Develop a Minor Expertise

by Katy on August 4, 2016 · 21 comments

Podcasts

I like listening to podcasts when going about the somewhat dull tasks of my day. Cleaning, hanging laundry, commuting and running errands. It can add up to a couple of hours per day, which gives me the opportunity to find inspiration on financial matters, decor, blogging, habits and happiness.

One of my favorite podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin which includes her delightfully droll sister, Elizabeth Craft.

A recent episode included a segment encouraging listeners to “develop a minor expertise.” This advice made me realize that I already engage in this act as a natural component of my reselling side-gig. Whether it’s dolls, midcentury and antique furniture, antique marbles, barkcloth fabric, Birkenstocks, vintage Pyrex, cast iron or any of the other endless categories that I’ve researched to optimally sell my thrifted finds.

To many, researching these categories would be burdensome and a barrier to taking advantage of this lucrative income opportunity. To me, the process of developing a minor expertise is not only a necessity, but a delightfully enjoyable perk of the transaction. Checking “completed listings” on eBay, finding specialty groups on Facebook and allowing myself to indulge in luxurious in-depth internet searches to increase my knowledge on the detailed history of my scores. It’s fun, plus I thoroughly enjoy getting to add to my knowledge base.

Not only am I educating myself about my Goodwill finds, but I’m also honing my eye on what to keep an eye out for on future thrifting excursions. That way I’ll know that diamond in the rough when I see it.

I’m sure that I walk past great items every time I enter a thrift store, but since it’s stuff that I know nothing about, it doesn’t even catch my eye. With every new category of purchase, I increase my knowledge a little bit more, which then increases my chances of later spying that million dollar item. (Don’t laugh, this happens! Sure, it’s been for other people so far, but a girl can dream.)

Would you enjoy developing a minor expertise? Do you think this act would boost your happiness? 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 August 3, 2016 · 48 comments

Barkcloth

  1. I bought six panels of vintage barkcloth curtains at Goodwill, listed them the next day and then immediately sold every single one of them! I nabbed a free box from a local business, took advantage of the eBay USPS postage discount and will drop the box at the post office this afternoon. #collegefund
  2. I bought a huge head of romaine lettuce only to realize that we already had some in the fridge. However, it was starting to get that pink-color-on-the-rib thing, but I’m far from squeamish. I washed and chopped the new lettuce, and then put the older stuff into a bag. I just now finished my second enormous salad since yesterday and can check “finish lettuce” from my to-do list. I did tart the salad up using canned garbanzo beans and some crab that I pulled from the freezer. Of course, the salad was topped with my ever present tea towel salad dressing.
  3. I popped a greeting card into the eBay box, but I wrote the note on a piece of white paper, which I then slipped into the card. I also wrote the recipient’s name on a post-it note for the outside of the envelope. This way the card is unmarred and can be reused. ( I got this idea from a Non-Consumer Advocate reader!)
  4. I got takeout for my family’s dinner last night, but I did so with frugality in mind. How? I bought two super size burritos from the Mexican food cart in the neighborhood. These burritos are easily 10 inches long and generously feed two people. (Not to mention delicious, oh so very delicious!) For $14, I was able to treat the people I love to an amazing meal. ¡Muy delicioso!
  5. I submitted another Clark Howard article, I mixed dish soap with water for our foaming soap dispenser, I hung laundry on the clothesline, I put the new Harry Potter book on hold at the library, I earned enough Swagbucks to order a $25 Paypal gift card, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought nothing more than bananas, I updated our budget on Every Dollar 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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If there are two things you need to know about me, it’s this:

  1. I drink a lot of tea.
  2. I try to only buy used.

So when I received this text from my husband, I was far from pleased. Some might say that I overreacted, but those people are wrong, wrong, wrong-ity, wrong!

Tea kettle confession

Yes, the tea kettle could still boil water, but without a handle it became a dangerous and ill advised mission when it came to the act of pouring water.

Look at that unhappy woman. She appears to have lost all joy in her life.

handle-less tea kettle

And so began an epic thrift store hunt. Ideally I wanted a similar tea kettle, but nothing was grabbing me. Instead, a found lot of narrowly specific savings banks.

retirement fund

Seriously, they’re in every thrift shop!

iPod money

But yesterday I finally found the holy grail at Goodwill. A $5 Kitchenaid two-quart tea kettle in red. Which was exactly what I was looking for!

thrift store kettle

It prompted this exchange between myself and my poor maligned husband:

New tea kettle

So I guess our romance is back on track.

What’s my point here? Although buying used instead of new can be a pain in the tuchus, it’s an entirely do-able goal. Yes, it took probably eight thrift store excursions before I found The One, but those were trips I was taking anyway.

And paying $5 instead of $50? Yes, please! I ran across at least 30 different tea kettles before pulling the trigger. I was picky, which lengthened the process, but buying used instead of new is an entirely reachable goal. There is a glut of over-manufactured consumer goods in this day and age, which results in our thrift stores being crammed with perfectly good stuff.

I challenge you to buy used before new.

You never know, it might rekindle the romance in your relationship.

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 August 1, 2016 · 64 comments

eBay listing

  1. I finally used a paint repair kit that I bought over a year ago to touch up some tiny chips on our Toyota Prius. (Seriously, I blogged about it in March of 2015!) The previous owner had a tight parking spot in her apartment complex which resulted in her neighbor repeatedly opening his door into the driver side of her car. The chippy condition of the paint brought down the price of the car, so my husband and I were fine with it. We immediately bought the $18 repair kit and then set in on top of the piano where its sat ever since. The painting process took maybe 15 minutes, and the car now looks a million times better.
  2. I had to drive out to the suburbs yesterday to pick up my son from a friend’s house. People were feeling a bit hungry on the way back, so I treated everyone to $1.50 Costco Polish dogs. Costco was directly on our route, so it was just a matter of exiting the freeway. You simply can’t beat that buck-fifty price!
  3. I sold a pair of thrifted $20 Birkenstocks on eBay for $70.
  4. I’m arranging for someone to come by and take a vintage armchair that we no longer have room for. I posted it in the “Free” section of Craigslist as I simply want it gone. It got replaced by my $14 Goodwill Lane recliner, and its been cluttering up my living room ever since. I’m happy for it to go to a new home.
  5. I found a penny on the ground at Fred Meyer, put together August’s budget, hung two loads of laundry, stopped into a Goodwill but bought nothing, grabbed a half-price gallon of milk and I didn’t even 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 Imperfect Goal of Perfection

by Katy on July 31, 2016 · 10 comments

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

The Monday of Christmas week is a special kind of day, i.e., the day when you realize that as much as you may think you’re on top of the details of holiday giving, decorating and entertaining,  you’re kidding yourself.

Big time.

I dumped all my Christmas gifts on the bed the other evening to get a bird’s eye view of everything I’ve bought so far. And despite a successful last minute shopping push on Friday, there were still a lot of holes to fill. Yes, I had enough Christmas gifts for my niece and nephew, but my nephew’s birthday is on December 23rd, necessitating extra presents. And yes, I have enough gifts for my 14-year-old son, but I also drew his name in the holiday gift exchange with my in-laws.

Is it ever enough? And really, who am I comparing myself to? Am I trying to be better than these people or trying to be as good as those? Is there anyone out there who models that standard of perfection in real life?

I follow a local blog called Frugal Living NW mostly because the authors are mightily clued into the tricks of frugal living in Portland. But a column from the other day jumped out at me. Unlike the bloggers whose homes are always clean, meals are always healthfully delicious and whose lives seem to smoothly flow without incident, this column showed actual true to life messiness:

“Why do I post all of this? Sometimes I read blogs written by other women and think, ‘How do they do all of this?’ (whatever ‘this’ happens to be). I see one thing that someone is doing well and assume that the rest of her life is just as ‘perfect.’

I’m here to tell you it’s not. All of us let laundry pile up until we run out of clean underwear. All of us have a bag of garbage in the kitchen, waiting to be taken out, in my case for two days. And even the most precious Christmas picture requires 134 attempts (I still haven’t sent them out).

We want Frugal Living NW to be an encouragement to each of you, not a source of guilt or frustration. If you don’t have time to do a deal, let it go. Spending time with your family, taking a nap and staying sane is more important than taking advantage of every saving opportunity.”

Thank you. I know I can’t possibly be the only person whose clean laundry waits to get put away until the baskets are needed for the next round of laundry. Whose living room is decorated and camera ready, but has a bedroom that resembles a post-hurricane docu-drama. 

Whether we admit it or not, we all compare ourselves to others. And I am hardly immune. I admire in others what I know to be lacking in myself. A friend whose house is always immaculate, a fellow soccer Mom whose slim figure fills out her stylish jeans just so. But here’s the important part, when I actually get to know these people I see that they are flawed in ways that balance things out.

Nobody is perfect. Nobody. And in this week where we try and be all things to all people, we need to recognize that we can do our best and it’s still never enough. I will get enough gifts for everyone on my list, but my bedroom will still be a mess.

Because the goal of perfection is an imperfect goal.

Do the holidays leave you feeling frustrated because you’re unable to tick off every box on your to-do list? Or are you that rare individual who’s able to provide perfection for everyone, all the while filling in your designer jeans just so? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

And if you are that perfect person, please keep it to yourself. I hate 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 July 30, 2016 · 75 comments

Reusable mug

  1. I brought my own reusable items to my son’s two-day college orientation, which included a string bag, a couple of stainless steel forks, a handkerchief, a glass water bottle and a travel mug. Of course, the travel mug got the most use as it can serve to hold both coffee and water. I was happy to see that our motel served their breakfast buffet with ceramic dishes and stainless steel silverware. The coffee cups were paper, but I had my trusty thrifted mug.
  2. I finally sold my curbside midcentury shelf while I was out of town. I had the buyer put the money into our locked mailbox, which worked perfectly for this scenario. Yes, I took a gamble that the buyer wouldn’t pay, but I truly believe that there are countless more honest people than the reverse.
  3. We were utterly exhausted by the time we arrived home last night, and there was was no freaking way any of us were going to prepare any kind of meal. I walked to the nearby Mexican food cart and was horrified dismayed to learn that they’d closed at 7 P.M. (Seriously, I’m not ashamed to admit that I almost cried.) Instead I stopped at New Seasons and had them assemble some fancy sandwiches for us. They’re not cheap at $7 apiece, but they are much much cheaper than anything else would’ve been from the deli section. We still have a fair amount of money leftover in our restaurant budget for July, so there was zero guilt.
  4. We spent our one free evening in Eugene with my old pal Karen. We first met while in high school, and even went on the same year abroad program together. It was very nice to catch up with her and get to know her family a little better. She’d bought some craft beers and insisted that we take the leftovers home with us since she and her husband don’t drink. Plus she threw some homemade cookies into a brand new Ziploc bag for us as well. Thank you, Karen!
  5. My husband and I attended approximately 70 bajillion information meetings at the university, including one titled “The Money Matters.” I already know the logistics of how to pay since our older son also attends an Oregon state university, so I was able to not hang on every word. I realized about halfway through that I had a huge sense of calm and a smile on my face. Why? Because we’ve been intense about putting college money aside the past couple of years, so we’re cash flowing 100% of the tuition, room and board, (approximately $25,000 per year, per child.) I leaned over and asked my husband, (who is a natural worrier) if he was feeling calm as well and he answered “yes.” We high fived each other and let the hundreds of other parents as their questions about student loans and the possibility of last minute scholarship opportunities. We’re not out of the woods yet, as calamity can certainly strike throughout the next four years, but for now, we’re good.*

*Note: We should have been funding 529 college savings plans since the time our sons were born, but we simply weren’t in the financial situation to be doing this. If I had it to do over again I would open these account and throw small amounts in, even if it was just $5 at a time.

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 July 27, 2016 · 87 comments

PokemonGo

  1. I have a potential buyer for a midcentury shelf that I dragged home from somebody’s free pile, I mailed off my thrifted American Girl doll and I listed a pair of Goodwill Birkenstocks on eBay as I think it’s a better shoe store than Craigslist. I also submitted another Clark Howard article and this Friday will be my third paycheck this month! #collegefund Update: Sold!!
  2. My husband, younger son and I will be headed down to Eugene for a two-day college orientation. Our son will stay in a dorm, but my husband and I will be in a motel, which includes a free breakfast. However, we’ve held off on restaurant meals this month, so we’ll be able to enjoy our time down there without any guilt. I’m thinking the orientation should include some meals though, at least I hope so since we had to pay extra to attend.
  3. I was able to hang two loads of laundry on the clothesline the other day. There is simply nothing more luxurious than line dried sheets! (However, there is nothing scratchier and character building than line dried towels! 😉 )
  4. Pokémon Go. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s getting us out of our routine. Not to brag, but I caught a “Meowth” yesterday.
  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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 25, 2016 · 71 comments

Shopping!

  1. I took a few things to my local consignment shop and was rewarded with $7.80, as well as a penny on the ground, not to mention an impressively crusty and abandoned Hanna Andersson shirt, which I’ll attempt to clean up for a new owner. (It was perfect timing for a nasty laundry load, as my cat had just vomited all over a throw blanket. So really . . . win-win!)
  2. I bought a brand new pair of Birkenstocks at Goodwill for $20 and have already found a buyer at $40. I hadn’t planned on thrifting yesterday, but I’d dropped my son off waaay across town and I happened to pass a Goodwill. Which means . . . I had no choice.
  3. I started the process of switching our car insurance over to a more “teen friendly” company. I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile, so it feels good to hopefully put this task behind me.
  4. I reconfigured a wonky pair of compression stocking that a co-worker had accidentally bought in the “bunion-style,” I took a set of plastic horseshoes over to the horseshoe area of our park and left them for people to play with and I bought a $20 Starbucks gift card as a thank you for a different co-worker who gave me a pair of brand new Danskos.
  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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School supplies

It’s school supply time and despite the glossy ads featuring pretty new pens, pencils, binders, scissors and whatnot, it’s actually okay to *gasp* reuse the stuff you already have. That’s right, fellow non-consumers, last year’s scissors will still work this year, and that slightly used pencil can be resharpened. And that grubby binder? Try giving it a scrub and laying it out in the sun to dry. You’ll be surprised how fresh it can look.

Sure, there are some school supplies that have to be bought new such as 3-ring notebook paper and boxes of Kleenex, (umm . . .  not sure how you would buy used Kleenex.) But I’m usually able to get away with only buying a couple of things for back-to-school.

So dump out and organize your pens, pencils, scissors and general office-y mayhem; scrub out your binders, backpacks and winter coats and make do with what you already have. You’ve already paid for it, it’s already been manufactured and any excessive packaging has already happened.

It’s one of those win-win situations. It’s sustainable and will save you money. And you don’t have to be a member of The buy-nothing-new Compact to make these decisions.

So happy shopping . . . from your own stash!

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 24, 2016 · 57 comments

  1. I brought home a cute vintage Pyrex dish from a free pile and was quickly sold it through Craigslist for $15.
  2. I made a big delicious pot of red lentil soup for last night’s dinner, which fed the four of us for less than a couple of bucks.
  3. I was able to get a free mailing box for my thrifted American Girl doll and her multitude of accessories. The eBay listing doesn’t end until tonight, but it already has a $299.99 bid, so I’ll take the time today to get everything ready for the post office. #Collegefund #Goodwill #Hustle
  4. I had some Trader Joe’s bagels which went moldy really quickly. I mentioned it to them while picking up bananas yesterday and they gave me a new bag of bagels for free.
  5. My younger son and I killed some time yesterday by hitting up a couple of Goodwills. We didn’t buy anything, which is the true savings. (I know many readers feel that my Goodwills must be better than their Goodwills, but most of the time I leave empty handed.)

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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