One Frugal Thing

by Katy on February 20, 2017 · 58 comments

  1. I’m sick, that is all. I’m nothing but spaced out in front of Netflix, and my voice is so gravely that my boss jokingly called me “sir” when I called in sick. That is all. Sick.

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 February 17, 2017 · 105 comments

  1. My husband and I went to see a movie on Valentine’s Day, and because we chose a second run movie, (and it happened to be two-for-one Tuesday) we paid a mere $4 for the two of us! By the way, saw the movie Loving, based on the true story of the couple whose 1967 Supreme Court case legalized interracial marriage throughout the entire United States. Great movie, catch it while it’s still in theaters!
  2. The restaurant that we’d planned on going to on Valentine’s Day wasn’t doing their normal happy hour menu, so we opted to go to an old British style pub and split a $17 order of fish and chips. Of course we ordered extra French fries, as no marriage is strong enough to share a single order of fries. Even on Valentine’s Day.
  3. I’d been craving biscuits since seeing Loving, so I combined homemade biscuits with the last of some leftover hamburger to create yummy little sliders. Needless to say, they were delicious!
  4. I spent the day puttering around the house and ticking off little tasks from a to-do list. Very satisfying and certainly very frugal. So now I no longer have potting soil spread over my porch from a knocked over plant, the passenger seat of my Prius is refreshingly free from coffee stains and the jumble of entryway shoes has been relegated to people’s closets.
  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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{ 105 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2017 · 103 comments

  1. My sister asked me to keep an eye out for a Life Factory brand glass water bottle, so I didn’t hesitate to snap up this $24.99 one at Goodwill the other day. Of course I only paid $3.99, which was made even sweeter by it being brand new with the original tag.
  2. I worked yesterday and brought my own leftovers for lunch, and then drank the free crappy coffee and delicious tea. Someone brought chocolates and it’s none of your damned business how many I ate.
  3. My husband and I planned a Valentine’s Day meal in an historic and fancy schmancy restaurant. Of course we’ll be dining in the bar and ordering  from the inexpensive happy hour menu.
  4. I proposed and was given two new Clark Howard assignments, I’m wearing a 100% thrifted outfit, I’m wanting to get my hair cut but am waiting until my super cheap hair stylist is available, I’m not fighting the natural greying of my hair and have made plans for two frugal friend dates for later in the week.
  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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The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

You may be aware that a gorilla-shaped Flaming Hot Cheeto just sold on eBay for $99,900. Yes, you read that right, $100 shy of a hundred-thousand dollars for a single snack nugget! Why did this particular Cheeto sell for such an exorbitant amount? Because it was described as being shaped like “Harambe gorilla.” (Although really I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch, which makes it the Rorschach test of salty snacks.)

I reached out to eBay seller Valuestampsinc to get more information on their listing, but most importantly to ask the question on all of our minds:

“Did that highest bidder actually pay?”

Sadly, the answer was no, or at least not yet. “They haven’t paid and most likely they won’t, unfortunately.” Adding that, “I think people just fell into the craze of things and had no intentions of buying it.” Such a disappointment for those of us who’d added Flaming Hot Cheetos onto our grocery lists.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a seemingly worthless item has been bid up to an exorbitant amount on eBay. Although many of these listings have been for charitable causes, others have simply caught the public attention and escalated the price beyond anyone’s expectations.

You may already be familiar with these infamous eBay listings:

Pharrell’s signature hat:

Singer/songwriter Pharrell famously listed his goofy hat on eBay in 2014 to support the charity From One Hand to Another. The hat ended up selling for a staggering $44,100 to the fast food chain Arby’s, whose logo is humorously similar. This prompted Arby’s to tweet to Pharrell that “We’re HAPPY to support a great cause and get our hat back.”

Half a grilled cheese sandwich:

Although this sale goes back to 2004, it’s an absolute must on any list of crazy eBay sales. Because when you accidentally grill the face of The Virgin Mary onto the surface of your lunch, and later sell it for $28,000 on eBay, it becomes the stuff of legends.

A snippet of Justin Bieber’s hair:

Ellen Degeneres turned straw into gold after being gifted with a thatch of Justin Bieber’s hair clippings back in 2011. (Peak Bieber-fever.) Listing it on eBay in support of The Gentle Barn Foundation, the hair eventually sold for $40,668, which included a trip to the Ellen show to meet the young Bieber.

An M&M wrapper:

Sold way back in 2004, this eBay listing went for an insane $2,815.43 to the Golden Palace Casino, who has curated a Museum of Oddities, (as well as some cheap publicity) by overbidding on ridiculous and infamous items. And yes, it was simply an ordinary candy wrapper, nothing more.

Whale vomit: 

Although the jury is still out on whether ambergris comes from the front or end half of a sperm whale, it’s still going to be the luckiest day of your life if you come across a lump of it. Described as a waxy ball that smells “like a cross between squid and farmyard manure,” this rare item is used in high end perfume. So when a British couple came across a lump of it while walking their dog last year, they gleefully wrapped it in a scarf and brought it home. Expected to sell for $70,000, it was certainly the find of a lifetime. No news on the fate of the scarf though.

Although you may never find your own chunk of ambergris or have enough elusive celebrity caché to bring attention to a wacky eBay listing, you can still strike gold from otherwise overlooked items. Although far from $100,000 Cheeto, members of an eBay seller’s group had these stories to share:

Samantha:

“A Sadler Tea Set of tea pot, sugar basin and creamer. 1940’s/50’s era worth about $250 normally . . . went ballistic . . . bidders fighting in the last few mins .  . . sold for $1920.00. It was amazing timing as it was desperately needed at the time.”

Angela:

$2191.79 for a vintage Gillette Fat Toggle Razor.”

Jen:

“I started selling on eBay in 2005 when Macy’s announced they had bought Marshall Field’s. I could visit my local Marshall Field’s store and buy literally anything with their logo and sell it on EBay for 2-3 times the amount I paid. The highlight was after Christmas that year when I found an unmarked large white box on a clearance table which turned out to be a huge snow globe shaped like the downtown Chicago store; I paid $15 and sold it on eBay for $520.

Katy:

This last story is mine from back in 2004, when eBay was hot, hot, hot. I’d been to Goodwill and discovered a jumble of vintage Sasha dolls priced at $3-$5 apiece. (I recognized them from having owned one as a child.) I scooped them up and quickly listed them on eBay. I ended up making over $2000 from the dolls, including one that sold for $1000, as she was apparently a rare specimen. I’ve since found two others, although sadly the pre-recession days of wanton spending are behind us, so they only sell for $100 or so.

New to eBay and need a tutorial on how to get started? Check out this Clark Howard piece on how to use eBay’s Completed Listings section to research how much things actually sell for. You’ll likely be surprised, as what you think is valuable may not be so, but what you consider to be worthless may just be your Harambe-shaped Cheeto or maybe even your own priceless chunk of whale vomit.

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 February 12, 2017 · 45 comments

  1. I borrowed a beautiful hardback book about Timberline Lodge from my father in preparation for sneaking into inviting myself to my husband’s work conference in April. I absolutely love all the WPA artisan work from the 1930’s, and reading about the history and process of building the lodge is fascinating.
  2. I went up to Mt Hood on Friday and popped into the newest Goodwill Superstore in Sandy along the way. Although I didn’t buy anything, I was impressed by the organization and vastness of the space. One employee told me how much she’s looking forward to working in the new facility, especially since the old building apparently had problems with heating and cooling.
  3. I assembled a mishmash of refrigerator tidbits and created a delicious stir-fry using cabbage, onion, carrot, cauliflower and noodles. We’ll be eating leftovers for days, which is as it should be.
  4. I’ve already packed my work lunch for tomorrow, (the last of some chicken and rice) I continue to keep the house at 63° during the day and 58° at night, my father gave me a loaf of homemade bread and I realize that I’ve bought nothing beyond food and absolute essentials in 2017.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear jet or a vulgar and ethically questionable 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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Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on February 10, 2017 · 46 comments

It’s time for another Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will blog post, as it’s been a couple of months since I’ve published one of these goodies. Today’s items are from a few different visits to my Portland area Goodwills.

First off I present to you this framed print showcasing a couple of famous characters from the TV show Portlandia. (Because when thrifting in Portland, it’s pretty much inevitable.) Plus, I want you to enjoy that both Carrie and Fred are framed by vaginal goodness.

Of course there were a number of targeted savings banks, of which the rocking “Retirement Fund” granny is a popular example. I sometimes wonder if people buy her and simply donate her back, and I’m just seeing the same one over and over again.

I like to think that her name is “Penny.”

I was a bit horrified by this “Mommy’s Little Wingman” onesie, as my understanding of “wingman” is that it mostly refers to a buddy who helps you to pick up members of the opposite sex while barhopping.

I was super intruiged by this vintage burl wood standing lamp. At once turd-like, but also like something dear old grand-dad would have crafted in his workshop.

Check out the detail in the wood, it even had an imbedded stone towards the bottom! I can actually see how this lamp would look really cool topped with a crisp lampshade.

In the category of only-given-as-a-gift, I offer up this pillow/remote control. And yes, it was a real remote, as I could feel the clicks when I pressed on the buttons.

The one item I saw, and really should have bought was this vintage quilt:

The pastel colors would have looked perfect in my spare bedroom, but somehow I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Even though it was only ten bucks.


Another piece that I should have bought was this groovy Steelcase office chair. This is a prime example of sturdy timeless mid-century design that will never go out of style. (And holy hell, that chrome is to die for!) However, I think it was priced higher than I wanted to pay. Although looking at this photo now, I now believe that I made a grievous error.

For those who consider themselves a germ-o-phobe, (or for those who simply shy away from putting their mouths on thrift store items) I want you to revel in this shelf of used recorders.

You know that unattended kids have probably been blowing them on all day long.

That gag reflex? It’s my gift to you.

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 February 8, 2017 · 102 comments

  1. I worked at the hospital all yesterday, and as always I brought my own food, drank the free crappy coffee and steeped mugs of delicious free tea. I packaged my leftovers in reusable Pyrex, and brought my own silverware and a cloth napkin. However, I broke my most recent Goodwill mug. But that’s okay as I saved the silicone lid, which I’ll match to a new Goodwill travel mug.
  2. I spent some random frequent flyer miles to order subscriptions to Real Simple and Money magazines. It’s not an airline that I regularly use, so those miles would never have added up to enough for a free flight. The website is MagsforMiles, and they contract with almost all the major airlines.
  3. I made my almost daily phone calls to senators Jeff Merkely and Ron Wyden to thank them and encourage them to continue fighting against Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Citizen involvement is free.
  4. My friend gave me a guitar-shaped Wilton cake pan, (which I’ll use for my son’s birthday) I renewed my library books, I fine tuned our February budget, I texted my daily to-do list to my sister, I picked up Costco dog food for my father, as he doesn’t have a membership and I proposed and was then assigned two new Clark Howard articles.
  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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If you have a home to clean, you likely already have your favorite brands. Maybe it’s Shout to pre-treat your laundry, Pine Sol for the kitchen and Bon Ami in the bathroom; after all, it’s what your parents used. But there’s a brand you’re likely unaware of that’s highly rated, yet insanely cheap. The brand is LA’s Totally Awesome, and despite the goofy name, it has legions of die-hard fans. Sold at dollar stores such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General, the products retail for a single dollar and are pretty much the bargain of the century.

I’ve been using their knock-off Oxyclean for years, and speak from experience when I write that this product is every bit as good as its name brand competitor. I use it in my laundry, I use it to pre-treat stains and I dilute it for my rug shampooer. Officially called “LA’s Totally Awesome Power Oxygen Base Cleaner,” this small container packs a wallop. The directions suggest that you “Use in the bathroom and kitchen to remove scummy residue from tubs, tile, floors, sinks, shower doors and curtains. Use outdoors to clean decks, garbage cans, lawn furniture and more.” Not too shabby for a one dollar product!

You may shy away from cheap cleaners due to environmental or health concerns, but LA’s Totally Awesome oxygen cleaner received an “A” from the Environmental Working Group. (Considered the standard for rating the toxicity of personal care products.)

I figured that this product was an anomaly, but I recently joined the 144,000+ member Laundry Love & Cleaning Science Facebook group and learned that I was not alone in my adoration for this line of cleaners. The LA’s Totally Awesome All Purpose Concentrated Cleaner/Degreaser Spot Remover has its own legions of loyal fans. Almost every “how do I remove this stain?” question is answered with “Have you tried LA’s Totally Awesome?” I knew I needed to give it a try. A quick trip to The Dollar Tree secured my own bottle, and I came home ready to scrub down my home.

A quick read through the label taught me that the concentrated cleaner/degreaser is formulated to work on a multitude of surfaces, from air conditioners to rust stains, chrome to driveways. In all, the bottle includes directions for 43 different types of surfaces.

First up? My stovetop. It had been a couple of days since I’d given the stove a good cleaning, so it was the perfect opportunity to test out the degreaser’s efficacy. (I normally procrastinate this job, as I hate the inevitable scrubbing.) I read the instructions and diluted the liquid 5:1. I got out an empty bottle, mixed up some solution and then gave the surface a thorough spraying. I set an alarm for 15 minutes and walked away. I came back and miraculously was able to wipe off the baked on splatters with nothing more than a soft sponge. No scrubbing!

I then put the LA’s Awesome cleaner/degreaser to the test on my bathroom tiles. I live in moisture plagued Oregon, so mildew is a constant challenge, but this product surpassed my expectations. Again I sprayed the product, set an alarm and walked away. I came back and was happy to discover that almost all of the nastiness simply rinsed away, with just a small amount of scrubbing in a few stubborn areas.

Need more evidence? You can watch this YouTube video of a woman using LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner/degreaser to remove stains from her truck upholstery, or you could read this online review from a woman who used it to remove tree sap from her car. You might even want to read this testimonial from a woman who used it to save her laundry after accidentally sending a crayon through the dryer.

Need one more reason to check out the LA’s Totally Awesome cleaning line? They’re made right here in the U.S.A. with “Manufacturing and distribution centers in West Memphis, Arkansas, and Orange County, California.”

You may hesitate to budge from your brand loyalty, but it’s worth giving LA’s Totally Awesome products a try. After all, they’re only a buck. What have you got to lose?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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If you’re the end of your first pregnancy, you’re likely overwhelmed with advice on what to pack for the hospital. Make the mistake of doing an internet search to answer this question, and you’ll fall down into a deep well of conflicting information. Take everyone’s advice and you’ll end up lugging so much stuff to and from the hospital that you won’t have room for the baby!

So who should you ask? Nurses. I’ve worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 22 years, and I’m constantly mystified by the excessive amounts of stuff that first time moms bring with them to the hospital. All bright eyed and excited on admit, and then exhausted and sore upon discharge. Trust me, that stuff you thought you needed is a straight up burden when it comes time to pack up and leave.

What do you absolutely need to pack for the hospital?

Toiletries and a car seat. Seriously, that’s it. And in actuality, we have toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, combs and brushes if you didn’t bring your own. Patients come in all the time directly from their doctor’s offices with nothing more than whatever happens to be in their purses.

However, it can be nice to have some comforts of home. I polled a large number of labor and delivery nurses and this is what they say to bring (and not bring) to the hospital. Plus some bonus advice for your visitors.

Bring this stuff:

A car seat, your insurance information and the name of your pediatrician. These are the only things you absolutely must bring to the hospital. I’m always amazed by people who schlep in enough stuff to scale Everest, yet forgot to bring the name of their pediatrician. The hospital will notify your pediatrician’s office after the baby is born, and need that name in case there are medical issues. And you’ll do yourself a favor to practice installing that car seat ahead of time.

Lip balm and lotion. Hospitals are very dry environments, and labor is hard work. Forget your lip balm and you’ll be miserable.

A single outfit in both 0-3 month and 3-6 month sizes. You never know how big your baby will be, so come prepared. Why just a single outfit? Hospital babies are kept in just a diaper and a shirt to accommodate vital signs and frequent skin-to-skin time. The outfit is for the ride home.

One baby blanket, two if it’s winter. This is to tuck around the baby in the car seat.

Two comfortable pillows in non-white pillow cases. Hospital pillows are notoriously dreadful, so you’ll be more comfortable if you bring your own ones from home. Why non-white pillowcases? There can be a lot of quick activity in labor, and you don’t want to risk your pillows getting lost in the shuffle. Plus, they’ll come in handy when it comes time to prop your baby up for breastfeeding. If you have a Cesarean Section, a pillow is very helpful to splint against the incision during the bumpy ride home.

Pajamas or a nightgown that opens in the front. Unbuttoning your top is much more conducive to breastfeeding than lifting your shirt or being completely bare. Although the hospital will provide a gown, it’s nice to wear something of your own during your post partum stay.

Slippers or flip flops. We do our best to keep our hospital rooms as hygienic as possible, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to go barefoot. Flip flops are handy for showering both while in labor and then afterwards.

A pacifier. Maternity wards are pro-breastfeeding and we aren’t allowed to dispense pacifiers, as they’re associated with nipple confusion. So if you want one, you’ll have to bring your own.

A change of clothes for your partner, including something that’s comfortable to sleep in. Also, if your partner is planning to get into the jacuzzi with you during labor, I beg of you to bring swim trunks for him. Your labor nurse is unfazed by your nudity, but only your’s. Please . . .

Pony tail holders. You’ll likely spend a fair amount of time in bed, and pigtails are the best way to avoid a sweaty nest of bedhead.

Snacks for dad. Although hospital cafeterias are good about packing food to go, it’s better to have some food on hand. Granola bars, crackers and other shelf stable snacks can keep a partner going when they want to stay by your side.
A comfy outfit to wear when you leave the hospital. You’ll still be big after delivery, so don’t be surprised if your pre-pregnancy clothing doesn’t fit. Think loose yoga pants and slip on shoes.

Electronic chargers. Your phone is going to be buzzing up a storm when your friends and family find about about the baby, so make sure you can keep everything at 100%.

Entertainment. A pack of cards and a book can come in handy for a labor that may last for days. Especially if you’re being induced.

Don’t bring this stuff:

A Boppy pillow. Not only are they enormous, but we have breastfeeding pillows on hand, plus those hospital pillows actually work great for this function. You’ll mostly be breastfeeding while reclined, especially if you’ve had a Cesarean Section, and Boppys only work for breastfeeding while sitting upright. Save it for home.

A birthing ball. We already have birthing balls in multiple sizes, so leave this enormous object at home as well. You’ll be happy when it comes time to pack up and head out.

Scented items such as essential oil diffusers or candles. Not only are open flames forbidden in a hospital setting, (oxygen is highly flammable) but what you might consider to be a soothing scent might be an allergen trigger to those around you. These smells linger once you’ve left your room and can even be a problem for those outside your room. Most hospitals are scent-free zones so please leave your lavender oil at home.

Anything that plugs in beyond your electronics chargers. Hospitals are extremely detailed about fire prevention, (as well you want them to be!) If it plugs in, leave it at home.

A million random visitors. Birth is a very private experience, and having endless numbers of people at the hospital can be a barrier to your coping capabilities and breastfeeding success. Of course your family and friends are excited about your new addition, but there will be plenty of opportunities to visit you at home once you’re recovered. (I recommend that you let everyone beyond immediate family know this ahead of time to avoid hurt feelings.) It’s not uncommon for new moms to dangerously lengthen the time between breastfeeding sessions because of an endless trickle of visitors.

My hospital is currently under flu restrictions, and I liked the way this one sign was worded:

“Visitors to the maternity unit are limited to those essential to a patient’s emotional well-being and care.”

Are your neighbors, extended family and husband’s co-workers essential to your well being? Consider having them wait to visit with you until you’re back home.

What should visitors bring?

Food for your partner. Takeout from your favorite restaurant can be a real lifesaver for someone who may have been surviving for days on granola bars and bland hospital food. A fresh hot coffee can be a refreshing treat as well.

A small gift for the older sibling. No child is immune to feeling jealous of the attention that a newborn receives, so these gifts can be very special.

But visitors shouldn’t bring . . . 

Latex balloons. Hospitals are latex-free zones, so don’t waste your money on these highly allergic items. Frankly, don’t bring any balloons, as they’re a cumbersome item when a new parent’s should be 100% focused on their sweet baby.

Huge bags of baby gifts. Yes, those baby outfits, teddy bears and blankets are adorable beyond belief, but they needlessly add to the burdensome amount of stuff that sleep deprived moms and dads are already dealing with. This may seem overly strict, but watch a few parents receive human sized stuffed animals, and you’ll see my point.

Conclusion

Maternity nurses are your best friend, your advocate, your champion though the amazing journey of birth. We’ll provide everything you need, from slipper socks to forgotten toiletries. We’ve seen it all, and we want what’s best for you and your baby. You give birth to your new baby, we’ll provide the rest.

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 January 24, 2017 · 123 comments

  1. I went to The Dollar Tree to pick up a couple of the LA’s Awesome brand cleaning supplies. I already buy their knock-off Oxyclean, which I confirm to be “awesome.” (I use it in my laundry, but also in my Bissell rug shampooer.) I’d read in the Laundry Love and Cleaning Science Facebook group that some of the other products in this line are amazing as well, so I thought I’d give them a try.
  2. I then pointed the Prius towards Costco for a roasted chicken plus a couple other items. I only bought the items on my list, (yogurt and coffee) and enjoyed a couple free tasty samples. This $5 chicken will get my husband and I through at least four meals, and make meal times easier for a certain frugality blogger who’s going through a thoroughly unmotivated cooking phase.
  3. I stopped into one of my favorite Goodwill stores to see if I could find anything to either flip or photograph for a blog post. Nothing really caught my eye, although I did see that they were selling one of the newborn blankets from my place of work. I’m sure that other local hospitals have the same blankets, but I still thought it was kind of funny. Some patient enjoyed her five finger discount.
  4. I realized that my husband has a work conference this spring at nearby Timberline Lodge. I love, love, love Timberline Lodge, but have never stayed there. (It’s the place used for the exteriors in the original The Shining.) I might as well tag along and enjoy a free vacation, as his employer will be paying for the room. Of course I won’t take advantage of any unearned freebies, (and he’ll let his employer know) but since he’ll have a room, I’m totally horning in!
  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.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
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{ 123 comments }