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Video: Woman buys nothing new in five years

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    >>> back now at 8:18. how long could you buy without buying anything new? katie is going on five years and counting. she's going to explain how she does it in a moment. but first, here's kristen dahlgren.

    >> reporter: for katie , it started as a challenge.

    >> i decided to do january and see if i could do one month.

    >> reporter: one month without buying anything new. that was five years ago. she now writes a blog on what she calls her nonconsumer lifestyle.

    >> a friend of my mother's got divorced, didn't want it anymore.

    >> reporter: to her closet.

    >> these sell for 750 new. dale montgomery never thought his wife's experiment would last.

    >> i think we'll be doing this then years from now, especially if i want to stay married.

    >> reporter: he's noticed benefits beyond a happy wife, like 20,000 less in credit card debt .

    >> you have more time to enjoy the people around you.

    >> reporter: he also doesn't have to take away the trash as often. less packaging means less stuff. 14-year-old emmitt beaming over his recent sneaker score.

    >> how much would they have cost new?

    >> $100.

    >> how much did you get them for?

    >> $6.

    >> reporter: the kids do still occasionally spend their own money on something new and even stanley has her standard.

    >> nobody wants to sign up for used underwear so i don't. so i buy new underwear, socks and bras and personal care items.

    >> reporter: and food. but she insists she can find almost everything else preowned.

    >> how often has it happened to you that you buy something and your mom, sister, neighbor says i wish u said you needed that, i have an extra one.

    >> reporter: she also frequents thrift stores like goodwill.

    >> oh, my gosh! look at the price tag.

    >> reporter: okay, wait. $226.

    >> and what does it cost here?

    >> reporter: 6.99. economists say it's a good thing no everyone has important is off shopping.

    >> there would be no demand for the new this evenings and all of us producing new things would not have jobs.

    >> reporter: but for her, it seems to work.

    >> i'm going to buy this.

    >> and katie wolf stanley is with us now along with our today contributor lifestyle expert. katie , we got to start with you. obviously you are dedicated if nothing else. your friends and family are used to this by now but what reaction do you get when you tell people i haven't bought anything new in five years?

    >> people always say that's interesting, that's great, i could never do that. you say, well, why couldn't you do that? they'll say this and that. it is something people could do. obviously if everybody did this, it would be a catastrophic thing but it's never going to be a thing where everybody does this so it's kind archmoot argument anyway.

    >> let's talk about your outfit. everything here you bought for what?

    >> the sweater $7, a little chikeios shell, $3. the thirt i think i paid seven with, which are a naturalizer, they're $15 and normally sell for 70.

    >> and you have a suitcase here and you actually share this suitcase with a friend.

    >> i do. i don't travel a huge amount, i don't travel for work. so the times i need formal, really nice luggage are kind of infrequent. most of my friends are in the same boat. when she's going on a fabulous vacation, she boros my luggage and when i'm going ton a fabulous vacation, i borrow her luggage. we rarely travel at the same time.

    >> what do you have there.

    >> this watch i got at goodwill for $15. i looked it up on lined it's like add 400 watch. all it needed was a battery and link taken out.

    >> what do do you for gifts for family? do you give used gifts?

    >> i do. would you like it if i gave you a beautiful antique?

    >> sure.

    >> something i've done for grandparents gifts, i get pictures printed up of the kids and i put them in used frames. what's the difference between that and a new one?

    >> i think all of america breathed a sigh of relief when they learned you have exception. you don't buy used underwear .

    >> absolutely.

    >> any other exception?

    >> if a friend of mine comes out with a new boork i will buy their book new.

    >> i saw this on your blog but did you it weks tra credit you had at the book store , right?

    >> we're lucky because we have wonderful book stores. one is within walking distance of my house and can i take this in and get credit.

    >> you like to fix up things. you brought us a chair, a fixer up.

    >> when you buy something, there's a good point here. there's used, antique and what you can calvin tah -- call vintage. you can transform something. what has mostly changed in the world is you can do a lot of this online.

    >> katie , you're not the biggestline shopper but you say there's great sites out there.

    >> there's a whole breed of sites that have popped up.

    >> 's thread up for kids clothing. there's karmagoat and the proceeds go to a charity. there's yardseller.com. can you look specifically for things you want, i want a sweater or a comic book . there's another great site called never liked it anyway. and people like to look. it's the thrill also.

    >> of course. keep up the good work. thanks for the good ideas. coming up next carly rae jepsen and owl city .

NBC News
updated 8/23/2012 8:51:59 AM ET 2012-08-23T12:51:59
Producer’s Notebook

Few stories have been more perfectly suited for me to produce than this morning’s TODAY segment about a woman who has bought nothing new in the past five years... well, almost nothing new. Like those fast talkers say at the end of drug commercials, there are some exceptions: food, underwear, toiletries. My own caveat list is way more extensive, but I can certainly hold my own in the “new-to-me” fashion department thanks to an unknown size-8 actress.

Story: Could you go 5 years without anything new? This mom did

In case you missed it, correspondent Kristen Dahlgren profiled Katy Wolk-Stanley, a part-time nurse and a wife and mother of two teenage boys from Portland, Ore., who writes a blog called The Non-Consumer Advocate. In 2007, Katy decided she’d acquire only used things. While it was her own choice, she’s well aware that in these tough economic times there are plenty of folks for whom frugality is not just a lifestyle, but a life saver.

Producer Stephanie Becker (top row, second from left) was part of the team that took home a Daytime Emmy for TODAY. She attended the ceremonies in a Neiman Marcus dress — for which she paid $12.

I expected a house of horrors — decrepit furniture, smelly clothing and broken-down appliances — but instead, her home was lovely and homey. In fact, she’s got some better stuff than I do. I could have easily moved her second-hand $125 pink mohair couch into my living room, even if her husband complained it’s not comfy. He did seem perfectly happy in the green velvet side chair that Katy salvaged and reupholstered. As a chair freak I was insanely jealous of her sturdy oak dining room chairs, which she says came from a 1920s library — $75 for the set, although at least one had to be sacrificed for the good of the rest. And her 42-inch hand-me-down high-def TV beats the pixels out of my Goldstar 13-inch with the UHF dial and occasional color. (Mine was new. In 1986.)

Life Inc.: Many feel middle-class life slipping away

But while Katy’s not buying anything new, that doesn’t mean she’s not shopping. We went to the place she scores most of her deals — her local Goodwill. Let me tell you, Katy is one picky shopper. I think she touched every single thing in the store. Finally she bought a 99-cent drinking glass. (Actually she had to borrow a buck because she forgot to bring money; she must have been flustered by being filmed for NBC. Our cameraman floated her a loan, interest-free; another deal for Katy.)

Second-hand shopping is often more about the thrill of the hunt than actually bagging a bargain. It’s the urban equivalent of being on a fossil-collecting field trip, carefully sifting through the dirt with a tiny brush until you find a $250 tissue box holder for $6.99. And I’m kicking myself for not buying it.

Life Inc.: Cheap glasses websites well worth a look

I know that feeling because I come from a long line of thrift shoppers. Grandma Belle called it “antique-ing,” thus giving it that allure of propriety. The instinct passed on to my mom, whose purchase of a $300 Steinweg baby grand piano from a long-gone thrift shop in the East Village of New York City remains the family benchmark (alas, the accompanying bench cost just as much). Our Steinweg is a gorgeous instrument despite the fact that it’s a distant cousin to the more popular Steinway (then again, so is my Beethoven’s “Fur Elise" compared to, say, Van Cliburn’s).

Courtesy Stanley Becker
Family heirloom: A baby grand piano purchased from a long-gone Greenwich Village thrift shop. Price: $300.

Katy and I also share the best part of cut-rate treasures: the pleasure of relating each possession’s provenance. Katy gave us a docent tour of her stuff: a salvaged chair, an abandoned side table, this mirror from her mom, that bed from an angry divorcee, the painting, the upright piano, the bricks for the patio... each had a tale to tell.

But that’s not just Katy. I’m guessing plenty of our viewers take part in the great oral tradition of sharing the price you paid versus actual retail price.

Which brings me to my best story. At the swanky Daytime Emmy Awards this year I should have won Best Bargain of the Night, because my dress still had its original label. I wore a cast-off from a local thrift store that gets clothing from the nearby movie studios.

What I wore? A $420 dress from Neiman Marcus. What did it cost me? $12. Being able to tell everyone? Priceless. But of course, not as priceless as TODAY winning an Emmy.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints


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