Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 5, 2016 · 60 comments

Sasha eBay

  1. I worked the last two days, plus work tomorrow at the hospital. I’ve brought my own lunches, and enjoyed the free free coffee and tea. Monday was time-and-a-half, (yeah, baby!) which will inflate my next paycheck to something special. July is a three paycheck month, so I’m hoping to sock away as much money as possible towards September’s double college tuition payments. My sister will be visiting Portland during the second half of August, and I plan to take that time off from RN work.
  2. My Sasha doll eBay listing went live. No bids yet, but lots of views, so I’m crossing my fingers. I also have a woman who has been e-mailing about my antique oak pedestal table. I submitted another Clark Howard article, plus have another one in the works.
  3. My husband seems to be doing better about making dinner from scratch on days that I work.
  4. I took care of my mother’s guest cottages whiles she was out of town. One tenant needed a vacuum cleaner. Instead of buying her one, I brought her mine to use until my mother can set her up with one from her basement.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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 blog post first appeared over at Clark Howard.com.

souvenirs-1

Souvenirs are an interesting purchase category. They function to demonstrate that you traveled to a certain area, as well as to prompt your memories. They’re also for gift giving, a memento to show that you thought of loved ones at home while out traveling the world.

Unfortunately, they often veer towards pointless doo-dads stamped with the name of wherever you happened to have visited. Went to Florida? Here’s a thimble stamped with the word “Florida.” And guess what? That dust collector was probably manufactured halfway around the world! The problem is that while it’s fun to browse through souvenir shops, your purchases can quickly become useless clutter once you get back home.

Here are five great souvenir ideas that won’t have you staring at your purchases and wondering whether you underwent a brain transplant while traveling.

Regional foods

Whether you’re buying Alaskan canned salmon, Belgian chocolate or Louisiana hot sauce, it’s a smarter purchase than that enormous clunky wooden shoe from your great aunt Ethel’s trip to Holland. Tasty treats have the culinary power to remind you of your delicious vacation, without becoming a unwelcome knick-knack that’s doomed for the Goodwill donation box. Plus, it’s perfect as gifts as everyone loves food!

Things you actually need

Shopping while on vacation is an opportunity to pick up a thing or two with practical purpose. An example would be a kitchen utensil or high quality pen. Not only would they easily fit into your suitcase, but they can actually become a welcome part of your daily routine once home. Perhaps even trigger that relaxing vacation mindset on an otherwise dull Wednesday afternoon.

Clothing

You may have bought clothing as a souvenir, but it was most likely an unflattering boxy T-shirt that proclaimed the name of your destination, something you probably never even wore again once your airplane deposited you back home. But clothing can actually be a wonderful souvenir, because it doesn’t need to advertise the name of the resort or beach town to remind you of your trip. Plus, whenever anyone asks “Where did you get that gorgeous top?” You’d have an opportunity to reply “This old thing? I picked it up in Paris.”

A splurge purchase

Vacations are an opportunity to spend in a way that you never would at home, and if you’ve saved your pennies ahead of time, it can be wonderfully guilt free. Your souvenir might be a foreign antique, a luxury scarf or even an indulgent meal in a four-star restaurant. Whatever you choose, you might discover that the temporary loosening of purse strings can be a special memory from your vacation.

Things for resale

I know that I’m wired differently from other spenders, but I like to browse thrift shops with an eye for resale while on vacation. I get the enjoyment of window shopping, but with the possibility of generating income to actually cover my vacation costs. With the eBay app on my phone, I scope out completed listings and use that information to decide whether or not to pull the trigger. (I just got back from a mini-vacation where I scored a $3.99 doll that I’ll soon list on eBay for $200, which should cover the entire cost of our motel!)

Conclusion

Who among us hasn’t come home from traveling and been baffled by the crap that we’ve felt impelled to buy as souvenirs. Whether it’s a big Mexican sombrero or a “I ♥ NY” snow globe, you can instead choose to bring home a souvenir that’s both practical and welcome as a gift. Be smart and deliberate with your money, even if you’re on vacation.

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 July 3, 2016 · 45 comments

Craigslist

  1. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages last night and brought home two bags of their leftover food. This included eggs, potatoes, broccoli, beer, milk, almond milk, tequila, lemons, deli meat and cream cheese.
  2. I finally listed my thrifted Sasha doll on eBay, as well as my recently purchased antique oak table on Craigslist. The eBay listing doesn’t start until tonight, although the Craigslist one was immediate. No interest so far, but it only takes one interested buyer. I’ve found that it often takes a week or so to sell things through Craigslist, so it’s an opportunity to practice being patient.
  3. I was able to use my clotheslines yesterday, even though I didn’t get the laundry on the line until 2 P.M. It’s good to be windy!
  4. I work three days this week, which is an extremely rare occurrence for me. Sadly, the shifts are all back to back, which I already know is going to kill me. (I’m a labor and delivery nurse, which can be a very physical job.) However, I’ll get a super amazingly terrific great paycheck, especially since the 4th will be time-and-a-half, so I’m trying to focus on that.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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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It’s time again for Five Things That Make Me Happy And One Thing That’s Pissing Me Off. Why add the “One Thing That’s Pissing Me Off?” Because I’m a realist, that’s why.

Lane armchair

Five things that make me happy

  1. I stopped into Goodwill this afternoon to look for weird things to photograph for a piece I’m writing. I found nothing particularly weird, but I did find two underpriced pieces of furniture to buy — a $14 Lane armchair that we’ll keep, and a $24 antique pedestal oak table to sell. I’ve actually bought and sold this exact chair in the past, although it bummed out my poor husband as he’d bonded with it. The money I’ll make from the table will more than cover the cost of keeping the chair.
  2. My lifeguard older son rescued a little girl at work today. Good boy.
  3. My younger son is driving independently on his own around town. He’s an extremely conscientious driver, and I trust him.
  4. I have something great to look forward to, which is my sister and her kids coming to visit for the second half of August. Oregon in August > NYC in August!
  5. My reading glasses. I think back to a time when people of a certain age simply had to stop reading, and I almost smear my lenses with appreciative kisses. $1 at The Dollar Tree and I’m able to sharpen all those tiny fuzzy letters. Hooray for cheap and effective reading glasses!

One thing that’s pissing me off

  1. My husband and I were suddenly unable to log into our credit union account, and it took multiple phone calls and almost two weeks to get it fixed. Meanwhile we had limited ability to manage our accounts and track our spending, which was a huge pain in the tuchus. I now need to devote an hour or two to bringing June’s budget up to date.

Now your turn. What makes 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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A Silver Desk Before & After

by Katy on June 30, 2016 · 8 comments

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

One project that’s been limping along at my house is the reorganization of my 17-year-old son’s room. It happens in fits and spurts and is motivated more by me than my son.

By a lot.

Of course I want his room to look good, but my main goal is to help him be able to find his stuff and to have the room be functional. (Can’t use a desk that’s completely piled with stuff!)

I recently came across a $4.99 set of wheeled metal drawers at Goodwill, which was exactly what his desk needed. (I find the plastic ones all the time, but they’re so easily broken and destined to become unfixable trash. So yeah, not my thang.)

See? Perfect way to stash all the extra notebooks, school supplies and miscellaneous doo-dads that normally gather on my son’s desk.

Getting all the crap off my son’s desk allowed me to give the top surface a fresh coat of paint. (Plus polyurethane.) Here’s what it looked like before I got all crafty with it:

Purple desk

The desk in my son’s room is a hand me down that was last painted circa 1982 by yours truly. The top was purple and the bottom was black. I got the idea to freshen it up with a can of silver spray paint, and had been glued to the weather forecast for ages, waiting for a non-rainy, warmish day that would allow this project to commence. (No indoor spray painting for me, as I enjoy my functional brain cells!)

And here’s the desk, all freshly painted and looking all groovy and space-agey. (I later replaced the purple knob with a black one.)

Silver desk

I also had a $1 solid wooden shelf from the Ikea As-Is section and a set of Goodwill $1.99 shelving brackets to pull together a nice sturdy shelf so my son can display his stuff without cluttering the desk.

I like creating my own shelves, as the brackets can be designed to be the same width apart as the studs in the wall. (Seriously, an elephant could stand on this shelf and it wouldn’t budge.)

Remember the skateboard shelves from my younger son’s room?

Silver shelf

So what does my son think of his new desk and shelf?

“Uh . . . thanks, mom.”

Good thing I have my readership for feedback.

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 June 28, 2016 · 68 comments

  1. I drove to Costco this afternoon to buy cat food, coffee and yogurt. I ended up buying cat food, coffee and yogurt. Nothing else.
  2. I hung two loads of laundry on the clothesline today.
  3. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages on Sunday, worked at the hospital on Monday, will work there tomorrow and will clean the other guest cottage on Thursday.
  4. I did not accept the offer of a Visa credit card application while at Costco today. And when my response to the guy’s solicitation was “No thanks, I try hard to stay away from credit cards” I was met with a  “Dave Ramsey, huh?” reply. I had to laugh.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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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A Productivity Hack

by Katy on June 28, 2016 · 20 comments

To-do list sisters

Although I’m a fairly productive person, I’m always looking for ways to up my game. I have an apparent proclivity to fall into that rabbit hole called “the internet,” plus general laziness, especially after one of my exhausting 12-1/2 hour hospital shifts. But I recently came up with a genius and effective hack, which is:

My sister and I text our daily to-do lists to each other.

This forces us to create daily to-do lists, with an added bonus of accountability. Neither my sister nor I have anything to be embarrassed about with each other, so we can be completely transparent with each other. We’ve been doing the project for a week so far, and I’ve found that I’m doing much better tackling all those annoying small and medium tasks that can easily add up to crush a gal.

An added bonus is that we give each other positive reinforcement for dealing with stuff we’d otherwise be procrastinating. So it’s actually kind of fun.

I challenge you to find a close friend or family member and make them your productivity bitch partner!

C’mon, it’ll be fun!

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 June 26, 2016 · 75 comments

OREGON TRAIL BOY

  1. We went to a family wedding yesterday and the four of us were able to assemble formal outfits from clothes we already had on hand. If anything, we were overdressed.
  2. My younger son needed a haircut, so the two of us took the city bus downtown to his favorite barber. It was the last day for his city bus pass, which is provided from the school district, so we made sure to run this errand while it was still free. (I always have a free public transportation pass through my employer.)
  3. An old co-worker of mine read about how much we enjoyed our borrowed fire pit, so she gave me her’s that she wasn’t using. We can now return my father’s one and start enjoying our own urban campfires in the backyard.
  4. We’ve been getting by on leftovers and simple meals all week, as I simply haven’t felt like cooking. This has meant a lot of egg based meals and burritos. No one has been cheering about this plan, but nobody has died yet either.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

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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Pee-pee teepee

The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Although my college-age sons are long past the baby stage of their lives, I’m continuously aware of baby trends through my day job as a labor and delivery nurse. I see new parents agonizing over whether they’ve bought the correct baby essentials, and I feel their pain.

I remember my own worry as a first time parent, how I wanted to make sure that I’d accumulated all the stuff that would ensure my role as the perfect mother. By the time I had my second baby, I’d learned that not only is there no such thing as a perfect parent, but also that there are a few actually necessary baby products. However, there are endless unnecessary baby products.

Here, see for yourself:

Diaper wipes warmer

Unless you live in Antarctica, your diaper wipes are probably not that cold. Generations of parents have learned that holding a wipe in their clenched hand for 30 seconds or so quickly brings it to body temperature, but you never know that based on sales of wipes warmers. These single function items are not only an unnecessary baby item, but also a waste of electricity.

Baby towels

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve bathed thousands upon thousands of newborn babies. Do you think that my hospital uses specialty towels for this task? Of course not! These sweet babies are dried off using the same towels as any other hospital patient. There’s no need to buy extra baby only towels, as the towels you already own work perfectly well for your little bundle of joy.

Peepee Teepees

Anyone who’s ever changed the diaper on a baby boy has learned that they’ll often spray up when exposed to air. It’s certainly a surprise to the unprepared parent, but generations have learned to keep a washcloth or extra cloth diaper at the ready. Of course, there’s a product you can buy to address this single specific issue. It’s called a PeePee Teepee and is described as “A must have diapering accessory for newborn boys.” Apparently it’s a popular baby shower gift, but that doesn’t make it a “must have.” Instead, keep an extra washcloth within arm’s reach and have the new diaper ready to go before taking the old one off. Simple and frugal.

Infant shoes

Unless your baby is walking, shoes are more of a fashion statement than a necessity. And since shoes are kind of heavy, they have a tendency to fall off and get lost. Instead choose soft warm booties, simple socks or even, gasp . . . let your baby go barefoot. These teeny-tiny Timberland “crib boots”  will not only set you back up to $50, but last time I checked, a crib environment hardly requires a heavy duty pair of boots!

Changing tables

At the time it may seem like your baby is going to be in diapers until the end of the earth, but I promise you that Junior will eventually learn to use the potty. And that changing table? It becomes a useless piece of furniture when you finally buy that last Costco pack of diapers. A great alternative to changing tables are a regular dresser with a extra removable changing pad. These contoured changing pads not only have a handy safety strap, but can be placed on the floor or any other sturdy surface.

Screen time

Your baby learns about their surrounding world from the people and things in their lives. Interactive silly faces, long eye contact sessions with feedings, plus touch, feel and taste. What your baby does not need is an iPad screen that’s mounted mere inches from their face to distract them from the real sights and sound of their environment. This Fisher-Price Apptivity Seat has been greatly criticized for good reason, as the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended no screen time under the age of two, and this ill advised product is suggested for “newborn to toddler.” This purchase is not only a waste of money, but also a detriment to your baby’s development.

Crib bumpers

As adorable as it is to decorate your baby’s crib with a soft bumper, they’ve been shown to be a hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone so far as to call for a ban on crib bumpers, as “There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.” Save yourself both the money and the worry by leaving your baby’s crib bare not only of bumpers, but also of any suffocation risks such as pillows or stuffed animals.

Conclusion

The country of Finland has been providing free Maternity Packages to its citizens since 1949, which include a variety of practical baby items including clothing, blankets, snow suits and bibs. These boxes hold not only the supplies, but also serve as a newborn crib. Not a fancy wooden box, but a simple cardboard box complete with a fitted mattress. It’s even been linked to lowering their infant mortality rate!

Of course, outfitting a baby isn’t just about austere dull accessories, but it is important to be able to separate the necessary from the frivolous. And perhaps if you save a few dollars abstaining from unnecessary or even dangerous purchases, you’ll have enough money leftover to start funding that all important college fund. Which is something your baby actually needs.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on June 23, 2016 · 30 comments

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Photo Essay, because sometimes a photo is simply easier better than words.

I had the opportunity to interview Rachel Cruze this afternoon. I’ll be turning it into two separate articles, which you’ll soon see right here at The Non-Consumer Advocate.

Of course, it was a delight.

Rachel Cruze

I then drove across town to have lunch with my father to commemorate his 81st birthday.

81st birthday

My father had just baked his signature sourdough bread, and he made sure to give me a loaf to take home. Luckily my Prius comes with a built-in bread box. Handy.

Prius bread box

I went to my local Dansko shop, and cracked up when I saw how they were using one of those normally useless souvenir Dutch wooden clogs to hold the stockinettes. (Is that the word for these?) I usually point out these clogs as a classic example of a terrible and cluttersome souvenir, or as I call it “Dutch Tulip Fever.”

I stand corrected.

Wooden shoe

I bought this book at the Friends of The Library sale in Ashland, Oregon. It has wonderful illustrations, which I’ll share in a later post.

Health & Happiness

I bought this cast iron grill pan at Goodwill awhile back and have been absolutely loving it. It’s pretty much replaced our backyard barbecue at this point, as it’s simpler to use and doesn’t dry out the meat so much. Plus, it makes gnarly panini sandwiches when I weigh them down with a full tea kettle. I see these all the time in thrift shops. Go get one now.

Grill pan cast iron

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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