How I Made a Little Extra Money

by Katy on February 12, 2015 · 43 comments

Consumer opinion Katy

You already know that my motto is “use it up wear it out, make it do or do without,” with a non-official motto of “crap out of the house, money in.” But you may not know that I also have a backup motto of “How can I make some extra money?”

Okay, okay, it’s not very catchy, but I’m a doctor not a coal miner I’m an RN not a slogan wizard!

I’d casually signed up to do in-person consumer panels around a year ago. I’d kind of forgotten about it until I got an e-mail last month asking me to fill out a survey to see if I’d be a good fit for a panel. Apparently they liked what I wrote because they scheduled me to come in and share my valued (and exciting) opinions on thermal mugs for which I’d be compensated with a crisp $100 bill. And when they called to confirm a few details, the phone call ended with me being asked:

“If you could take a photo with anyone in the world dead or alive, who would it be?”

To which I answered:

“My secret evil identical twin.”

Because, yo . . . much better answer than Abraham Lincoln or Aristotle. Although possibly not as good an answer as Bruce Lee or young Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Where was I? Oh yeah . . . making money doing consumer panels.

The experience was vaguely enjoyable, plus there was free food! Sandwiches, cookies, chips, candy, sodas, bottled water, crappy coffee! I helped myself to a sandwich and some M&M’s and regretted not taking any cookies. If there’s a next time I’m showing up hungry and a few minutes early. Seriously. Umm . . . free food, people!

The time went by quickly and before you know it the six of us were in line for our envelopes of cash. (Very reminiscent of Tony Soprano.) I handed the blank envelope back with a suggestion to “use this again” and I tucked my hundred dollar bill into my wallet. (Was that smug and obnoxious? Probably at least a little bit.)

And when I went to the credit union to deposit the money this morning, I swept my hand under the coin counting machine and was rewarded with $2.60 in mostly quarters.

The extra money never ends!

I know that bigger markets than Portland, Oregon have better opportunities for consumer panels, (think New York City or Los Angeles) but us mid-range cities have them as well. Have you ever earned extra money from being part of a consumer panel? Or maybe you’re a secret shopper or some other random money earner? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 43 comments }

Why Yes, I Do Have an Opposing Viewpoint

by Katy on February 11, 2015 · 4 comments

How could I resist this library book?

Consumerism: Opposing Viewpoints

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 4 comments }

I Refuse To Give in to Higher Food Prices

by Katy on February 10, 2015 · 43 comments

Tortilla mix

You’d have to be blind to not notice the not so slow, and certainly steady rise in food prices over the past year. And if I were someone who shopped normally, it would be taking a hit on my family’s budget. But I don’t shop normally. I stock up on loss leader items, hit non-traditional stores like The Grocery Outlet and I buy in bulk. I rarely buy pre-prepared meals and have honed my skills at leftover conversion into both an art and a science.

Just this morning I stopped in at The Grocery Outlet after dropping my son at school and hit the motherlode. Chobani yogurts for 33¢ apiece, packets of turkey pepperoni for 25¢ apiece and my beloved flour tortilla mix for $2.49 per 5-lb bag! (My normal grocery store has stopped selling the mix, and I hadn’t been able to find a store that sold it since!) Needless to say I stocked up for our frequent burrito nights!

And when my receipt spit out from the register I told me that I’d saved $92.87 from my $34.80 bill!

Here’s what I bought:

  • 3 5-lb bags of flour tortilla mix.
  • 2 half-pound packets of sliced ham for sandwiches.
  • 8 packets of turkey pepperoni.
  • 1 bag of cut corn.
  • 1 jar of salsa.
  • 2 pounds of frozen whiting fish fillets.
  • 1 bag of frozen pierogies.
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • 1 bag of frozen shelled edamame.
  • 6 pots of Chobani yogurt.
  • 2 packets of frozen chopped prosciutto.
  • 1 fresh orange pepper.
  • 4 avocados.
  • 4 small bags of plain M&M’s.

Higher food prices? I just take them as a fun challenge. And pizza toppings? We’re now set for a good long while!

Have you had to change how you shop to accommodate recent higher food prices? Please share in the comments section below.

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 43 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 9, 2015 · 64 comments

Konmari book

  1. I batched my errands this morning after dropping my son at school, and both returned library books and stopped in at Fred Meyer to pick up loss leader milk and $2/lb butter. I also bought a pound of navy beans and am cooking up the entire bag in the crock pot to make a batch of The Prudent Homemaker’s Rosemary White Bean Soup for tonight’s dinner. I’ll make extra this way to throw into the freezer.
  2. I’m using my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Facebook Group to rehome some under appreciated stuff from my house. (I’ve also requested a few items, although so far I’m 0-for-0 on that front.) Today I have people coming by the house to pick up a cool neon guitar lightbulb and a set of The Tightwad Gazette books. (I have the compilation book, so these ones are redundant.)
  3. My younger sister hung out with me on Saturday to watch my son’s soccer games. We ate a fast and frugal dinner of frozen pierogis with a buttery kale pesto sauce. We then came home and watched Netflix while I cut old clothing into rags and mended a few items. We drank tea and munched on popcorn. (Hey, I said frugal not exciting!)
  4. I got bone chillingly wet while watching my son’s outdoor soccer game on Saturday. Instead of deciding that my 11-year-old raincoat needs to be replaced, instead I’m going to try a waterproofing treatment that we already own.
  5. I finished reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of Decluttering and Organizing and am starting the “KonMari” method. I’m trying to follow her directions to the letter, as I plan on doing a full review of the book, but her instruction to simply throw away anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is offensive to me. I went through the first step of going through all my clothing but will be donating, consigning and gifting my still usable clothes. (Not to mention making rags from excessively worn, torn or stained items.) I did throw away a pile of unusable socks, but regretted it afterwards when my sister told me that one of the Portland libraries has a dropbox for textile recycling. How is this frugal? I believe that being mindful with what we choose to own not only makes it easier to locate our belongings, but also helps us to to appreciate what we have in a way that curbs the urge to mindlessly spend. (I have other issues with this book as well, but I’ll write more on that later.)

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 64 comments }

Should Brand Matter?

by Katy on February 6, 2015 · 38 comments

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

Yesterday’s Non-Consumer Mish-Mash column received a thought provoking reply to my mention that the 50¢ tank top I picked up at a garage sale was Old Navy brand.

“Why can’t it just be a great black tank top? Why does it have to be Old Navy?”

The reader went to on to write that:

“Because it sounds like we are buying these by BRAND and not because we like them. How does OLD NAVY black tank top describe a tank top any better? How does describing coffee mugs or underwear change how it looks by mentioning the brand name?”

This comment did not surprise me because the same commenter had earlier questioned why the brand of my garbage picked Crate and Barrel Christmas mugs mattered? I had not addressed the question at the time, (lord knows what what going on in my day when I published that piece) but the question had certainly been ruminating with me.

Does brand matter, or is it a completely irrelevant detail?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Brand is not important in terms of status. But some brands are better made than others, and certain brands are more cleverly designed. In the best case scenario, these two occurrences collide.

Take for example Garnet Hill, which one of my favorite brands. Garnet Hill is a mostly catalog based business that sells expensive clothing, housewares and kid stuff; but their star products is their bedding. Oh my God, the bedding! It’s extremely high quality and the graphics are fantastic. When I garbage picked a flannel duvet cover in their classic clouds pattern I was over the moon. Had that same duvet cover been a Target brand, I would have been less likely to bring it home and put the work into mending all the tears.

So yes, brand mattered in this case.

When I picked up the 50¢ Old Navy tank top at a garage sale, my thinking was not along the lines of “Wowie-zowie, it’s Old Navy!” but more along the lines of “This tank top looks functional. I already have a blue one that I also bought for 50¢ at a garage sale last summer, so I know it’ll work for me.”

And no, brand did not matter in this case.

In an ideal world, all consumer goods would be high quality and equally worthy, but such is not the case. Some brands are simply better than others, while stores like Target run the gamut from poor to fantastic quality. (My mother swears by their towels for her rental cottages.)

I describe myself as a “Non-Consumer” but that doesn’t mean that I am immune to brand awareness. It is simply more satisfying to score a $2 pair of Goodwill Levi’s instead of Wal Mart brand. I am not looking to fill my home with designer goods, instead I look for high quality goods that will not fall apart before they should. And if I can get three of four seasons out of that tank top, then I’ll feel pretty good.

How do you weigh in on this issue? Is favoring some brands more than others bowing down to Madison Avenue? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 38 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 4, 2015 · 61 comments

Free toothpaste

  1. I stopped at the credit union today to put some random cash into our checking account. I swept my hand under the coin counting machine and was rewarded with $1.50 in quarters. People may have noticed my odd behavior, but I’m okay with that. It pays to not be easily embarrassed. Literally.
  2. I did my big monthly stock-up grocery shopping at Safeway using a $10-off-$50 coupon. I matched their e-coupons with paper coupons and made the most of my dollars. Most non-consumery? I bought a 2-pound bag of carrots for 79¢, but I grabbed four different bags to weigh and buy the heaviest, which was a full 2-1/2 pounds. Why yes, I am a cheap date!
  3. After squeezing every last bit from my toothpaste tube, I went ahead and cut it open. There was easily another four days’ product left in the top bit.
  4. I had an afternoon appointment and spent at least ten minutes looking for a parking spot. I finally gave up and parked in a 15-minute spot even though I knew I would be gone for around an hour. I somehow lucked out and came back to a ticket-free car. Not a good plan, but in the moment it was a necessary one. (This story could easily have ended not so frugally.)
  5. I’m wearing thrifted clothing, batching all errands, drinking tea or tap water, washing clothes in cold water using small amounts of detergent, viewing the computer through my Dollar Tree reading glasses, not planning any new purchases, eating simple homemade meals and generally content with an extremely frugal life. (I only write “generally” because I’m craving another NYC trip, and am bummed that it isn’t in the current budget.)

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 61 comments }

Going Off Grid for Productivity

by Katy on February 3, 2015 · 64 comments

I wrote the other day that:

“I’ve had more spare time on my hands than usual lately, and I seem to be squandering it. I should be working on household projects, writing, fostering friendships and other worthwhile endeavors. Instead I’m goofing around on the internet, puttering around the house and somehow wasting what should be a great opportunity. I  know it’s because my focus is all over the place lately, but I should still be able to accomplish something with all the time I’ve been given.”

So when I found a moment without distraction yesterday, I took out a receipt and lowly pen and scrawled a to-do list for the day. Not an ambitious list, but a realistic list that includes a few things I’d been meaning to do, yet kept putting off. A list that included:

  • Maintenance tasks like putting laundry away and planning and making a dinner.
  • Daily tasks like writing a blog post.
  • Avoided tasks such as clearing the piano bench and dining room desk.
  • Tasks that only have to be done occasionally, but I’d somehow not been doing like sweeping the basement stairs.
  • Random things I’d been meaning to do like putting a garbage bag in the car.
  • Enjoyable tasks like calling my best friend Jennifer who lives on the East coast. (I always think to call her when it’s too late for her time zone.)
  • Bigger tasks like going through a pile of paperwork to sort and shred. (Our shredder had stopped working and magically started working again, so there was a big backlog of papers to go through!)

Did I do everything on my list? Nope. I neither cleared the crap off the piano bench nor did I clear the small desk in the dining room. (We have a bad habit of clearing the dining room table for dinner by stacking stuff on these temptingly horizontal surfaces.)

But having a set to-do list did make me more efficient throughout the day. Accountability. In our app-happy internet age, people think that deliberate efficiency needs to be guided and organized electronically, but I find taking pen to paper is the most immediate and productive method for me. I doesn’t require turning on a device to check on my progress and I love physically ticking off my little boxes. I did sweep the basement steps after dinner last night which I am 100% certain I wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been included it on my list.

I don’t write out a daily to-do list, as I feel that every moment of my day doesn’t need to be accounted for and justified. I’ve made deliberate decisions in my life to not be a busy, busy, busy person and it’s a slippery slope to let the management of a household eat up my every waking moment.

Are you a pen-to-paper list writer or do you take advantage of all the electronic age has to offer? Please share your methods and thoughts in the comments section below.

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 64 comments }

Buy The Biggest Onion

by Katy on February 2, 2015 · 26 comments

Big onion

There are countless frugal tips to save money on your food budget, but there’s one trick that will consistently save you money, and here it is:

Buy the biggest onion.

Not when it’s priced by the pound, but when it’s priced per item. Of course, this tip is not specific to onions. I also buy the biggest head of lettuce, the biggest lemon and I’ll actually grab a couple bags of potatoes and weigh each of them to get the most value for my money. The weight often varies by an entire pound, which makes it worth my effort.

See that onion above? It was in a box of normal sized onions, and was easily twice as big as the smallest one.

These seemingly little frugalities can make a huge difference in your food budget. And when you watch your small expenditures, then the larger amounts are available for the important things in life.

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.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 26 comments }

discount milk

Five things that make me happy:

1) The Non-Consumer Advocate had 105,741 hits last month, which is the first time it’s gone over 100,000 since I was on The Today Show.

2) A local blog reader e-mailed me about a great 1998 Honda four-door Civic that her son will soon be selling. My husband is skeptical of such an old car, but I would love to have a zippy little car that gets great gas mileage. Plus, something that we could easily pay cash for would be a huge bonus.

3) I walked down the boulevard yesterday to run errands, which were both productive and extremely frugal:

  • I found 35¢ on the ground.
  • I was able to buy a gallon of milk for $1.59.
  • I’d added an e-coupon to my Fred Meyer loyalty card which gave me a free box of five energy bars. Hello, school lunches!
  • I bought a large bundle of organic kale for 99¢, which has since been made into pesto. This was cheaper than the non-organic kale!
  • I stopped in at Pastaworks, (amazing gourmet store) and asked if they ever had any large jars to give away. They said they did, so they took my name and number and will let me know when I can come by to pick some up.

4) Leftovers. I rarely buy grab-and-go food, so leftovers are a real treat as it’s just a matter of heating them up or simply eating as-is. I just heated up the last of some leftover red lentil soup (and even swirled a spoon of kale pesto into it.) So delicious! My teenage sons are also huge fans of leftovers and complain mightily if a meal doesn’t provide significant extras.

5) The health and wellness of my family.

Thing that’s pissing me off:

 1) I’ve had more spare time on my hands than usual lately, and I seem to be squandering it. I should be working on household projects, writing, fostering friendships and other worthwhile endeavors. Instead I’m goofing around on the internet, puttering around the house and somehow wasting what should be a great opportunity. I  know it’s because my focus is all over the place lately, but I should still be able to accomplish something with all the time I’ve been given. Am I just shoulding all over myself?

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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 36 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 31, 2015 · 55 comments

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 55 comments }