Whether you are saving to make ends meet, saving for emergencies, saving for retirement, or saving to give -- I want to write down some ideas I have. In a society that encourages consumption and waste without shame, I think it's worth considering that we don't have to "buy into" what THEY say that we need. Not only is it possible to cut back on a LOT, but you'll find that it also happens to be more GREEN. I'm going to keep adding to this as I have time, so keep checking back.
My thoughts and ideas:
Watch this Saturday Night Live Clip My Pastor played this during a recent sermon - it's hilarious! "Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford" FABULOUS! Click here to watch the clip.
Don't use your credit card If you don't have the money for something ... don't buy it. It's tempting once you've "charged" not to pay the entire amount on your credit card bill - and then you have to pay interest. Plan savings into your monthly budget for unexpected expenses. Use the suggestions on this post to try and get to the point where you can afford it.
Read the book AFFLUENZA I just finished the book Affluenza - get it? The authors define Affluenza as "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." It's a great, thought provoking book. Makes you think about how we've gotten here as a society and about the choices you make regarding the things you choose to do with your money, your stuff, your life.
Watch this Video Clip This clip The Story of Stuff is great. It talks about our consumption, and the mathematics of what it means to our society. Keep watching because it touches on a variety of subject matters -- it's well worth watching until the end. It will give you a fresh perspective and make you think twice before buying something you don't need. Save.Save.Save.
Plant a GARDEN I learned recently that Victory Gardens were created in the 40's to releave the pressure that the war put on our food supply. Everyone contributed in ways from recycling to creating victory gardens to help our country and economy. I think we should create a NEW KIND of Victory Garden ... Victory from bland vegetables ... Victory from supporting conventional (non-organic) farming ... Victory from shipping our vegetables across the country - vegetables that were picked well before they are ripened and genetically engineered to "look ripe" even though they weren't propperly ripened ... Victory from spending money on something that we can do for ourselves more cheaply and with WAY better taste!
Recycle & Compost Save money (and the environment) by cutting down on how many plastic garbage bags you use. Together with recycling and composting we produce LESS THAN one tall kitchen garbage bag worth of trash a week. We used to fill one tall kitchen garbage bag A DAY! Wow. Big difference. Check out the story on my blog - click here.
Cut down on your Electrical Bill Switch to CFL bulbs, Air Dry your clothes, Connect your computer and t.v. stations to power strips in order to shut off all "phantom electricity" and making sure everything is off. Commit to turning off lights when you're out of the room. Turn off your outdoor lighting unless you're expecting guests. Entertain yourself in ways that don't involve electricity -- read a book, play a board game with your kids. Check out my electric bill testimony - click here
Create a Weekly Menu, Shopping List At the start of your week (whenever you plan for the oncoming week) plan what you will serve for breakfasts, lunches, and especially dinners. Write a shopping list -- and when you go shopping, stick to the list! This week a got money for grocery shopping out of the bank. I am keeping it in an envelope and when I spend money on groceries (or other weekly expenses) I record the amount I spent and what I spent it on, on the envelope. It's fun to try to spend less than you have in the envelope (I love games). Today, I was thinking -- how fun it would be if - at the end of the week - if I spend less than I'd allowed for, I can donate it to charity. How cool is that?! I'll keep you posted and let you know how this goes. We do waste a lot of food. How many times have you cleaned out your fridge of tons of veggies you never used before they "went bad"? Plan. Plan. Plan. Stick to your list. Save. Save. Save.
Stop buying "to go" coffee At $2-$4 dollars a cup, this is a ridiculous waste of money. I have been on this bandwagon myself, but since being home with my children I have improved. Since going on my recycling kick I've improved even more. I'd say I "treat" myself to a to-go coffee once every one to two weeks. However, there are tons of people who regularly buy coffee two times a day. Not only is it expensive, think of the waste. Dunkin Donuts and Honey Dew are particularly bad because they use Styrofoam cups. It's tough to find a town who will recycle Styrofoam. Talking about chemicals. Ugh. With the amount of money you will save by drinking quality home brewed coffee, you will be able to afford organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee from the Coffee Exchange in Providence! At $9.99 a pound for some varieties (16oz) - Mocha Java is FABULOUS - , it's about "on par" with ON SALE Starbucks Coffee (NOT organic, fair trade or shade grown) at Stop and Shop for $7.99 for 12 oz. Think about it.
Use your local library Free books. Go to your local library and check out books for your children and for yourself on a regular basis. Not only are books a better bet than t.v. and video games, but they are free to use at the library, and don't feed the consumerism monster. TV - commercials VIDEO games - accessories and new games. Plus, books are great for your brain and increase your vocabulary.
Stop buying bottled water. Save well over $300 a year ... stop buying bottled water. ($300 is based on buying one case a week at Walmart ... if you cave and buy SINGLE bottles of water you could save a boat-load more than $300) When you get ready to leave your house, fill up your water bottle (please, no leaching plastic) with fresh water from your faucet. Bottled water has far fewer restrictions to pass than your household water. Did you know that? Research it. Not only will you be saving big bucks by drinking water from home, but you will save the planet BIG TIME! Thank you for recycling your used bottled water containers -- if you do, but just think, there is no need to be using up the energy used to create the chemically based plastic bottles in the first place.
Stop buying soda. Honestly. The stuff is horrible for you. If you drink the sugar based soda ... not only are you getting empty calories in the sugar, but have you ever taken a gander through the ingredients list? If you drink the DIET soda ... do you really want to put ingredients in your body that have been proven to cause cancer in mice? Why? Not only is it bad for you, there is an inexpensive GOOD FOR YOU alternative .... water. Save BIG TIME by choosing water from your home. And, you wont waste needless energy producing the plastic and aluminum cans used to contain the liquid. AND, you don't have to add needless piles of cans and bottles to the recycling pile ... or worse, landfill. Eeeek.
Start a compost bin. A compost bin is a bin that you put outside in your yard (there are all kinds of sizes). In it you put all of your vegetable scraps. You can also put paper towel rolls / t.p. rolls, tissue paper (used is fine), hair, coffee grounds, egg shells, paper bags, newspaper ... click here for more information ... In the end, you get free natural chemical free fertilizer for your yard and garden. Plus, you don't fill up your landfill with stuff that you can make good use out of. Cool! Alot of towns offer a discounted compost bin. If you live in the greater Providence / Attleboro area I know that Attleboro and Seekonk offer compost bins for $25 -- which is quite a deal! Even though I live in Rehoboth, Seekonk was very willing to sell me a bin for $25 along with a kitchen compost bucket. Check it out.
Stop buying Paper towels. Use good old fashioned rags. Not only are you USING old clothing like t-shirts, sheets, towels, that might be stained, torn, or too small rather than throwing them in the land fill -- but you aren't supporting the unnecessary cutting down of perfectly good trees. It's amazing to see that if you don't buy them, you realize you don't need them. Use dish towels, dish rags and good 'ole fashioned rags (for cleaning floors, etc.).
Stop buying Swiffers. Again, no need to buy anything except environmentally friendly soap. Get down on your knees, get some extra exercise, and clean the silly floor. We are under exercised, over maxed on our credit cards, and overloaded in our landfills -- Don't "buy on" to buying "tools" we don't need to make life easier. A rag and soap is simpler, cheaper, better for you and better for the environment.
Stop buying WINDEX. My parents have a house in Florida with LOTS of LARGE windows to take advantage of beautiful views they are blessed to be nearby. Do you know what they use? White Vinegar and Water. Not only is white vinegar very low in cost, it's natural and fine for the environment! Plus, who needs to handle chemicals when other options are cheaper -- and as far as I can tell work as well or better. What a racket. Put the Windex down.
Stop buying Sponges. Not only are the majority of sponges that people use unnatural requiring chemicals to produce -- and therefore pollute the environment (and let's not rob the ocean of natural sponges, please) but they collect germs. I use one dish cloth a day. At the end of the day, it goes into the wash with our clothes.
Buy WHOLE FOODS No, I don't mean the natural foods store. I mean, foods that aren't processed. Simple whole foods are better for you, have less packaging, and have a lower impact on the environment. The Providence Journal has been running a terrific series on saving money when buying food. One article discussed how immigrants often do a better job saving by cooking whole foods - simply because they are used to cooking simply, from scratch. For example -- there is nothing cheaper and simpler to make than rice and beans. It isn't difficult to cook simply, from scratch. Let's face it, we generally don't have time and energy to cook like Martha Stewart every night -- but that's not necessary to have a good whole foods meal that taste great and takes a small amount of time to whip up. When we "bought on" to packaged and prepared foods (such the novelty in the 60's and 70's) we lost the ART of cooking quickly, simply and cheaply. You should see my Portuguese in-laws whip up a simple chicken soup in no time. I'm not talking chicken soup with boxes of broth and pre-cooked packaged chicken ... I'm talking from a whole chicken. It DOESN'T TAKE LONG! A lost art ... worth learning. (I will get around to enclosing simple whole food recipes)
Stop CATALOGS. Take time, pick up the phone and call the 800 number for free and tell stores to "hold the catalog". You will be amazed, without allowing retailers to brainwash you that you NEED MORE STUFF with their slick photo shoots and advertisements how much you will ultimately save. Plus, you save trees and the environment. Also, other mailers can be stopped by going to this site, filling out the form and paying one dollar (which simply validates your information ... and let's face it, they make a dollar out of the deal) www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist . To stop flyer's that typically come on Wednesday's in the mail including everything from Goodyear to ALL of your local grocery stores call Valassis at 1-800-437-0479 ... at least this is the number for southeastern Massachusetts.
Stop buying Dryer Sheets Stop drying your clothes in the dryer all together. We have cut down our electric bill dramatically by air drying our clothes. If you don't use a dryer, you don't need dryer sheets! Cool, eh?
I will be writing more, so please stay tuned!
Let me know if you have any ideas!