eBay and I stopped by Trader Joe’s and bought nothing more than their 19¢ bananas. No hummus, no snacks, no booze, no cookies.

  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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How to Price Garage Sale Items

by Katy on May 2, 2019 · 19 comments

This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Whether you’ve been bitten by the KonMari bug or you’re simply indulging in a classic spring cleaning session, now is the beginning of garage sale season. Yes, garage sales are a lot of work, but done right they can prove quite profitable.

First of all, you need to let go of thinking that you have a snowball’s chance in hell to recoup the money you once paid for your stuff. These spending choices are in the past and are a sunk cost that’s already been incurred and can never be recovered. How much you spent on an item is now irrelevant to its garage sale value. You essentially drove it off the lot and took the financial hit. Get over it.

However, you can still rake in enough money to make hosting a garage sale worth your while. The key is to set prices low enough for as many sales as possible. Yes, it’s painful, but it’s better to make a fast nickel than a slow dime. Or no dime. There’s zero profit in an unsold item.

Of course some items are better sold online rather than from a garage sale buyers who are looking to for amazing bargains. Those things include antique and vintage goods, as well as other high value items. A quick look at “completed items” on eBay will give you a sense of how desirable your stuff is, as spelled out in this Clark Howard article. (Sadly, this tip may educate you on how little your stuff is worth rather than confirm that you’re sitting on a fortune.)

How much to ask can be confusing, so I reached out to members of The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group to get a sense of how prices differ throughout the country and there was almost no consensus except that people vehemently hate unpriced “make me an offer” sales. “Nothing is worse ‘than make me an offer.’ I don’t even know where to begin if you don’t give me an asking price.”

So much much should you ask?

Rule of thumb varies from 10% to 30% of the initial price, and I’ve even heard to price half of how much an item would sell in a local thrift store. The Salvation Army publishes a donation value guide, which is quite handy, as it provides prices on everything from ice skates ($3 – $16) to bathing suits. ($4 – $12)

Consider these pricing guidelines:

  • Books – Hardback books $1, paperback books 50¢

  • Clothing – Shirts $1, pants $2, shoes $3, outerwear $5

  • Housewares –  Dishes – 50¢ – $1, glassware 50¢, pots and pans $4, linens $2, small appliances $5

  • Toys – Large toys $3, small toys 50¢, stuffed animals 50¢ – $1

  • Furniture – Chairs $5, tables $10-$20, rugs $20, dressers $30, lamps $5 – $10

  • Collectibles – Records $1, knick-knacks 50¢ – $2

If the thought of individually pricing your merchandise is overwhelming, consider setting blanket prices for certain categories such as hardback books for $1, baby clothing for 50¢ or shoes for $3. Create easy to read signs and make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to understand your pricing structure. Maybe even set up a $1 table, a $2 table or similar.

Of course, the key to getting people to pay your set prices is to physically get people to your sale, and for that you need advertising. And in today’s internet era that means sites such as Craigslist, Facebook and Next Door. However, don’t discount the power of a straightforward hand drawn cardboard sign, set up at nearby intersections. You’ll need traffic, lots of it.

Preparing for a successful garage sale with:

  • Price stickers – Can be as official as the pre-printed ones from an office supply company or ordinary pieces of painter’s tape.

  • Tables and clothing racks – Folding tables are ideal, but don’t hesitate to haul out a couple of traditional tables as many people lack the physical ability to crouch down.

  • Change – Small bills and coins. You’ll be making change and will need dollar bills and quarters.

  • Bags – These don’t need to be as professional and uniform as a standard retail store would supply, but you’ll still need a stash for customer convenience.

  • Snacks and drinks – You’ll be outside all day and need to plan what you’ll be eating and drinking throughout the day. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to leave your stuff unattended while cooking a meal from scratch.

  • A buddy – Whether or not you’re hosting a neighborhood garage sale, it’s still a good idea to recruit a buddy for both safety and sanity.

  • Sunscreen – Slather up people, skin cancer is a killer.

Bonus garage sale tips:

  • Move your cars to make it easier for potential shoppers. Maybe even ask if your neighbors are willing to do the same.

  • Price all items at 25¢ increments to simplify the math.

  • Set aside the notion that bargaining is rude. Give discounts when people are buying multiple items and remember that your goal is have as few unsold items as possible.

  • Slash prices at the end of the day. Yes, you’ll hardly make any money on these items, but some money is better than no money.

  • Rearrange and tidy up your tables throughout the day so potential buyers don’t think the good stuff has already been sold.

  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Nobody wants to buy a soggy book.

Be sure to make a plan for unsold items. If you’ve gone through the mental anguish of deciding what to get rid of, you do yourself a disservice by bringing those things back into your home. Some non-profits will pick up donations, or you could even advertise a “curb alert” on your local Buy Nothing Group. Borrow a truck, load up the minivan or make multiple trips to the donation center, but do not haul your stuff back into your house!

Unfortunately, not all living situations lend themselves to hosting a garage sale. Maybe you’re in an apartment or living under home owner association or civic regulations that prohibit hosting a sale. Worry not, as you still have options. You can either pair up with a buddy who lives in a sale-friendly area or do a virtual garage sale through Facebook Marketplace, VarageSale or LetGo.com.

Whether the goal of your garage sale is to declutter or to bring in revenue, the Clark Smart thing to do is to set specific customer friendly prices that’ll relieve your home of excess stuff while maximizing profits. Best of luck, and may the luck of good weather be on your side.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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William Morris & Bubble Wrap

by Katy on May 1, 2019 · 3 comments

I sold a Starbucks travel mug for $30, (that I’d just picked up for $3) which necessitated a fresh acquisition of bubble wrap. Luckily, there’s a musical instrument store in the neighborhood which always has ginormous bags of free packaging materials for the taking.

Not that it’s a “frugal thing,” but can you appreciate how pretty that bubble wrap is? Enough to make a girl snuggle up and release just a wee bit of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.”

Or as William Morris so eloquently put it, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

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 29, 2019 · 78 comments

  1. I sold a few things on eBay including a handmade cribbage board, a credit card reader, a vintage style clock and the Furby that I picked up last week. I also sold a pair of Danskos and a cat bed through Facebook Marketplace.

    I picked up a few things to sell including a Fiestaware deviled egg dish, a vintage barkcloth curtain panel, some zippered banking pouches and an eight-year-old Starbucks travel mug.

  2. I met up with Sarah from Go Budget Girl, who was in Portland for a work conference. Together we hit up the main pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet, where she filmed me for her YouTube channel. I really enjoyed our time together and look forward to see how she edits the tremendous amount of footage into a coherent video. Not to give away too many spoilers, but she did concoct a goofy game show for me!

  3. My friend Lise and I spent a few hours “parallel playing” at a local non-profit community space/coffee shop. She treated me to a drip coffee and we both worked on our laptops. She works from home so it can hard to justify social gatherings, but we’re both disciplined about staying on task. We chat during the drive, plus a few minutes here and there. Plus there’s the accountability of having a friend to keep us on task. A perfect solution for people who work from home and can feel isolated.

  4. I stopped into the Dollar Tree store for bread, and although they didn’t have any of the dense multi-grain loaves that I prefer, I did pick up a couple sleeves of bagels and English muffins, I wrote up a Clark Howard article on how to price garage sale items, I made a large pot of super cheap red lentil soup and I accepted a loaf of homemade bread from 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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 78 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 23, 2019 · 109 comments

  1. I sold a needlepoint piece that I’d had up on eBay for 103 years, as well as a thrifted Stumptown Coffee mug, (which is a local coffee chain.) I’d bought the mug as a experiment as I’d heard that people collect them, so I now know to grab up when they hit the thrift store shelves. I then picked up a classic $4.99 midcentury-style chair and a creepy little Furby, both from Goodwill. I did not buy the Lonely Lady Arm Pillow™.

    I did complete refinishing the midcentury end table, which I have up for sale on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. I had some initial interest, but none of the I have to drive over right now buyers came through. That’s okay though, as it’s a great piece and I know it’ll sell. My living room goes through periods of resembling a furniture showroom, but it no longer fazes us.

  2. I worked all weekend at the hospital and enjoyed the deliciousness of a unit-wide Easter potluck that sustained me throughout the entire 12-1/2 hour shift. I brought chocolate dipped strawberries, and needless to say I drank the free so-so coffee. To be precise, I drank a Herculean amount of coffee, as continuous snacking on cookies/cheesecake/coffee cake/brownies is draining to even the most energetic RN.

  3. I asked for and received an armload of used padded envelopes from my neighbor who orders a lot of stuff from Amazon. She’s happy to set them aside to save them from the landfill, and I’m happy to source free packaging materials for my eBay sales. I spied another neighbor tucking envelopes into her trash can and told her I could reuse them. We then chatted for a bit and she ran into the house to grab a book for me to return as I was on my way to the library.

    Building community within a neighborhood can be as simple as returning one another’s library books and sharing resources.

  4. I turned off the heat as the sun miraculously emerged from behind her cloudy fortress. Of course, it was but a few hours of respite from the rain, but it still gave me hope that the sun will once again grace Oregon with her warm and loving embrace.

  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 109 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 18, 2019 · 65 comments

  1. I quickly sold a vintage wrought iron plant stand from the Albany, Oregon Goodwill. (Whenever possible I stop at this Goodwill, as I’ve found it to be the honey hole of enjoyably priced vintage goods.) I was asking $30 but the buyer only brought twenties. However, in a manner not seen since nineteen-ought-four she asked if I’d throw in a $10 flowerpot instead of bargaining me down. I scanned my porch and quickly located a lovely glazed pot which slotted perfectly into the plant stand. Needless to say, it was garbage picked.

    I also sold an antique camera and a Tommy Bahama silk shirt through eBay. Notice a pattern of what I’ll sell? Exactly. I’ll sell anythang.

  2. I finished reading a library copy of Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which my neighbor had recommended. I LOVED THIS BOOK FROM THE TIPPY TOP OF ITS HEAD TO THE VERY BOTTOM OF ITS WIGGLY LITTLE TOES!

    Arson. Intrigue. Kooky characters. Books! Books! Books!

    All for the low price of a library card.

  3. I started refinishing a midcentury end table that I also scored from the Albany Goodwill. Sure it sported a number of water marks on the top surface, but since it was priced at just $7.99 I figured it would be a fun and relatively easy project. I already own the supplies, so I took yesterday’s late afternoon sunshine as an opportunity to spend an hour or so sanding it down. I’ll likely finish it up this evening and throw it up for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

  4. I arranged a date with my friend Lise, but instead of hitting up a coffee house we walked her dog and nipped into the high falutin’ grocery store for free coffee samples, I mailed out both eBay sales using scavenged packaging supplies and I downloaded the new Libby library app and listened to a free audiobook.

    I hosted dinner for my friend Diana who was in town checking out colleges for her son, but kept the meal simple with a burrito bar featuring Instant Pot cooked beans and whatever happened to be in my fridge. We also spent a couple hours ambling through the meticulously landscaped Lewis and Clark campus, which cost nothing and triggered wonderful memories of our own college years together.

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

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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 10, 2019 · 68 comments

  1. I sold a cute vintage barstool as well as that kid’s Trek bike that I scrubbed up and featured in a previous blog post. Both of these sales were through Facebook Marketplace. I also sold a streaming Blu-ray player through eBay. The barstool and bike were $5 Goodwill items, and I think I forked out $20 for the Blu-ray player. I try not to buy stuff to sell unless I can clear at least $20 from the sale, although I’ve been known to disobey my own rules. This may sound like a lot of work, but putting together a listing takes less than five minutes, and it’s something I can do while inventing new ways to split the atom watching TV in the evenings.

  2. I just worked three days and packed my own lunches and slurped up a tremendous amount of the free mediocre coffee. I know this is far from a lightning bolt piece of advice, but the money I’ve saved from twenty four years of forgoing on-site hospital food would likely run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Have I ever bought lunch from the cafeteria? Sure, but it’s just a couple times per year when real life has gotten in the way of my best intentions.

    The hospital where I work allows you to activate your work badge as a debit card, thus deducting all on-site purchases from your paycheck. I long ago made a conscious decision to decline this program, (even when it provided a 5% discount on all purchases) as I felt it would make it way too painless to inadvertently nickel and dime my paycheck away. I’m there to make money, not spend it.

  3. Portland has been oppressively grey and rainy over the past week, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to to go and about and live my best life. However, there’s an upside to cocooning indoors, which is that it’s hard to spend $5 here and $10 there if you’re embracing the indoor life. I don’t have a habit of online shopping, which means that indoor days = zero spend days. Having said this, I’ll welcome the sunshine if it ever deigns to return.

  4. I popped into The Dollar Tree to pick up shampoo, conditioner and quality surplus bread, I’m stopping at the library to return a DVD that’s due as well as pick up a hold copy of Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, I accepted an offer from my father to take me to lunch and I’m scheduling a time to help my mother clean her Airbnb guest cottage whose long term tenant vamoosed in the night.

  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 68 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 4, 2019 · 75 comments

  1. I sold a pair of thrifted soccer cleats and a bicycle pannier through eBay, as well as a pair of Dansko sandals and an American Girl doll through Facebook Marketplace. I’m arranging to work eight hours of paid online education that I can complete at home. Nurse wages while wearing pajamas? That’s the dream!

  2. I schlepped my tuchus across town for another large grocery shopping trip to Winco. They’re far from convenient, but their prices are low enough to make it worth the effort. Plus, you can’t beat that they reimburse you 6¢ per bag.

  3. I whisked my mother off for a Goodwill Outlet (bins) adventure. My goal is always to find things I can sell on eBay, but I also keep an eye out for things my friends and family can use. This is why I nabbed a set of dog waste bags for my friend Lise. (Brand new — I know I shouldn’t have to clarify this, but I concurrently know that I should.) For myself I bought a vintage linen tea towel, a quality sweater for my husband and a doll dress for my childhood Sasha doll, as I keep stealing her clothes to plump up American Girl doll listings. (Because the only thing creepier than a 51-year-old woman who still loves her childhood doll, is a 51-year-old woman who insists that her doll be nekkid.)

    To sell, I bought a fancy cat bed, a guitar case, a Kermit The Frog plush, a set of alien refrigerator magnets, a youth baseball glove, a Microsoft keyboard, and two pink midcentury hand towels. I also paid for my mother to buy a creamer and sugar and maybe something else. And I don’t mean to brag, (I totally do!) but everything has been photographed and listed. Otherwise I’m just a hoarder.

    The total was $20.65. 

  4. My neighbor is lending me a black light flashlight so I can face my fears and investigate whether my cat has been urinating anywhere besides the new couch. I live in fear right now, but it’s better to not bury my head in the sand. §¢¢®©ƒ¥§∞∞§¶¥†©¥¶§!!!!!

  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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As The Non-Consumer Advocate I’ve been extolling the virtues on buying used instead of new since 2008, and during that time I’ve given countless interviews. Radio, television, print and online media, I’ve done them all.

I recently recorded a piece about non-consumerism for the podcast How To Money, which was a first for me. I love podcasts and have a array of different ones that plop into my inbox on a regular basis, and How To Money is one of my favorites. (You may remember me mentioning it as Pour Not Poor. Clever as a written title, confusing as a spoken title.) Although I’m not part of their craft beer drinking demographic, I more than make up for it with my deep fascination with all things personal finance.

Click HERE to listen to me talk about all things non-consumerism. 

Thank you to Matt and Joel for inviting me on as one of your $Pros!

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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