The following is a reprint of the previously published post.

I’m a lucky person. Why? Because I was lucky enough to be born into a country that values workers’ rights. As a hospital nurse, I take for granted that my enormous hospital has multiple fire extinguishers, fire doors, fire prevention protocols and policies that keep both people and structure from igniting.

Were Americans always so lucky?

No.

The industrial revolution hit our cities hard, and the influx of fresh immigrants meant that labor was both cheap and easily replaceable. Complain about your working conditions? Well there were many others who would be happy to take your job, so keep your mouth shut or get fired was pretty much the policy around the turn of the last century.

The New York City 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was a wake up call to America industry, and it allowed for the union movement to start bringing safe and reasonable working conditions to our workers. Child labor, unending work hours, locked work spaces and other blatantly unsafe working conditions finally got the scrutiny they deserved.

It wasn’t immediate or easy, but unions brought safe workplaces to America.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

American manufacturers, now saddled with  the cost of paying working wages built overseas factories in countries that did not require the same workplace safety measures. Where cheap unending labor was once again easy to find and where abject poverty was the norm.

I wrote in 2010 about a factory fire in Bangladesh that killed a least a hundred people, where most deaths were attributed to workers jumping from upper story windows because a gate to the stairwell was locked.

Read that again, the stairwell was locked.

This garment factory was producing clothing for Gap, JCPenney, H&M and Wal Mart.

And now the story of another Bangladeshi garment factory fire has hit the news. 

“The Tazreen fire is the latest in a series of deadly blazes at garment factories in Bangladesh, where more than 700 workers, many making clothes for U.S. consumers, have died in factory fires in the past five years. As previously reported by ABC News, Bangladesh has some of the cheapest labor in the world and some of the most deplorable working conditions.”

I like a bargain as much as the next person, probably more. But there is a cost, a human cost to all those super cheap deals.

I will not be taking advantage of all the awesomely cheap consumer goods to support my holiday shopping this year.

Or any year.

Join me and buy used, buy American, buy local, buy from manufacturers who certify their safe labor practices.

And keep those poor workers and their families in your thoughts. They are just as deserving of safe working conditions as you and I.

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 November 20, 2017 · 98 comments

  1. I sold two things on eBay, one item through Instagram and am arranging a Facebook Marketplace sale of a thrifted Vera Bradley purse for later in the week.

  2. I accepted my father and step mother’s generous hospitality and spent one night at their mountain cabin this weekend. I stopped into the nearby library and bought a 50¢ Tony Hillerman paperback to read on the airplane for my NYC trip at the end of this month. It’s the perfect travel book as it’s light, cost next to nothing and I won’t need to worry about bringing it home if I finish it during the trip. I can even leave it at my sister’s library for the next reader!

  3. I finished a library book, wore thrifted clothing, created my own eBay packing materials using paper bags and cereal boxes, closed off the heat vent to my son’s room after he visited, arranged free USPS pickup service to avoid a post office trip, was reimbursed for something I picked up at Costco for a family member and wore layers instead of turning up the heat.

  4. I hit the magic number of 800 hours worked in a calendar year to earn a bonus check in January. All the “resource” RNs can earn a bonus $1.25/hour once we work over 800 hours. I’ll likely end up working around 1000 hours this year, which’ll come in extremely handy after making the next university tuition/fees payment on January 1st. By the way, this will be THE LAST double tuition payment, as my older son is due to graduate college at the end of winter term!!!

  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 November 16, 2017 · 96 comments

  1. I took advantage of an opportunity for a free haircut this morning, which was perfect timing as my hair was getting long and stringy. I hooked up with this service by doing a web search for “free haircuts Portland,” which brought me to a Facebook page which I then “liked.” The offer then popped up on my feed for “complimentary haircuts this week.” These cuts were for “advanced stylist training,” so I made an appointment without a second thought. Unlike a beauty school service, (which can take an extended time) this cut took just 35 minutes from my day. I tipped $5, which then brought the total cost up to . . . $5. I also got put on an email list for future free services including color.

  2. I drove to my hospital for a one-hour continuing education class. Not ideal to drive 18 miles for a single hour of  work, but it was mandatory, it was paid and I had no choice. Unlike many of my co-workers, I chose to fill my travel mug with free crappy coffee instead of spending money to get a coffee from one of the on-site kiosks.

  3. I stopped at Goodwill on my way home from the hospital and bought a groovy vintage radio that’ll be the perfect gift for a particular person on my holiday gift list. (Or . . . maybe I’ll sell it. I haven’t decided yet.) I came across some other interesting items which I documented on my Instagram, but left in the store. (My favorite was a 1921 wedding certificate with absolutely gor-gor-gorgeous art nouveau lettering!) Edit: I sold it.

  4. I mailed out a Pottery Barn linen pillow sham that I bought because I’d needed the down insert after cannibalizing the previous one for my son’s off-campus apartment. The $14.99 I made from the sale will more than cover the cost of the pillow insert since I bought it at the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet. (Even with eBay fees and taxes.)

  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 Soccer Scarf Wall

by Katy on November 15, 2017 · 8 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

You all know that I’ve slowly but surely been working on redecorating and rejiggering my fifteen-year-old son’s room. Although a teenage boy is not your typical design client, I’ve been enjoying helping his room to become brighter, more organized and cheerful.

Remember the wall stripes? I’m still unabashedly in love with them. Mwah!

Goal of The Week -- After

Unfortunately, the opposite side of the room was pretty bland. Sure, it featured the cool Portland Timbers skateboard shelves, but the wall itself was lacking any pizzazz.  However, my son did have a stack of soccer scarves with potential. I put the word out on Facebook asking if any of my friends had an extra curtain rod lying around, and my friend Heather from Mile73 came through for me. She didn’t have the brackets to secure it to the wall, but I was able to scrounge a pair from my House O’ Odds & Ends. (Coming soon to a mall near you!)

Blank Wall

Look how great this wall now looks with all the scarves!

soccer scarf wall

The best thing is that’s it’s super easy for my son to remove scarves for Timbers games, and also that I spent zero dollars and zero cents on this project!

I didn’t take any close up photos, as installing a curtain rod is just a matter of getting it straight and finding the studs. Also, I have yet to research fixing my digital camera, so my less than pin-worthy photos are grainy and from my husband’s iPhone. Sorry.

I consider having no money for decor projects to be a good thing, as it activates the creative lobe in the brain. And in the end, my son gets a unique and personalized bedroom that is 100% him.

A limited budget can sometimes be a gift.

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 November 13, 2017 · 100 comments

  1. I passed along a frustrating wooden dust catcher puzzle through my buy nothing group, I sold a Descoware saucepan through Facebook Marketplace, I sold a Rae Dunn glazed ceramic blob that read “GIRLFRIENDS” through eBay, (both from the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet) I put together some new eBay listings and I re-listed a few Facebook Marketplace items that had expired.

  2. My husband and I drove down to visit our son at college yesterday. We spent a bit of money taking him out to lunch and then dessert, but I’d rather scrimp and save in my daily routine than scrimp when it comes time to hang out with my family. The reason I choose to live a life of extreme frugality is so that I never have to think twice about paying for the things that really matter. If I have to forgo a shiny new car, annual Disneyland vacations or expensive hobbies to make this happen, then I feel very comfortable with these decisions. My sons will graduate college without student loan debt, which is better than anything I could have bought in the mall.

  3. We stopped en route to fill up the minivan with cheap Costco gasoline, and also picked up a few snacks at Trader Joe’s so we wouldn’t be tempted by junk food along the way. Bananas, mixed fruit and BabyBel cheese for the win! (However, an utter zero waste “fail” is terms of food packaging.)

  4. I’ve mostly been laying low on my days off from work. Puttering around the house, writing, cooking from scratch instead of venturing out into the world. I cannot over emphasize that the most frugal thing you can do is to just keep it simple.

  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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I Choose to Not Inhabit a Throwaway World

by Katy on November 12, 2017 · 25 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

mending boots

We live in a throwaway world. It doesn’t help that it’s often cheaper to replace an item than it is to repair it, and the artisans who formerly had those specific skill to repair household items are a dying breed. And for most people, the temporary thrill of a shiny new thing wins over the excitement of a cleverly repaired item.

No one ever compliments you on a invisible repair like they would on its brand new counterpart.

“Wow, awesome shoes that I’ve already seen hundreds of times! Are they recently repaired?”

Yeah . . . that doesn’t happen.

I choose not to inhabit a throw away world. I repair and mend, even when the repair only saves me a couple of bucks. I also try not to bring unrepairable stuff into my home. (Plastic, particle board furniture and cheap electronics come to mind.)

The above picture is the wool lining of my beloved Keen boots. I bought them on clearance in 2008 for $37.50 and have worn them approximately seventy–bajilliontimes since then. I recently shelled out $30 to have a cobbler replace the zipper, and yesterday I took a needle and thread to the wool lining to restitch a seam.

Good as new? No, they don’t look new, but that’s okay with me. They’re in good repair, incredibly comfortable and dare I say it? Pretty cool looking.

The instinct to replace rather than repair is a recent phenomenon. Whether it was the umbrella repairman or a handy wife who turned a collar, the mindset to repair is missing for many Americans. Our resourceful grandparents would not have have filled their trash cans with easily repairable items.

It’s expensive, it creates a culture of wastefulness and I choose not to live that way.

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 November 8, 2017 · 125 comments

  1. I owed my friend Lise a thank you lunch, so I suggested Bob’s Red Mill as A) we both enjoy bulk food purchases, and B) I had a 2-for-1 lunch coupon. The total for our lunch was a budget worthy $8.95, and I even had a 2-for-1 coupon for any product as well. (I brought my own bags which I filled up with red lentils and a veggie bean soup mix.) We then walked across the street to the Dave’s Killer Bread outlet where I picked up two loaves of their 21 whole grain bread. I had another 2-for-1 coupon which impressed Lise enough to exclaim that “you have a coupon for everything!” Silly girl.

  2. I watched the most recent episode of The Durrels in Corfu through the PBS app on my Roku box. I also picked up a couple of novels and a DVD at the library. What books? Pink books. I need a big dollop of escapism in my fiction right now.

  3. Lise and I then stopped at the Goodwill outlet where I spent $16 and bought a neoprene lunch bag for my work lunches, two T-shirts, (one for my mom) a Baby Alive doll to sell, some Hanna Andersson jammies to sell, a small Italian mirror to sell, four fine art lithographs to sell, a Land’s End down vest to sell, another pair of Solmate socks, a deck of vintage playing cards, a vintage microphone to sell and an ottoman that’s the same style as my husband’s recliner. (Which of course was a Goodwill purchase.)

  4. I haven’t sold anything though eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, but I did finish writing a Clark Howard article and then proposed a new article. I’ll also work two 12-hour shifts this week at the hospital.

  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!

I’m currently reading Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors, which is a fascinating anthropological study of middle-class families in the Los Angeles area. This single book could easily inspire a dozen distinct and varied blog posts from me, but today I focus on this one quote:

“Most Possessions per Family in Global History.”

“For more than 40,000 years, intellectually modern humans have peopled the planet, but never before has any society accumulated so many personal possessions. U.S. households spend on average tens of thousands of dollars every year on new purchases. A substantial portions of these expenditures goes towards replacement goos such as trendy apparel and the latest media electronics, not to mention the newest model of cars. Many of these objects replace perfectly good antecedents that homeowners may only reluctantly part with, The result is typically clutter amassing in “back stage” storage areas such as garages, closets, and attics, eventually extending to “front stage” living spaces.”

Yesterday my mother and I took my two teenage sons to two different Goodwill thrift shops. There was nothing we really needed, and each of the four of us made a single purchase, which I thought was very telling.

  • My mother bought four drinking glasses to replace missing/broken glasses in her rental cottages. ($3.96)

  • I bought a large framed vintage Maxfield Parrish print that I will display in my spare bedroom. ($14.99)

  • My younger son bought a pair of Nike Free Runs that normally cost $90. ($4.99)

  • My older son bought an Italian merino wool turtleneck sweater. ($6.99)

None of these purchases were technically necessary, however each was deliberate. My older son is very particular about his clothing, my younger son is obsessed with shoes and I always keep an eye out for underpriced home decor.

Are we typical American consumers?

Yes. No. Absolutely not. Most likely. More than we care to admit. Kind of yes. Kind of no.

Our thrift store purchases did give us that endorphin rush that comes with finding that perfect thing to add to our house full of stuff. But they will not push our home into the realm of cluttery chaos.

Although I often write about minimalism, I am not a minimalist. I like to think that I inhabit the grey area of just right along with Miss Goldilocks. (Of course, what one day can seem just right can teeter over to too much the next.)

Which is why it’s called a grey area.

I’ll keep reading the book, and hopefully find inspiration for that sweet spot between a cluttered home and one that echoes.

 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Now that our sons are both in college, my husband and I have a lot more time to hang out with each other. It’s still a bit odd, but we’re starting to get into a groove. My husband volunteered taught CPR during the day, and I texted him suggesting that we “do something nice tonight.” Mind you, my idea of “something nice” is still going to be 97.2% more frugal than other people’s idea of an ideal date night. (Then again, I’ve never aspired to be like “other people.”)

Here’s what we did:

  1. I gave my husband a few options of where to go to dinner, as he’s not very good at coming up with ideas. He immediately jumped at the suggestion of a nearby brewpub, as that’s A) his favorite category of restaurant, and B) my least favorite category. After all, isn’t marriage about compromise. (I’m not a drinker and get annoyed by menus that are 90% burgers.) Because we dined early, we were able to order from the discounted happy hour menu, which pleased us both as my husband could order a plate of fish and chips and I could choose yummy fish tacos. Win-win! Even with my husband ordering a pint of porter, our bill only came to $22 with tip.

  2. Our next stop in Operation Something Nice was to treat ourselves to fancy coffees as my husband had earned a free Starbucks drink. He buys those big vats of Starbucks coffee for his CPR classes, which occasionally add up to free drinks. But first we stopped at home for travel mugs as I’m trying to hold myself to a zero waste standard whenever possible. We ordered the largest Venti size and had the barista split a mocha into our two mugs, and then sat to leisurely drink our coffees before our next activity. Photographic proof HERE.

  3. Brace yourself, as this is when things get exciting. We stopped into Trader Joe’s to buy 19¢ bananas, as it was almost next door. Of course I chose the biggest bananas, as they’re priced per unit instead of per pound. (Hey, what can I say? Going on a date with me is always going to veer towards the practical.)

  4. We then drove over to my favorite second run theater for a 6:45 showing of The Big Sick. It wasn’t my husband’s first choice, but as I’ve already clarified, marriage is about compromise. The tickets were $4 apiece, and the two of us walked right past the concession stand despite the alluring aroma of hot buttered popcorn. I normally have 2-for-1 coupons for this theater, but they wouldn’t have been valid on a Saturday night anyway. The movie was great, and I even ran into an old friend for bonus enjoyment.

  5. Our post-adventure evening featured the two of us goofing around on the internet in front of Star Trek:The Next Generation reruns. And about halfway into Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra I jumped up to make some hot buttered popcorn as I felt we deserved one last tasty treat. Dare I say it? A extremely frugal treat.

Total cost of the evening? $30, plus around 70¢ in change that I put into the tip box at Starbucks.

Now your turn. Do you and your loved one enjoy date nights that don’t break the bank? Please share in the comments section below.

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 November 2, 2017 · 111 comments

  1. I gave away all our leftover Halloween candy to someone in my Buy Nothing Group who is a middle school counselor. She’d posted a request, asking “Have leftover chocolate? I’d be happy to take it off your hands for my students. I’m a middle school counselor and chocolate has a magical way of making teary, awkward, emotional middle schoolers feel much better after a crappy day.” Poor kids, middle school is THE WORST!

  2. I sold all my leftover Red Rose Tea figurines to someone who sells at area flea markets. (Not a ton of money, but every penny counts!) Once I’ve decided to get rid of something it’s almost painful to continue looking at it. I also picked a different buy nothing recipient to come and get a tea kettle that I’ve been trying to give away. (The person who had so desperately wanted it kept flaking out.) I finished up another Clark Howard article that I’d been tinkering with for a few days. In the end it took a long time to write, but I’m really happy with the end result. I’ll start on another article today that’s hopefully a bit more straightforward.

  3. I needed to get out of the house yesterday, so I texted my friend Lise to see if she was up for a walk to the grocery store. I needed carrots, onions and beef broth to tart up my leftover pot roast, and I even stuck to my list. We had a nice long chat while crossing tasks from our respective to-do lists. She’d recently reorganized her magazines, and I showed her a nearby Little Free Library that would be a perfect way to declutter a few of her old New Yorkers.

  4. I took some Dollar Tree navy beans that I’d cooked in the crock pot a few days ago and am turning them into a savory soup. I work tomorrow and would like to have some nice leftovers to bring for lunch. The hospital cafeteria has an amazingly inexpensive salad bar, but homemade is still cheaper.

  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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