Five Frugal Things

by Katy on January 6, 2015 · 40 comments

  1. My husband’s birthday gift for me is to upcycle my garbage picked five-panel door into a headboard. Yes, he’ll have to buy the crown molding for the top, but I think we pretty much already have everything else for the project. I would a million times rather receive this kind of gift than anything he could pick out from a catalog. We already got the bed frame and mattress for free, so we’ll end up with a very frugal bedroom.
  2. We were out all day long on Sunday. Normally the thermostat is set at 65º during the day on the weekends, but I set it down to 60º since no one was home.
  3. I took the last of our spiral cut ham and chopped it into small pieces. I then froze it all on a baking sheet and transferred it into a Ziplock bag. I was sick to death of ham, and wanted to make sure none of it went to waste.
  4. I mended the blanket on the twin bed in our spare bedroom/TV room. The fabric had become very fragile and was tearing like crazy so the rips were pretty substantial, but I was able to stitch everything back together. Does it look as good as new? Nope. But you’d have to come very close to tell that anything is up. I do need to replace this blanket, but I’m hoping take my time so I can get one for free. (Plus it gives me an excuse to watch back-to-back (to back) Netflix episodes of The Office!)
  5. We share garbage services with our next door neighbor. This works great for garbage and recycling, but sharing the yard debris pick up gets challenging once my monstrous maple tree does its annual leaf dump. I asked a neighbor across the street who never puts out any yard debris if I could put an extra can in front of their house, which they happily agreed to. I think I’ll do this for a few weeks until all the leaves are gone. This is far superior to paying the extra money it would cost to set out extra yard debris. It sometimes pays to have a nice relationship with your neighbors!

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Birthday Day of Disappointments

by Katy on January 5, 2015 · 61 comments

Yesterday was my 47th birthday and I worked to figure a number of great frugal activities and treats to share with my family for my Birthday Day of Adventures. We were all very excited. 

Sadly, every single one of my plans went bust.

The frugal wow-factor restaurant I had my heart set on turned out to be closed on Sundays, which meant we ended up at a random brewpub which almost made me cry. I strongly hate brewpub food, as there’s usually nothing on the menu I can’t make at home for next to nothing. I had a $5 bowl of potato bacon soup just to be spiteful. $11 hamburgers just piss me off.

We went to a movie at the wonderful historic Hollywood Theater using a coupon which brought the cost down to $15 for the four of us. I chose Birdman starring Michael Keaton. IT WAS AWFUL! Hideous jarring jazz drumming, all actors yelling their lines and competing to see who could speak the fastest and a frankly disturbing plot. Almost all the scenes were uncut with long swooping shots through hallways and stairs which was kind of nausea inducing. I went back to the film synopsis afterwards to see if I’d missed something in the description, but nope I hadn’t. People, give this pretentious Oscar-bait movie a wide berth.

We walked over to Baskin-Robbins for cones as my older son had chipped in a $10 gift certificate that had been gathering dust in his room. (All my frugal plans were within a couple block radius of one another to avoid driven all over town.) I had signed up for their birthday club the day before, but apparently I didn’t allow for enough time and hadn’t received my free cone e-mail. We paid $1.76 after the gift certificate.

We then walked over to Starbucks so I could use my free birthday coffee credit. My husband was one star away from an additional free coffee, so he got in line first and ordered a drip coffee. Unfortunately, the purchase didn’t credit immediately as it normally does. (the people there said that sometimes it takes 24 hours.) I used my credit to order the largest size peppermint mocha coffee for the kids and had them split it into two. My husband and I shared his coffee.

Then we walked over to Panera to get free treats, as I’d joined their reward program, which gave me both a free treat for joining, and a free treat for my birthday. At this point it was 5 P.M. And guess what, they too were closed!!!!!

We then drove home and chilled out for a few minutes before driving over to my mother’s house to pick my parents up for dinner. They’d offered to take us out and we’d settled on a bar-b-q restaurant that we all like. (The Lebanese restaurant I’d wanted to go to turned out to be . . .  yes, you guessed it, closed on Sundays! Luckily we’d realized this ahead of time.) Dinner was lovely, although my husband hates to take financial advantage of others, so he picked up the bill.

I’m actually thinking about planning a re-do next weekend, as my husband is off from work and the entire day ended up so frustrating. But here’s the thing. I would rather attempt and fail at frugality than give up and spend without thought. Sometimes my frugality is incredibly impressive, and other times it’s one fail after another. But when you look at the big picture, I’m so much farther ahead than someone who is not even attempting to live a non-consumer life. I get to learn from my mistakes.

What is it they say, “Fall down three times, get up four?”

Yup, my birthday was definitely a learning experience. And I’m back up.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Day to Face The Horrid Stuff

by Katy on January 2, 2015 · 28 comments

As a parent to teenage boys, I feel like I’m full of amazing, affirming and wonderful advice. “Be mindful in the world you live in, be aware of your screen time and deal with stuff in a timely manner.” (Of course, only a small percentage of it sinks in at any time, but that’s just the nature of the beast.)

Today I heard myself telling my 16-year-old son that “you need to deal with this _____ now, even if it seems awful to think about. Burying your head in the sand just makes things worse.”

And then I realized what I a hypocrite I was being. I have soooo many things on my to-do list that I spend a lot of time and energy avoiding. Not daily stuff like cooking, dishes, laundry tidying up, but big picture stuff like the horror that is my basement and some embarrassingly cringe worthy stuff that sits in my e-mail inbox.

Remember when I ran the giveaway for Ashley English’s Handmade Gatherings book? You know, in October?! I notified the winners and then never sent their contact information to the publisher! Why? Because I was having awful e-mail issues at the time, and I somehow e-mailed them through my iCloud account, which I didn’t even realize was set up. Every now and then I would pore through my Comcast inbox desperately trying to find their information, but I would always give up and slink off to bury my head in the sand. I finally got an e-mail from one of the winners before Christmas gently letting me know that she’d never received her book, which is when I realized the whole iCloud mixup. I’ve spent the last few weeks meaning to go through that e-mail account to find the other winner, but was frankly too mortified to face it.

Hearing myself pontificate on the pitfalls of procrastination this morning shook me from my stupor. I sat down and located the name and contact information for both winners, sent an e-mail to Ashley English to get the contact information for her publisher, and now have a fully written apologetic e-mail sitting as a draft ready to go. And if the publisher says “tough luck, kiddo!” I am fully willing to pay the stupid tax and pay for these damned books myself.

And now I’m spending my day dealing with the other horrid stuff that’s been sitting ignored and off to the side.

The important lesson here is that even though I screwed up, I’m willing to admit my mistake, do my best to make it right and move forward. Hmm . . . maybe I am full of amazing and wonderful advice.

Now, how do I get this through to my teenagers?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Fire

Happy:

  1. Building a fire in the fireplace. Not only is it relaxing and cozy, but it draws my teenage boys out to snuggle up with me on the couch. A rare and appreciated pleasure. And since my couch is on casters, I push it up comically close to take full advantage of the warmth, which yes, makes my living room look all weird and cramped up, but who cares?
  2. Sunny days here in Portland, Oregon. sure, they’re freezing cold and windy days; but it’s just so refreshing to have some sunshine streaming through the windows.
  3. The last people who stayed at one of my mother’s guest cottages left behind a $11.99 SciFi Now magazine. I would never in a million years splurge on something like that, but I’m really enjoying reading through it as a freebie.
  4. Planning out my “birthday day of adventures” for this Sunday. My husband is . . . well . . . not as good as I am when it comes to creating this family birthday tradition, so I’ve taken the reigns for this year. No, it won’t be a surprise, but that’s okay since I really enjoyed piecing these days together. Sadly, the movie I’d really like to see (Boyhood) is only playing at 21-and-over theaters, but that’s okay since there’s enough time to plan out something different. Maybe The Boxtrolls? I personally find that having something to look forward to, even something small is a key component to my own happiness.
  5. Not feeling the need to have January 1st define any changes in my life. I have no particular new year’s resolutions and no urge to sum up the ten best whatevers of 2014. Yesterday was a Wednesday, today is a Thursday and that’s good enough for me. (Wow, that’s a super cranky sounding “happy,” but it is what it is.) :-D

Pissing me off:

  1. I’m signing my son up for a couple classes at Portland State University. One of the classes he wants to take ends at 4:50 P.M. and the other one starts at 4:40 P.M.! So there’s no way to take both classes! Why, PSU, whyyyyyy?????????

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Note: This is a previously published blog post from last year. And if you enjoy the piece and its message, please feel free to share it with your friends. Enjoy!

We’re already into our second week of 2014 and if you’re anything like me, your new year’s resolutions are already starting to fade. Your vow to work out three times a week was interrupted by foul weather, your diet’s been hijacked by your co-worker’s daily tins of too-good-to-resist goodies and your resolution to declutter the home office got, well . . . boring.

But I have a mid-January new year’s resolution that’s both easier than you think and will save you thousands of dollars.

Stop buying new. 

I did. Since 2007, and I’m here to tell you that this deceptively simple decision will change your life for the better. It’s called “The Compact” and tens of thousands of people have already made one year commitments to choose used.

Let me back up, and share a bit of my back story with you. I am a 46-year-old mother to two teenage boys who works as a part-time labor and delivery nurse. My husband and I drive a mini-van, live in a normal urban neighborhood, (although it is in Portland, Oregon, so there is an unbearable amount of quirky Portlandia-like hipster weirdness) and I attend enough youth soccer games to earn the “Soccer Mom” label.

Nothing too out of the ordinary. Right?

Wrong.

I write the blog The Non-Consumer Advocate and I urge thousands of daily readers to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” and I mean it. In a world where deplorable and dangerous foreign factory conditions make the news almost every month, I choose to vote with my dollars. When area thrift shops burst with perfectly usable (and already manufactured goods) it’s a no brainer to look to the second hand market for my family’s needs. We mend and repair, borrow for infrequently used items and then make sure to lend out what we own to our friends and neighbors. We hold off from impulse purchases and we’re happy.

At this point you may be saying to yourself:

“Sounds good in theory, but there is no freaking way I’m signing up for used underwear/shoes/dental floss/socks.”

Don’t let a case of the heebie-jeebies deter you from considering The Compact, as everyone who participates selects their own exceptions. For me it’s socks, underwear, consumables, home maintenance supplies and personal care items. My husband thinks that used shoes are the work of the devil, so he gets a pass on that one. Everyone’s exceptions will differ, and that’s okay.

I don’t need to tell you that a self imposed restraining order from the mall will save you money, but I will anyway. You will save money when you joint The Compact, but that’s not the only benefit. You’ll appreciate your belongings a bit more, which will make you want to keep them more organized. You’ll become more deliberate about your home and go on a decluttering spree and be forced to be more creative about gift giving and end up giving more thoughtful gifts. You’ll pretty much discover a creative mindset whose ripple effects permeate every aspect of your life.

So c’mon, give The Compact a try for a month, maybe even for the full year. And if you’re anything like me, you might end up seven years in without a single regret.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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There’s a lot on the internet that makes it appear as if people are living perfect lives. Whether it’s happy families on Facebook, perfect mommies on Pinterest or spotless homes on blogs.

It makes it seem as though other people have somehow figured out how to create these effortless existences that elude the rest of us. You know, those of us whose laundry piles up, have kids that bicker and refuse to stand next to each other in photographs and have never served a meal that inspired an Instagram post.

I am not one of those other people.

And guess why. Because those other people do not actually exist!

There’s always a wizard behind the curtain. A reality outside of the picture frame, where the messy stuff is pushed off to the side so that the Pinterest-worthy photographs can be carefully crafted.

My mother likes to say that “we compare our insides to other people’s outsides,” which I think holds real truth. How many times have you felt inadequate next to someone who seemed to be super put together, only to find out later that they had serious issues going on in their lives?

No one is perfect, everyone is flawed.

Just the other day I put together a huge crockpot of mixed bean and ham soup. I even wrote about it on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group to share about my wonderfully frugal meal plan. And then guess what I did? That’s right folks, I turned it off and then left it out all night at room temperature. (You know room temperature, the ideal temperature for bacterial growth!) And in case you think this is some kind of isolated incident away from my otherwise perfect life, let me correct you. I have multiple messy pockets in my house, I mess up with my frugality and my life is far from perfect.

So as you’re choosing your new year’s resolutions for 2015, please remember that you may not have achieved perfection but that’s okay because no one else has. Ever.

And you might actually already be good enough the way you are.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on December 26, 2014 · 57 comments

Roz Chast drawing

Today I am . . .

  • Drinking a cup of Red Rose tea, and happy that my father let me scavenge a handful of teabags yesterday since I ran out on a day when the stores were closed!
  • Very pleased with the one gift I received yesterday, which is a pair of Ugg boots. They’re my birthday/Christmas present from my mother. (My birthday is next week.)
  • Pleased that the gift bags which we used for all of our gifts yesterday are already folded and back in their bin.
  • Extremely happy that I remembered to make reservations for our Chinese restaurant dinner last night. I got P.T.S.D. when I walked though the crowded lobby and remember how we waited at least two hours for a table last year. We were immediately seated after arrival.
  • Content to stay home the day on December 26th without the compulsion to take advantage of after-Christmas sales. I used to love to go shopping to scoop up bargains after Christmas, that attraction is long gone.
  • Annoyed with the stick-on bows that came with some gifts my kids received. They are straight-up garbage. I know they can be reused, but I’m simply not going to hold onto them out of garbage-guilt.
  • Going to the grocery store, but only after my husband gets back from Costco. This one car thing sure takes planning.
  • Still ruminating on the Roz Chast memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? about caring for her aging parents. I highly recommend this wonderful and honest book.
  • Deciding that in 2015 I will be more deliberate about where I spend my dollars. I already avoid Wal Mart, box box stores and the mall, but am adding the thrift shops for Deseret Industries (Mormons) and Salvation Army to my list. Gay rights are extremely important to me, and I refuse to give my money to organizations that have active policies against LGBT people. (Even though their thrift stores are cheaper and less picked through than Goodwill.)
  • Realizing that the mend job I did on the spare bedroom blanket has torn clear through. I could mend it again, but essentially it needs to be replaced. I’ll start keeping an eye out for a replacement when I thrift, and will try to keep it under $5.

Now your turn. What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Zero Dollar Christmas Update

by Katy on December 24, 2014 · 13 comments

Zero Dollar Christmas

So how did I do with my Zero Dollar Christmas?

Great . . . until a few days ago.

I needed to buy pajama pants for my teenage sons and I still had some holes in my list. For one, I hardly had anything for my mother and step-father.

I can’t disclose what I actually bought, (family members read this blog!) but I can at least defend that all of my purchases were either consumable or bought used. I’ll run an in-depth blog piece after the holidays, complete with photos and everything!

I’d give this experiment an A-, as I think that I ended spending under $30 total. (Not counting ingredients for homemade goodies.)

Did you change the way you normally approach your gift giving this year? Please share your thoughts and ideas 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 More Frugal Things

by Katy on December 22, 2014 · 19 comments

Chappy Chanukah

I’m doing another Five Frugal Things blog post today because frugality is an ever present part of my daily life. 

  1. I picked up my free ten-pound spiral ham from Safeway. My employer sends out an annual voucher for a free turkey or ham each December, and I make sure to get the most from it. I chose a 10.59-lb ham rather than getting a 9.5-lb ham as I would rather pay the $1 for the extra half-pound than not get the full value for the coupon. I imagine we’ll get at least a week of meals from the ham, starting tonight with a mixed bean chili sprinkled with diced ham! (And most frugally, all I bought at Safeway was the ham and three Luna bars for my husband’s work lunches.)
  2. I have the new Roz Chast book on hold and waiting to be picked up at the library. I’ll walk there, and also hit the Redbox in the Walgreens across the street to pick up a movie for tonight. (I have a code for a free movie.) To get your own free code, text MOVIENIGHT to 727272.
  3. My planned dinner for last night was the mixed bean chili with cornbread. Unfortunately, the crock pot beans were still undercooked at 6 P.M., so I switched things up and heated up two can of cream of crab soup that’d picked up at The Dollar Tree. I could have made some kind of quickie pasta dish, but the cornbread was already in the oven, and cornbread with pasta seemed too carb-tastic, even for me.
  4. I still needed to buy pajamas for my sons, as it’s an annual tradition for our family to have a new pair of jammies to open on Christmas Eve. I hit up one of my favorite Goodwills and immediately scored a pair for each of my teenagers. One $4.99 pair was still new with tag, and a $7.99 set was the half-off color! Doesn’t precisely fit with my Zero Dollar Christmas, but since this was the only thing I spent money on, I felt good about the purchase.
  5. Simple everyday stuff like wearing clothes more than once before washing, drinking tap water, decorating for the winter holidays with free greenery and stuff I already own, showering every other day, choosing holiday baking recipes that don’t require expensive ingredients and finding satisfaction in life’s simple pleasures like reheated leftovers and a crackling fire.

Now your turn. What frugal activities have you continued to do?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five More Frugal Things

by Katy on December 20, 2014 · 23 comments

Found change challenge

I’m doing another Five Frugal Things blog post today because frugality is an ever present part of my daily life.

  1. I stopped at Safeway on my way home from dropping my son off to play soccer. I brought a yogurt back for a refund, (the foil top has significantly loosened which I hadn’t noticed when I bought it) and was refunded a dollar. I bought sour cream and milk that were close to their sell-by date which took 50% from their cost.
  2. I stopped at my father’s house (which is close to the soccer field) and helped myself to some fire wood. I already had my big blue Ikea bag in the car, which made it very easy to schlep the wood from my father’s garage to the car to my living room.
  3. I found a quarter on the ground while at Safeway, which has now been added to my found change challenge jar.
  4. I used Swagbucks to locate my Found Change Challenge blog post and was rewarded with seven swagbucks!
  5. I looked through the Redbox at Safeway to try and rent the movie Boyhood. They didn’t have it, so I decided to save my free movie code for a machine that had one in stock. And when I got home I added it to my “wish list” on the Redbox website and will get an e-mail when it’s in. (Text ALAMPE to 727272 for your own free movie code, which is good until December 22nd.)

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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