Spend Less and Earn More

by Katy on May 23, 2011 · 29 comments

My son’s Iron Giant toy just sold for $102.50 on eBay.

My son’s Iron Giant toy just sold for $102.50 on eBay.

I have been somewhat cash poor lately. My day job as a labor and delivery nurse has been a bit sporadic of late, (C’mon suburban Portland ladies, surely a night of fun and games without birth control is worth it. Right?!) and as a result my paychecks have been lighter than a piece of space shuttle Wonder Bread. And as much as I hate not having a checking account cushion, I am not stressing. Why?

Because I know how to spend less money and how to earn more money.

Here’s how my family spend less money this weekend:

  • Both my sons had soccer games over the weekend. We choose to have them play recreation soccer over classic soccer. This means a $45 playing fee rather than a $1000 fee.
  • I made pizza from scratch on Saturday night. This was partly due to a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese that I was worried was soon to get funky. I bought pepperoni and sausage from my local pizza joint, which set us back $1.
  • My younger son had a 24+ hour sleepover with an old friend. I rented them a movie from the Redbox near the house. I used a Groupon, which brought the price down to 33.34¢.
  • My older son had his girlfriend to the house all day Sunday. For dinner I made chicken adobo, using drumsticks, which are much cheaper than chicken breasts.
  • We drove nowhere except the soccer games, (for which we provided the carpool) and walked all our errands.
  • I took my younger son and his friend to the nearby nickel arcade. I used a coupon for free admission, which included $5 in nickels. I cautioned them to make the money last.
  • When it turned out that were at the arcade an hour before it opened, we walked over to the park where the boys played on the swings and had a contest about who could jump the farthest from their swing.
  • I made sure to return my marble reference book back to the library before it was due. This saves me 25¢ per day.
  • We did no recreational shopping, even to thrift stores.

Here’s how we made more money:

  • I continued selling extra valuable belongings on eBay. I currently have the last of my Goodwill marbles for sale, which will end tonight. I also sold my son’s Iron Giant stuffed robot for $102.50, (he gets to keep this money) and a stack of old Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazines for $40.99.
  • I found $1.21 on the ground and in the change return slots at the arcade. I used part of this to pay off my 75¢ library fine.
  • I continued selling extra plants from my garden on my front steps. This may sound a bit meshugenah, but I made $1 yesterday, and when my younger son needed $10 cash for a haircut last week, I was able to grab some “plant money” to cover the cost. I estimate this little experiment has garnered $25.
  • My husband was a given a generous Starbucks gift card as a thank you for volunteering to coach the soccer team. He doesn’t volunteer for the freebies, but parents will often give him small token gifts.
  • I blogged. I don’t make a fortune with The Non-Consumer Advocate, but I did receive a Blogher check for $120.05 on Saturday.

None one of these frugal hacks will set you financially free, but the combination of everything together makes a huge difference in our lives.

Today, I will spend the day whipping the house into shape, dealing with a few Monday morning chores and maybe even planning a few more eBay listings. And hopefully, the scheduler at work will let me know that I’ve been granted a regular number of shifts for next month.

What are you doing to spend less and earn more? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny May 23, 2011 at 7:50 am

We just took a week long camping vacation in our state–within 200 miles of our home. No plane tickets, no hotel. Because the federal parks in our area weren’t officially open for the season yet, we only paid for camping the three nights we stayed at state parks. We treated ourself to two lunches out, and spent a bit more than usual on groceries since we were cooking on a Coleman stove, but it was quite a frugal vacation. And extremely relaxing–lots of hiking and reading books and chatting around the fire. No internet, sometimes even no cell phone reception. And we both have enough vacation time that we’ll get paid for the week, too.


Erin May 23, 2011 at 8:21 am

This was a pretty good weekend. As far as making more money goes, I had an overnight gig for a family I babysit for, making $155.00 for just under 24 hours of my time – much of that the child was sleeping anyway. For saving money, I met up with a bunch of friends for tailgating at a local baseball game. But rather than park at the tailgating lot and pay $10, I parked at a broken meter ~1/2 mile away for free and walked to the lot to join everyone. I brought enough drinks for myself (as opposed to buying a case of beer for more money and having leftovers) and had a great time for the entire day on Saturday while spending less than $10.


Katy May 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

That sounds like fun!



Jen May 23, 2011 at 11:59 am

You are lucky, in Chicago if you park at a broken meter they still write a ticket, I guess this is because they expect that people would break meters on purpose if they could! I guess we are pretty uncivilized here.


Karen May 23, 2011 at 8:41 am

My daughter turned 9 this weekend. We had a birthday party, of course. She wanted it at home again. Only once in the 9 years have we strayed from that and it was to a recycled art place.

Anyway, I made the cake myself. We made the pinata ourselves and filled with the odds and ends of favors from other parties and Valentine’s day, plus a few Dollar Store items and 75% off Easter stuff. I bought little pails at Target’s Dollar Spot for 50% off. They decorated them with Sharpie and used them to store their pinata goodies.

The girls did a dog related scavenger hunt, which we wrote. They got little Captain Marvel membership cards, that they used to decode a few of the clues. (Decoding from my dad.)

The craft was a doghouse. I made a template and then cut each one out of white posterboard. I got a pack at Office Max for free using rewards credit. The doghouses were for their favors, which were the only splurge. Each kid for a Lil Kinz Webkinz. However, I picked these up after Valentine’s day (only the bags said anything about Valentines and we weren’t using them anyway.) Each one was a little over $2, which was great for something they could actually use not only as a cute stuffed dog, but online at Webkinz for a YEAR.

Strawberries, grapes, cheese and crackers were the snacks.

Now that all the birthday parties are over, I can think about tackling the room filled with stuff for Craigslist and Ebay!


Katy May 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

Wow! My younger son turned 13 last week, but we haven’t put a party together yet because he wants it at a hotel, which is not in the current budget. He does want to spend his Iron Giant money on his party, although I want to put together a home based party that would convince him not to.



Kris May 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

Wow! What a great party! I was never very creative with parties when my kids were younger. We stuck to bowling alley parties and the like.

I almost wish my kids were little again so I could steal this idea 😉


Kris May 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

Wow, first off, I can’t believe how much the toy sold for! I could kick myself for some of the toys my children had that we donated to thrift stores that I see are worth money now..lol

Secondly, you have really inspired me. Things I never thought about until I started reading your blog. Thank you 🙂

We had a mixture of outright savings and then we had one of those spend now to save big in the future moments.

We bought our annual state park pass which is just an awesome deal. We get a discount on the pass so it is only 20.00. Our state parks have alot of historical sites that the state has preserved(western 1800’s sites…ride em’ cowboy 😉 ) so you really get your money’s worth.

We purchased our yearly fishing permit. We live on a large lake and my husband and son catch a ton of fish each summer. We live in a landlocked state so seafood is very expensive for us but we greatly enjoy fish. This is the only way we can do it and by the end of the summer we have a freezer full of fish that lasts until the next spring. Not bad for a 20.00 permit.

I printed out a list of all the regional activities that are free or very inexpensive. We have historical re-creation events, concerts, etc. Quite a variety for a small town in geographically remote area.

My husband signed up for our family golf membership. His employer pays for almost the entire cost and they have a golf cart that anyone at work can use if it is available, so no cart fees. He works for a small business owner who loves to golf and I think he pays for the membership so he can always round up a partner 😉

Either my husband or my son try to golf each day of the week after work; 9 holes and on Sunday my husband and son have a standing golf date. The cart is almost always there so they rarely have to walk the course. It is such a small amount we pay each year and they golf for free and have no cart fees for the entire summer.

Our neighbor lives on a ranch “next door” to us. We have great….free fun over there. We can do a “ranch holiday” whenever we want. Ride horses for free, help with calving, etc. People pay hundreds of dollars to here and spend a week for a ranch holiday. We can have free fun and our neighbors get free labor 😉

I was talking to a neighbor about buying lilac bushes this year and she told me there are 20 lilac bushes on the site they plan to build their new house and if I want to come dig them up I can have them. WAHOO! We want to plant lilac bushes on our property line so this is going to save me a huge amount. She also dug up some chives and some wild flowers to re-plant at no cost.

We introduced our septic guy to a state run facility that was not happy with the septic contract they had. They switched over to our guy and he pumped our tank for free in appreciation for referring him to a steady, year round bigger client.

On the spend now, save later front. We are about to place our yearly beef order. We buy from a neighbor so we know the exact conditions the cows are in. We get grass fed, hormone/antibiotic free beef for 1.89 lb whether it is ground beef or t-bones. Big cost upfront, but save a ton of money through-out the year.


Katy May 23, 2011 at 8:54 am

Where do you live?



Kris May 23, 2011 at 8:56 am

The North Dakota Badlands 🙂


Carrie May 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

I’m on a tear to sell every nonessential item I own. So far Craigslist hasn’t been very helpful, and I keep underestimating shipping on my eBay auctions and losing money! But I’m learning. 🙂


Raf May 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm

What’s your secret about eBay, Katy?!
Maybe in Italy it’s harder to sell stuff on line, ’cause my items rarely receive many offers, if they do at all… Come on, tell us, lol 🙂


Mara May 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I’ve been selling DVDS that we don’t watch anymore and textbooks that I don’t need anymore (since I am fully certified). I’ve made about $800 and I still have more I want to sell, maybe (sometimes it’s hard to give things up). And my dr. has put me on a special high protein diet so I buy almost no food, except from her, and she sells it for cheap. That has helped me save SO much money. And, of course, get healthier. And I’m a homebody, so I don’t do things that cost money. I usually just go to community baseball games for fun. Watching three-five years olds play “baseball” is the ultimate stress reliever.


K La May 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

How do you buy sausage and pepperoni from a pizza place? That is just awesome!

Thanks for your blog! It inspired me! I just finished my first Non-Consumer month! I blogged about it if you are interested:


602Laura May 24, 2011 at 7:14 am

Hi Katy,
I’d like to second KLa’s question. Is it a mom & pop pizzeria that sells you the toppings? I live within walking distance of 3 pizza places, but they are all large chains and I somehow doubt they’d sell me toppings.


Katy May 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

Nope. I buy the toppings from a Papa Murphy’s. I ask for one half portion of Pepperoni and one half portion of sausage. They charge me the amount they would charge for an extra topping.

$1 😀



mike crosby May 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Hello Katy,

I cut my own hair to save money, and a whole bunch of time.

I’ve been doing it now for 5 years. And I’m getting better at it after each cutting. The nice thing about cutting my own hair is I can do it whenever I want to, and sometimes that’s twice per week.

I’m not sure how the back looks though.


Melissa May 23, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Ha ha!


Amber @ neuronmommy.com May 25, 2011 at 3:53 am

I also cut my husbands hair. We estimate that if his haircuts cost $25, we save about $250 every year. Now that my son needs regular trims we also cut his hair.


Indy May 23, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I teach high school art and there is no budget for any supplies, so while I do occasionally purchase things on my dime, I went to the local businesses who donated scratch and dent merchandise, I raid Craigslist ads for everything from free magazines, leftover fabric, old house paint etc. I also write a lot of grants, and even if I only get the smallest out of five, that is a hundred or more dollars worth of materials for my students.

On the home front I trim my own hair or pay my stylist friend when we’re in the same town. After work parties, there are always a ton of leftovers and no one wants to take them home, so I do. Last week I ended up with two bags of salad, a half gallon of milk, a tin of coffee, a vegetable plate, crackers, a block of cheese, hummus, and quite a bit of fresh fruit. I almost didn’t have to go grocery shopping at all (since I live with only my cat and dog).

I almost never have the ac on since it gets cool at night, which helps me sleep, I leave the windows open, and close them and turn the blinds in the morning, the apartment says cool all day. (Even here in the muggy south)


Practical Parsimony May 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I need to get more creative to the tune of $242 for six-month car insurance premium due in June. Grrrr….too much on me right now. I get free food for 3 hens from produce market and elsewhere, have a huge bag of cans to take to recycler, and just used $7 coupon on $6.98 bag of garbage bags that will be necessary for organizing soon. The 60 bags cost me $0.43, total. I highly disapprove of plastic bags, but this is an emergency. My 80 bags I bought 6 years ago are only 1/3 gone. Since most of my food is free, it works for me. I really need to go dumpster diving/safari soon. Maybe I will thin my Hosta and sell those. Plus, more of my books will be sold or thrifted. Beef for less than $2/lb and grass fed, unheard of around here! Allergies mean the ac will be used more, so that will be extra I must spend! another…grrrr.


Deana May 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I am also a nurse, facing the same situation. Lately I get cancelled more often than I get to work. I am also an avid eBayer. It is such a great way to bring in extra money!


Kris May 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I tried doing the eBay thing for awhile but I didn’t find it worked all that well for me (at least with the items I was selling). The items always sold but shipping costs here in Canada are a little on the ridiculous side so understandably, the items didn’t sell for super high amounts because once you added the shipping costs, it would no longer be a bargain. If I had items that were of a more collectible/valuable nature, I probably would have had more success.

Great post! I love that your blog never makes me feel bad about the choices I make, it just inspires me to try harder to make choices like yours.


ellen May 24, 2011 at 4:47 am

over the weekend, I did a yard sale at my MIL, comunitiy, made about 125.00 which paid for my table and also paid for my table for the one in my town in a few weeks. (its a fund raiser) also I had been looking for a large mirror to hand over my dress. I found one at this yard sale I did with my mil. It was the right color, and the right size, and it had never been used. guy was asking 20.00 but since my mil asked he gave it to her for 10.00! the frame has a few dings in it but I will fix it with a black shapie…
Sunday (via craigslist) I sold my kids small outdoor play house and climbing block, they have kinda of out grown it.. a few years ago I paid 25.00 for both… But sold them for 50.00!
I gave my grandmother a perm, (i don’t want any money from her, but she insists i take it…) And made 60.00!
so all in all I had a good weekend!


Megg May 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

Can you do a post on how you sell on ebay and what you decide to sell? How do you know what’s worth selling?
We have an old metal fire truck from about 1988 that was my husband’s that I want to try to sell, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I can’t find anything online about this particular truck.

This weekend I did 3 loads of laundry and didn’t use my dryer once! (Oh, I did, for about 20 minutes on underwear. I don’t like the way it comes out when I dry it on the line)


Kimberly Sea May 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

I love ebay! I’ve been selling on there for years, but since I recently decided to try and “minimalize” my belongings and lifestyle, I’ve been unloading a lot of clothes, etc. Perfect timing for me too because I need the cash!

Great post, I love your blog!


LaShawna May 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Hi Katy,

Love your website. I saw the link at Get Rich Slowly. Looking forward to reading more. I also love homemade pizza. Thanks for the tip. 🙂


Tamar May 31, 2018 at 6:09 pm

Hey there! I’m not sure if you still keep this blog going or check the comments, but I was the one who bought your son’s Iron Giant on eBay! And I can’t tell you how thrilled my boyfriend (now husband) was to receive it. We keep it sitting on the bookshelf in his studio, and it inspires him every day to “be who [he] chooses to be.” Thank you so much for selling it. They’re so hard to come by and tremendously prized possessions. Hope you and your family are well!


Katy May 31, 2018 at 7:52 pm

I do still write the blog, and wow, that was a loooong time ago! That movie is so special.


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