All Days are Frugal, But Some Days are More Frugal Than Others

by Katy on September 13, 2013 · 26 comments

Alabaster Bust

You may think that every day in the life of Katy Wolk-Stanley is a frugal day, and for the most part, you’d be correct. But in the words of George Orwell:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

And yesterday was a perfect example of how some frugal days are more frugal than others.

1) I started my day by getting the kids up and off to school. I made their school lunches from scratch, using zero waste packaging. (A fabric sandwich wrap, a thick endlessly washable plastic bag for grapes, loose cookies and a bandana napkin. Their insulated lunch bags are ancient, one being from The Dollar Tree, the other pulled from a garage sale free box.

2) I hung two individual loads of laundry on the clothesline.

3) I  received an e-mail informing me that I had earned a $7.53 eBate for using their site to book plane tickets through (I’m going to New York next month for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah.) I normally don’t buy anything online, and I’d kind of forgotten about eBates. Luckily, a blog reader mentioned them in a recent post when I had asked for tips on booking cheap flights. I also made sure to sign up for American Airlines’ frequent flier program before booking my tickets.*

4) I dropped off library books and picked up a DVD of Of Mice and Men for my younger son and two The Shins CD’s for my older son.

5) I cleaned one of my mother’s rental cottages.

6) I stopped by Safeway, after loading a ton of digital coupons through their Just For U program. This savings program e-mails personalized deals for frequently purchased items, which for me is usually real and healthy food. They also often have $5-off $20 ecoupons.

I bought:

• 3 Luna bars for my husband’s work lunches.
• A huge package of chicken drumsticks.
• 2.96 pounds of bananas.
• 5.82 pounds of oranges.
• 3 avocados.
• 1 head of green leaf lettuce.
• 1 block of cream cheese
• A half-gallon of whole milk.
• A gallon of skim milk.

Total cost: $20.93!

7) I stopped at the credit union to deposit Katy The Cleaning Lady checks and reimbursed cash from buying Costco dog food for my father’s dog. (He doesn’t have a Costco membership.) I also found two quarters under the coin counting machine.

8) I used Craigslist to sell a $5 Goodwill bar stool for $30.

9) Dinner was Chicken Adobo with rice, which is both cheap and a crowd pleaser.

10) I finally got bids on both of my eBay items. I’m selling a stack of Atomic Ranch magazines, which I picked up for 25¢ apiece at the used library store, (using a gift certificate that I won!) as well as an antique alabaster bust, which I bought at Goodwill for $8. Right now the magazines are selling for $39.99, and the bust has an opening bid of $75. The listings end Sunday evening, and I’m crossing my fingers they’ll sell for even more!

11) I received my review copy of Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road From Debt to Freedom in the mail.

I like how the day was a combination of both saving and earning money.  And I was able to get the kids off to school, write my blog, earn money, run errands and still be back when the kids arrived home from school. Every now and then I get comments from readers asking why I go to the effort to earn small amounts of money when I could just work more, and my answer is this:

When I work, I am away from the house from 6:20 A.M. – 8:15 P.M. I’m unable to write, be there/hang out with my kids or deal with the tasks involved in running a household. By finding multiple small income streams and practicing frugality, I’m able to significantly bolster my family’s income and financial stability.

Which in the long run is a more stable practice. I even think George Orwell would approve, don’t you?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Marie September 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

You go, girl! “Never despise the day of small things” is one of my favorite proverbs.


Katy September 13, 2013 at 10:54 am

I’ve never heard that before, I’ll have to work it into daily conversation! 🙂



Jennifer September 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

I would love to hear more about your savings for your sons’ college. I have 4 kids and we haven’t saved a penny for college. And my oldest is 15 . At this point I don’t even know where to begin and I feel like what little I could save wouldn’t make a difference.


Katy September 13, 2013 at 11:41 am

My college savings account is, well . . . whatever is one degree under “pathetic.”

My husband and I were not able to put money aside when the boys were younger, so the current account is both aimless and not enough. However the next bought-it-for-$5-sold-it-for-$1000 deal is just around the corner! 😀



Michelle September 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

Katy– have you ever done a post about how you’re able to tell if something you find at the thrift store/curb has resale value? I bet I pass over things like this all the time! I’m trying to hone my skills and would love to know if you have any tips and tricks!


Katy September 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

I am actually planning a post about that exact thing. However in the mean time, eBay “Completed Listings” under “Advanced Search” will tell you how much an items actually sold for.



Renee September 13, 2013 at 11:15 am

Thanks for that last bit about work vs. your ebay/Craiglist sales. I had wondered the same thing but couldn’t think of a way to ask that didn’t sound condescending. (“Does it really work out to do things that way?” seems like a lame question because obviously it does or you would do things differently.)


WinterLightHomestead September 13, 2013 at 11:36 am

I’m kinda totally in love with your day! lol


Katy September 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

It was worthy of your love. 😉



nalani September 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

Wow! That grocery bill competes with Trader Joe’s. I gotta look up those coupons.


Karen September 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I second Michelle’s comment about wanting to know your tips on reselling thrifted finds for a profit. This seems like a fun way to not only make a little cash but scratch my itches of buying “stuff” and always needing some kind of a project to do. Looking forward to that post!


jennifer p September 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm

i love that day.i would like to be more like frugal,but not enough.yes definitely a post about how to tell the good stuff from the other stuff.


Dianna September 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Way to go Katy! Gotta love ebay! It’s amazing what you can sell if you try. Right now I am selling two sets of magazines my kids are done reading. My S-I-L buys them for the girls and when we get a small stack and have finished reading them I send them to a new happy buyer! I also have a set of preschool Bob books, a UPS monopoly game,and an iphone 3gs with otter box. All total I will make 150-175 on these items and I’m still emptying clutter out of my house!

For those wanting to try their luck, I recommend cleaning out the things you no longer use at home first. This will help you get a feel for how things work and what people like to buy. Before I get rid of anything I check completed listings on ebay to see what that “thing” is selling for on ebay.

I sell on ebay so I can work a little less too, since I would be away for 13 hours. It’s also my way of helping fund things (paint, thrift store finds, garage sale items) I want to buy for the house without it coming out of the budget and for other more important to us experiences.


Katy September 13, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Great advice, thanks!



Frances September 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm

I’m curious how you keep the stank out of ancient insulated lunch bags. The ones we use for family picnics are holding up fine after lo these many years, but the ones that go with small boy to school get food spilled in them and despite my best efforts are fairly unappetizing after a while. We wipe. We wash. We vinegar. We baking soda. We lay them out in the sun. Nothing works.

And then…there have been issues with lead in insulated lunchbags. I’m pretty skeptical about the origins of anything from a dollar store. Can I convince you to rethink the loose cookies? I’m pretty sure that food shouldn’t directly contact the vinyl.


Katy September 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I throw them in the wash very now and then.

And now I have to worry about their lunch boxes? Sigh . . .



AnnDenee September 13, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I totally believe in multiple, small avenues of income rather than one biggie. And the mayor in Dayton, OH agrees with me. I heard him in a radio interview answering questions about bringing in business to replace some of the big ones lost in the last 10 years or so. He responded saying he could certainly entice a 1000 employee business, but if it then leaves, that’s 1000 Dayton residents out of a job, whereas; if he brings in 100 businesses each employing 10 employees and one leaves, that’s only 10 residents out of a job.

Household income is the same. When you have multiple avenues of income and lose one, it’s a hit, but a small one and more easily managed and replaced.



Katy September 13, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Smart man. And I love Dayton, as I went to college in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Oregon district!



Denise September 14, 2013 at 4:38 am

Love the Animal Farm allusion!

Some days I am shocked at how many money-saving opportunities seem to just appear before me, and other days, beyond the usual tactics, they just seem hard to find!

“Tactics, comrades, tactics.” ~ Orwell


Belleln September 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Back in the late 60’s – early 70’s “multiple, small avenues of income” was called Patchwork Income, slightly more colorful and maybe more descriptive. I think it’s the best way because you won’t ever be totally income-less.


Katy September 15, 2013 at 8:46 am

My mom, the sewer and quilter will like that!



Ann Y. September 15, 2013 at 10:18 am

Wow, Katy….very productive day ! Had to tell you that someone put a big box of tomatoes from their garden on the “common, up for grabs, here’s some leftover cake” table in our office. After one day there still was a lot and the secretary was going to throw them out so they did not sit there over the weekend. THROW THEM OUT ?!?!??? I brought them home, roasted them in the oven with onions, garlic, olive oil….then put them in a pot with a can of broth, boiled it, did a quick swoosh with the blender…and we had the best roasted tomato soup for supper last night ( with crab English muffins that were bogo at the grocery store). Just had to share …as I ate the soup I kept thinking somebody was going to THROW THIS OUT ???!!?


Heidi September 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I totally agree with your lifestyle and choices. Why work more and end up away from your home life and family if you can find another way to get around it? I too love selling stuff on-line – around here we just use Kijiji (like Craigslist). I have a few things hanging out in the basement after our move last winter that still need to be listed. I’d better get on that..


patti September 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

If it makes you feel better, I “saved” for my son’s college by paying into an annuity every month for his whole life and it paid for one semester. So much for anyone knowing what college costs were going to be back when he was born. I do believe in saving and earning pennies in any way possible because we have managed to pay for each semester (he is now a Junior) without getting a loan. It has come from cutting back on all expenses in our household and from him moving off campus after his freshman year ( it is amazing what the school charges for room and board). I never think we are going to have the $$ in time, but so far it has worked out. If I think about the “big picture” I panic, so I just try to be frugal just one more month. It is easy to say no to a lot of things when you say, ” I have a child in college” which implies if you didn’t, then you would buy that: like today when I was asked to pay $20 for a social event and said no. I can hardly believe it is now only three semesters to go. I think we will make it and even if we still need loans, look how far we have come!! Your blog helps a lot to keep me positive – so keep up the good work and we will be cheering you on when your son starts college!!


Amanda Davis September 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Your post comes so timely as I was just pondering how to safely sell things on Craigslist or through some of the facebook online garage sale listings and keep my privacy. I had just asked this out loud and he said someone has to know. So I thought of you. How do you or your readers do this without sacrificng your safety and privacy?


Betty Winslow October 26, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I love the patchwork money idea – it’s how we’ve lived for years, enabling me to stay home with the kids and still add to the family income, plus now I am able to help care for my elderly widowed dad, make appts for him and us and keep up with everyone’s meds (amazing how long that takes!! how do full-time workers manage??), and run the house. I make and sell jewelry, sell books we no longer need, work as a school librarian 2 days a wk, and do jewelry repairs for friends. I have both bought and sold stuff on Craigslist and Facebook, and it just means setting up a public meet (I usually use a local coffeehouse that’s open almost 24 hrs.) and taking someone with you. The one time we sold a hospital bed, I just made sure the neighbors were home. So far, I have not had one problem.


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