Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on April 18, 2016 · 17 comments

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Advocate photo essay, as spring is in the air and the world is bright and beautiful!

My friend Gail has solved a problem I didn’t even know I had, which was how to maintain an organized shopping list when you buy from multiple sources. Multiple lists, all neatly organized and stuck onto the fridge with magnet clips.

So very satisfying . . . .

Shopping lists

My clothesline has been a sad squirrel-eaten mossy tangle in my backyard all year, but the (dare I say it?) hot Portland weather has been laundry shaming me. So today I decided to do something about it. I brought in all my plastic hangers and sent them through a dishwasher cycle.

Dishwasher hangers

I scrubbed and bleached all the clothespins. They were absolutely slimy and disgusting, so I though for sure it was wasted effort, but look how nicely they cleaned up!

Before & after clothespins

I took the two nibbled lengths of clothesline and was able to tie a knot and create a single clothesline for now.

No laundry shame in my game. Well, except for the underwear in this photo. Sorry . . .

Clothesline selfie 2016!

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 17, 2016 · 58 comments

  1. I went to a coworker’s retirement party on Friday, which called for people to bring “an appetizer.” My day had been busy, as my friend Denise was in town and I wanted to make sure we got a chance to meet up in person. I was tempted to A: Buy something to bring or B: Flake out as I really didn’t have time to shop for appetizer ingredients. Instead I baked up a long skinny loaf of my one-hour bread and mixed up a pot of my kale pesto from ingredients I already had on hand. My addition to the potluck was a hit as people were impressed that I’d made my own bread. I’m so happy that I went as it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!
  2. Denise and I met to catch up and enjoy a cup of coffee together. The concierge at her hotel had recommended a nearby chain, but instead we drove over to a locally owned cafe where coffee was priced at just $1.50 per cup, plus served in reusable mugs with stainless steel spoons. We enjoyed a nice walk together and reconnected without creating any garbage or spending too much money.
  3. I worked both Thursday and Saturday at the hospital and brought the last of some leftover homemade black bean chili that no one else in my family seemed to want. It was perfectly good and served to fill me up in the middle of my busy labor and delivery shifts. I packed my own cloth napkins from home, as well as reusable silverware and my ceramic travel mug. Striving for zero waste is often pretty simple.
  4. I woke this morning to find we were out of milk. I start each day with a cup of milky tea, so I almost started crying. (I really like my tea!) However, my next door neighbor was generous enough to fill a mug with milk so the three of us could enjoy our teas and coffee. That was a close one, people. That was a close one.
  5. I wrote two Clark Howard pieces this week which will help bolster the never ending college fund. I plan on starting a draft on one more today, and will hopefully get that one turned in by tomorrow.

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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5 things you should repair instead of replace

The following post also appears over at ClarkHoward.com today.

Consumer goods are so cheap these days, you may assume that it’s better to buy new instead of repair. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, your community may no longer include the mom and pop economy that once supported cobblers, TV repairmen and tailors, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to throw away your easily repaired belongings. Whether you’re taking advantage of a warranty or attempting a DIY repair at home, you can save yourself a ton of cash.

Cell phone screens

Judging by how many of us have shattered our cell phone screens, you’d think they came coated in melted butter. Luckily a broken cell screen is no death sentence. Before you take it as an opportunity to upgrade your phone or hire out the task, you’d be smart to investigate this repair as a DIY job. The website iFixit.com sells iPhone repair kits ranging from the first generation to the latest 6s Plus. For a relatively low price you receive tools, supplies and access to a detailed YouTube video that simplifies the repair enough for us laypeople. Have a Android, not an iPhone? You can order repair kits for those as well!

Anything fabric

Grandma might’ve had the skills to turn a collar and could likely outfit a wagonload of kids in homemade clothing without batting an eye, but even you can accomplish at least a few simple mending tasks. As long as you have YouTube and a needle and thread, you can replace a missing button, resew a opened seam or stitch a hem back up. Your rudimentary sewing skills can also serve beyond the wardrobe, as towels and sheets can often be brought back to life with nothing more than a few simple stitches. (I cannot be the only one whose binding comes undone on her otherwise perfectly good towels!) A few discreet stitches can often keep a small tear or loose seam from becoming an unfixable disaster. Have a sewing job that’s beyond your abilities? Ask your local dry cleaner, who can usually tackle the job.

Luggage and purses

Whether it’s a busted zipper or a loose liner, purses and luggage are definitely worth repairing. Most dry cleaners can easily fix zippers or liners, but you might want to first look up the warranty on your product, as many manufacturers guarantee their products and will repair or even replace their damaged items for free.

Sneakers

Whether you’re a diehard sneakerhead or just a smart consumer who gets irritated when their shoes fall apart, Shoe Goo is the product for you. Described as “ideal for fixing worn soles or damaged heels,” this $5.99 tube of adhesive can lengthen the life of your shoes and help you keep your hard earned money in your pocket. There’s enough in each tube for multiple repairs, so it’ll pay for itself in no time flat.

Wood furniture

It’s not uncommon for old wood furniture to look like it needs to be replaced, when really all it requires is a bit of TLC. You don’t need your own PBS show to complete the task, as a coat of Old English Scratch Cover can hide unsightly nicks and scratches to restore great aunt Ethel’s armoire. Prefer a funky modern look? Locate some bargain Habitat ReStore paint to channel your inner artist and bring new life to an old piece of furniture. (Check out this scrappy curbside table that I transformed a few years ago!) Chances are that your worn looking wooden furniture is higher quality than anything you’ll find at a mass retailer, so it’s worth it to put a few hours into refurbishing.

Conclusion

Don’t view a torn or broken item as an opportunity to buy new, instead look at it as an opportunity to show off your impressive DIY skills. Modern day consumer goods are so cheap that it’s tempting to replace instead of repair, but you’ll actually save money (and help the environment) by choosing to extend the life of your belongings. Keep your money for the things that really matter.

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!

Here’s the never-ending electrical dilemma:

When leaving a room for just a short period of time, should you turn the lights off or leave them on?

Some will argue to always turn off bulbs,  even if a room will be re-entered in the near future.

Others counter to leave them on, because they believe it takes more energy to restart a bulb than to simply leave it on.

Opinions are curiously strong on this subject, almost as bad as the toilet paper roll dilemma. (spin over, or under?)

Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” television show addressed this issue from a scientific standpoint.

Here’s what they came up with:

“Hypothesis: The “start up” burst of energy consumed more energy than leaving the lights on continually.

Procedure/Experimental Design: The MythBusters test common type of lightbulbs: incandecent, flourescent, metal hylide, and even an LED.

Results: Even with the flourescent bulb having the largest start-up surge, needing to be off for 23 seconds before it is more energy efficient to leave it off, it is still a small amount of time before it is more energy efficient to leave them off.

Conclusion: It is better to turn the lights off when leaving the room even for a brief instant.”

So there you have it.

Turn your lights off unless you are coming back within 23 seconds.

For me though, I am highly distractible and likely to find something to prevent my 23 second return. (A shiny pebble or juicy e-mail perhaps?)

The toilet paper direction debate? Finer minds than mine have failed to bring consensus, so I’ll just have to leave this one to those fancy-schmancy think tank folks.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five Frugal Fails

by Katy on April 11, 2016 · 69 comments

You may assume that as The Non-Consumer Advocate, I casually saunter from frugal win to frugal win without the tiniest misstep. Wrong! I make errors. Here are five of them.

  1. I stopped at The Grocery Outlet on my way home from dropping my son at school this morning. I was feeling all frugal and accomplished, as I’d filled two big bags with quality food for a mere $39. I was mentally patting myself on the back when the clerk handed me my receipt, and pointed out that “There’s a $3 coupon at the bottom to use on your next shopping trip!” I had one of those coupons in my wallet but had forgotten to use it! I could have fished it out and asked her if it could be used retroactively, but I simply wasn’t up for being that customer. Crud.
  2. I had a required three hour class for work that I’d been dreading, and had scheduled to take at the beginning of May. I could have scheduled it any time over the past month, but had been extremely passive about just getting it over with. My plan had been to take it outside of a regular work shift, as at least I’d receive an extra three hours of RN pay. Instead, I was sent to go take it during a slow period at work on Friday which meant I received zero extra pay. Crap.
  3. I stopped at my mother’s house over the weekend to help move a heavy piece of furniture from one of her guest cottages. My mom had some tangerines to send home with me as a thank you, but I completely forgot to grab them. Oops.
  4. I still haven’t repaired or replaced my squirrel chomped clothesline, which means that I let a perfectly good Portland heat wave come and go without even a minute air drying my laundry. Very bad frugal Oregonian!
  5. I bought a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you failed at recently?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 69 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 10, 2016 · 71 comments

Hanging Fuchsias

  1. I made sure to get myself over to Fred Meyer’s Fuchsia Saturday, which ties with Halloween as my favorite annual holiday. (nyuk, nyuk, pun intended!) Five fuchsia starts for $3, plus they provide free potting soil and plant up your container for free?! It’s my jam. Nine dollars out of pocket and I now have three pretty hanging baskets to look at out my kitchen window for the year. Almost makes up for the lawn that converted itself into a meadow of moss.
  2. I carefully placed the hanging baskets into the back of the Prius and then ran into the store to pick up a few groceries. I was in a hurry, as I’d left a houseguest alone at the house, and didn’t want to be rude. I quickly grabbed my eggs, bulk bay leaves, onions, bananas, apples, vinegar and milk, making sure to locate a gallon that had reached its sell-by date, which brought the price down to a budget-friendly dollar. I got home and then realized that I’d abandoned the milk and vinegar in the bottom of the cart, which prompted some rather unladylike language. (I’m a real class act, just call me “The Cursing Hostess.”) I did walk back to the store an hour or so later, showed my receipt and located my exact gallon of milk and another gallon of vinegar. Some days are just like this.
  3. My younger son set up a checking account with our credit union, so I helped him create an online budget with Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar.com. He works around ten hours per week, plus earns a bit here and there helping to clean my mother’s guest cottages. He has no actual expenses at this point in his life, but that will be changing soon when he heads off to college in the fall. He was inspired to increase his income and is looking to go through some of his old stuff with an eye for resale. The apple did not fall far from the tree with this one.
  4. I worked both Thursday and Friday this past week, and I made sure to bring my own lunches and drink the free crappy coffee and the free lovely tea. I’d pre-prepared three pans of enchiladas on Wednesday, and we ended up eating them both evenings that I worked. Delicious and satisfying, they helped steer my husband away from the temptation of takeout, or more likely, meals that require expensive and finicky ingredients that end up costing more than takeout would have. Bless his heart.
  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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April is Financial Literacy Month, which makes this photo both timely and helpful, as everyone should save up for a “rainy day fund.” Of course, it should probably be much more money than what would fit in this miniscule savings bank.

“Wow, I’ve saved up seven bucks, I’m set now!”

Sorry, dude. Not enough.

Rainy Day fund

I like a good home decor object as much as any lifestyle blogger, but sometimes a pillow is guilty of giving out some frankly terrible advice:

“How to handle stress like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away.”

Must be from the new Martha Stewart line. Prison really changed her.

Worst pillow

I enjoy the pursuit of financial security as much as any other dog urine pillow enthusiast, but this “I love money” mug confused me completely.

  • Why is the “I love money” crossed out?
  • Why is the mug anxious looking with blushing cheeks?
  • What’s with the one tiny ear/handle?
  • How could anyone have donated this mug to Goodwill?

Life is full of financial mysteries.

I love money

Need better advice than the above pillow? How about this bit of wisdom:

“Bitchalittle you’ll feel better.”

There now, don’t you feel better?

Helpful advice

I know you’re now thinking:

“Wow, Katy’s blog is so inspiring and full of practical and useful information!”

You’re welcome, people. You’re welcome!

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 6, 2016 · 46 comments

Crystallized honey

  1. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages last night and came home with a few goodies. This included two boxes of cereal, a small jar of garlic powder and the above large bottle of Costco brand honey. These sell new for $13.99, which was fresh in my mind since I’d just stocked up yesterday. Arghhh!! Yes, it was crystallized, but we’re due for record high temperatures here in Portland over the next few days, so I simply set it on our sunny porch to re-liquify. I’m 100% unconcerned that this honey was marked with a sell-by date of January 2016, as honey actually has an eternal shelf life! Too bad I’d already opened the brand new container that I’d  just bought!
  2. I enjoyed a nice walk and chat with my friend Lise the other day, which I jokingly referred to as “shopping with my friend Lise.” Why “shopping?” The sunny Portland weather has prompted residents to put their excess stuff out for free again, which doesn’t happen much in rainy weather, (we must have stopped at four promising piles!) I ended up buying gleaning two stainless steel forks, (perfect for work lunches) and a perfectly nice wooden beadboard style wastebasket for my older son’s room. (He took his wastebasket with him to college.) Of course, I also found a penny on the sidewalk.
  3. I’m assembling a couple pans of enchiladas today as I recently stocked up on El Pato brand green enchilada sauce at The Grocery Outlet. I’m cooking beans in the slow cooker, rice in the rice cooker and already have a nice supply of Tillamook white cheddar cheese from when it was on sale a couple of weeks ago. Not only will we have a premade dinner for later this week, we’ll also enjoy a backup meal in the freezer for one of those inevitable evenings where dinner prep sounds as appealing as an unanesthetized root canal. Having a few frozen meals saves us from expensive takeout and restaurants.
  4. My stepfather is retiring from his legal practice and has a number of random items that are up for grabs. Although I could really accept a ton of stuff, I’ve only accepted an unopened ream of paper. Free stuff, but not a hoarder amount of free stuff.
  5. I had somehow accumulated too much plastic silverware, so I washed it all up and listed it on my Buy Nothing group. (I swear it multiplies in the night!) I never buy plastic silverware, so this was all stuff that somehow entered our orbit.

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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{ 46 comments }

Tonya Harding and Cabbage

by Katy on April 5, 2016 · 31 comments

Tonya Harding's trunk

Although I try to blog six days a week, (I take Saturdays off) somehow I was remiss both yesterday and today. I tried to piece together a quick blog post this morning before taking my son to school, but was having trouble getting the photos from my phone to my laptop. My thinking was that I’d come home, write up today’s blog and then get started with errands, chores and tasks. But I realized that if I allowed myself the comfort of home, I was unlikely to head out again as my household tasks and e-mail inbox are never ending attention demons.

So I pointed my Prius out to the world at large and got started with my errands. Here’s where I went:

  • Grocery Outlet
  • Costco
  • Costco gas station
  • Dave’s Killer Bread
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Trader Joe’s

Not super enjoyable, but we were getting dangerously low on important items such as toilet paper, cat food and bread. It’s much preferable to run all my errands at once rather than piecemeal, so I steeled myself for a few hours of adulting and checked everything from my list. (Id Katy would have preferred to go home and watch a couple episodes of House of Cards, but Ego Katy wore her big girl pants.)

Anyway, my freezer and pantry are full once again, and thanks to some cheap Grocery Outlet cabbage, I’ve got an enormous pot of Cabbage Patch Stew bubbling on the stove.

That photo heavy blog post? It can wait until tomorrow. Until then, enjoy the above photo seen in a the window of a nearby junk shop.

Full time bloggers? I don’t know how they do it all.

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, 2016 · 70 comments

Meatloaf cake

  1. My husband was given Portland Thorns (women’s MLS) soccer tickets, but we were unable to use them which was a huge bummer since they were in a fancy suite. However, we were able to pass them along to a friend, who then thanked us with a nice bottle of red wine.
  2. I splurged on last night’s April Fool’s dinner, which was a meatloaf, prepared in the shape of a layer cake and frosted with mashed potatoes. (My proud vegetarian father was with me when I bought the hamburger, and was shocked that it cost $7.99-per-pound at schwanky New Seasons.) However, I balanced it out with tonight’s burrito meal featuring slow cooked black beans and roasted potatoes. One expensive meal plus one extremely cheap meal level out to two reasonably priced meals.
  3. I put together a Buy Nothing group post offering a stack of recent decor magazines, and then wrote an additional post asking for a pair of sunglasses. Crossing my fingers, as my old sunglasses are an embarrassment due to one arm being missing. Yeah, I’m that lady.
  4. Our backyard lawn has once again bitten the dust, and it’s my husband’s instinct to reseed it as we do, every damned year. This means a yard that can’t be walked on for ages, plus watering and mowing. I say let the moss take over and accept it for what it is, which is deeply shady. I’m tempted to throw down a bed of mulch and then arrange outdoor furniture and potted plants. I am done fighting nature!
  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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