Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 14, 2016 · 76 comments

  1. My sister’s eBay listings are starting to sell, so I borrowed from her enthusiasm to get a couple listings going for myself. (What I currently have up isn’t generating much interest, but things can only sell if I get off my tuchus to list them.) It only takes a few minutes to throw together a listing, so I’m going to scour the house for more stuff. Remember . . . the alternate tagline for The Non-Consumer Advocate is “Crap out of the house, money in!”
  2. My younger son and I met up with my mother to clean one of her rental cottages, although we first stopped at a local Goodwill. I bought a vintage Ball canning jar, and my son bought a pair of Balenciaga sneakers that can sell for as much as $400 on eBay. However, we need to research them first to ensure that they aren’t knockoffs. If they are, we’ll return them.
  3. Last night’s dinner was straight up leftovers from the previous day. Luckily, I’d made a pot roast with mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots and onions, so it was amazingly delicious. I usually make much more food than needed for a single meal in order to stock the fridge with indulgent leftovers.
  4. Portland is expecting a snowstorm this afternoon with cold temperatures lasting for days. I’m going to take it as an opportunity to cook up multiple meals for the boys to eat, as both my husband and I will be working long hours later in the week. My hospital is at a higher elevation, so there’s a possibility that I’ll be stuck there for days. I am sure missing my Subaru Outback this week.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a ridiculous 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 is a reprint from an earlier blog post. Enjoy.

Dearest Belmont Branch Library,

I’ve lain awake many a sleepless night trying to conjure up words that might adequately describe the feelings of my heart. But every time I make the attempt, I have failed miserably. Please forgive my poor effort and accept a trite and simple phrase: I love you. 

I recall my first visits to you, two-year-old in tow, belly swollen with crazy monster #2. Your heavy front doors would swing open so obligingly at the touch of a button, the air conditioning cooling the sweat from my fevered brow. I knew then that this love was reciprocal. But still I was not ready to melt the frost from my heart. Too many libraries in the past had attempted to seduce me with fragile promises of literary bliss, only to dash my dreams with irregular hours and indifferent librarians. You were the Mr. Darcy to my Elizabeth Bennett. Prickly and yet so perfect for one another.

When you were closed for renovations I felt as though my heart were being ripped out. Yes, I could go to storytime at the Hollywood branch, but it was cold, sterile, full of strangers. I longed for your familiar touch.

But you have won me over, body and soul. When I bring my son in for the “Read to the Dogs” program, I know this is not just puppy love. Wally the dog, you do not fool me while pretending to sleep through the “Star Wars Pop Up Book,” I know your canine heart pants for one more story.

Without you I am incomplete. What would I read? How could I live without the hypnotic caress of the perfect audio book, soothing the crushing boredom of housework. The stacks of crisp Manga to entice my 12 year old into a relaxing stupor. And “Star Trek” DVD sets, how could I exist without the geeky splendor of “Star Trek?!”

It’s not just the thousands of dollars you have saved me in video/ DVD rentals and book purchases. It is the non-judgmental love that flows between us. I love you, Belmont branch library. Never leave me again.

Fall in love with your library, it’s the easiest relationship you’ll ever have.

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 December 12, 2016 · 94 comments

  1. I set up the 9-foot tall artificial Christmas tree that I had garbage picked while dropping my son off at college in September. I did buy a stand for it from the company, but that’ll pay for itself in two years. My older son was aghast at the very notion of an artificial tree, and asked “But what about the smell?!” To which I replied, “Want to smell a tree? Go outside.” I really am mother of the year.
  2. I logged onto my library’s website to renew all my checked out materials, as well as to put a couple of books on hold. Both of the books that I wanted were already at my branch, so I’ll walk over this afternoon to pick them up. Have I ever mentioned how much I love libraries?
  3. I took public transportation from my sister’s house in The Bronx to Newark airport, which was made especially interesting by the addition of everyone dressed as Santa for Santacon. People dressed as Santa in order to go bar hopping in NYC? That’s some mighty fine people watching! Some might say a million drunk Santas are even better than an expensive Broadway show.
  4. I added the 43¢ in NYC found change to my Found Change Challenge  jar. It actually should have been 25¢ more, but I used a quarter that I found in a parking meter to pay for . . . parking.
  5. I brought my own bagels and cream cheese to eat during my six hour flight, I downloaded two episodes of The Crown from Netflix to watch on airplane mode instead of renting a $10 movie screen thingy, (iPad?) and I didn’t buy a sexy Mrs. Santa suit.

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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My sister and I ended up making two stops during my week in NYC to the New Rochelle Goodwill, which is conveniently located between The Bronx and her favorite Trader Joe’s just north of the city.

She had a couple of things to donate, so we walked around the side of the store to the attended donation area and were met with this sad site. Yes, an overflowing dumpster filled with unsaleable donations and straight up garbage:

Around the back of the dumpster was a shopping cart filled with vintage dishes. When asked, the employee confirmed that everything was destined for the landfill.

Look how pretty it all is!

Had I been in Portland I would have loaded these dishes into my car. I know that not everyone enjoys a vintage aesthetic, but at least I could have donated them to one of my local charities that helps domestic violence victims or recent immigrants to set up their new homes.

 

My sister ended up choosing one pretty plate to bring home, as it’s impossible for one person to save everything from the landfill.

It would easy to fault Goodwill for not selling every single donation, but the store was already stuffed to the gills. The problem is not with an organization that’s working to resell our unwanted goods, the fault is with our society’s throwaway mentality. We’re encouraged to buy new clothing, toys and decor each and every season, as well as to donate to those in need in order to create space in our closets for exciting new stuff.

House too cluttered to accommodate your new purchases or gifts? Just gather up your unwanted stuff and donate it to Goodwill! It turns out that Goodwill can only do so much to find buyers for your donations. Thrift stores are burdened with the straight up tonnage of fast fashion, which includes household goods beyond the closet. People don’t want to buy vintage quality necessities, when it’s cheap or even cheaper to pick up trendy new stuff at Kohl’s, Walmart or The Dollar Tree.

We aren’t bonding with the things we own, because it’s so cheap to replace. Although the wealth of used Lord & Taylor, Talbots, Anne Klein and other high end brands at particular Goodwill demonstrated that people are also quick to donate their expensive clothing as well.

I took approximately three minutes to find expensive brands to photograph and easily came up with these examples:

 

Considering that a Lord & Taylor cashmere sweater sells for $140, it’s not just H&M or Old Navy clothes that lose their luster once they’re no longer new.

What’s the solution? Choose to buy used, as it spares our landfills, and then simply buy less. You likely own almost everything you need, and you can step away from the “yay, new stuff!” mindset. Irresponsible manufacturing of consumer goods is only supported when people like you and me spend our dollars on this stuff.

Spend mindfully. Buy quality timeless items that won’t go out of style. Choose local businesses that support your own community. Make a stand and join the buy-nothing-new Compact.

Be a citizen, not a consumer.

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 December 9, 2016 · 63 comments

  1. My sister and I spent yesterday running errands, which included dropping off a few donations at the New Rochelle Goodwill. (She lives in The Bronx, so it’s easier to drive north to Westchester county than it is to drive south into Manhattan.) I found lots of great things to photograph for a future “Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will” blog post. But most importantly, I actually bought something, which was an Ibex brand merino wool black hoodie. It fits me like a dream and only set me back five dollars! These sell for $130 new, so this was a great score. I expect to wear this garment every day for the rest of the winter, so I just wanted to give ya’ll a heads up!
  2. We then stopped into a church thrift shop where I rifled through a huge basket of Christmas ornaments to pick out some adorable vintage specimens. I had hoped to use vintage ornaments for my holiday wreaths last week, so now I’ll be ready for the next time I attempt this craft project. And the price for all these adorable ornaments? $2.50.
  3. I spent a minutes or two on Yelp.com to find an Italian bakery near where my sister had a doctor’s appointment. The west coast simply doesn’t have the same kind of old school Italian businesses that can be found in the NYC area, so I like to take full advantage of the the cultural differences when I travel. Needless to say, it was money deliciously well spent. Plus, we were the only people there not speaking Italian, which was very cool.
  4. I relisted a couple of things on eBay that had expired.
  5. I e-mailed my boss to point out that a day that I’d called in sick was showing up as “unpaid.” She was able to go into the system and fix this error, which is important since it was the only shift for my next paycheck. I also signed up for the next hospital schedule and was able to get two 12-hour shifts per week, which is my goal.

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 December 7, 2016 · 66 comments

  1. I didn’t buy a $750 Christmas tree here in New York City. ($1000 when you include “extra like delivery and a stand”) Good thing I live in Oregon where a gal can either garbage pick an artificial tree or buy a fresh one for $25.
  2. I didn’t rationalize spending $20 by calling it as a $23.50 purchase. $23.50 rationalization

Especially since the example of the uncle’s gift is this bafflingly ridiculous moose eggnog glass, which is possibly absolutely the worst gift ever!

moose glass3. I was able to do my laundry in my sister’s washing machine, as well as borrow a long sleeve shirt, since I accidentally left my favorite one at home. Being able to launder while on vacation is key to packing light!

4. I took pictures of some books I want to put on hold from my own library while out and about yesterday.

5. I made dinner for my sister’s family, since she wasn’t home until 6:45 this evening.

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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Non-Consumer Photo Essay — NYC Edition

by Katy on December 7, 2016 · 9 comments

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Advocate Photo Essay, as sometimes photos are better than words.

I’m still in NYC visiting my sister, although of course I’m not buying any pointless and cluttersome souvenirs. For example, this statuette of the Empire State Building. (Although this particular item is from a Portland, Oregon Goodwill.)

Empire State souvenir

My sister, niece and I started out our day by showing up for a first-come-first-serve tour of the main NYC library at 11:00 A.M. Luckily, showing up fifteen minutes ahead of time seemed to ensure we had a spot on the free tour.

I was enamored by this quote, carved into the stone of this “marble palace for book lovers.”

Free library NYC

Here are my sister and I waiting for the tour to begin.

sister love

You’re probably familiar with this amazing national treasure, known worldwide by its lion statues, named “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

Behold their mighty presence!

Lego lions

Oh wait, those are the Lego lions in the children’s wing. My bad.

Here’s one of the actual lions, all decked out for the winter season:

Actual library lion

The different wings of the library are ornately adorned as if for royalty. Check out the awe inspiring ceiling of this room. Funded by the Astors, Rockefellers, Hamiltons, Guggenheims and other prominent families so that ordinary citizens would have a free and beautiful place to access books. The library was required from the beginning to be open into the evening so that citizens could come after work.

ceiling

The children’s area has the original Winnie The Pooh animals that inspired A.A. Milne to pen stories for his son, Christopher Robin.

Original Winnie The Pooh

Look how adorable the tiny Piglet is!

Piglet

Afterwards, the three of us walked down to Koreatown, where we indulged in an amazing meal at Woorijip Authentic Korean Food. We enjoyed too many choices from the most amazing buffet. Seriously so delicious, check them out if you’re in the area!

Of course, I used Yelp to find a restaurant. See that “$” on the top right corner? That’s where I always start my searches!

http://woorijipnyc.com

Our next stop was to the Herald Square Macy’s to walk through their free Santaland. I forced everyone take the escalators to the eighth floor, as the upper floors still have their original wooden escalators from the 1920’s. They feel and sound like a time traveling adventure, and are an iconic slice of old New York. I even took a video, which I posted on Instagram!

Macy's elevator

The Santaland was sadly a shadow of what it was in 1988 when David Sedaris and I worked there as elves. It was around 25% of the original size and 1000% less magical.

This creepy tree face didn’t help.

horrible tree face

Oh New York, you never fail to deliver.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Non-Consumering Everywhere I Go

by Katy on December 6, 2016 · 33 comments

Jessica eBay

I’m day four into a week long trip to visit with my sister in NYC, and although that sounds very exciting, it’s mostly engaging in the same kind of activities that I would be doing at home. For example:

  • I taught my sister to sell on eBay so she can start to sell the excess cool stuff that she and and her husband don’t really need in their home.
  • We stopped at her local library to pick out books. (I got the newest Marian Keyes book.)
  • We shopped at Goodwill after buying groceries at Trader Joe’s. (I bought a lovely Lord & Taylor gift for my mother!)
  • Our plans today include going to the main library on Fifth Avenue for an official (and free!) tour. You know the library, it’s the one with the famous lion statues!
  • We’ll walk over to the Mood Fabrics store to geek out over Project Runway. And why yes, I will say “Thank you, Mood” when I leave the store!
  • We’ll then walk down to the Herald Square Macy’s to be herded through Santaland and get our picture taken with Santa. I worked there as an elf in 1988, so it’s not just David Sedaris who knows all the behind the scenes machinations and shenanigans! I’m excited to bring back the memories.
  • Although we’ll grab lunch, it’s likely to be something simple, maybe Korean food?

Note a trend? Nothing is expensive, a lot of our activities are free and I’m not planning on shopping as an activity.

It’s just me, in another city, pretty much doing what I do at home.

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 December 4, 2016 · 65 comments

Air Train signage

  1. I was able to successfully navigate the public transportation from Newark airport into Manhattan by taking the “Air Train” to Amtrak. I was nervous about figuring this out, but told myself that zillions of other people do this on a daily basis. Luckily, there is great signage throughout the airport. Plus, there were women wearing “Need Help?” buttons available to assist and answer questions. The cost was a flat $13, which was much cheaper than it would have been to take a cab. Plus, I was able to help an overwhelmed Oklahoma woman to do the same thing.
  2. I found a dime on the floor of the Newark airport bathroom. It was nowhere near the toilets, so yes . . . I picked it up. #collegefund
  3. We went straight from Penn station to go see Othello: The Remix, which was great. (So amazing and surprisingly funny, I highly recommend it!) My plan had been to leave my roll-aboard suitcase in the coat check area during the play, but it turns out that they didn’t have one. I ended up tucking it in a corner of the lobby next to the concession stand, which made me nervous about having it stolen. I didn’t have to tip a coat check person, so I guess this was frugal, although frankly I would been happy to pay for the piece of mind.
  4. I packed two sandwiches, a couple of bananas and some almonds for my nonstop flight from Portland to Newark. It ended up being more food than necessary, but it kept me from paying the inflated prices of an inflight meal.
  5. I packed my niece and nephew’s Chanukah gifts in with my luggage, which saved the cost of shipping.

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 December 1, 2016 · 88 comments

Othello: The Remix

  1. My sister has taken my practice of experiential gifts and bought me a ticket to go see Othello: The Remix for this weekend. Although my birthday isn’t until early January, we’ll be able to enjoy this off-Broadway show together during my visit. I picked up an adorable $2.50 Goodwill blouse to wear to the theater, as I’ll need to look a bit dressy for the occasion.
  2. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages yesterday, and was rewarded with the tenant’s leftover butter, salad mix, eggs and Tillamook cheese. Hooray for the extra money from side gigs that also include free food!
  3. I’m down to a single pair of jeans, which are sadly a summer length. I forced myself to try on jeans at Goodwill until I found a pair that I liked and fit well. They are perfect amount of skinny for tucking into boots, yet not so skinny to cause villagers to run for the hills. I have a Goodwill gift card which I’m using to fill in some wardrobe holes as well as holiday shopping. Nice to shop without actually spending any money.
  4. I stopped at Trader Joe’s and spent only $41, despite buying two full grocery bags plus a 12-pack of toilet paper. I normally buy just a couple of things there (toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, bananas, hummus.) I think the key is that I bought simple food and steered clear of desserts and booze. With the kids off to college, I can no longer throw candy cane Joe-Joes into the cart without fully admitting that they’re for me.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or a 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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