Five Frugal Things

by Katy on November 3, 2016 · 71 comments

Rancid almonds

  1. I worked yesterday and brought lunch from home, even though it was a banana and an uninspired bowl of leftover chicken soup. I drank the free coffee as well as the free tea. I drove my used, (but paid for) car home and then sat on the couch with my husband to watch the end of the world series. I lived in Chicago for a summer in 1987, so I was thrilled with the result. (Although I did go to college in Yellow Springs, Ohio, so I kind of liked both teams.)
  2. I’m returning a $6.99 bag of whole almonds to Fred Meyer, as they were both stale and slightly rancid.
  3. I’m cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages this afternoon which will add a little extra to the kids’ college fund. The next $15,000 payment is due on January 1st, so I’m focused on creating a big ol’ pile of cash. I’m taking a week off from work in early December to visit my sister’s family in New York, which will create one crappy paycheck. (I’m in a position at the hospital where I don’t receive any sick or vacation pay.) I know we’ll have enough money, but I don’t want it to be a last minute scramble.
  4. I’m researching frugal hacks for my trip to New York City. I’ll be flying into Newark airport in the afternoon, and then plan on taking a short Amtrak trip into Penn station, where I’ll be able to catch the subway to The Bronx. It sounds convoluted, but only the first part is something I haven’t done before. I’m also planning on dragging my sister on a free tour of the Fifth Avenue library, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve certainly been into this building before, but I’ve never done more than wander aimlessly. So much great free stuff to do in NYC! Plus I’ll be able to bring holiday and birthday gifts to my sister’s family in person, which will save me around $35.
  5. My friend Lise is giving me three uncut pumpkins, which I’ll turn into puree and freeze in two-cup portions. This seems to be a standard amount for recipes, which has worked out well in the past. I do need to buy new freezer bags, but I’ll wash and reuse them.

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 November 1, 2016 · 103 comments

Life Factory bottle

  1. I finally found a glass water bottle to replace the one I broke while dropping my older son at college. Priced at only $2.99, this Goodwill one was a no brainer. The best part is that since I saved the lid from my old one, I don’t have to use the is-it-really-clean? sippy top from the thrifted one. Thank you, LifeFactory for making your components interchangeable, even though I went from a 12-ounce to a 16-ounce bottle!
  2. I decorated our front porch using Halloween items that an elderly neighbor gave to us at least ten years ago. She’d been that person who went overboard making her house as creepy as possible, but was stepping back from the effort. We’ve been using these items ever since, which means we’ve never spent a penny on Halloween decor. Our skeletons, skulls, spiders, black cats and ravens sit out for one night per year and should conceivably last forever. I received so much stuff initially that we were even able to share with our next door neighbors.
  3. I picked up a soaking wet cashmere scarf that had been repeatedly driven over on a local busy street. It was crusted with slimy leaves, but I figured I’d at least try to rejuvenate it. The tag read “dry clean only,” but instead I removed the leaves and threw it into the gentle cycle with a squirt of dishwashing liquid. I need to pick off a few extraneous fluffy bits, but otherwise it’s now good to go.
  4. I bought a couple of items while at Goodwill yesterday that I’ll post on Craigslist. This included a $25 Specialized brand girl’s bike that retails for $325 and a $10 Griswold brand cast iron skillet that I should be able to sell for $50. Not too shabby, and the $140 that I’ll net will come in very handy towards the kids’ next college tuition payment.
  5. I gave my friend Lise a stash of used plastic bags for her dog poop needs, I gifted a few jars of applesauce to friends and family, I’ll be returning two bags of unopened Halloween candy, I scheduled an extra eight hour hospital shift, I returned unused canning supplies that didn’t get opened, I mailed out one of my son’s used textbooks that I sold through Half.com, I was able to create three meals from a single pre-roasted chicken and 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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Titanic Applesauce

by Katy on October 27, 2016 · 21 comments

Titanic window

Some might say that canning and preserving is about as sexy as great aunt Ethel’s housedress, but others argue that it’s as scintillating as a certain scene from the movie Titanic.

I spent the better part of today making 35 jars of applesauce, and this was the result.

Steamy!

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 October 26, 2016 · 58 comments

  1. I goofed around enough on Swagbucks while watching TV to earn a $25 Paypal gift card. I need to remember to do this more often.
  2. I wrote and submitted two more Clark Howard articles. I’ve been kind of unfocused lately with so much free time on my hands, so it’s a relief to get some writing under my belt. Reminds of the quote, “Things that can be done at any time are often done at no time.”
  3. I have a four hour meeting at the hospital tomorrow, and plan on forcing myself to spend a few extra hours working on continuing education as long as I’m already clocked in.
  4. One of the feet on our metal frame bed bent inwards after my son took a running leap onto it this summer. It’s at the foot of the bed, so we’ve just been ignoring it. Today my husband took the bed apart and somehow fixed the foot. Fixing is pretty much always better than replacing.
  5. I put extra cash into savings, I returned library books before they were overdue, (yay!) I went to the grocery store and only bought what was on my list, I bought enough lids and lemon juice to make applesauce, but am keeping the receipt so I can return any unused supplies, and 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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Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will

by Katy on October 25, 2016 · 12 comments

My mother and I squeezed a couple of Goodwill trips into yesterday’s Birthday Day of Adventures, and although the thrift stores had some great pieces, the good stuff  had already been sold! Like this groovy midcentury Bassett dresser. I could have flipped this piece on Craigslist in a heartbeat! Although I was driving my Prius, which wouldn’t have exactly accommodated the approximate eight-foot length. But why quibble about details . . .

Bassett dresser

And this vintage Thonet rocking chair. In almost perfect condition and priced at only $19.99! This one is going to haunt me for awhile. Here’s one on eBay for $450.

 Rocker

Of course, there was yet another icky targeted savings bank. I’m not sure what kind of “fund” needs to be started for a potential princess. Probably for a divorce lawyer. Yeah, that’s it.

Princess Fund

What did I buy? This vintage Descoware enameled cast iron saucepan that I snapped up for $6.99. These two pieces were actually in different areas, but I knew they were a single set.

Descoware maple leaf saucepan

In excellent condition, so hopefully I can quickly turn it around on eBay.

pan and lid

No surprise that I bought this set, even though this candle stand had a pretty strong reaction about it!

sad candle stand

Admit it, you’re making this face right now.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Birthday movie

I started a new tradition in my family a few years ago where I give experiential gifts to most family members who actually live in town. We all have enough stuff, and there’s not one among us who doesn’t struggle with keeping clutter at bay. I started doing this a few years ago with my now young adult sons, but  it’s since spread to my mother, sister, niece and husband. I call these my “Birthday Day of Adventures.”

Here’s what that means. The entire day is a surprise to the recipient, as well as all others who are lucky enough to tag along. (This is key, as the anticipation is a key part of the fun.) I generally include an anchor activity, a meal, a treat and one other thing. I’ve learned through the years to group everything to a single area of town, which helps to minimize time spent in the car.

It’s important to point out that the Day of Adventures is designed to be centered around the birthday person’s interests. Not what everyone likes to do, but what the recipient likes to do.

Giving experiential gifts can seem like a big splurge, but with some careful planning it can actually be quite frugal. For example, a few years ago my husband’s day was simply hiking and a lunch at Ikea. (He loves those Swedish meatballs!)

Friday was my mother’s 74th birthday, so I planned a special day of adventures for the two of us. Here’s how our day went.

  1. We went to see a matinee of the movie Florence Foster Jenkins at a cute second run theater, which set me back just $4 per ticket. I knew she’d been wanting to see this movie, and it was the perfect choice as neither of our husbands would be bummed to have missed this wonderfully hilarious Meryl Streep performance.
  2. My plan had been to go to lunch after the movie, but my mother wasn’t hungry, so we hit up the closest Goodwill which very much aligned with my mother’s interests. (I get my love of thrifting from her.) My mother bought a 99¢ frame, and I bought a $6.99 vintage Descoware pan to resell.
  3. We then drove over to a Vietnamese Pho restaurant that had excellent Yelp reviews. Neither of us were disappointed as our delicious bowls of beef pho filled us up at a mere $8.50 apiece. I was tempted to order an appetizer, but I knew that our generous entrees would be more than enough. I highly recommend the Pho Oregon Restaurant on S.E. 82nd Avenue for those looking for an authentic Vietnamese dining experience.
  4. We then drove down Hawthorne Blvd to The Maple Parlor, which is a gourmet sundae bar owned by my mother’s friend. I accidentally saved a few dollars here, as the owner treated my mom to a free dessert when she learned that we were celebrating her birthday. I chose a small maple flavored ice cream with candied bacon and ginger on top. The owner who is half Vietnamese heritage wanted to know which pho restaurant we’d chosen, and gave her full seal of approval as it happens to be her mother’s favorite. (Thank you, Yelp!!)
  5. Our last activity was to hit up the main Goodwill on S.E. Grand Avenue, which turned out to be mobbed by costume seekers and general bargain hunters. Neither of us bought anything.

We finally made our way back to my house where I served hot tea while we watched a half episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is my new favorite TV show. (Seriously, so smart and funny!)

In all I spent $30.00 for the entire Day of Adventures, which is quite a bargain especially since research has shown that experiences make us happier than stuff. My mother and I now have the memories of our time spent together, which is 1000% better than any scarf, candle, teapot or random dust collector.

Here are some example of the other activities from previous Days of Adventure:

  • Bowling
  • Arcade
  • Comedy show
  • Play
  • Museum
  • Hiking
  • Behind the scenes tour of Goodwill’s operations
  • Trip to the Oregon coast
  • Roller skating
  • Movies

Many of these activities were kept frugal using coupons or hoarded gift cards, and a couple of them were simply free.

Experiences really are better than stuff. Happy birthday, Mom!

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 October 21, 2016 · 84 comments

  1. I used up some beef broth leftover from a roast to make French onion soup. I already had a large number of onions on hand, so it was just a matter of carmelizing them overnight in the crockpot. My house smells heavenly, and since I’ll substitute Tillamook white cheddar cheese  for the gruyere, (bought on sale, of course!) it’ll be an extremely frugal dish.
  2. Today is my mother’s 74th birthday, so I’m having her and my step father over for dinner. I’ll assemble a lovely meal that treats everyone without draining my credit union account.
  3. I’m going over this afternoon to Portland Nursery to load up on local apples that are leftover from their annual Apple Festival. Priced at just 69¢-per-pound, I can justify buying enough to convert my kitchen into an applesauce factory.
  4. I spent a few dollars on a small birthday gift for my mother, but her main gift will be a birthday day of adventures, which will neither clutter her home nor exceed my budget. We’ll spend a day together having fun and creating memories. Much better than any doodad, tchotchke or dust collector.
  5. I sat down to work on my election ballot this morning. (Oregon is exclusively vote by mail, which I absolutely love!) I feel strongly that the right to vote should never be taken for granted, especially since there are millions (billions?) of people across this great planet who don’t have access to this privilege. There are always a few ballot measures that I’m unsure about, so I start early in order to do my research. Make your voice heard in your government, both at the local and nation level, people!

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 October 18, 2016 · 59 comments

  1. I gathered the sales circulars which made their way into my home and clipped out the Halloween coupons, and then doubled at Safeway. And since I’d also loaded a $3-off-$25 e-coupon to my account, I was able to inexpensively stock up on candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Now, if my husband and I can only stay out of it until the 31st!
  2. My husband picked up a $4.99 roasted chicken at Costco, which will serve for at least four meals. Especially since I put the very meaty carcass into the crockpot after dinner for soup!
  3. My husband is headed up to Vancouver, Canada for the weekend, so I signed up for an eight-hour hospital shift on Saturday. When a person is used to working twelve hours, eight hours flies by in a jiffy. I normally hate leaving work at 3:30 P.M. when rush hour traffic is starting to peak, but that’s a non-issue on the weekends.
  4. I’ve been taking care of my neighbor’s cats while they’ve been out of town over the past week. By providing this service I know they’ll be happy to return the favor when the situation is reversed. My neighbors and I have an unspoken understanding that we can borrow from one another, as well as ask for help when needed. And since it’s reciprocal, no one feels taken advantage of, and everyone benefits from one another.
  5. I spent an hour raking my backyard instead of hiring it out, I’ve been snacking on bananas as my husband and I both picked them up today, I’m having my mother and step-father to the house for her birthday on Friday instead of going to a restaurant, I have a work lunch already packed for tomorrow and 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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Five Frugal Fails

by Katy on October 18, 2016 · 75 comments

Late library books

Although I keep a close eye on my spending, It’s not uncommon to mess up and end up paying the dreaded “stupid tax.”  They don’t necessary make it into my Five Frugal Things posts, so occasionally they warrant their own blog post.

  1. My husband and I garbage picked a 9-foot tall artificial Christmas tree while we were dropping our older son off at college. Unfortunately we left the stand behind and I ended up having to order a new one from the company to the tune of $30.99 for the stand and $20 for shipping. (I tried to see if a regular live-tree stand would work, but it didn’t.) The worst part is that my husband saw the stand, but didn’t think to grab it! We’ve decided to keep the tree instead of selling it, as it will pay for itself in two years and then save us $25 per year after that.
  2. I stupidly mailed off one of my eBay sales before receiving payment. I’ve done this a few times in the past without incident, as I’m basically lazy and would rather send everything at once than in bits and pieces. However, the buyer received his watches and now refuses to respond to the multiple invoices that I’ve sent. This was super bad judgment on my part as has resulted in a $44 (plus shipping) lesson for me to learn. Man, that was really stupid of me!
  3. My husband and I have all of our monthly bills on autopay, which truly is the best thing since sliced bread. Well . . . except for the water bill, which we always end up paying late. Although the late fee is a mere 97¢, it’s still a stupid waste of money. Luckily, they just started offering an autopay option, which my husband eagerly signed up for. This means we can finally relax knowing that every single one of our bills will be paid on time again.
  4. I baked up a batch of my special ginger snaps to mail to my older son, and even created my own mailer from bubble wrap, a paper grocery bag, staples and packing tape. (It wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.) I assumed the shipping would be cheap, but since the package weighed 1-pound, 0.2-ounces it cost $7.15 to mail it off. That 0.2-ounces? It probably added an extra $5 to the postage! If only I’d eaten a couple of cookies before packing them up. I guess that’s the price I pay for having a modicum of self control.
  5. I let my library books go overdue, and I now have a $8.75 bill on my account.

Now your turn. Do you have any frugal fails to confess to? C’mon, please tell me that I’m not the only one who screws up once in awhile.

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 October 16, 2016 · 76 comments

Voodoo Donuts

  1. I stopped by Voodoo Donuts this afternoon to pick up a dozen donuts for my son to share with his dorm mates. For those who many not recall, my father was given a gift certificate for a year of free donuts, (a dozen per month) as a thank you for his fifty years of teaching at Portland State University. He’s no donut fan, so he gave it to me. I’m also not a donut fan, so I try to get the donuts when we have large numbers of people to share with. I missed last month, but can now check this odd chore from my October to-do list.
  2. The Pacific Northwest just came through a weekend of stormy weather that had been forecasted to be one of the worst storms on record. Our basement did flood, but since it’s unfinished, it does no harm. Especially since I know from experience that flooding in my basement always seeps back underground. However, I was chatting with a neighbor who has a finished basement and was not so lucky. I’m relieved that our maple enormous tree didn’t fall onto the house, and that we never even considered laying carpet in our basement. Oregon is wet, and water will always prevail.
  3. Although I was tempted to treat ourselves to a restaurant meal this evening, I decided instead to cook at home. I went ahead and bought the ingredients for a pot roast, plus all the sides and regular groceries. I spent $34.31, which was much less than a restaurant meal would’ve been. We now have delicious leftovers to look forward to, as well as milk for our coffee and ingredients for future meals.
  4. I’ve been successful in hustling up a few extra hospital shifts for next month. I still want to pick up two more, but we’re usually desperate for extra nurses, so it should be no problem. Also, my continuing education inbox is fit to burst, so I can always come in and chip away at that without the stress of patient care.
  5. I soaked an unused postage stamp from an envelope, my mother brought over ice cream last night, I batched errands this afternoon, I used fridge-frozen spinach to saute with eggs and 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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