Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 10, 2017 · 84 comments

  1. My son needed a few things from home, so I spent yesterday driving down to his university. Although the trip is generally pleasant, I roped my mother into coming with me as I knew she’d enjoy seeing her grandson’s dorm, and frankly it’s nice to have company during the five-hour drive. I cemented the deal by suggesting that we could do some thrifting. I packed snacks, (apples and carrots) as well as a reusable water bottle and travel mug. My mother was kind enough to pay for lunch and dinner. Sadly the restaurant where we’d planned on having lunch closed early.
  2. With my willing 18-year-old in tow, the three of us located a large Goodwill across town from his university, (thank you, Google maps!) where each of us found something to buy. For my son it was nice thermal knit shirt, for my mother a pretty frame, and for me a $2.99 mixed bag of miscellaneous sewing notions. What caught my eye about it, was that it contained not one but two vintage darning eggs! Again, my mother treated.
  3. I bought a $2 drip coffee at the grocery store for the ride home instead of going to the Starbucks across the street. The coffee tasted like it’d been brewed many hours earlier, but I was miles away before I realized the extent of the cold bitterness. But guess what? I survived!
  4. I mailed off another one of my son’s eBay sales on Saturday. So far he’s sold two soccer jerseys and a pair of sneakers for a total of $260. Of course I packaged it up with second hand supplies. My neighbors receive a lot of packages, so they bring me their padded envelopes for my eBay needs.
  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 April 7, 2017 · 81 comments

  1. I had a two hour class at the hospital yesterday morning, which put me way across town into suburban territory. I used it as an opportunity to visit a couple of Goodwills that don’t normally enter my orbit. I ended up buying two items to sell on eBay, (a vintage sports theme glass lighting shade and a pair of designer sneakers) as well as a $2.99 padded lap desk so I won’t overheat my laptop. I’m still chipping away at a Goodwill gift card from Christmas, so no money was spent.
  2. I invited my mother and step father over for dinner last night to belatedly celebrate his birthday. I was able to pull together the food from groceries I already had on hand, which was perfect since I was exhausted and had indulged in a two hour nap. We enjoyed our meal and then watched a Netflix comedy special.
  3. I stopped into a Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet while doing my suburban adventures and bought $1 tissue paper, a $1 jar of pickles, a $2.99 packet of Columbus brand roast beef and some 50¢ Tillamook/Bob’s Red Mill yogurts. I later passed a Costco and made a quickie stop to take full advantage of their cheap gasoline. (Unrelated to frugality, but I passed some groovy looking buildings that caught my attention, and then realized that they were part of the Nike world headquarters campus. Oh right, that . . . )
  4. Our hospital census was down earlier this week, and I got called off for eight hours of my twelve hour shift. I used the time to do the legwork for a couple different Clark Howard articles. Also, I chose to work on continuing education the day before instead of accepting the offer to go home early.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a a vulgar Квартира в небе.

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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Ye OIde Timey Life Hacks

by Katy on April 4, 2017 · 18 comments

This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Although  the term “life hacks” is a relative newcomer to our daily vernacular, the idea of household tips and tricks is far from new. So when I discovered a series of century old household hints, I had to dig a little deeper. Created by Gallaher Ltd. of Belfast and London, these delightfully illustrated cardboard inserts were included in cigarette packs as “stiffeners.” Described as a “How-To” series, many of these tips are as useful today as they were for our great-great-grandparents.

Tip #1, How to cool wine without ice:

“If no ice is available for cooling wine, a good method is to wrap the bottle in flannel and place it in a crock beneath the cold running water tap. Allow the water to run over it, as shows in the picture, and in about ten minutes the wine will be thoroughly cool and ready for the table.”

Tip#2, How to revive cut flowers:

“To revive choice blooms that have faded during transit, plunge the stems into hot water, and allow them to remain until the water has cooled. By that time the flowers will have revived. The ends of the stems should then be cut off and the blossoms placed in cold water in the usual way.”

Tip#3, How to pull out long nails:

“It is often rather difficult to pull out a long nail from wood into which it has been driven, for when drawn out a shirt distance as in A, there is no purchase from which to pull it further. If, however, a small block of wood be placed under the pincers, as in B, the nail can be pulled right out without difficulty.”

Tip #4, How to prevent eye-glasses “steaming:”

“The moisture which collects on eye-glasses cause a great deal of trouble, but if the glasses are daily rubbed with soap and well polished afterwards, a very thin invisible film of soap remains, which has the effect of preventing the condensation of moisture on the glasses.”

Tip#5, To separate glass tumblers:

“When two glass tumblers stick together there is a danger of breakage in trying to separate them. The simplest and most effective method of releasing the glasses is to put cold water into the upper one and place the lower one in warm water. They will be found to separate at once.”

Of course, not all of the century-old how-to tricks can be classified as entirely useful. For example, “How to draw a duck without pencil leaving the paper.”

Other tips are clearly dated, such as this “How to use up coal dust” card. Although I do appreciate the unique insight into how difficult daily life was for people at the beginning of the twentieth century.

“An economic way to treat coal dust, and to make same into bricks of fuel is to mix the dust with salt (about a handful of salt to each shovelful of coal dust), add water and stir to a paste, and mould the brick in an old tin box, afterwards placing on a board pr a shelf to dry.”

There are multiple tips that involve potatoes, which were certainly in great supply.

For example, this “How to clean oil painting” card:

“The picture shows a very effective method. Painting should first be well dusted and then rubbed gently with last surface of a cut raw potato., the lather being rubbed away with a soft rag. Dirty part of potato must constantly be pared off in order to keep clean the surface applied the picture. Finish off with a rub of pine linseed oil.”

I’m pretty sure that this method would not win any art historian’s seal of approval!

The last how-to card I’ll share is a cringe-worthy tip, that should in no way be practiced in today’s modern times. Do NOT try this at home!

How to treat bite of animal:

“A tight ligature should be placed round the limb between the wound and the body. Thoroughly cleanse the wound, and if there is any suspicion of madness in the attacking animal the place should be well sucked and cauterised with luns caustle, or a white hot iron, after cutting away the surrounding flesh with a sharp clean knife. Stimulant should be given to the patient. Send for doctor.”

It’s a good thing to live in the time of modern medicine, because although I don’t know what “luns caustle” is, I am familiar with the term “white hot iron!” So I think I’ll pass on this particular olde timey household hint.

The New York Public Library has a extensive digital collection of these how-to cards, as well as many others. They’re a fascinating look into daily household life for those who lived a hundred years ago. People who found many uses for potatoes, and hopefully stayed far, far away from any rabid animals.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 3, 2017 · 74 comments

  1. I called our cable company to find out the cost of our monthly bill for internet without the cable TV. (It’s bundled, so it’s confusing.) And . . . as long as I had them on the phone, I asked for and magically received free HBO. Yup, we’re doing our taxes! #GameofThrones
  2. I scrubbed up our old propane grill to ready it for an exciting new journey. My husband and I lugged home a freebie upgrade last week, so we’re giving this one to a co-worker. It’s a bit scrappy, but still functional. Better for it to stay in use.
  3. My son made two eBay sales totaling $220, I’m so proud of him! Especially since the majority of that was a pair of $20 thrifted sneakers that sold for $180! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with this one.
  4. I was feeling super blah today, which I know is a combination of missing the kids and having to go back to work tomorrow. However, I was still able to fight my way through a monster to-do list. It was boring, but future Katy will be happy that today Katy accepted her adult status. (Being an adult sure involves returning a lot of e-mails and making insurance related phone calls.)
  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 Test Out Bar Keeper’s Friend

by Katy on April 3, 2017 · 27 comments

This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

I’m always on the lookout for multi-use products to use in my home, (fewer products bought = less money spent!) but Bar Keeper’s Friend, (BKF) never made it onto my radar as I assumed it would duplicate my trusty Bon Ami. However, members of the Laundry Love and Cleaning Science Facebook group sings its praises, so I decided put it to the test. I paid $2.89 at my Kroger store, although I see that sells for $1.99 at Target. Available in multiple formulas, I chose the classic powder.

This bleach-free “cleanser and polish” has been around since 1882, when “an Indianapolis chemist noticed how clean and shiny his tarnished pot was after cooking rhubarb. Using an active ingredient that’s found in the plant he formulated a talcum-smooth cleanser and sold it to the city’s taverns.” And it’s still manufactured in Indianapolis!

The Environmental Working Group reports “some concern” for skin allergies and irritation, although “low concern” for environment. I chose to wear protective gloves.

This “talcum smooth” product is gentle enough for surfaces that scratch easily. For this very reason, it’s popular for stainless steel.

Since Bar Keeper’s Friend is formulated to remove rust, I decided to start with a propane grill that a neighbor had recently put out for free. I first spritzed the grill with water and then sprinkled a bit of BKF onto a sponge. A quick scrub and the surface looked almost new! Grade: A+

 

Next up was my stovetop. This area isn’t normally visible, as it sits under a removable tray, but it still bothers me. I’d been unsuccessful with cleaning attempts in the past, but I’m an optimist. This before-and-after took a full ten minutes of elbow grease, and I’ll call it a success. (I would have kept going, but I needed to take my son to the dentist.) Grade: B+

I’d also read that people use Bar Keeper’s Friend to remove utensil marks from dishes. I have a large collection of vintage Fiestaware, but the ivory color always looks terrible. I’d been hesitant to scrub them with a normal abrasive cleanser, but that promised “talcum smooth” texture calmed my fear of ruining the glaze. 30, maybe 45 seconds of scrubbing and the plate looked perfect. Holy moly, so much better! Grade: A+

The Bar Keeper’s Friend website warns that it’s not for use on gold, silver, pewter, marble, lacquered metals or anodized aluminum. However, it’s recommended for rust, lime, porcelain, stainless steel, chrome, copper, brass, fiberglass, acrylic, glass, tile, grout and certain solid surfaces such as Corian.

Apparently it’s especially great for those who live in areas with hard water. That’s not an issue where I live, so I wasn’t able to test this claim.

I do kind kind of wish that I owned something with extreme rust like these vintage ice skates:

Or a thoroughly burned stainless steel pan, as the internet abounds with very satisfying before and afters, like this one from the Bar Keeper’s Friends website. Need more convincing? Read these testimonials from regular users:

Ashley:

“I use it to clean my glass stove top and stainless steel sink. I LOVE it!”

Rita:

“I just used it the other day to clean the grout in my laundry room. It did an amazing job! ”

Kelly:

“BKF powder is superior for stainless, baked on food and really filthy bathroom stuff, so I keep it on hand.”

Seni:

“I mostly use it on my stainless steel pots and pans when a regular soak and scrub doesn’t get stuff off”

Reba:

“I use it on my dog’s stainless steel bowls that are quite gross and difficult to clean without BKF. They shine like a new nickel when I am done with them.”

Lisa:

“If you have hard water, nothing compares to BKF.”

Caitlyn:

“The possibilities are endless. It’s inexpensive and works like a dream.”

Conclusion:

The great thing about Bar Keeper’s Friend is that at $1.99, it’s a low investment for something that has the potential to clean and shine the surfaces of stuff you may have considered ruined. And when you can prolong the life of your belongings instead of replacing them, you’re learning to keep more of what you make.

{ 27 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 2, 2017 · 50 comments

  1. My son wanted something expensive, so he went through his room to find things of value to sell on eBay. Included is a $20 thrifted pair of sneakers that he listed for $200. It’s getting tons of traffic and has a number of watchers, so I know he’ll get them sold.
  2. I drove my son down to school yesterday, which is an achey five hour round trip. However, the trip down had good company and he handed over a couple textbooks from last term so I could list them on half.com. I love selling with half.com, as it’s as easy as inputting the ISBN number and then a quick description. I stopped on the way back for a hamburger from Burgerville. Although Burgerville is generally pretty expensive, (think $5 burgers) I have a hack, which is to order the $1.75 child-sized burger, but have them add free tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and onions.
  3. April 1st began the switchover from 5¢ to 10¢ Oregon bottle deposits, so I’d been holding off from recycling. However, today is April 2nd, so I gathered up all our bottles and cans, which are now waiting patiently in the back of the car for their payday.
  4. My husband took a promotion, which sadly switched us over from good to crappy health insurance coverage. (He’s now management, so he no longer enjoys union member benefits.) I got a phone call on Friday from our pharmacy confirming the renewal of a medication for the low, low cost of $750! I had them halt the process and got in research mode. I did discover that the manufacturer offers a $60-off coupon, but that hardly makes a dent. I’ll make a few more phone calls on Monday and continue my investigation. Kind of deflates the satisfaction of having saved $535 from my son’s wisdom teeth surgery.
  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 March 31, 2017 · 79 comments

  1. I drove my older son waaaay across town to hang out with a friend, partially motivated by this friend’s house being a block from one of my favorite Goodwills. (Don’t make me choose my actual favorite one, as they’re all precious to me.) I’ve been keeping an eye out for a pair of slip-on shoes that are somewhere in between my Uggs and my Birkenstocks. I scored a brand new pair of black Nike Air Wovens for only $25. They’re not as colorful as the $160 ones that were just announced a few days ago, but I’m not really craving so much attention to my size-10 feet. I’m still working on a Goodwill gift card from Christmas, (thanks mom!) so these shoes were free to me. The Nike world headquarters are right outside Portland, so there are always lots of great used sneakers to be found.
  2. My son is doing well after his wisdom teeth removal, and I’ve been plying him with multiple smoothly frugal treats. So far he’s enjoyed homemade mashed potatoes with gravy, oatmeal, homemade red lentil soup, homemade applesauce and a free Wendy’s Jr. Frosty courtesy of the $1 key fob that I purchased a few months ago. Okay, let’s be honest here. He’s getting sick of his limited food options. I would be too.
  3. I put together our April budget, which was thankfully not as uber-focused on the kids’ college fund as the last few months have been. The next college tuition bills won’t come due until October 1st, which gives us the breathing room to give some love and attention to other financial goals. We sent off $15,665.85 this week to Oregon’s university system, as we just did in January and last October. Having more than three months to come up with this amount is a luxury. Should we have been putting money into 529 plans since the kids were born? Hell, yes! But we simply didn’t have the financial wiggle room at the time. Although in retrospect, even a few hundred dollars here and there would have been smart.
  4. I was sent a free RedBox code, which I’ll use to rent a movie to watch with the kids tonight.
  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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{ 79 comments }

This post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s. I’m addicted to their hummus, and rely on many of their house brand products such as their 100% recycled content toilet paper, their eco-friendly dishwasher detergent and I always keep a bag of their Mandarin orange chicken in the freezer to stave off expensive takeout on busy nights. However, I feel like I need to don blinders whenever I enter the store, as Trader Joe’s is stocked to the gills with impulse purchases that are sure to derail my carefully crafted budget.

I stopped by my local Trader Joe’s last week and filled two grocery bags for a mere $20.25. I was amazed at the low price and joked to the clerk that it must be a record. His reply was that “it was because you didn’t buy any booze, nuts or vitamins.” This got me thinking, what are the Trader Joe’s products that cause a bag of groceries to skyrocket from $15 to $70?

I’m the first to defend that Trader Joe’s has some great deals. Their dried pasta is always 99¢, their canned marinara sauce is $1.99, and you can’t beat their Three Buck Chuck. However, Trader Joe’s is a skilled seductress when it comes to tempting you with their tasty nibbles. Check out following list, and maybe you’ll be able to leave the store while still making your student loan payments.

Wine:

The Trader Joe’s/Charles Shaw brand wine, (A.K.A. “Three Buck Chuck”) is a terrific bargain, but only if you’re not using the low price as a rationalization to buy more wine than you’d normally stock up on. One or two bottles are a great deal, buy it by the case and you’ve suddenly spent a fair amount of money.

Vitamins and supplements:

Vitamins can quickly add to your grocery bill, especially when you consider that current research on daily multi-vitamins shows that there’s “no proof of benefit,”  as well as “evidence of possible harm from high doses of certain vitamin supplements.”  Eat your greens and leave the multi-vitamins on the shelf.

Nuts:

Although the price per pound on the wide variety of Trader Joe’s nuts is a comparatively good value, mindless tossing of bags into your cute red cart is sure to bring your total to a surprisingly high amount.

Cookies, cookies, cookies:

Those clear plastic tubs are almost more famous than their delicious contents. Whether you’re buying the popular $1.99 “Cat Cookies” or $4.99 “Chocolatey Coated Chocolate Chip Dunkers,” just make sure these impulse purchases are actually on your shopping list. Add in that there’s no “pause point” in the packaging, and it might be a better idea to take a deep breath and move along.

Nut butters:

I ran a non-scientific poll of my co-workers asking which Trader Joe’s items have a tendency to derail their food budgets, and “nut butters” was a surprising answer. Choose both the crunchy and creamy almond butter, and you just added $14 to your total.

I stood in front of the energy bar section for a few minutes and quickly observed that shoppers grab these items by the handful. Considering that many energy bars have more sugar than a Snickers bar, indulging in these items are sure to weigh down more than just your grocery bill.

Flowers:

Walk into any Trader Joe’s and you’ll be greeted by a cheerful wall of mixed flowers. And since even the most expensive bouquets are just $9.99, it may seem like a benign choice to grab a bouquet. But it’s exactly this type of impulse purchase that makes Trader Joe’s a dangerous place for your credit union balance.

Candy:

A traditional grocery store will always feature shelves of tempting candy to derail your best efforts at self control. Of course, those candy bars will only set you back around 75¢. However, Trader Joe’s isn’t selling Snickers bars, which means that you’ll spend $2 for that end of shopping reward for yourself the kids.

There’s a reason why Trader Joe’s are so popular, as their stores offer great deals on unique and quality items. However, remove all the impulse items from their stores, and you’d quickly develop an powerful echo. I’m not suggesting that you never treat yourself to a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers or an after dinner treat. Just make sure you’re doing so with thoughtfulness and an awareness of how $2 here and $7 here can add up to a $70 bag of groceries.

Here’s how much extra you would have spent had you bought all the impulse items from this article:

  • 1 bottle of wine — $2.99
  • 1 bottle of multi-vitamins — $11.99
  • 1 pound of pistachios — $6.99
  • 1 tub of cookies — $4.99
  • 1 jar of almond butter — $6.99
  • 5 energy bars — $7.45
  • 1 medium flower bouquet — $5.99
  • 1 Ritter Sport chocolate bar — $1.99

Total — $52.37

And you’d still have nothing for dinner.

{ 41 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 29, 2017 · 100 comments

  1. My younger son has oral surgery today, which means that his pre-op consultation was yesterday. I’m still upset from when my older son went through the same thing a year-and-a-half ago. Not because he had any medical complications, but because our insurance refused to pay for the panoramic X-ray, which left us holding the bag for an extra $535. (They’ll only pay for this level of X-ray every two years.) I preemptively called up my son’s dentist and had them email any recent X-rays to the oral surgeon, including a panoramic one from last spring. The assistant tried to steer my son towards the X-ray room, but I asked her to wait until the surgeon had a chance to review the recent one. The oral surgeon was perfectly happy with the one-year-old X-ray, and I saved $535. BAM!
  2. The surgeon gave us a prescription for multiple medications, including pain meds and anti-nausea pills. However, we still have these leftover from when this son had surgery last summer. More money saved!
  3. My husband belongs to the Next Door group for our neighborhood and saw that some people were getting rid of a mostly decent propane grill. The two of us walked to their house and eagerly dragged it home. It had some surface rust, but it cleaned up in a jiffy. We’ll probably have to replace a few minor rusted out pieces, but it’s a Kenmore, so that should be no problem. The best part is that it has a intact waterproof cover, so we should be able to protect it from here on out.
  4. I signed up for the next four week schedule of hospital shifts. Even though it meant running half my errands, hovering over the computer until exactly 5 P.M., and then heading out to run the second half of my errands. This makes it possible to get enough work, rather than having to scramble for shifts.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a vulgar gold plated Квартира в небе.

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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Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on March 28, 2017 · 37 comments

Goodwill may have a mission to help those with barriers to employment, but to me they’re a study in what people declutter from their homes. An anthropologic study of sorts. For example:

Pointless souvenirs. The Netherlands have somehow convinced their tourists of the necessity to purchase decorative clogs, clogs and more clogs. Large and small, wooden and ceramic, singles and pairs. I call this Dutch Tulip Fever. Bonus points for the windmill imagery.

Targeted savings banks. Whether they’re extremely specific . . . .

Or frustratingly vague.

There’s always cute vintage stuff that’s sure to get snapped up.

Even though they can be marked by the names of those long forgotten.

Thrift stores consistently abound with ill advised craft projects.

But my favorites are always going to be the bafflingly bizarre. Like these Birkenstocks, for which a basketball heroically gave its life. So bright! So pebbly! No surprisingly . . . unworn.

I actually began a speech which began, “Gather around people, as I present to you the ugliest pair of shoes ever created!”

Makes me wish that my family had a tradition of white elephant parties . . .

Oh Goodwill, your wonders never cease to amaze!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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