I took one of my frequent walks to Fred Meyer last night to pick up milk, eggs and carrots. I knew it was too late in the day to snag one of their clearance priced milks, so I resigned myself to paying full price for this all important staple. (The horrifying thought of drinking my morning tea without milk is a highly motivating factor!)

I pushed my cart over to the dairy section and grabbed my milk and then crossed the aisle over to the eggs. I looked at the price-per-unit price for the dozen vs. the 18-pack and noticed (once again) that the price is essentially the same. Then a small display to my right caught my eye. A hodgepodge shelf of eggs that were marked as “repackaged,” as well as being discounted.

Hello!

Most grocery stores throw away cartons of eggs if there’s anything wrong with even a single egg, so I was mightily pleased to discover that my grocery store is working to avoid food waste.

Repackaged eggs

Especially since this single 99¢ carton was lurking in the back. Do you see that half the eggs are brown? Which means they’re likely from a free-range/organic pack.

99¢ repackaged eggs

I bought two dozen eggs, which saved me a dollar. A dollar which is now available to be spend in a more meaningful manner. Like sending my sons to college.

Save on the small things, and your money will be available for the big things in life.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!
As The Non-Consumer Advocate, I wholly believe in buying used instead of new; puttering around instead of shopping and fixing instead of replacing. And when my $15 Craigslist microwave went kaput last month, (it was making Mordor-like sparks and flashes) I was totally fine with melting butter on the stovetop and reheating leftovers in the oven. It was not a big deal and I enjoyed the addition of the extra kitchen counter space.

But then my Japanese host son asked if I could please buy a microwave oven. I can’t think of anything else he’s asked for, so I told him I would buy one. So I started to peruse the Craigslist ads and unsuccessfully even replied to a few $30 listings. My husband priced one at Costco that was around $90.

Then I called an appliance repair business to investigate getting our old microwave fixed. I was quoted $109 for labor, plus parts.

$109 plus parts when a brand new microwave oven is $90?! I am all about walking my talk of non-consumerism, but I simply cannot prioritize my ethics over financial responsibility. I’ve only been getting about half the number of RN shifts the last month or so, and money is tighter around here than a glass slipper on a step-sister’s foot. Sure, we have enough money to pay for all the basics, but I don’t want to have to dip into savings until it’s an official emergency. And honey, not having a microwave is hardly an emergency.

This started me thinking about some ways in which we spend more than we have to. We pay extra for clean energy electricity, we sponsor a Zambian girl through Child Fund International and we have opened up our home to a Japanese teaching assistant without any compensation.

want to provide a living wage to the appliance repair person and I want to fix instead of replace, but I just can’t make myself do it. I will continue to spend out in a few key areas, but I have to pick and choose the ways in which I can afford to do so.

What would you do in my situation? Would you pay to repair the microwave, buy a new one or keep an eye out for a used one? Would you risk a possibly dangerous home repair? Do you walk your talk? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 28, 2015 · 36 comments

Free flowerpots

  1. I was driving home from cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages on Sunday when I spied a cute cotton rug someone had put out on their parking strip, (Portland code for “Free — take me!”) so I pulled the Prius to the curb. My sniff test revealed nothing in the category of misbehaving cat, so I threw it into the back of the car. I later walked to Fred Meyer, which took me past a house where the owners had set out a dozen or so flowerpots in their parking strip. I already had my reusable shopping bags with me, so I picked out a few pretty glazed ones. Yesterday I brought the rug and two blue-and-white glazed pots to the consignment shop and was handed $17.10 for my efforts. #Collegefund
  2. I did save two glazed flowerpots to keep, and will fill them with plants already growing in the garden.
  3. My older son and I have been decluttering and cleaning his room. I discovered his expensive suit jacket on a chair that seemed to have become the favorite spot for a cat. Needless to say, it was extremely wrinkled and matted with cat hair. I donned my Downton Abbey valet alter-ego and brushed the majority of the cat hair from the wool fabric. I then took a spray bottle and spritzed down the entire thing and left it on the clothesline for the afternoon. Before bed I brought the now wrinkle-free garment back inside and used a few strips of packing tape the remove the last few cat hairs. The blazer now looks perfect and I saved myself the cost of dry cleaning. Take that, Mr. Bates!
  4. My husband replaced my crispy laptop keyboard using a $90 one he found on the internet. Of course it was secondhand, (so I can keep my buy-nothing-new Compact street cred) but my husband pointed out that my somewhat aged laptop only has used components available. It didn’t come with a speaker piece, but he was somehow able to salvage the broiled one from the old keyboard which miraculously works. He will never live this down.
  5. I cooked entirely from scratch, watched free RedBox movies and returned them on time, walked many errands, negotiated my car insurance down $448/year, batched all driving errands, brought a plate of freshly baked cookies to my son’s employer, resisted any non-food purchases, cut my husband’s hair, relisted a couple of Craigslist things that have been slow to sell and served another Tidbit Dinner last night consisting of leftover pesto pizza, carrots, roast beef and cheese, tortellini and chicken pasta.

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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Computer Literate Again!

by Katy on April 27, 2015 · 5 comments

Burned keyboard

My husband just finished replacing my laptop keyboard, so I have computer access once again!

Yay!!!!!!

This time we’ll try and keep it out of the oven.

See you tomorrow.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Not Chasing The Latest Style

by Katy on April 26, 2015 · 20 comments

Japanese Iris

Japanese iris from the garden in a long ago thrifted McCoy vase, reflected in a vintage Goodwill mirror.

You can’t get this look at Target, Ikea or Home Goods. It’ll never fall out of fashion, so there’s no possibility of falling prey to planned obsolescence.

Chase the latest style and you’ll never reach the finish line. It’s my home, unique to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 25, 2015 · 43 comments

Carrots prices

  1. I took my older son to Costco yesterday to deal with a pair of woefully misshapen wire-rimmed prescription glasses. You may recall that we just had his frames replaced, but my son fell asleep while wearing them and warped the frames all over again. The woman was somehow able to twist them back into shape using that weird hot bin of plastic crystal thingies. Since we have prescription glasses coverage, I had her check into how much a backup pair would cost, and it ended up being a mere $25 for another pair, including the extra scratch protection! We then ate a few samples and gassed up the Prius, even though it only needed a half tank of gas. Might as well get the cheap gas whenever possible!
  2. I called our insurance agent yesterday and had a long conversation with her about our car insurance. I’m wanting to increase our collision and comprehensive deductibles, but I also asked about any additional discounts we might qualify for. When I told her about how my husband bicycle commutes, she bought up the “low driver’s discount” which is going to save us $448 dollars per year! All we have to do is drive less than 8,000 miles per year and fill out odometer paperwork a few times per year! And when I call her on Monday to let her know which deductibles we’ve chosen for the cars, we’ll save even more. Hmm . . . I just realized that we didn’t even begin to discuss our home owner’s insurance.
  3. I used the PLKMP982 Redbox promo code to rent two free movies over the past two days. First was Interstellar for my husband and second was Big Hero 6, which my 19-year-old son had wanted to watch. I think I’ll likely go into withdrawal after April 30th when this code expires. (Remember, this code can be used across the U.S., but is only good for placing movies on hold through their website or app.)
  4. I walked over to Fred Meyer yesterday and picked up a discounted $1.39 gallon of milk and a bag of carrots. Only, the individual carrots were 59¢/pound and the two-pound bags were $1.18. Same price, right? Nope. I brought three heavy feeling bags over to the scale and chose one that weighed in at almost 2-1/2 pounds.
  5. I recently discovered that you can make tasty roasted vegetables in the George Foreman grill, which I had previously only used for somewhat lousy panini sandwiches. Just toss the carrots in a small amount of olive oil and roast for ten minutes or so. I’ve been on a carrot kick, but plan on trying sweet potato wedges, beets and mushrooms soon. And the best part is the flavored oil that leaks into the tray can be used repeatedly. People, this treat is heavenly! And I’m guessing a helluva lot cheaper than heating up an entire oven to 450º. (Thank you to Simply Being Mum for sharing her yummy tip!)

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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Reading Books

by Katy on April 24, 2015 · 32 comments

Sarag LazarovicI’ve been making an effort to read more lately and not just audiobooks, which has become my somewhat lazy routine. And in the past two days I’ve read two books. Yes, they’re short books, but still, two entire books!

First I read Sarah Lazarovic’s A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, which is lovely little book filled with hand lettered words and beautiful small paintings. About stuff she didn’t buy. But also about the stupid stuff she did buy, especially through her awkward teenage years.

It’s a little gem of perfection and I order all of you to read it straightaway.

Click HERE to look at Lazarovic’s website.

The Bag Lady Papers

Then I read Alexandra Penney’s The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing it All, a memoir  from someone who invested her life savings with the pyramid-scheming Bernie Madoff.

Penney is no socialite with a passively inherited income, instead she worked hard as a writer, editor and artist to earn her money, only to see it all disappear in the blink of an eye in 2008. She immediately started blogging for The Daily Beast. Apparently there was an enormous backlash against her poor-little-rich-girl story at the time, as her experience of having to downgrade from taxis to public transportation hit a nerve with many who saw her story as elitist.

But she worked hard to earn her money, and to have to stolen was just as violating as if someone has entered her home. Her financial security vanished and with it resurfaced her fear of ending up as a bag lady. (Hence the title.)

It’s a compelling read, and brings up a lot of thought provoking issues about what money is, and what it means to have or not have it.

Good stuff. Worth your time.

Have you been reading any books that earn a recommendation? Please share in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 23, 2015 · 63 comments

  1. Our evening meal last night was what I call a “Tidbit Dinner.” I took all the leftovers from the fridge and portioned everything into small amounts and served them as a single complete meal. (Think of it as a fancy tasting menu.) The four of us split a single piece of homemade pizza, leftover pesto tortellini, refried beans with homemade salsa and penne with marinara sauce. I also treated myself to the last half-cup or so of white bean soup. Our refrigerator is now free from half servings of leftovers and my family got served a tasty and decidedly frugal meal. Avoiding food waste is something each and every one of us can put a focus on. When so many Americans go without, it’s simply unethical to waste perfectly good food.
  2. My son had his weekly tutoring at the library yesterday and I was feeling aimless when it came to choosing anything to read. Instead of randomly pulling books from the shelves, I asked on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group for recommendations. Suggestions immediately came pouring in, and I ran around the library on a one-person scavenger hunt. In the end I brought home six books as well as a couple of DVD’s. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I love my library!
  3. I stopped at Goodwill on my way home from dropping my son at school the other day and bought nothing. I was ostensibly there to photograph weird stuff for the blog, but it turns out I’d left my phone at home. (Goodwill is oh-so temptingly on my route home, but I try not to make a habit of it since I honestly want for nothing.)
  4. I spent a few hours going through our filing cabinet to remove pointless papers. (I am a proponent of getting rid of stuff rather than buying storage solutions for excessive belongings.) It was a big ol’ walk down memory lane as I came across the most hilarious stuff like a babysitter instruction sheet for my now 19-year-old son. (Keep in mind I was working full-time night shifts at the time and pretty much in a psychotic daze.) Here are a few excerpts:
  • “Go ahead and just put food directly on the high chair tray. (Safety straps a must!) But if you put too much food directly on tray, he will brush everything onto the floor.”
  • “When tired, he’s cranky and falls down easily.” <— Love this!
  • “Cats are too friendly, don’t be afraid to be mean if they’re bugging you.”

5.  I wore pajama pants while driving my son to school this morning in case I’d be tempted to pop into The Grocery Outlet to scout for deals. We have plenty of food at home and anything bought unnecessarily is wasted money, even if it’s cheap to begin with.

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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Earth Day 2015

by Katy on April 22, 2015 · 22 comments

If you’re looking for something you can do to support a healthy planet, may I suggest this one thing:

Stop buying poorly made and unnecessary stuff!

Overproduction of single use and unfixable consumer goods are causing heart breaking environmental harm to our planet.

  • Fix instead of replace.
  • Resist new electronic gadgetry. Make do with the functional things you already own.
  • Buy used instead of new. Older goods are often better quality that new. (I’m looking at you, Ikea – Lord of the Particle Board!) Plus, it’s already in your community and doesn’t need to shipped across the country.
  • Share and borrow life’s infrequently used household items.
  • Turn a blind eye to flashy trends that exist solely to make us unhappy with what we already own.
  • Appreciate the abundance of what you already own, and remember that you likely possess much more than many others on this planet.
  • Consider joining the buy-nothing-new Compact, which I’ve been part of since 2007.

And unless you’re an alien life form with a reliable space ship, every day you spend on this planet is Earth Day.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Better Than Before cover

Update: The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Sara Schlageter whose name was random chosen to win a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s newest book!

I have a very special treat for Non-Consumer Advocate readers today, which is a giveaway and review for Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives. You may know Rubin’s name from her bestselling Happiness Project books, or perhaps from her current media blitz. (It’s certainly the first time that someone I’ve known has commanded the cover of Parade Magazine!)

Like her Happiness Project books, Better Than Before mixes Rubin’s first person narrative with research, both academic and anecdotal, (leaning heavily on her sister who seems quite resigned to her lifelong status as guinea pig.) Based on the premise that habits “help to preserve self control,” and that “habits make change possible by freeing us from decision making and from using self control,” this book explores what habits are, and how each of us can notch them into our daily routines.

As Rubin writes, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life.”

But wait . . .  different people form habits very differently, and we how respond to expectations greatly effects how we incorporate new habits. Rubin postulates that there are four distinct, yet overlapping habit-forming types:

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.

Questioners question all expectations, and will only meet an expectation if they believe it’s justified.

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

I went back and forth on who I am, but settled on 60% questioner and 40% rebel. (She doesn’t write about labeling by percentage, but that’s just the rebel in me!) I wish I could be an upholder, as I feel it would lead to a naturally disciplined life, but I know that since my secret and immediate first response to being asked to do pretty much anything is fuggedaboutit, it’s simply not meant to be.

I could write endlessly about this book, (and certainly took enough notes while reading it!) but I know you want me get on with the giveaway portion of this blog post!

To enter to win a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, write your name in the comments section below, along with your worst habit. I will randomly choose one winner on Friday, April 24th at 9 P.M. PST. One entry per person, U.S. residents only.

Good luck from both me and Gretchen!

Gretchen Rubin & Katy Wolk-Stanley

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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