Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 5, 2022 · 53 comments

  1. I sold a few thing on eBay, including:

    • A pair of Boggs boots that I bought for $12.99 and sold for $62.

    • A Dolly Parton album that I bought for $3 and sold for $60.

    • A sterling silver bell that I bought for $4.99 and sold for $150.

    I also hit a couple Goodwills, but made just two purchases. I’ve become extremely picky about what I buy, as I try to only sell items with at least $30 profit and I prefer that the initial purchase price be as low as possible.

    • A set of three $3.99 vintage lighting globes that I ran through the dishwasher and immediately sold for $40 to a local store.
    • A vintage Steelcase tanker chair for just $4.99 that I’ve listed locally for $50.

  2. My husband had an eye appointment across town, so I tagged along and had him drop me at a thrift store that I rarely get to. Unfortunately the store had raised prices significantly since my last visit, but I did find a new looking Smartwool merino wool T-shirt for $9.99. (Not a screaming deal, but still $30-$40 less than the normal price.) I might’ve been annoyed if I’d schlepped across town for an overpriced thrift store, but my husband was driving there anyway, there was no waste.

    My husband’s appointment lasted longer than I’d anticipated, so I explored the neighborhood, hitting up a Trader Joes for 19¢ bananas and even found a penny conveniently located in a clean-ish puddle.

  3. My next-door-neighbor and I enjoyed a get together that was just the two of us in her cozy living room, catching up on each other’s family dramas and drinking tea that we’d brewed in our own kitchens. We used to go to coffee shops before the pandemic, but switched to each other’s houses when social distancing became an issue. We somehow never switched back, which I actually prefer as it draws nothing from the budget and takes less time from my day.

    This got me thinking about how my social life often centers on free activities, whether it’s grocery shopping with a friend or hitting up IKEA for their free coffee so my friend Lise and I can chat and co-work on our laptops. I certainly spend a bit of money socializing, but it’s nice to know that it’s not dependent on anyone’s bank balance.

  4. I noticed that there were Black Friday streaming deals to watch certain pay channels like Showtime and Starz for free, so my husband and I finally watched Everything Everywhere, All at Once, which lived up to the hype, I got a second free uncut pumpkin from a different neighbor, my Winco cashier realized that she’d forgotten to credit me for bringing my own bags and handed me 36¢ in coins, I raked leaves for a neighbor as a thank you for letting us put out extra yard debris cans with their pickup, I put up the Christmas tree that my husband and I garbage picked from a shuttered real estate office in Medford, Oregon maybe five years ago and I brought my mother over for a day of snacking and cozying up on the couch to watch Resident Alien, which is her favorite TV show.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Disclosure: This blog post includes eBay affiliate links, which earns a small commission for me and costs you nothing extra.


Think Twice Before Buying New

by Katy on December 2, 2022 · 18 comments

This blog is a reprint of a previously published post, enjoy!


Consumer goods have become unbelievably cheap, so it’s easy to just buy new stuff whenever a want or need strikes. The Dollar Tree sells multipacks of socks for a buck twenty-five and Old Navy sells flip-flops for the same price, so where’s the incentive to buy used, fix what’s broken or hold off on new purchases?

But I follow The Compact and I try to buy nothing new.

Need an example?

My fifteen-year-old son collects international soccer jerseys, (which he finds at Goodwill) and carefully hangs them all in his closet. However, some recent good scores means he currently had more jerseys than hangers. I really like an organized closet and have scored enough wooden hangers through thrifting to supply both our coat closet, (no door, so it needs to look tidy) and our bedroom closet. However, my son’s closet is a visual jumble of random plastic hangers. I looked at his closet and had a flash thought that maybe I should start fresh and buy a few packs of brand new white hangers.

After all, the hanger packs are only a buck apiece.

But I feel strongly about not supporting unnecessary manufacture of new goods, especially plastic ones with a limited life span. I realized that I had plenty of mismatched hangers on the mostly-shut-down-for-winter outdoor clothesline. Yes, they were kind of grubby, so putting them through the dishwasher made them look as good as new. They’re neither austere wood, nor does he have a single color scheme, but he now has enough hangers.

My son asked for more hangers, not matching hangers!

By following The Compact and only buying used, I have a buffer period between myself and the buying of new or even used items. I have to think twice before making a purchase, and because it’s a pain in the tuchus to find specific used things, it sparks my make it do creativity.

Thinking twice before buying new stuff will never be a regret. Let’s face it, the last thing this planet needs are more plastic hangers.

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 November 28, 2022 · 85 comments

  1. This week was very much dominated by Thanksgiving, which we always host. Even though the meal is elaborate, it’s actually an inexpensive way to feed a crowd, especially when you account for the wealth of leftovers. I think we spent around $35 total.

    • I got the turkey for free last year, as part of a “spend X dollars, get a free turkey” deal at Winco. It’s been sitting in my deep freeze ever since.
    • I made multiple pans of mashed potatoes from a 10-pound bag, which was just a couple of bucks at Winco.
    • I baked two apple and two pumpkin pies, plus a gluten-free apple crisp. The apples were 79¢/pound at the dented vegetable store and the the puree was baked down from a neighbor’s leftover Halloween pumpkin. I made the crust with sale priced butter.
    • I made the stuffing from a loaf of fancy artisan bread, which I did actually buy at full price.
    • I made the cranberry sauce last week as I’d nabbed two bags of sale cranberries from Winco.
    • My mother brought bakery rolls and my brother in law brought a vegetable side dish.

  2. Leftovers. Endless amazing Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s why I made five pies, ten pounds of potatoes, two quarts of cranberry sauce, etc, etc. I actually hate hosting Thanksgiving, but I love that all the leftovers belong to me.

  3. I did my own version of Black Friday shopping over the weekend, which is to say that I scored two items from two soggy free piles. Here’s what came home with me:

    •An Ikea shelving board, which I’ve set aside until I can figure out how to make best use of it.
    •An antique style end table, which I’m now using as a plant stand as it already had some light water damage to the top surface.

  4. I stopped by the dented vegetable store for the big $2 container of organic mixed greens that’s always in stock, I returned a Goodwill shirt that fit weird, but then thrifted a couple items to sell, (a “Rogue Ales Brewery” Christmas sweater and a pair of Victorian style boots) my mother noted that our cloth napkins were ratty, so she sewed up a new set from thrifted flannel shirts, my printer ran out of the yellow ink and is being a little bitch stopped printing, but my neighbor let me print an eBay label at her house, I gifted slabs of warm pumpkin coffee cake to a couple different neighbors, my friend Lise texted the day before Thanksgiving asking if I needed anything from the grocery store and she picked up a loaf of artisan bread and a gallon of milk for me, (thus saving me from an deeply unpleasant errand) and I stopped by the library and ended up checking out nine random books. 

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or fly to Qatar to watch controversial sport ball.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Disclosure: This blog post includes eBay affiliate links, which earns a small commission for me and costs you nothing extra.


Buy Nothing Day

by Katy on November 24, 2022 · 37 comments

For most Americans, the day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, a day dedicated to shopping, a day to take advantage of one-day only deals. A controversial day when customers crowd the stores and trample one another for cheap electronics and consumer goods.

Black Friday prompted the day known as Buy Nothing Day, described as “a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption.”

I follow The Compact, and thus buy only used; although frankly at this point I hardly buy anything beyond consumables and the occasional second run movie ticket. So yeah . . . I won’t be pitching a tent outside Walmart as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away.

My problem with Buy Nothing Day is that it’s a single day event. Buy nothing this one day, then shop normally the other 364 days. Yes, it gets people talking about our consumer society, (and that’s a good thing) but it’s still just one day.

One day is not enough.

I propose that people treat the day after Thanksgiving as just another Friday. A day when you have the day off from work or school, a day to ahead and luxuriate in bed a few extra hours and then eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. (Did I not just describe the perfect day?)

Buy Nothing Day should be replaced with 365 days of conscious consumerism. An entire year where we make deliberate decisions about the purchases they make and how those purchases effect this world we live in. Only buy products produced by companies that provide their employees a living wage and safe working conditions. Companies who do not engineer planned obsolescence into everything they manufacture.

So yes, go ahead and choose to buy nothing on Black Friday if that’s your inclination, but don’t then with abandon the other 364 days just because you abstained for that single day.

Shop deliberately. Shop thoughtfully. Shop responsibly. Shop less.

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 November 21, 2022 · 77 comments

  1. I pulled out my tote bag of holey socks and darned four pairs back into rotation. Sock darning is a unique activity as it can’t be rushed and requires an consistent level of concentration, which can be quite meditative. Plus it’s frugal and sustainable.

    This project prompted me to dump out my sock and underwear drawer and make some difficult decisions, as it was crammed full despite me wearing the same four pairs on repeat. Out went the knee-highs, (I only ever wore them as makeshift compression stockings when I worked as a labor and delivery nurse) as well as the Smart Wool socks with their agonizing garrotte-style ankle cuffs and buy-bye to the Japanese socks designed to be worn with wooden “geta” wooden flip flop slippers, which I don’t actually own.

    These socks were quickly snapped up through my Buy Nothing Group.

    The rest of the random socks weren’t decent (or even matched) enough to warrant darning or gifting, so they hit the garbage can. (Seriously, how is it that I owned so many socks where just one of them had distended elastic?!) My sock drawer now slides open with ease and only stores socks that I actually wear.

  2. One of my beloved Pittsburgh cousins came through town with her husband and although they stayed with my father, I offered to host a dinner one night. I knew I’d have to plan a meal that could be fully pre-prepared as they’d begged to be taken to Powell’s Books which I believe is now legally required for all Portland tourists. Here’s what I served:

    • A pan of spinach lasagna, which I could throw into the oven as soon as we got back to the house. The noodles were from Dollar Tree, the mozzarella was from my favorite “dented vegetable” grocery liquidator, the ricotta was a freebie from my grocery worker daughter and I cooked the sauce from scratch.
    • A big spinach salad, which I assembled that morning and waited to dress until we sat down to eat. Needless to say, I also mixed up a batch of my Tea Towel Salad Dressing™.
    • A warmed up loaf of random artisan bread that my daughter gifted me last week and was thrown into the freezer until that morning.
    • A “Royal Delight” icebox cake, which is made with chocolate wafers and whipped cream and left to set in the fridge. Not frugal, as the chocolate wafers have skyrocketed in price through the years, but is still a nostalgic family favorite.

    It would’ve been easy to take the easy route and get takeout as I’d be away from the house until right before dinner. But with a bit of planning, I was able to serve a frugal home cooked meal and still participate in any and all bookstore adventures.

    I also brought a bag of books to sell to Powells, which garnered me $13.50 in store credit, (woo hoo!) and I convinced my son to tag along as he possesses a rare 20%-off discount card through a job he worked earlier this year. They even let our entire party use his discount, which was an unexpected surprise.

  3. I hit up the aforementioned dented vegetable store for my normal veggie fix and scored six dented boxes of Annie’s gluten-free macaroni and cheese for 50¢ apiece, (normally $3.50+ per box!) I’m defrosting an extra turkey that I got for free last year, my husband installed our $25 “learning” Nest thermostat, a tree-less neighbor let me use her yard debris can for some of the 7.2 quadrillion leaves that fall on our sidewalk, my neighbor gave me her uncut pumpkin and I received both a box of frozen bison steaks and a case of Momofuku Chili Crunch as a thank you for keeping a tight eye on my aging aunt and uncle who visited from Nebraska last month.

  4. This last “frugal thing” is actually a “frugal fail.” I sold a huge stuffed plush Pikachu on eBay, which I placed both in a large plastic bag as well as a lightweight shipping envelope. I carefully squished the air from the package and taped it closed. The package must have expanded significantly afterwards, as I got a notification that I was being charged an extra $24 for shipping! It only sold for $30, so this sale pretty much garnered me nothing after eBay fees. Oh well, I did get it for free. Still though . . .

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or spend 44 billion dollars to implode Twitter.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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This following blog post is a reprint from 2015. It garnered 170 comments and I thought it would be interesting to reprint it for the 2022 crowd.

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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P.S. I no longer listen to Dave Ramsey.


Five Frugal Things

by Katy on November 14, 2022 · 107 comments

  1. I unlocked a new level of non-consumer achievement after sixteen years of participating in the buy-nothing-new Compact. I bought a used toothbrush for the family to share! Yes, you read that right.

    Okay, perhaps some clarification is necessary. My husband and I share a Sonicare toothbrush system, which means we use the same motorized handle but each have our own toothbrush head. You know, like normal people. However, the rechargeable handle had gotten to the point where it no longer held a charge. Normal people would buy a new system.

    I believe that every newly manufactured item degrades our planet a little bit more, so I found a “refurbished” handle on eBay for just $9.40, plus $5.90 for shipping, (An equivalent one would be at least $80.) Saving money without overtly killing the planet is kind of my jam.

    Would you buy a used toothbrush handle?

  2. I took advantage of an instant Portland General Electric rebate to get a $249 programmable Learning Nest thermostat for just $25. You likely already know what a Nest thermometer is, but just in case:

    “The Nest Learning Thermostat programs itself, automatically helps you save energy when you’re away and can be controlled from anywhere.”

    I’m very curious to see whether we’ll save an appreciable amount off our gas bill as we already have a Honeywell thermostat that we keep at 63° during the day and 58° at night. This may sound extreme, but I bump it up to 67° if I’m home and chilly. My thinking is that it’s easier for me to turn it up than it is for me to actually remember to turn it down.

    However, I’m not perfect and I did leave my empty house at 67° a few days ago, despite being away for an extended period. A Nest thermostat would’ve allowed me to adjust the temperature through the app and I’d have avoided this waste of natural gas. It’ll be interesting to see if I can game the furnace to use less gas. I see that this program is available through many different utility companies throughout America, so check and see if yours does as well.

  3. I’ve started back up on thyroid medication as I’ve been feeling supremely cruddy and my labs backed up the lethargy. I had enough leftover Synthroid (Levothyroxine) to not need any for awhile, but still took this as an opportunity to look into Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company as a way to save money on future prescription medications. I have health insurance through my husband’s employer, but the American health care system is horrifically profit based, so it’s often cheaper to buy discount medications outside of the insurance you’re already paying for.

    Cost Plus Drugs charges patients the actual cost of their medication plus a small percentage for preparation and shipping. For some meds the price difference is shocking, (think $26 vs. $500 for Albendazole!) so go ahead and click HERE to check if your meds are available through them.

    Click HERE to read their mission statement. By the way, this might read like it’s sponsored, but I assure you that it isn’t.

  4. My husband installed a”new open box” ice maker that we bought off eBay, I remembered to bring my houseplants back inside before they succumbed to freezing temperatures, I scored a free squatty potty off my Buy Nothing group, (don’t worry, I gave it the scrub of a lifetime!) I accompanied my son to Trader Joe’s and only bought the stuff on my list, (toilet paper and hummus) I made sure to use the $10-off-$50 Winco grocery coupon that I poached from my neighbors and I watched Last Holiday through my sister’s Prime Video account.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet or spend 44 million dollars to ruin Twitter.

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 November 7, 2022 · 88 comments

  1. I took my mom to the Goodwill bins, where I scored a small LLBean duffel bag, a new looking Land’s End lined rain coat, (in my size!) a lazy Susan and a miniature wooden Pinocchio. All of which I’m keeping.

    The Adventure duffel was unfortunately embroidered with the name “Eleanor,” which I’m 93% sure is not my name. While it would’ve been perfectly acceptable to keep the monogram in place, (maybe it’s the bag’s name and not that of the previous owner?) I decided this was the perfect opportunity to experiment with removing the lettering. I paid around 50¢ for the duffel, so it wasn’t exactly a big gamble.

    Luckily I own a lil’ seam ripper, which worked perfectly. Sure, it was a slow and finicky job, but I used it as an excuse to watch delightfully mindless TV.  I probably spent 45 weirdly satisfying minutes picking out the stitching, all the while being verrrrry careful to not snag the fabric.

    Can you still read the “Eleanor?” Sure, but I’m guessing it’ll fade with laundering and use. I’m going to keep the bag as the quality is excellent and it’s the perfect size for an overnight trip or some sort of local adventure.

    You can click HERE to watch my step-by-step process.

  2. I’ve gotten lazy again with listing stuff on eBay, which translates into few sales. However I did sell these items this week:

    • A vintage flying geese wall art piece — I paid $1.99 and sold for $48.
    • A Cutco slotted spoon — I paid 99¢ and sold for $13.50.
    • A cashmere flat cap — I paid $4.99 and sold for $70.
    • An Aristocats stuffed animal — I paid $2.99 and sold for $30.

  3. I asked for and received my neighbor’s “$10-off-$50” Winco Foods coupon that came in the mail. I know they don’t grocery shop there, so it would’ve otherwise gone to waste. This may reek of over the top moochiness, but I always tuck my New Seasons Market coupons into their mailbox so I feel zero guilt on this one.

  4. I used some chicken thighs that my daughter brought home from work to brew up a huge pot of chicken noodle soup, (which also included four bendy carrots and the zest and juice of a lemon leftover from my aunt and uncle’s visit!) I called Costco and got a $100 refund due to the three documented scratches from the delivery and installation of our new refrigerator, I served my mother a bowl of reheated broccoli potato soup after the bahn mi restaurant we initially tried was closed, I listened to Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart through the library’s free Libby app, and then started listening to Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
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Disclosure: This blog post includes eBay affiliate links, which earns a small commission for me and costs you nothing extra.



by Katy on November 4, 2022 · 31 comments

I recently wrote a blog post that mentioned how my husband had dismantled a treehouse and reused the wood to build a platform deck and y’all asked for pictures. So here you go!

This photo is from 2003, before we built the treehouse or even the brick patio. The kids were nine and six and a treehouse made sense.

Fast forward to 2022 and the kids are now 24 and 27 and the treehouse serves no purpose beyond sheltering random stuff and anchoring one half of my clothesline.

Luckily some of the wood was still in decent shape, especially the treated wood undercarriage pieces. I hoped to have enough of floorboard lengths to create an eight-foot square “platform” style deck. My goal was build one for under $100 since we already had so much wood.

This was magical thinking. We spent a bit over $400.

Here’s what had to be bought new:

  • Two lengths of treated lumber.

  • Seven cedar boards.

  • A box of screws, bolts, metal support thingies, landscape fabric, deck tape, multiple sanding pads.

  • One urgent care visit for an infected splinter.

The old cedar boards were not initially impressive, but a decent number of them were able to be sanded down for reuse. My husband bought seven new cedar boards and we decided to lean into the board color difference and create a deliberate pattern which is:

New-old-old, new-old-old.

We finished the deck literally the day before Oregon’s dark, wet and gloomy season, so we’ve yet to enjoy its outdoorsy pleasures. That’s why my photos are less than stellar.

I guess I can categorize this project under “doing a favor for future Katy.” Summer 2023 Katy, who hopefully garbage picks a cute table and enjoys hosting friends for tea under the maple tree.

And for those who enjoy the big picture, here’s the backyard as seen from above. The bottom right is our brick patio, which is currently under delightful layers of wet leaves.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on October 31, 2022 · 77 comments

  1. Our new Costco refrigerator was delivered today, but was lightly scratched in the transportation process. The installation worker took photos of the scratches and informed me that Costco would contact me to either replace the doors or refund some money as compensation.

    I think you can guess which one I’ll choose.

  2. Portland finally remembered that it’s a cold damp climate, not an arid desert. Here’s what I’m doing to keep heating costs under control:

    • I closed off the heat registers in the kids’ empty rooms as there’s no need to heat their unused spaces.

    Edit: I’ve just been informed that closing off heat vents is a bad idea. I looked it up and here’s what I found:

    “The short answer is no; you should not close air vents in your house. Closing vents can actually waste more energy than operating your system normally. How does closing air vents waste energy? Because when you close vents in unused rooms, your central air system will push the excess air to other places in your home. Let’s take a look at what happens to all that extra air.”

    ‘Nuff said. I guess I’ll go open those vents back up again!

    • I’m dressing in cozy warm layers to heat myself instead of the entire house.
    • I ensure that there are ample lap blankets available to anyone who happens to sit still in the living room.
    • I flipped the switch on our new ceiling fan so it can spin warm air towards the ground.
    • I’m making sure to not run the bathroom and oven exhaust fans too long as I don’t want to pay to heat a room to only suck that expensive heat back out of the room.
    • I switched from Crocs/sandals to last year’s eBay shearling slippers and have added wool socks to the equation.

  3. My hair has once again grown to the “sister wife” length and I’m in desperate need for a haircut as I’m either wearing it in braids or it tangles with no in between. I’ve used the Supercuts “training center” for free cuts at least six times, but it was organized through a Facebook page which seems to have been abandoned. I finally remembered to call the Supercuts salon that houses the training center and was told that cuts are now arranged through email. I quickly typed out a request and am hoping I can zip over for a free cut in the next few weeks.

    I’ve gotten my hair cut through beauty schools in the past and not had good experiences, but Supercuts’ training centers use certified stylists who often have years of independent experience but happen to be new hires. It doesn’t take any longer than a normal appointment and I get to hit an awesome Goodwill that’s out of my normal sphere of errands. WIN-WIN!

  4. My friend Lise texted asking if I wanted to go with her to the “bent vegetable store.” I bought three salad kits, two bags of mixed greens, two cucumbers, three containers of fresh mozzarella, a pound of bacon and a restaurant size package of cut and prepped broccoli for $16.35, (I was accidentally double charged for the cucumbers, so it should have been $15.35.) I got my free Bivalent Covid-19 booster vaccine at  the CVS in Target and didn’t browse for stuff to buy and my daughter continues to drop off free random groceries from her work which includes eggs, provolone slices, chocolate chips and cake.

  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
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P.S. I drove to the library’s free tech help session across town to get assistance with the excessive advertising situation on the blog. Unfortunately the person who’s the supposed WordPress expert called in sick that day. In other news, I’m making enough money to cover blogging expenses again.