Five Frugal Things

by Katy on September 7, 2014 · 5 comments

  1. After two weeks of hosting my NYC nephew last month, I made a vow to put a good faith effort into cooking at home, and I’m proud to say that we haven’t eaten out since he left. (Okay, okay, there may have been some Mexican takeout one night when I was working, but that delicious burrito was worth it!) I love, love loved having the guy visit, but the number of restaurant meals got to be ridiculous. Well planned delicious homemade meals are far from a sacrifice.
  2. My older son just finished his Crossfit introductory course and is ready to start the regular Crossfit classes. My younger son had taken martial arts classes at the same center and we had a $300 credit leftover from 2011 when his schedule became too full. I feel really good that we’re finally taking care of this leftover detail, as it would have such a waste to not take advantage of the credit. And as a bonus, my son is loving Crossfit!
  3. I tried this black bean soup recipe from Money Saving Mom the other day and give it a hearty two thumbs up. I altered the recipe by pureeing the soup at the end, but only because my older son is very texture sensitive and would otherwise not have touched it with a ten foot pole. I cooked the beans myself using my garage sale pressure cooker, which made it a very frugal meal.
  4. My younger son has started babysitting, and brought home a nice chunk of change for just a few hours’ work the other day. I’ve never given my kids an allowance, and instead have made sure they know how to earn money in a work setting. They sold lemonade when they were little and got jobs when they were old enough. My older son started lifeguarding when he turned fifteen, and my younger son referees for soccer and works occasionally in a local art supply store. They’re much more deliberate with income they’ve earned themselves rather than money that gets handed over.
  5. My local schwanky grocery store (New Seasons Market) is having a 50%-off all jams sale, so I splurged on two jars of Bonne Maman raspberry jam. I normally balk at the $5 price tag, but $2.50 hit my buy-a-couple threshold. I love this brand of jam, and there’s always the bonus of the attractive jar when the jam is but a distant memory.  Yes, I should make my own jam, but this somehow simply didn’t happen this year.

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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WWII scrapbook

My mother recently gave me a vintage scrapbook that she gleaned from the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet. (Actually she was giving it to my sister, but I dove in and scooped it up for myself.) It’s full of wonderful World War II era magazine articles that encourage the make it do message of the time.

Check out the article about how to replace umbrella fabric!

how to replace umbrella fabric

Here’s a detail shot:

how to recover umbrella

But it’s not just umbrellas that got the make-it-over treatment:

Old dress into new

So great, right?

Clothing makeover

And from an article about Victory Gardens, a guide of how to store your home grown vegetables:

How to store vegetables

There’s just so much great stuff in this scrapbook. The wartime magazine articles were messages/propaganda from the U.S. government, but there’s no reason why fixing instead of replacing can’t work for today’s over-consuming culture.

And urban gardens? That’s soooo 2014.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Conscious Uncluttering

by Katy on September 2, 2014 · 43 comments

Like Gwyneth and Chris’ conscious uncoupling, I am in the midst of my own conscious uncluttering. Conscious because I am on a rabid quest to get rid our house of anything that’s neither useful nor appreciated, but also because I’m very deliberate about where we send our unwanted belongings.

Today’s donations perfectly demonstrate my insanity efforts.

See this photo? There are three bags of stuff here, plus a laundry basket of yup . . . more stuff. (Don’t let yourself be intimidated by my impressive Pinterest-worthy photo skills.)

Decluttered stuff

Let me break it down for you:

  • The bag on the doorknob is filled with nice stuffed animals. My husband, who is a Paramedic will give them to kids on the ambulance who need some extra comfort.
  • The laundry basket is filled with random miscellaneous stuff. This all went to Goodwill.
  • The paper bag with the white box is filled with various Japanese items that we’ve received as gifts. (Puzzles, origami paper, scarves, etc.) I took this over to the Japanese elementary school for the teachers to use in their classrooms.
  • The black bag is filled with martial arts uniforms from when my younger son took classes. The shirts are specific to the school, which is where I took everything. They accepted everything and will stack the clothes in an area for current families to take.

It would have been very easy for me to just dump everything at Goodwill, but by parceling out the donations, it’s much more likely for my unwanted stuff to get into the hands of someone who does want it.

Do you separate out your donations or are you more of a donate everything at once kind of declutterer? 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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Paving The Way for Big Changes

by Katy on September 1, 2014 · 52 comments

My name is Katy Wolk-Stanley and I’m 46-years old. I’ve been with my husband since I was 19, in the same job as a labor and delivery nurse since I was 27 and I plug away at projects on my 100-year-old house as I’ve been doing since 1996. I write the same blog that I started in May of 2008. So it’s safe to say that I find something good and stick with it.

I’m the monogamist of life choices.

But lately I’ve felt like it’s time to make changes.

No, I’m not trading my husband in for some hunky young buck, and no I’m not selling my 1914 fixer-upper for a hollow doored tract house in the suburbs. But there’s an unsettling tremor in my bones, communicating a need for change. Like a gopher who digs deep for winter, I know a big shift is in my future. I find myself both focused and unfocused at once, wandering the house, organizing and decluttering entire huge categories of belongings, yet giving no thought to dinner plans until six or seven P.M.

I had a lot of opportunities present themselves after my Today Show appearance in 2012. Opportunities that I set to the side, using one excuse after another to let them lie dormant. Unlike most female frugality bloggers, I have a good job that pays well. Yes, I only work part-time, but I make about the same amount of money as my husband who works full time. I don’t need the blog to be a huge money maker, which gives me the freedom to turn down 99% of the blog opportunities that inundate my inbox.

Plus, it would be extremely hypocritical of me to write a blog called The Non-Consumer Advocate, and then use it as a platform to sell crap to my readers.

But my job is extremely stressfu, and somehow the workplace stuff that normally rolls right off of me is worming its way into my system.

My passions no longer lie with my job.

I have a literary agent who’s patiently waiting for a book proposal from me, which makes me cringe and is apparently a barrier to actually writing the damned thing. The structure for writing a book proposal is so out of my comfort zone that it completely freezes my creative process. I’ve given serious thought to a series of non-consumer ebooks, which I think would be a better fit for someone used to the immediacy and creative freedom of blogging.

Either way, I want to start shifting my efforts over to writing. I truly believe that The Non-Consumer Advocate is unique in a blogsphere crowded with frugality and simple living blogs. I’m enough of a pragmatist to know that a rigid viewpoint only leads to failure. (“I pared down to 100 belongings, why am I still unhappy?”) Also, I work humor into my writing, which I know I appreciate when I’m the reader.

I think The Non-Consumer Advocate has a wider audience. I’m at a point where I actually want to start on the ebooks. I crave the writing, and I find myself piecing together sentences in my mind while doing mindless tasks.

I’ve given myself a deadline of December 31st to get my life figured out. (I know this is ridiculous, but I’m okay with that.) My home needs to be decluttered, household projects require attention; because for some reason a house littered with unfinished tasks keeps me from being able to write at length. So I will motor through these road block projects, and I will give myself permission to write my books.

So today I will line dry the sheets, organize a few piles, plan some frugal meals and maybe even scrub out the bathroom. And tomorrow when the kids are back in school. I might start outlining an ebook or two.

Change is coming, I just need to pave the way.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Cultivating a Creative Mindset

by Katy on August 31, 2014 · 16 comments

The weather here in Portland made a sudden and not necessarily welcome switch over to autumn this week, which led me to crave warmer clothing including pants instead of shorts and skirts.

I came home from work yesterday and indulged in a hot bath and then really wanted to slip into pajamas. Unfortunately, I needed to head out close to midnight to pick my son up from the Kumoricon convention in Vancouver, Washington. (Anime, manga, cosplay.) I didn’t want to wear P.J.’s in case I needed to get out of the car and hunt down my son like I had the night before. (No phone signal in basement of Hilton, dammit!)

But then I remembered that I had a pair of black velour yoga-style pants in my mend pile, which only needed a replacement drawstring. (These feel exactly like pajama pants, yet don’t scream crazy-lady-who-wears-sleepwear-outside-the-house.) I’d been sewing and crafting cosplay costumes for my sons all week, and realized that the crappy quality Old Navy T-shirt we’d bought at Goodwill was would provide everything I needed. The top had already been deconstructed as fabric, so I cut a long inch-wide strip along the bottom of the shirt. I then hooked a safety pin into one end and threaded the fabric cord through the drawstring channel at the waistline of the pants.

Perfect new drawstring for my favorite yoga pants! (I don’t have a big wardrobe, so when a single item is out of commission, it’s really missed.)

Cultivating a creative mindset is an important component to frugality and simple living. I could have gone to the fabric store and bought a product to use as drawstring. But instead I figured out a solution using something I already had on hand.

Not only did this mindset save money, but it also led to not having to drive across town and buy made-in-China packaged goods.

Simple, cheap and easy. And need I say it? Comfortable.

Ahh . . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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The Frugal Practice of Home Haircuts

by Katy on August 26, 2014 · 38 comments

Home haircuts have been a staple of frugal family life since broke people started growing hair. I cut my sons’ hair until middle-school, when they started wanting specific cuts; and I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair since forever. However, my single foray into cutting my own hair was an unmitigated disaster, and I promised a co-worker that I would never do it again.

I keep my promises.

Luckily, my hairdo over the past few years is to wear it straight and without layers. But it had been at least a year-and-a-half since my last cut and the ends were looking a might bit straggly. I asked my husband to trim the ends, and by his adamant response of “No!” you’d think I’d asked him to perform brain surgery.

So I asked my sixteen-year-old son if he would cut my hair.

He was hesitant at first, but got into the spirit when he realized the devious possibilities.

pure evil

Here he is inspecting my straggly ends:

hard at work

I had him snap iPhone pictures to show me the progress along the way, and I could oversee that the hair was being cut nice and straight.

straight cut

I’d show you a glamorous before-and-after, except that there was nothing too dramatic about the cut. I simply wanted the ends evened out. Certainly not worth driving across town and shelling out $20!

Keeping a low maintenance haircut is a huge money saver for anyone, male or female. And when one’s own children can be trained to do the job, all the better!

Does your family practice the art of home hair cuts? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Arranging Books by Color

by Katy on August 26, 2014 · 22 comments

Remember when I spent all that time styling my living room shelves? Yeah . . . it wasn’t for me. Not only did it get gross and dusty pretty quickly, but it simply looked fussy. And truth be told, I like books more than I like knick-knacks.

I’m a doctor reader Jim, not a bricklayer clichéd old lady! 

Shelf - before

So I took every last book and knick-knack off the shelf last night and started from scratch. Mind you, this is my idea of fun, so that is by no means a complaint.

Book pile

I decided to piss off my English department professor of a father and arrange everything by color. Because, you know . . . you’re never too old to rebel against your parents. (Sorry, dad.)

Shelf - after

I am so much happier with the look of shelves now. The previous knick-knacks > books arrangement had required an extra bookshelf in our bedroom, which can now be used to store/organize the kids’ video games. Not in our bedroom.

Look how pretty the colors look in this Instagram photo! The colors in my chair bring out the colors in the books and visa-versa.

Book nook

And those extra knick-knacks? They got put away until my inner old lady rears her white permed head again.

Note that I was able to achieve a completely new look without buying a single new (or used) item. By simply rearranging what I already owned, I could scratch that new stuff itch without even leaving the house. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Living in a 100-year-old fixer upper means we never run out of home improvement projects. Some have that HGTV wow factor, while others simply keep the house from looking like it’s inhabited by busy people without a budget for the fun stuff. And when our projects veer away from brag-worthy to meh . . . good enough, I like to think it’s for my pretend blog which I like to call:

The Inoffensive Decorator©

Recent example? Our bathroom light.

We did the majority of work and major house remodeling in 1996-1997, between when we bought and house and when we actually moved into it. (Yes, it was that disgusting!) We were forced to make too many rushed design decisions, usually based entirely on budget and what was easiest. I worked full-time nights as a labor and delivery nurse and had a baby/toddler at the time.

It’s pretty much a horrible blur.

Although I loved Portland’s (at the time) locally owned Rejuvenation Lighting, they were laughably out of our budget. So I was happy to come across a chrome Home Depot bathroom light that emulated that Rejuvenation’s classic old house vibe. I remember my neighbor who worked at Rejuvenation telling me that sure, it looked okay, but I was going to “get what I paid for.”

Flash forward eighteen years, and our bathroom light fixture was pock marked with rust and looking pretty damned crappy. I had given some vague thought to removing the fixture and spray painting it, but honestly it rarely grabbed my attention and was far from a priority.

See?

Rusty fixture

Rusty fixture - detail

But then a twin light fixture showed up at Goodwill. Sure, it was brushed nickel instead of chrome, but that was of no consequence. What did matter was that it was priced at $2.99, cheaper than a can of spray paint. Was it Rejuvenation? Unlikely, as it was fairly lightweight.

See how it’s exactly the same, yet lacking the rust factor!

Bathroom light fixture - new

My favorite detail:

Light fixture - price tag

And ch-ch-check out how amazingly HGTV-ishly better the new one looks!

New light fixture

Nope. It simply looks inoffensive. No wow factor here folks, just move along.

And The Inoffensive Decorator strikes again. On budget, and without breaking the buy-nothing-new Compact.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on August 22, 2014 · 33 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Home from work, which feels wonderful. The go-go-go constant adrenaline of working at an extremely busy labor and delivery unit can be utterly exhausting.
  • Continuing to declutter my bedroom. Because I see reuse potential in everyday objects, I often have a hard time not holding onto excessive stuff. Examples? Socks that could be darned. The bottom parts of denim cutoffs that could be used in a project.
  • Going to hang laundry on the clothesline for the first time in a week. I’ve been spray painting baskets in the backyard a few at a time recently, and I didn’t want our laundry to get contaminated.
  • Excited for my sister, who finally closed on buying an adorable house in New York City. How adorable? Check out the photo of the kitchen! (The stuff is from the former owners)

vintage kitchen

  • Happy that the Canadian roommates who completed a Buy Nothing Year are getting great media attention.
  • Putting together some goals to complete by the end of the year.
  • Proud of my kids. They’re both amazing and creative young men and give me pleasure on a daily basis.
  • Excited to put together a more proactive plan to run my household. I often feel like I’m putting out fires instead of getting ahead of things.
  • Craving enchiladas, and thinking I should together a pan for tonight as well as a few pans for the freezer.

Now your turn. What are you doing today? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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I’ve written before about Dutch Tulip Feverwhich is defined as:

The tendency to buy a certain theme of useless crap that seems exciting at the time of purchase, but is instantly regrettable once taken home. 

Although this is specific to useless Dutch items, it can be expanded to fit most any situation. Dutch examples? Wooden clogs, windmill knick-knacks, kissing children figurines and any and all tulip-related items. Expanded examples? Shoddy I ♥ NY T-shirts, city-specific plastic knick-knacks and anything painted on a coconut.

Picture yourself on vacation in The Netherlands, surrounded by gift shops and suddenly it becomes a good idea, no a great idea, no the best idea to buy wooden clogs for all of your family and friends. You make international phone calls to figure out everyone’s shoe sizes and fill your luggage with aforementioned clogs.

Then you get home.

You unzip your luggage and find yourself staring down at a jumble of wooden clogs. Useless, and let’s face it, big and ugly. And all those fussy blue and white breakables, how did they did in there?

Crap.

You’ve fallen prey to the ailment that is Dutch Tulip Fever!

Please don’t lull yourself into thinking that your non-international travels provide immunity to D.T.F. $30 concert T-shirts, any mass produced Made in China souvenir and pretty much any useless souvenir tchotchke fall into this category.

Need proof that Dutch Tulip Fever is a true and diagnosable malady? I present to you the Goodwill evidence!

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Do you fall prey to Dutch Tulip Fever when traveling, or are do you bring back memories and leave the gift shops untouched? 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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