Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 12, 2018 · 119 comments

  1. I worked the last couple of days and brought my own food both days even though there was nothing that exciting in the refrigerator. Black beans with carmelized onions and hot sauce paired with tortillas make a delicious lunch that stays well within budget while keeping me stoked during my 12-1/2 hour hospital shifts. Add in a couple pieces of fruit, some hard boiled eggs and too much coffee and I’m a happy (and sated) non-consumer.

  2. I was careful to cut open plastic food bags from the top so they could be reused for dog poop. Although I don’t have a dog, (see the aforementioned 12-1/2 hour shifts) my friend Lise does, and she’s always happy to give my plastic bags a second life.

  3. I took advantage of yesterday’s unseasonably warm weather to pull out my second-hand Bissell rug shampooer and freshen up my garbage picked porch rug. Not only was it grubby, but it featured a mysterious stain that may or may not have come from a neighborhood cat. I’d been eagerly waiting for the convergence of warm weather plus free time to cross this task from my to-do list. The rug now looks crisply clean again, and was the perfect outdoor activity for this indoorsy gal.

  4. I sold a small thrifted table through Facebook Marketplace that I’d relisted at least four times. It was a piece that I would’ve been happy to keep as it had a small footprint and was cute as a button, but in the end I’d rather have the money. I’m sure to come across something similar soon enough, and the next double tuition payment is looming large. I also happened upon a free pair of mildly mildewed chairs that should clean up quite nicely for resale. (Seriously, there’s almost nothing that I haven’t been able to rejuvenate with my rug shampooer!)

  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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{ 119 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 6, 2018 · 94 comments

  1. My 52-year-old husband planned a snowboarding day trip up to Mt. Hood with his work buddies. Skiing and snowboarding are expensive hobbies, but my guy kept it on budget. He pre-purchased a discount lift ticket, packed sandwiches and water from home, made do with some scrappy 99¢ thrifted snow pants, borrowed goggles, carpooled with someone who owns a 4-wheel drive and most importantly he avoided a visit to an emergency room, which I say is the biggest savings of all!

  2. I spent a few hours thrifting at the Goodwill Outlet with my friend Sarah, who if possible likes Goodwill more than I do.

    I bought:

    – A lambswool sweater and souvenir British tea towel for my father.
    – A lovely Metropolitan Museum of Art silk necktie for my husband.
    – A kilim pillow sham.
    – A groovy Zenith “Space Command” remote control.
    – A pair of leggings for myself.
    – A pair of sunglasses.
    – A pair of jeans for my mother.
    – An antique brownie camera.
    – Two brand new paint pens.
    – A Game of Thrones T-shirt to sell to the nearby Buffalo Exchange consignment shop. (I bring stuff in throughout the year so I’ll have gift cards for my kids come December.)

  3. I scored a 99¢ bag of tangerines from The Grocery Outlet, and my husband and I actually ate every single one of them for a zero waste win! (My experience is that tangerines can quickly get dried out and unpalatable.)

  4. I watched a couple episodes of Orphan Black from a library DVD, I cooked up a slow cooker batch of black beans for burritos, I filled the Prius up with cheap Costco gasoline, I walked to the grocery store, I’m wearing a thrifted shirt, sweater, jeans, underwear and socks (sorry, the bra was bought new) and I strolled through a Whole Foods simply to enjoy the samples.

  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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 4, 2018 · 66 comments

  1. Last night was my step father’s 68th birthday and we marked the occasion by hosting a celebratory dinner at our house. I served chicken adobo, rice and bacon roasted brussel sprouts. Dessert was fancy ice cream sandwiches. I was able to purchase almost everything I needed from The Grocery Outlet, and I used a $3-off-$25 coupon from my Chinook Book app. The entirety of the meal added up to around $7.50, with leftover food as well as leftover ingredients.

  2. I worked Thursday and Friday and brought my own food for the 24 hours of work. I drank the free semi-crappy hospital coffee and the free delicious tea. I stopped at a Goodwill on my way home one of the days and picked up a $2 glass container that my husband had asked for, as the plastic one he packs yogurt in had started to leak. I also bought myself a $4 cute lightweight cardigan that’s a brand sold at Nordstrom. Oregonians know that the key to warmth is to layer our clothing, and this piece filled a much needed gap.

  3. I worked the full 48 hours of my last pay period, plus clocked in for 3-1/2 hours of CPR certification and 2-1/2 hours of helping out around the labor and delivery unit one day that I accidentally showed up to work. (My schedule is different every single week and it can be confusing. Not my favorite thing to drive across town at 7 A.M. for no reason, but the unit was busy that day and the charge nurse was more than happy to keep me around for a few hours.) I’ll take a two week break from working while my college kids are home for spring break towards the end of the month, as well as while my sister visits with her kids during their spring break. Luckily, my husband and I will bring home five, count-em five pay checks this month. I do love me these five paycheck months!

  4. I finally sold a thrifted table that I’d been listing and re-listing on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for over a month. Bought for $15 and sold for $60, it was still worth the effort as it doesn’t take more than a minute or two to renew the listing. I also sold a Goodwill Outlet sewing pattern for $40. Unfortunately an previous eBay buyer misunderstood a listing and insisted that I mail free extra items to him. We eBay sellers live in fear of negative feedback and buyers know that they can bully us with the threat of ruining our 100% positive ratings. He did leave negative feedback, but with all the awful things going on in the world I really don’t care. It’s hard to give a sh*t about my eBay rating when high school students are being murdered in our schools and the NRA then smears the names of the incredible and inspiring survivors. These daily annoyances do not matter.

  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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{ 66 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 28, 2018 · 128 comments

This week’s Five Frugal Things has a medical theme. Sorry. Which you’ll soon understand.

  1. First off, my husband is having hip surgery in a few weeks, which will require short term use of crutches. I happen to notice that Goodwill had a section of new looking crutches, so husband picked out a set to match his height. I’m not sure how much we would have been charged after insurance, but I’m guessing it would have been more than the $8 we paid. Plus, this purchase extends the life of a perfectly functional item instead of buying something that’ll only be used over a couple of days.

  2. I had my annual physical  a few weeks ago with a new doctor, and as I just turned fifty, she wanted me to undergo a couple different medical screenings. Specifically, a mammogram and a colonoscopy. (Hello . . . fifty!) However, I’m firm believer in preventative medicine, so I dutifully made my colonoscopy appointment. The clinic called to get my information, as well as send in a prescription for the bowel prep laxative treatment. However, the man mentioned that sometimes insurance doesn’t pay, so I could just come by the office to pick up a kit for free. Free bowel prep?! You can guess the exciting end of this story! Yup, I drove over to the clinic and nabbed my free prep. Crappiest frugal hack ever!

  3. The day before and the morning of the procedure was clear liquids only. I made Jello from the box instead of buying the plastic cups of pre-made Jello and I drank tea and broth from supplies on hand. I did buy a couple cans of pear soda from Ikea, but only drank one as it was revoltingly sweet.

  4. I was given a thick plastic bag to put my belongings in during the procedure. I brought it home to use as a garbage can liner.

  5. Although my husband and I have health insurance through his employer, it’s actually pretty lousy. And because I might be the cheapest person who ever lived, I decided to have the procedure without any anesthesia. I figured that if I could have a baby without an epidural, I could do this as well. Couldn’t be worse, right? (Please do not read this as medical advice. I am a big weirdo who goes to extreme lengths to save money, plus I apparently have bizarrely high pain tolerance. Do not follow my example!) The nurses and doctor were apprehensive, but trusted that as an RN I was making an informed decision.

    Was it uncomfortable? Sure. Although it was more crampy than acutely painful. I actually really appreciated that I was awake during the procedure, as I able to ask questions in real time and be part of my own process. Plus, it took much less time as I didn’t have to come out of anesthesia. How much did this choice save me? The cost of anesthesia was $247, although the anesthetist was still required to be in the room, so it was probably just the cost of medication and IV fluids. (Again, I may be the cheapest woman ever to live.)

    Why am I sharing such deeply personal information with thousands of blog readers? Because I feel that preventative medicine is important and shouldn’t be avoided. Even if the area of the body is uncomfortable to talk about. Hey, if I can get a colonoscopy without any pain management, you can do it the regular way. Next up . . . mammogram!

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

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I enjoy taking dowdy or otherwise unloved items and giving them a second life. So when the good people at Goodwill Industries of The Columbia Willamette asked me if I’d fancy up an Easter basket for a local TV segment, I was happy to say yes.

Luckily, Goodwill is rich with choices. I’m not a particularly skilled artist, but this $4.99 sewing basket caught my eye, as I figured I could paint over the pattern and use the surface as a blank canvas.

I knew the basket would be going to a five-year-old boy, so I didn’t want to create anything too frilly.

My first stop was to a local paint shop where I picked up a pot of $4 sample paint.

I then taped up the surrounding wood trim and gave it three thin coats of paint.

I really liked the cheerfulness of the bright blue.

Again, I’m not a skilled artisté, so I created a template for an upper case D for the boy whose same starts with the letter.

Good plan, right?

I was quite please with the result . . . until I realized that I’d been so focused on centering the letter that I didn’t notice that I’d painted it upside down!

Luckily my mother is a genius, and suggested that I flip it around and turn it into a lower-case d.

Whew . . .  an acceptable work around! I also added tiny painted eggs, as well as some bunny heads to complete the transformation from fuddy-duddy sewing basket to cutesy-wutesy Easter basket.

In the end, I think it turned out quite satisfactorily, although I would have preferred the original capital D. This was definitely a “make it do” opportunity.

Next time you’re gathering supplies for a project, consider buying what you need from a thrift shop instead of a big box store. Not only will you end up with a unique item, but the randomness of the inventory can spark your creativity in a way that no mass produced item will.

Whenever possible, buy used instead of new.

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 25, 2018 · 125 comments

  1. I bought an entire gallon of milk, even though my husband and I hardly go through that much now that it’s just the two of us. (I did so because the cost of the gallon was on sale for just twenty or thirty cents more than a half-gallon.) I came home and froze half the milk in an empty half-gallon jug and am looking forward to not buying milk for quite awhile. Not only does this save us money, but we’re being proactive about minimizing our food waste, which is key. Plan ahead to avoid food waste instead of waiting until it’s imminent.

  2. I plucked a dirty broken looking rotary phone from a garbage/free pile and brought it home for a beauty makeover. Not only did I wipe it down with a damp cloth, but I also took it apart to inspect and then opened a pack of Sugru to anchor a few pieces into place. I don’t plan on using the phone for its functional purpose as I don’t have a landline in the house, but my guess is that it does work. (I used the rest of the Sugru packet to fix a stripped iPhone charger cord.) I have a number of cool old rotary phones in the living room, and this one fits in just perfectly. And on budget!

  3. I stopped into the main Goodwill and and picked up a couple of items including an unpackaged set of six brand new underwear for $5, a pair of pajama pants for my son, a fabric lined basket for winter gear and two CDs for my son. I’m most excited about the underwear, as I recently threw away two pairs and was getting low. (Admit it, you’re jealous of my glamorous lifestyle!)

  4. I worked two days and brought all my own meals and snacks from home, I enjoyed a free slice of cake from a neighborhood grocery store, I gifted a basket to another member of my neighborhood’s buy nothing group, I found three dollar bills on the ground while out to lunch with my father, (which proves the point that there is such thing as free lunch, and actually such thing as a paid free lunch!) I renewed my library books and I washed my flannel sheets and immediately put them back on the bed, which flies against the traditional advice to own three sets of each type of sheets in order to have one in use, one in the wash and one in the cupboard. It’s okay to own less and just plan your laundry days accordingly.

  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.

If you’re a fan of Clark Howard, you probably make a habit of scanning the internet for fresh money saving tips. Sadly, most articles offer the same tired advice such as “lose that latté habit” and “pack a work lunch from home.” As a personal finance writer, nothing annoys me more than clickbait articles that promise original content and deliver absolute zero. However, every so often I come across a frugal hack that ventures beyond the obvious.

Try these frugal tips to further your budget:éé

Scoop less:

Many of us mindlessly fill the scoop that comes with our laundry detergent, which means we end up using far more product than necessary. Instead, remove the big scoop that comes with the product and replace it with a smaller scoop. (I use the tiny scoop that comes with my knock-off Oxyclean.) If you read the small print on your laundry and dishwasher detergent, you’ll see that the larger amounts are only recommended for truly filthy loads. You can always add more if necessary, but I’ve found that a small scoop does the trick for my family’s minimally soiled laundry.

Cut it in half:

Kitchen sponges and steel wool pads are both perfect candidates to be doubled by the simple act of cutting in half. Especially the steel wool pads, as they often lose their integrity after a single use. Still in good shape after that use? Avoid rust by popping it in the freezer for later.

Choose the inconvenient parking spot:

Instead of burning fuel by circling the lot, pull into a less desirable parking spot that cuts down on your driving and adds a few extra steps into your day. Save gas while increasing your exercise? Win-win!

Be kind to your socks:

If you find that your socks wear out too quickly you may want to follow this tip. Keep your toenails clipped short and your heels soft and moisturized. Rough heels and long toenails are hard on socks, which decreases their life expectancy. Gross but true.

Fill empty space in your freezer:

An empty freezer requires more energy to stay cold, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a bundle in the frozen food aisle. Instead, take clean plastic milk jugs and and fill them 3/4 full and set into your freezer. (The water will expand as it freezes.) Screw the lids back on once frozen and enjoy the savings.

Become a stain removal scholar:

The internet is rich with stain removal advice, but I’m a fan of the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda/dawn detergent combination to remove even set in stains. I’ve scored some stained but otherwise amazing items from thrift stores that just needed this TLC to bring them back to life. Don’t give up on fabric items just because they’re stained.

Switch to LED lightbulbs:

Gone are the days when energy efficient LED bulbs cost upwards of $8 apiece. Dollar Tree sells them for a buck apiece and many utility companies offer them for free through state specific green living initiatives. I even had someone tell me that their utility company gave them out for free when paying their bill in person.

Find your local Buy Nothing group:

Buy nothing groups have sprung up all over the world, and are a great boon to those looking to step away from traditional consumerism. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, these neighborhood specific online groups can stretch your hard earned dollars. Click on BuyNothing.org to find your local group.

Portion out less to small children:

Any parent will attest to the fact that little kids waste a lot of food. Make it a habit to serve less with the opportunity for seconds instead of portioning out full servings that inevitably get scraped into the compost.

Scope out your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore:

Habitat ReStores may have random inventory, but they may still contain the exact supplies you’re looking for. Since the cost of your paint, stain or home maintenance supplies are pennies on the dollar when compared to a traditional hardware store, you’re sure to stay on budget. Click HERE to find your closest ReStore. (Plus there’s the benefit that your money is directed towards helping those in need.)

Cut it open:

Whether it’s a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of lotion or a beauty product, chances are that you’re missing out on a significant amount of product due to the packaging design. You’d be surprised how much can cling to the sides of a bottle or tube even after it’s been turned upside down.

Check out your local library:

You already know that libraries have free books, and you’re probably already aware that they offer e-books and various digital downloads as well. But you’re likely unaware of all the additional free stuff you can source for free. From cultural passes to toys, kitchen supplies to SAT prep classes, your local libraries offer more than you know.

Track your spending:

It’s easy to ignore small regular expenditures like lunches out or pick-me-up purchases, but writing it down makes it real. Budgeting not only quantifies your spending, but gives a concrete incentive to cost cutting measures such as cooking at home or avoiding mindless impulse purchases.

Unsubscribe to retail emails:

It’s easier to resist temptation if you’re never exposed to it in the first place. Every commercial email should have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, which not only serves to minimize shopping temptation, but also clears up your inbox.

Listen to financial podcasts for entertainment:

You probably already know that you can listen to the Clark Howard show through your computer or smartphone, but there are countless other podcasts that offer both ideas and inspiration to keep you on the financial straight and narrow. Need suggestions? You could take a listen to Pour Not Poor, NPR’s Planet Money or You Need a Budget to transform your otherwise dull commute into a lesson in financial literacy.

Put your embarrassment aside:

This tip is easier said than done. But if you can be that person who plucks reusable gift bags from the garbage at work, accepts hand me downs and finds contentedness from the simple things in life, you have the potential to save thousands of dollars throughout your life. Pride can be a significant barrier to living within your means. Set it aside, and remind yourself that you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses. 

Conclusion:

It’s doubtful that all sixteen of these frugal tips will be new to you, but if you incorporate even a couple into your daily routine you’ll still set yourself up for savings. I’ve been writing about frugality for almost two decades, but I still come across the occasional new idea. Hopefully there’s one or two in this list to make your life and finances a little easier.

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 19, 2018 · 76 comments

  1. I noticed that my refrigerator was empty while my freezer was full, so I spent a hour or so remedying the situation. I was able to pull out enough food for multiple meals and make use of my already paid for food. I only composted a few items, most notably the above wrinkly orb that bore a striking resemblance to . . . umm . . . a certain male anatomical feature. There’s something so satisfying about creating order from chaos. Makes me feel happy, certainly doesn’t make me feel testy.

  2. I walked to the grocery store this morning, even though it was the last thing on earth I felt like doing. (It was very cold out, and I am an unabashed wimp!) However, I found a dime on the ground, which would certainly not have grabbed my attention had I been driving. I used coupons for 40¢-off eggs as well as a free box of cereal.

  3. I worked over the weekend and although I only brought my lunch the first day, (note the above reference to am empty refrigerator) I did pack snacks such as fruit and eggs. This way I only had to buy my main meal from the hospital cafeteria. ($4.40 for salmon and a kale salad.) However, I waited until after 2 P.M. when the salad bar price went down 25%. I also make myself a cup of coffee on the labor and delivery unit even though I’d been floated to another unit.

  4. I saved up my plastic bags to give to my friend who uses them when walking her dog, I set aside a couple of bowls and mugs for my Buy Nothing Group, I made an appointment for some preventative medical care and I cut up severely bruised apples and topped them with frozen chunks of pie crust to create a weird mini-pie as an afternoon treat.

  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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I wrote this blog post after the Sandy Hook school shooting. I’ve decided that I will repost it after every school shooting in the United States. I hope to never publish it again, but I know I will.

It’s been a difficult three days for America, as we’ve gone from shock to deep mourning for the murdered children and staff of Sandy Hook elementary school. And however you feel about the growing debate surrounding gun control, one consensus has come out of this tragedy, which is to hold your kids tightly.

Appreciate the gift of life that is more fleeting that we can bear to admit.

So when I woke up yesterday to a kitchen full of dirty dishes, a mountain of laundry to put away and living room full of cat hair choked furniture, I asked my younger son if he wanted to go on a day of downtown adventures. (My older son was sleeping, and my gift to him was to let him continue with his favorite hobby as long as he wanted. After I kissed him a couple dozen times, of course.)

The chores could wait.

We chose to take public transportation, as we both have free passes, plus it frees us from the shackles of having to stay close to our parked car. We stopped first at the local Einstein’s Bagels to get a free pumpkin latte to share, as well as a toasted and buttered jalapeño bagel for my son, which we did not.

We stood in the rain and waited for the bus, and talked about nothing and everything and passed the overly sweet latte between the two of us. And I ached for all the Connecticut parents who had these future moments stolen from them.

No shepherding a child into adulthood, no shared coffee drinks, no worries about high school grades that will determine college opportunities.

My son and I wolfed down food cart falafel in the rain, browsed expensive European soccer magazines (him) and decor books (me) at Powell’s bookstore; ogled the couches at West Elm and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams (me) and hunted through the clothing at Buffalo Exchange (him.)

We made a joint decision to check out the westside Goodwill and hailed another bus for the short yet uphill and wet journey. I picked up a few small things for my sister’s birthday and my son lamented that all the new looking Vans shoes were either too small or bizarrely overpriced.

The bus ride home ended with a long and chatty walk that included a detour through the holiday lighting of Peacock Lane and free slices of cake from a Walgreen’s grand opening. We were both good and tired by the time we staggered home, although I did load the dishwasher enough to run a single load. Our evening consisting of a couple of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (me) and the newest Saturday Night Live (him.)

No laundry, no chores, just me staring at my son and holding him tightly.

And when my older son needed me to drive him far across town for a poker game, I did not whine about it. Even when he needed to picked up at 11:30 P.M.

For today I have these kids, and I will hold them tightly.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Two Frugal Things

by Katy on February 14, 2018 · 49 comments

1. I threw some Dollar Tree pinto beans into the crockpot in a pointless desperate gesture to balance out having just spent thousands of dollars maintaining our 2005 minivan. I joked to the mechanic that I was going through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – It couldn’t possibly cost that much, this must be some kind of joke!

  2. Anger – Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Bargaining – Hey there, friendly mechanic. Would you like to trade good and services for some mushy pinto beans?

  4. Depression – Will this nightmare never end? I think I need a nap.

  5. Acceptance – I guess I’m just going to have to eat a lot of dried beans. Ooh look . . . my minivan suddenly drives much smoother now.

You know. Normal stuff that’s part of regularly scheduled automobile maintenance.

2. I ate pinto beans for dinner.

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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{ 49 comments }