If you have a home to clean, you likely already have your favorite brands. Maybe it’s Shout to pre-treat your laundry, Pine Sol for the kitchen and Bon Ami in the bathroom; after all, it’s what your parents used. But there’s a brand you’re likely unaware of that’s highly rated, yet insanely cheap. The brand is LA’s Totally Awesome, and despite the goofy name, it has legions of die-hard fans. Sold at dollar stores such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General, the products retail for a single dollar and are pretty much the bargain of the century.

I’ve been using their knock-off Oxyclean for years, and speak from experience when I write that this product is every bit as good as its name brand competitor. I use it in my laundry, I use it to pre-treat stains and I dilute it for my rug shampooer. Officially called “LA’s Totally Awesome Power Oxygen Base Cleaner,” this small container packs a wallop. The directions suggest that you “Use in the bathroom and kitchen to remove scummy residue from tubs, tile, floors, sinks, shower doors and curtains. Use outdoors to clean decks, garbage cans, lawn furniture and more.” Not too shabby for a one dollar product!

You may shy away from cheap cleaners due to environmental or health concerns, but LA’s Totally Awesome oxygen cleaner received an “A” from the Environmental Working Group. (Considered the standard for rating the toxicity of personal care products.)

I figured that this product was an anomaly, but I recently joined the 144,000+ member Laundry Love & Cleaning Science Facebook group and learned that I was not alone in my adoration for this line of cleaners. The LA’s Totally Awesome All Purpose Concentrated Cleaner/Degreaser Spot Remover has its own legions of loyal fans. Almost every “how do I remove this stain?” question is answered with “Have you tried LA’s Totally Awesome?” I knew I needed to give it a try. A quick trip to The Dollar Tree secured my own bottle, and I came home ready to scrub down my home.

A quick read through the label taught me that the concentrated cleaner/degreaser is formulated to work on a multitude of surfaces, from air conditioners to rust stains, chrome to driveways. In all, the bottle includes directions for 43 different types of surfaces.

First up? My stovetop. It had been a couple of days since I’d given the stove a good cleaning, so it was the perfect opportunity to test out the degreaser’s efficacy. (I normally procrastinate this job, as I hate the inevitable scrubbing.) I read the instructions and diluted the liquid 5:1. I got out an empty bottle, mixed up some solution and then gave the surface a thorough spraying. I set an alarm for 15 minutes and walked away. I came back and miraculously was able to wipe off the baked on splatters with nothing more than a soft sponge. No scrubbing!

I then put the LA’s Awesome cleaner/degreaser to the test on my bathroom tiles. I live in moisture plagued Oregon, so mildew is a constant challenge, but this product surpassed my expectations. Again I sprayed the product, set an alarm and walked away. I came back and was happy to discover that almost all of the nastiness simply rinsed away, with just a small amount of scrubbing in a few stubborn areas.

Need more evidence? You can watch this YouTube video of a woman using LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner/degreaser to remove stains from her truck upholstery, or you could read this online review from a woman who used it to remove tree sap from her car. You might even want to read this testimonial from a woman who used it to save her laundry after accidentally sending a crayon through the dryer.

Need one more reason to check out the LA’s Totally Awesome cleaning line? They’re made right here in the U.S.A. with “Manufacturing and distribution centers in West Memphis, Arkansas, and Orange County, California.”

You may hesitate to budge from your brand loyalty, but it’s worth giving LA’s Totally Awesome products a try. After all, they’re only a buck. What have you got to lose?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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If you’re the end of your first pregnancy, you’re likely overwhelmed with advice on what to pack for the hospital. Make the mistake of doing an internet search to answer this question, and you’ll fall down into a deep well of conflicting information. Take everyone’s advice and you’ll end up lugging so much stuff to and from the hospital that you won’t have room for the baby!

So who should you ask? Nurses. I’ve worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 22 years, and I’m constantly mystified by the excessive amounts of stuff that first time moms bring with them to the hospital. All bright eyed and excited on admit, and then exhausted and sore upon discharge. Trust me, that stuff you thought you needed is a straight up burden when it comes time to pack up and leave.

What do you absolutely need to pack for the hospital?

Toiletries and a car seat. Seriously, that’s it. And in actuality, we have toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, combs and brushes if you didn’t bring your own. Patients come in all the time directly from their doctor’s offices with nothing more than whatever happens to be in their purses.

However, it can be nice to have some comforts of home. I polled a large number of labor and delivery nurses and this is what they say to bring (and not bring) to the hospital. Plus some bonus advice for your visitors.

Bring this stuff:

A car seat, your insurance information and the name of your pediatrician. These are the only things you absolutely must bring to the hospital. I’m always amazed by people who schlep in enough stuff to scale Everest, yet forgot to bring the name of their pediatrician. The hospital will notify your pediatrician’s office after the baby is born, and need that name in case there are medical issues. And you’ll do yourself a favor to practice installing that car seat ahead of time.

Lip balm and lotion. Hospitals are very dry environments, and labor is hard work. Forget your lip balm and you’ll be miserable.

A single outfit in both 0-3 month and 3-6 month sizes. You never know how big your baby will be, so come prepared. Why just a single outfit? Hospital babies are kept in just a diaper and a shirt to accommodate vital signs and frequent skin-to-skin time. The outfit is for the ride home.

One baby blanket, two if it’s winter. This is to tuck around the baby in the car seat.

Two comfortable pillows in non-white pillow cases. Hospital pillows are notoriously dreadful, so you’ll be more comfortable if you bring your own ones from home. Why non-white pillowcases? There can be a lot of quick activity in labor, and you don’t want to risk your pillows getting lost in the shuffle. Plus, they’ll come in handy when it comes time to prop your baby up for breastfeeding. If you have a Cesarean Section, a pillow is very helpful to splint against the incision during the bumpy ride home.

Pajamas or a nightgown that opens in the front. Unbuttoning your top is much more conducive to breastfeeding than lifting your shirt or being completely bare. Although the hospital will provide a gown, it’s nice to wear something of your own during your post partum stay.

Slippers or flip flops. We do our best to keep our hospital rooms as hygienic as possible, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to go barefoot. Flip flops are handy for showering both while in labor and then afterwards.

A pacifier. Maternity wards are pro-breastfeeding and we aren’t allowed to dispense pacifiers, as they’re associated with nipple confusion. So if you want one, you’ll have to bring your own.

A change of clothes for your partner, including something that’s comfortable to sleep in. Also, if your partner is planning to get into the jacuzzi with you during labor, I beg of you to bring swim trunks for him. Your labor nurse is unfazed by your nudity, but only your’s. Please . . .

Pony tail holders. You’ll likely spend a fair amount of time in bed, and pigtails are the best way to avoid a sweaty nest of bedhead.

Snacks for dad. Although hospital cafeterias are good about packing food to go, it’s better to have some food on hand. Granola bars, crackers and other shelf stable snacks can keep a partner going when they want to stay by your side.
A comfy outfit to wear when you leave the hospital. You’ll still be big after delivery, so don’t be surprised if your pre-pregnancy clothing doesn’t fit. Think loose yoga pants and slip on shoes.

Electronic chargers. Your phone is going to be buzzing up a storm when your friends and family find about about the baby, so make sure you can keep everything at 100%.

Entertainment. A pack of cards and a book can come in handy for a labor that may last for days. Especially if you’re being induced.

Don’t bring this stuff:

A Boppy pillow. Not only are they enormous, but we have breastfeeding pillows on hand, plus those hospital pillows actually work great for this function. You’ll mostly be breastfeeding while reclined, especially if you’ve had a Cesarean Section, and Boppys only work for breastfeeding while sitting upright. Save it for home.

A birthing ball. We already have birthing balls in multiple sizes, so leave this enormous object at home as well. You’ll be happy when it comes time to pack up and head out.

Scented items such as essential oil diffusers or candles. Not only are open flames forbidden in a hospital setting, (oxygen is highly flammable) but what you might consider to be a soothing scent might be an allergen trigger to those around you. These smells linger once you’ve left your room and can even be a problem for those outside your room. Most hospitals are scent-free zones so please leave your lavender oil at home.

Anything that plugs in beyond your electronics chargers. Hospitals are extremely detailed about fire prevention, (as well you want them to be!) If it plugs in, leave it at home.

A million random visitors. Birth is a very private experience, and having endless numbers of people at the hospital can be a barrier to your coping capabilities and breastfeeding success. Of course your family and friends are excited about your new addition, but there will be plenty of opportunities to visit you at home once you’re recovered. (I recommend that you let everyone beyond immediate family know this ahead of time to avoid hurt feelings.) It’s not uncommon for new moms to dangerously lengthen the time between breastfeeding sessions because of an endless trickle of visitors.

My hospital is currently under flu restrictions, and I liked the way this one sign was worded:

“Visitors to the maternity unit are limited to those essential to a patient’s emotional well-being and care.”

Are your neighbors, extended family and husband’s co-workers essential to your well being? Consider having them wait to visit with you until you’re back home.

What should visitors bring?

Food for your partner. Takeout from your favorite restaurant can be a real lifesaver for someone who may have been surviving for days on granola bars and bland hospital food. A fresh hot coffee can be a refreshing treat as well.

A small gift for the older sibling. No child is immune to feeling jealous of the attention that a newborn receives, so these gifts can be very special.

But visitors shouldn’t bring . . . 

Latex balloons. Hospitals are latex-free zones, so don’t waste your money on these highly allergic items. Frankly, don’t bring any balloons, as they’re a cumbersome item when a new parent’s should be 100% focused on their sweet baby.

Huge bags of baby gifts. Yes, those baby outfits, teddy bears and blankets are adorable beyond belief, but they needlessly add to the burdensome amount of stuff that sleep deprived moms and dads are already dealing with. This may seem overly strict, but watch a few parents receive human sized stuffed animals, and you’ll see my point.

Conclusion

Maternity nurses are your best friend, your advocate, your champion though the amazing journey of birth. We’ll provide everything you need, from slipper socks to forgotten toiletries. We’ve seen it all, and we want what’s best for you and your baby. You give birth to your new baby, we’ll provide the rest.

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 January 24, 2017 · 123 comments

  1. I went to The Dollar Tree to pick up a couple of the LA’s Awesome brand cleaning supplies. I already buy their knock-off Oxyclean, which I confirm to be “awesome.” (I use it in my laundry, but also in my Bissell rug shampooer.) I’d read in the Laundry Love and Cleaning Science Facebook group that some of the other products in this line are amazing as well, so I thought I’d give them a try.
  2. I then pointed the Prius towards Costco for a roasted chicken plus a couple other items. I only bought the items on my list, (yogurt and coffee) and enjoyed a couple free tasty samples. This $5 chicken will get my husband and I through at least four meals, and make meal times easier for a certain frugality blogger who’s going through a thoroughly unmotivated cooking phase.
  3. I stopped into one of my favorite Goodwill stores to see if I could find anything to either flip or photograph for a blog post. Nothing really caught my eye, although I did see that they were selling one of the newborn blankets from my place of work. I’m sure that other local hospitals have the same blankets, but I still thought it was kind of funny. Some patient enjoyed her five finger discount.
  4. I realized that my husband has a work conference this spring at nearby Timberline Lodge. I love, love, love Timberline Lodge, but have never stayed there. (It’s the place used for the exteriors in the original The Shining.) I might as well tag along and enjoy a free vacation, as his employer will be paying for the room. Of course I won’t take advantage of any unearned freebies, (and he’ll let his employer know) but since he’ll have a room, I’m totally horning in!
  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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This blog post was first published in 2014, but is as timely as ever. Enjoy!

Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes
Although I’m far from ever being labeled as “shy,” I still have to gather my courage before speaking up for myself. Why? I think it’s simply human nature to want to smooth things over and not make waves.

I look back on times and events that I regret in my life, and I mostly identify when I did not speak up for myself or my children. The fourth grade teacher who was consistently negative and oddly punitive towards my son. I once asked her if she had anything positive to say about my son, and she simply stared me down without saying a word. All the other parents said she was “a great teacher, if you have a girl.” (Just writing about it makes me white hot with rage!) And by the way, her main complaint about my son was that he wiggled in his seat and looked out the window.

But I’m older and wiser now, and realize that addressing the issues with the teacher wasa battle I should have chosen. But at the time, I feared she would be even worse to my son if I confronted her with my concerns. I deeply regret this.

Luckily, my current life is pretty smooth, although there still seem to be times when I have to take a deep breath, gather my courage and speak my mind.

I went in for my annual work evaluation yesterday. The paperwork goes into my human resources file, and is as close to that dreaded permanent record as is likely at this phase of my life. Although I’ve been in the same hospital-based RN job for 19 years, these meetings always give me a case of the jitters. I sat down and noticed that I was being being marked as having “met” rather than “exceeded” at my job. And although “met” is considered perfectly acceptable, I felt the need to speak up.

I explained to my boss, (who is kept busy with meetings, and doesn’t ever see me in action) that I felt that I earned the “exceeded” label. That I hold myself to a very high standard, that I work to support a positive work environment and that I try to be the nurse I wish I was working with. She listened to what I said, and then changed my rating.

It made me nervous to speak up for myself, but I did it anyway.

And this morning, I sat down to read through my e-mails, and sent out three very carefully worded e-mails that I would have much preferred to procrastinate or simply delete. Emails that required me to bypass my natural inclination to shy away from sticking up for myself. But because they were in written form, none will be the wiser that my voice was shaking; but yes, it was.

I often think of the popular bumper sticker quoting grey panther Maggie Kuhn, encouraging people to “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (I know that anything translated to a bumper sticker format immediately becomes trite, but I find inspiration in it anyway.)

How does this relate to non-consumerism?

By choosing a less traditional life, there are inevitable uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s telling a family member that you want to tone down Christmas or simply declining expensive invitations. Or even just living a simple life that sometimes does require you to explain your decisions, even when it’s no one’s business but your own.

So please non-consumers, speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes.

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 January 21, 2017 · 122 comments

  1. I sold a vintage Descoware saucepan on eBay that I’d picked up at Goodwill awhile back. I bought it for $6.99 and sold it for $39.99, so that’s a nice chunk of free money. I even arranged for a free porch pickup through USPS to save an errand to the post office. Of course, I packed up the box using freebie bubble wrap.
  2. I made my Women’s March protest sign from a free cardboard box. It read “Never Normalize Trump!” It costs nothing to stand up for my citizen rights. Nazi-era Jews didn’t have this right, but I do.
  3. My mother treated us to dinner tonight, which included enough leftover food to bring as tomorrow’s work lunch. Thanks, mom!
  4. My son came home for the weekend, and we were able to find used copies of two required textbooks at Powell’s Books. I even had enough on a gift card to cover the cost!
  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 January 18, 2017 · 135 comments

  1. After writing that I was happy to not spend the night at work due to inclement weather, I did end up spending the night at the hospital due to a forecasted ice storm. This one took me by surprise, so I didn’t have the forethought to pack up toiletries and the like. Luckily, I was able to scrounge for food, beg a $5 food voucher off my charge nurse and sleep in an empty patient room. I gotta say that I was ecstatic to finally leave the hospital after having arrived 36 hours earlier.
  2. I received another article assignment from Clark Howard, and will start the research for it this afternoon. It’s good to make money in my spare time.
  3. I called my senators and congressmen just now to encourage them to fight tooth and nail against the appointment of Betsy DeVos, who I consider to be wholly unqualified to lead the department of education. Citizen involvement doesn’t cost a penny, yet can make a big difference for the people of this great country.
  4. I took blank paper to create large calendar pages for the months of February and March. I know I could buy a desk calendar at Office Depot, but I’d rather make one using what I already have on hand. I saw that March is another five paycheck month for my family, which prompted a loud “whoo-hoo,” and may or may not have startled the cats.
  5. I cobbled together a yummy dinner of grilled cheese with sautéed onions last night, I continue to use the single $30 silicone menstrual cup that I bought nine years ago, I read a library book while off the clock at work, I didn’t buy a Lear Jet and I didn’t buy 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 January 15, 2017 · 126 comments

  1. Those of us in endlessly icy Portland have been going stir crazy, so I invited my mother and step father over for dinner as they hadn’t driven anywhere since last Wednesday. Although our meal was simple, (hamburgers and green beans, with digestive biscuits for dessert) the company was great. We watched the first episode of HBO’s The Young Pope afterwards, as I have free HBO until March.
  2. I have to work the next two days at the hospital, but unlike last week I’ll drive home between shifts. (I was so exhausted and dehydrated after spending 38 straight hours inside the hospital!) I’ll bring a travel mug for the free coffee and tea and use a free $5 hospital food voucher for my lunch break. (Yay, free food!) I also have an extra five hour mini-shift scheduled for later in the week which will bolster my next paycheck. Edit: Due to forecasted freezing rain, I ended up having to spend the night at the hospital again. NO FUN!
  3. I wrote and submitted another Clark Howard article and then submitted a couple new article ideas.
  4. I walked to Fred Meyer this afternoon and somehow avoided falling on the ice and cracking my head open. (No emergency room bill for me!) I picked up a few items for my mother and bought just simple ingredients for meals. I did splurge on a 50¢ bag of peanut M&M’s, but only because they were on sale. Peanuts are in the same legume category as lentils, right?
  5. My husband and I went to his workplace awards gala last night, which was held in a sweeeeet fancy hotel. (Yay, more free food!) We didn’t end up drinking any alcohol, and they gave us vouchers for free parking. We came home, changed into comfy clothes and then watched an episode of Grantchester, or as I call it, “The Yummy Vicar.” I think that I may have been warped as a middle schooler from watching The Thorn Birds. Because there’s no other reason why this Jewish middle-aged woman should want to watch sexy Christian priest TV shows. Please tell me that I’m not the only one!

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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{ 126 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 14, 2017 · 66 comments

  1. I remembered that I had a nice Gap boy’s coat that I’d picked up last summer as a garage sale leftovers freebie. New ones sell for up to $105, so I listed mine for $20 and hope to do a quick turnaround thanks to the frigid Portland weather. I kind of wish this insanely warm coat was my size!
  2. I baked up a loaf of English muffin bread from a recipe that my friend Lise said was both delicious and easy. My plan had been to have toast and runny fried eggs for dinner last night, but instead I had a couple pieces of freshly baked bread with butter and then conked out for the night. I guess I was tired from my 38 hours of working-sleeping-working at the hospital! If I were to make this bread again I’d use less salt.
  3. I finally sold a thrifted bike that’s I’ve had on Craigslist since Christmas eve. I think that the snowstorm-icestorm-snowstorm has kept people from running unnecessary errands. I’ve had three or four people who’d enquired about it so I knew it would sell eventually, so it’s nice to get it out of our dining room and back onto the road.
  4. I’m continuing to eat down a huge batch of white bean-ham soup that used up the last of our Christmas ham. Today’s lunch should be the last of it which’ll be a relief as I’m pretty sick of it at this point. #TakingOneForTheTeam
  5. I used my Buy Nothing Group to give away a small insulated bag that someone dropped in front of house, (I tried, but was unable to find the owner) I turned the heat down from 63° to 65°, I helped myself to a small blank notebook from my son’s room for my to-do lists as I’d filled up the last one, I saved a $5 hospital food voucher for my next work shift instead of treating myself on my way out as I was tempted to do, I didn’t buy a Lear Jet and I didn’t buy 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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{ 66 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 13, 2017 · 80 comments

  1. I’ve had a crazy couple of days, as Portland was gifted with a foot of snow that essentially shut down our quirky city. However, as a hospital based labor and delivery nurse my workplace can’t exactly put up a “closed for inclement weather” sign. All of this added up to me working my scheduled Wednesday and Thursday 12-hour shifts, but having to sleep in an empty patient room with the knowledge that I might get kicked out in the middle of the night. (Luckily, I kept my squatter’s rights and slept well.) I brought extra food, plus was given a $5 cafeteria voucher which covered a hearty breakfast. A library book kept me busy, and my ever present travel mug enjoyed multiple cups of the free tea. I was happy to collapse into my own bed last night, but I slept well knowing I’d spent no extra money. And I may or may not have set myself up in stirrups to send a photo to my sister. What can I say? You can’t be in my particular job without a wacky sense of humor!
  2. I called to confirm that all was on track to receive my $1.25/hour bonus for working over 800 hours in 2016. I spoke with a human resources rep who told me that I’d worked 934 hours and would be enjoying the money in my next paycheck. Schweet!
  3. My husband has a work banquet tomorrow night that includes a fancy meal. I’ll be enjoying the free food, but booze will be self-pay, so we’ve already discussed that we’ll pre-func to enjoy beers in the parking lot together as the very cheapest of dates before we enter the hotel. Yeah, you know you’re jealous of my glamorous life!
  4. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages the evening that it started snowing. The snowflakes were just starting to drift down from the sky when I left the house so I stopped into Trader Joe’s for milk, butter, eggs, cereal, bananas, hummus, flatbread, tortillas and chips. I spent just $23, and I left for work knowing that the essentials for covered. My mother paid me a bit extra, which she referred to a “combat pay” as there was already six inches of snow on the ground by the time I drove home. Thanks, mom!
  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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{ 80 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 10, 2017 · 134 comments

  1. After a weekend of iced over roads, I finally drove my younger son back to college. He had to switch dorm rooms, which unfortunately means he’s now in a teeny tiny room as opposed to the 3-person room that he’d been sharing with a single other roommate. We’ll get a small refund as a result.
  2. I found a nickel on the ground in the housing office and a penny on the ground outside of Trader Joe’s. Hey, that college tuition is not going to pay itself!
  3. I batched errands while running my son to college which included Dollar Tree, (pinto beans, white beans, salt and garlic powder) Trader Joe’s, (nothing but toilet paper) and Costco (cat food, yeast and gasoline.) After three days of barely leaving the house, it felt good to be out, about and semi-productive.
  4. My son and I ate dinner in the dorm cafeteria using his meal plan points. All classes had been cancelled yesterday due to the icy conditions, so I knew he’d have extra points on his card. I brought a travel mug which I filled up with coffee for the two-hour solo drive back home. I gotta say that college food is a million times better now than when I matriculated back in the mesozoic era.
  5. I updated our budget, (which is key to deliberate spending) I answered a couple of short surveys on Swagbucks*, I proposed a couple of Clark Howard article ideas and got one new assignment, I’m cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages tonight, I’m wearing my recently darned socks, I’m cooking navy beans in the crock pot for soup and I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a tacky AF 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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*Oh yeah, this is an affiliate link. But hello . . .  it’s for Swagbucks which is free money!

{ 134 comments }