How I Make Extra Money

by Katy on June 10, 2015 · 43 comments

Katy Wolk-Stanley

I watch my family’s pennies like a hawk. I only buy used on those rare occasions when I shop, and I employ countless frugal money savers like cooking from scratch, line drying laundry, walking errands, home haircuts, discount grocery shopping and DIY’ing any and all household projects. I’d sooner join the circus than keep up with those much maligned Joneses.

So yeah, I’m frugal.

But frugality alone is not enough.

It’s also important to bring home an income. And frankly, as high as that income can be, the better. Because some day I’d like to retire and have my kids graduate from college without crippling student loan debt. You know, normal goals.

My husband works full time as an emergency service worker, and I work part time as a hospital based labor and delivery nurse. And over the past six months, my part time work has taken more of a back seat to my responsibilities at home. My 17 and 19-year-old sons will soon leave the nest, and I want to savor these last few years of their wonderful company.

So I earn money outside of my job.

Call it a patchwork income, irons in the fire, side gigs or ancillary income, but the money I make outside of my day job can actually bring in a fair amount of money. Here’s what I do:

  • I blog. I know, big surprise here. I made a conscious decision years ago to minimally monetize the blog. It would be extremely hypocritical to tell readers to consciously consume and support their local businesses, while posting affiliate links to Amazon and raving about amazing new products to buy. I do have two different advertising networks on the blog, which covers my blogging expenses with a enough leftover to feel like it’s an income stream. (I often laugh about about how I’ve invented the successful unprofitable blog!)
  • I clean my mother’s guest cottages between tenants. There is great flexibility with this job, as it can be done any hour of the day, and only takes a few hours to complete. It keeps me humble, as it’s hard to get a swelled head about being featured on The Today Show when cleaning other people’s toilets. I end up doing this between one and five times per month, and the money really adds up.
  • I sell stuff. Whether it’s jewels plucked from free piles, underpriced thrift store goodies or unnecessary clutter from the house, I am constantly working my eBay/Craigslist/garage sale/consignment store magic. This may sound like a pain in the tuchus, but it really isn’t. Craigslist is free and easy, and there’s a huge household consignment shop just a few blocks from the house. Garage sales are every few years and eBay helps to find non-local buyers for special pieces. This side gig can add up big time! At the moment I’m selling a drum set, a backpack, a Subaru trailer hitch, a Bruce Jenner T-shirt and an unopened case of motor oil from our old Subaru. Yesterday I sold a free pile lamp to the consignment store for $7.20, and it looks like my husband’s boss wants the drum set.
  • I click around on Swagbucks and generally earn one $25 PayPal gift card per month. This will hardly get the mortgage paid, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. Might as well take full advantage of any and all money making opportunities!
  • I pick money up off the ground. Okay this one will definitely not send anyone to college, but I track all the pennies, nickels and occasional dollars, and it eventually adds up. Around $35 per year. I call it my Found Change Challenge, and I invite you to join in!
  • And of course, I work as an RN. I’ve been in the same job for over twenty years, so my hourly wage is pretty good. But I’ve learned how important it is to moderate my hours. Anyone who’s gone through the process of giving birth can imagine how stressful and tiring the RN side is. And when I work, I’m away from the house for 14 hours, so I’ve learned to prioritize my work-life balance.

What do you do for money? Do you have a day job that you supplement with side gigs, or do you choose to keep it simple? Please share your story in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 43 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 9, 2015 · 32 comments

Amanda Soule & Katy Wolk-Stanley

1.  I saw that Amanda Soule from SouleMama.com and taproot magazine was having a meetup in a park that’s just five minutes from my house. Since she’s both close friends with my friends Ashley and Glenn English and a blogger that I admire, I knew I had no excuse not to attend. I tried to get my friend Sasha to come with me, but she was selfishly at work. It was a very enjoyable crowd, leaning heavily towards women with small children, handmade picnic quilts and knitting projects. They had copies of the magazine on a table, and people were encouraged to help themselves to one. I chose a copy with a mend theme, which I will pore through and then pass along to my friend Sasha, even if she chose to indulgently earn a living rather than hang out with me. Weirdo.

Bob's Red MIll

2.  My father and I had made plans to get together for lunch yesterday, and since my pantry was staring to echo, I suggested Bob’s Red Mill. I had a coupon for a buy-one-get-one lunch, as well as a buy-one-get-one coupon for any Bob’s Red Mill product, up to $10. We enjoyed an inexpensive lunch and lovely conversation and then did our shopping. I stocked up on cornmeal, cumin, white beans and holy crap, did I buy a lot of flour! (This is how I used my $10-off coupon.) We then drove across the street where I bought a dozen frozen loaves of Dave’s Killer Bread for $1.99 apiece. Sadly, without a coupon.

Tomato plant

3.  The free volunteer tomato plant that my neighbor gave me has been growing like crazy and recently sprouted two adorable green tomatoes! I feel like a proud mother.

4.  I pulled four wide mouth canning rings from a free pile yesterday while out walking my errands.

5.  I’ve continued to not buy anything beyond food and necessary items this year, and so far I haven’t bought 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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Clearance strawberries

I stopped at The Grocery Outlet after dropping my son at school today. It’s hard to shop there with much of a plan, as their inventory varies from day to day. So sometimes I load my cart, while other days I simply buy their 50¢ avocados and cheap yogurt.

Today my eye was caught by strawberries on the clearance rack. Specifically 59¢/pound containers of strawberries. And since I recently stocked up on clearance priced pectin, I’m now good to go!

Being frugal often means unplanned purchases. This may seem contrary to some, but crazy good bargains don’t stick around while I ponder the purchase. If the price is super low, someone else will scoop it up while I methodically write out a pro-con list.

My thinking is basically like this:

“You are cheap, I buy you.”

So when life hands you strawberries . . .

You make freezer jam!

Freezer jam

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Lot Can Happen on a Simple Day

by Katy on June 7, 2015 · 23 comments

I generally don’t blog on Saturdays, as it’s kind of nice to have a day to relax and not slip into writing “a short blog post” that actually eats up an hour or two of my day. Mind you, I love writing the blog! It’s just important to have a day off to recharge my batteries. But I certainly walk my walk, even when I’m not writing.

In fact, yesterday was such a clichéd non-consumer day, I almost wished that I’d had a reality TV camera crew following me around to document my non-consumer-y adventures. (Almost wished, not actually wished.)

  • I woke around 9 A.M., and put on the kettle for my morning tea. Although I like coffee, I know the cost of a Red Rose tea bag is 3.5¢, and how it’s important to not indulge expensive habits. Two cups of tea spread an hour or so apart gives me the perfectly calibrated caffeine jolt. Energetic, but with money in my bank account.
  • I then sat down at the computer to answer e-mails, respond to threads on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group, while also clicking around Swagbucks for a bit. I see that someone has replied to a Craigslist post about two thrifted mirrors that I’m selling, so I arrange to have her come by the house around 10 A.M. I scramble up a couple of eggs in my cast iron pan, content in the knowledge that I’ve made good use of the six cartons of $1.25 loss leader eggs from a few weeks earlier.
  • I meet with the buyer on the porch, and accept her $50, and she leaves happily with her new purchase. It turns out she knows one of my husband’s co-workers, and neither of us are murdered. (I always have a couple of e-mails back and forth before I give out my home address to Craigslist buyers. I never allow anyone into my home, and have only had positive selling experiences. This is despite selling well over a hundred items through the years.)
  • I cram gently place a load of laundry in the wash, knowing today is forecasted to be hot. Perfect Oregon day to hang towels on the clothesline. Yes, they’ll be crunchy, but I try to use my electric dryer as little as possible, especially in the summer.
  • I then take a few minutes to photograph my vintage canning jars that I pulled from a free pile the day before. I’d already washed them in the dishwasher, so they’re all sparkly and perfect. I quickly write up a Craigslist ad, which I expect I’ll relist a few time before they sell. This doesn’t bother me, as it’s but the work of a moment to relist something on Craigslist. It’s free so I have no cause for complaint. I do choose to keep a few of the jars.
  • Craiglist ad
  • I shower and putter around the house and hang towels on the clothesline and cloth napkins on my Ikea clothes rack. I also read a library book for an hour or so.
  • I then take a pair of sturdy old folding chairs that I’d snatched from the same free pile over to my local consignment shop. Although it’s only three blocks from the house, I get lazy and throw them in the back of the Prius. (They’re pretty heavy.) It’ll take fifteen minutes or so to get them appraised, so I drive back home.
  • My kids are now up and hungry, so I ask them if they’d like some pancakes. (My husband bought a gallon of milk not knowing that I’d bought some the day before, so I’m thinking about how pancakes use two cups of milk.) My older son requests cornmeal pancakes, and I tell him I’ll do my best. We only have a 1/4-cup of cornmeal, so I combine two recipes to create a cornmeal-whole wheat pancake hybrid. Of course, they are delicious. I set a jug of syrup upside down on the table to use up the last of one container before starting a new one. I also set out a jar of homemade strawberry jam that turned out super runny. I refer to it as “strawberry syrup.” My hollow-legged teenage sons eat every last pancake and are served milk to drink.
  • I walk over to the consignment shop and notice that my folding chairs are already set out and priced at $10 apiece. I walk inside and am handed $6 in cash. I decline getting a larger amount in store credit. I need less stuff, not more! I’m 100% okay with the profit that the shop takes with the sale. They have expenses, and I want them to stay in business.
  • I gather up any library books that are coming due, as well as a few I know I’ll never read and I walk out in the opposite direction. I’ve already preloaded a Clark Howard podcast on my iPhone4, so I’m good to go. I return the books and browse the DVD’s and blu-rays. I notice that they have a blu-ray of Birdman, which I think is funny. (New releases usually take a few months to hit the shelves, as they have long hold lists.) I guess I’m not the only one who thought this movie was awful. I choose one DVD and head out.
  • I walk a few blocks over to Fred Meyer for groceries. I’m distracted by a garage sale, but since I have no cash in my wallet, that temptation is weak. I grab a basket at the grocery store and buy lettuce, tortillas, sour cream and a bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce. I’d loaded a coupon onto my loyalty card for the sauce, which made it free. It can sit in my pantry or be donated to the food bank at some point.
  • I walk a different route home, which is my habit, as it increases my chances of coming across something interesting. This pays off when I come across another tasty free pile. I help myself to a bamboo rice server, a rubber spatula, a stainless steel one-cup measure, a plastic bag of small paper bags and a perfect looking lamp complete with lampshade and fussy finial. I’m excited about about each of these finds. The rice server will replace the plastic one we’ve been using. (I hate using plastic with food.) the rubber spatula will flesh out the one we already have, as it seems I always end up fishing it out of the dishwasher to wash by hand. (I guess I use the rubber spatula more often than I run the dishwasher.) The one-cup measure can live in my flour bin, and the paper bags can be used for making non-toxic microwave popcorn. And the lamp? I’ll take it to the consignment store. Neighbors walk past as I crouch in front of the free stuff, and we chat for a bit.
  • I putter around the house some more and unclip the laundry from the line. The towels are perfectly crispy and smell like heaven. I chat with my neighbors who just installed their own clothesline. I comment about how cute their daughter’s tiny socks are.
  • I heat up some leftover rice and beans and warm the tortillas in the cast iron skillet. I grate cheese, chop lettuce, snip cilantro and put out salsa and the sour cream. I take the lettuce-washing water and dump it on outside plants. “Dinner’s ready!” I call, and everyone comes to assemble their own burritos. My husband’s at work, so it’s just us chickens.
  • My younger son decides that he’d rather hang out with his friends and play the last indoor soccer futsal game of the season than go to The Timbers game, so my husband sells his ticket. This nets us $22. My plan had been to drop him off and come home since he had two back-to-back games, but I start to chat with other parents and ended up staying the entire time. This turns out to be a good decision, as my son scores eleven goals!
  • We don’t get home until 10 P.M., at which point showers are taken and relaxation begins. I pop a couple bowls of bulk purchased popcorn using the new paper bags. It’s such a hit that we end up eating probably eight bowls of popcorn between the three of us. I add a squirt of honey to the melted butter for a sweet treat. We then spread a greasy and sticky film all over the house.
  • I take a nighttime stroll to the first free pile, as I’d noticed that it looked freshly stocked. There’s a gorgeous vintage twin bed frame, but it smells strongly of cigarettes. I know I could scrub it down, but I’m not feeling up for a project so I leave it for some other industrious Portlander. There’s a box of videos that includes Buns of Steel 2. I wonder about the cigarette-smoking-steel-bunned person who lived in this house.
  • Buns of Steel
  • I come home and browse through the cable TV options to see if anything looks tempting, but end up choosing Netflix and my old standby, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I watch one episode and then fall asleep during the second one. My day is done.

This day was pretty typical for me, except that I did no writing. I made a few dollars, cooked from scratch, shuttled kids around and puttered around the house. I didn’t spend any money beyond the four dollars at the grocery store.

A perfect day.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 23 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 5, 2015 · 36 comments

Free canning jars

  1. I went to the fridge to pull out some leftover enchiladas for my work lunch only to discover that they were but a distant memory. I was tempted to just buy food at the hospital cafeteria, (didn’t want to be late to work!) but I assembled a quick sandwich and grabbed a couple of yogurts instead for my twelve-hour shift.
  2. My younger son was telling me about how one of his friends is “super wasteful.” When I asked for an example, he explained that this kid was throwing quarters onto the grass at school. But worry not, as my son had no qualms about picking them up to bring home for my found change challenge. Good boy. No mixup at the hospital with this one!
  3. I sold the old Yakima rack from our totaled Subaru, and continue to have a few other Craigslist offerings going right now. Sales are slow, but it doesn’t cost me anything more than a few minutes of my time, so I’ll just keep relisting my stuff every few days until it sells.
  4. I stuck two different lettuce stumps into the soil of my potted tomato plant, and they’re starting to grow new leaves! (I sliced off a small amount on the bottom to help get things going.) This didn’t work too well when I attempted this hack on an indoor windowsill, but being out in the full sunshine seems to be doing the trick!
  5. I passed a small free pile on the way home from dropping my son at school today. I puttered around the house a bit and then returned to find that it had become a huge free pile. I brought home three boxes of cool vintage canning jars, plus two old metal folding chairs that will last through the revolution. I’m thinking I might spray paint them a fun color, but then again I’ll probably just sell them. And are you not in love with that old wooden crate?!

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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Free toilet seat

Yesterday I wrote a blog post asking readers to share the cheapest things they’d ever done. And boy-oh-boy did the stories come to the surface! From one woman who made herself a temporary tooth from Fimo clay to another woman who bathed in roof runoff when her water was shut off due to a hurricane!

And as much as you can read the comments by clicking here, I thought it was best to devote an entire blog post to some of the more impressive stories.

From Stormy:

Road kill vegetables.  I live in an area where they grow cauliflower and look forward to harvest.  I drive down the road and pick up the cauliflower that bounces off the top of the farm trucks.  One fall, I never bought a single cauliflower and we eat a lot of it!

From Donna:

A wealthier family live around the corner and had an annual yard sale with their high end goods. One year in particular they put out their massive pile of leftovers and I carted it all home to sort through and keep or re-home. In this pile were pretty designer undies in just my size- used but in like new condition. We were so “poor” that I truly couldn’t pay the bills and buy new underwear- which I surely could use. So I washed them and wore them for years. I am not in a position now where I can’t afford new undies and I do prefer them, it taught me to humble myself and I can honestly look back with satisfaction!

From Heidi:

We do a lot of trading and bartering. My favourites have been my husband installing a garage door for our lawyer in exchange for having our wills done and doing roof repairs in exchange for veterinary services. My farm boy/former contractor husband can fix or build anything and has saved us a fortune over the years.

From Laura:

I’ve done a lot of cheap things so it’s hard to pick one. Perhaps it’s the time when my neighbors set out a vintage bouncy horse in good shape for the trash. . the night before my garage sale. Yes, I trashpicked it and sold it for $40. Not sure if they noticed!

From Mike:

Our fridge was dying. I saw a  newer, larger fridge with defrost on the road with a free sign on it. After getting this thing home I found out it worked great. The power company picks up old fridges for free. Wait, it gets better. They will give us 25 bucks if we can show its working. Out comes the extension cord right to the curb, so I can show its working. The power company contractor arrives with some free compact fluorescent bulbs, but no they will not give us that amount. Our fridge was an older model so we got 50 bucks! (For a free fridge!?!!)

From Sandy:

Back about 20 years ago we moved into a house where the dining room rug was a very stained baby blue monstrosity that no matter how many times I cleaned it just looked terrible. To say we didn’t have the funds to replace it is an understatement. So, I went out and bought navy blue liquid Rit dye, took a toothbrush and spent evenings on my knees working the full strength dye into the rug fibers with the toothbrush. It took a lot of time but that I could afford.

I could share just about every comment, but where would be the fun in that?! You need to click HERE to read all of yesterday’s comments, and perhaps even share your own!

By the way, the above photo is a cheap toilet seat that’s currently sitting in my neighborhood. I noticed the other day that the “Free to good home” had been edited to read “Free” with the rest crossed out. I guess the owners are lowering their standards for this toilet seat adoption. 😉

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 10 comments }

Garbage picked toilet seat

I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts lately and loving the fresh inspiration. I enjoy the listener phone calls, but I really like when people come into the studio and do their “debt free screams.” Specifically when Dave interviews them and asks what was the key to their debt free status, and what were their most difficult moments.

I’ll admit, I get a bit misty eyed sometimes.

It makes me think about what I’ve done to stay on top of my family’s finances. And what are some of the craziest things I’ve done in the name of frugality? Of course the answer is when I garbage picked a toilet seat! 

But today I want to know:

What’s the cheapest, most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of frugality?

Please don’t hold back. I want to know about your wackiest, cheapest most insane frugal hack. (Even if it’s not as extreme as a garbage picked toilet seat.) 😉

Please write 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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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on June 2, 2015 · 27 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Happy that earned enough Swagbucks to buy a $25 Paypal gift card. I used to spend my points on $5 Amazon gift cards, but they ended their $5 gift card sale, and straight-up cash is infinitely more useful. I try to earn one of these per month, but screen-free week threw me off schedule.
  • Going to work to do the hands-on testing for my neonatal resuscitation certification renewal. However, I scheduled the class at the hospital a couple miles from the house rather than where I work, which is nine miles from home. I’ll save time and gasoline this way.
  • Planning on assembling a pan of enchiladas to use up the ingredients that didn’t get used the other day when I absentmindedly forgot to turn on the rice cooker.
  • Proud of my seventeen-year-old son who passed his driver’s test yesterday. We’ll wait awhile to actually activate his license, as the insurance is going to be a real budget buster.
  • Happy that I’ve been keeping up with my free Every Dollar online budgeting tool. I put a lot of work into inputting every May transaction, and it’s nice to simply keep up with it in real time rather than reconstructing the past.
  • Tickled that the last tenant at my mother’s guest cottage left an unfinished Grand Central coffee punch card that had enough on it to complete the one in my wallet. I never splurge on fancy coffees, so I now have a treat to look forward to. (I’ve been toting this card in my wallet for years!)
  • Hanging half a load of laundry on an indoor clothes rack while the other half tumbles in the dryer. Oregon clouds and rain are not friendly to evaporative laundry techniques.
  • Poring through my expenses and looking for any extra that can be cut.

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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{ 27 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on June 1, 2015 · 45 comments

Thrifted backpack

  1. Dinner last night was supposed to be black bean and rice enchiladas, but a certain someone forgot to actually push “cook” on the rice cooker. (Okay, it was me. Are you happy now?!) Instead of ordering a pizza or getting takeout, I got creative and served “Mexican food cart style tacos.” I drained the crock pot beans and dumped in a can of El Pato sauce and garlic salt. I then heated the corn tortillas in a skillet to which I added a plop dollop of  the bean mixture. A quick sprinkling of mozzarella cheese over the tacos and a couple minutes in the oven plus a sprinkling of the last of the cilantro and voila, a quick and easy dinner that did not require rice! The ability to switch up dinner plans, (or frankly any plans) when things don’t go right is an extremely important life skill. Make it do, baby. Make it do.
  2. The weekend was very warm and sunny here in Portland, and I was able to dry three loads of laundry on the clothesline. Plus, I was able to leave a load on the line overnight to get rained on. Because . . . #Portland.
  3. I bought a $219 Deuter brand backpack at Goodwill for $14.99, which I immediately listed on Craigslist for $60. (I actually paid only eight bucks plus change, as I had the last dregs of a gift card.) I have one woman interested in buying it already, and am guessing it’ll be gone within a few days. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I could tell just looking at it that it was fancy-to-the-schmancy. Of course, the profit will go towards my sons’ college fund.
  4. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages Friday night, and was able to bring home a random assortment of leftover food. Pasta, soup, brown sugar and frozen berries, thank you very much! I listened to free Dave Ramsey podcasts while cleaning, which helped quell the hatred I felt as the tenant had left the house a completely crusted pig sty. (What is it with people who can’t aim their toothpaste spit?!)
  5. Both of my sons, (ages 17 and 19) worked over the weekend. My younger son at the art supply store, and my older son for a paid training session for his summer lifeguarding job. At this point I never hand over spending money, and they’ve certainly never received allowances. If they wanted money, they simply figured out a way to earn it.

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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{ 45 comments }

Joy in The Simple Task

by Katy on May 29, 2015 · 32 comments

Rising dough

There are certain things in life that are completely and utterly joyful; big exciting (and expensive) things like travel or special events. But those occasions are hardly daily occurrences. Daily life is getting up and taking care of the day’s unglamorous tasks. Making dental appointments, going to work, staying on top of laundry and preparing meal after endless meal. It can easily devolve into a never ending cycle of dullness, but I say that there is joy to be found in the seemingly mundane. 

Dinner last night was black bean burgers with The Frugal Girl’s homemade buns. I could have spent a buck-and-a-half on an eight-pack of store brand buns. But where’s the fun in that?

Homemade bread costs next to nothing, especially for someone like me who stocks up on loss-leader staples, and the process is so very satisfying. Never once have I made bread and thought:

“Well that was a pain in the tuchus!”

I was very pleased with what the nice rise on yesterday’s dough, so I took a selfie with it. (You can see my extended arm reflected in the bowl.) And of course, I was listening to my trusty used iPhone while puttering away. (Dave Ramsey podcasts.)

Joy despite what could easily have been an extremely humdrum day.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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