More trash talkin’

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 24

Product: For several days this month I focused on things that were literally just trash. I know it sounds silly but sometimes we need encouragement to have and create less trash.

A lot of things that don’t start off as trash end up there as well.

These things are like anything you would find in a dollar store. You might buy a cheap plastic serving bowl there but only use it a handful of times and then try to lift it from the edge with too many oranges in it. (That, sadly, happened to me. The plastic split right down the side.)

Anything else you don’t have the capacity to care for properly can end up as trash before its time. For my boys it’s CDs. They love them and actually listen to them every single night as they go to bed, they just don’t care well for them. (I’ve discovered that it’s wise to rip CDs to my computer before giving them to the kids. That way when it starts skipping creepily in the night, I can just burn a new one to give them. I don’t know when boys are able to keep CDs without scratching them.)

Do you know you actually benefit from being conscious and limiting how much you throw away? This time I’m not talking about the wasted money on buying or bringing junk into your home in the first place. I mean it costs money to throw things away!

In my city charges are added to every city water bill for every extra bin you have. There are homes in my area which consistently put out two carts every week of trash. In fact, when we moved into this house there were two bins and it took me several months to realized that we were getting charged for that second one!

My city also recycles. It’s not the best city, by far, but they do offer it. I am happy to report that when I had them come retrieve the extra garbage bin I had them bring another recycle bin. Recycle bins do NOT cost any more to have and we do our best to fill those up. Conversely, when our one trash bin gets picked up it is less than half full. I don’t know how other families fill two every week.

Even if you don’t have curbside garbage service, you should limit your trash creation. In fact, you probably realize this more than those of us who do because you are much more aware that if you create trash it needs to go somewhere and you have to deal with it.

Here’s how we can limit our trash:

Reduce- This is covered in every post I’ve given this month. Limit the amount you bring in. Don’t buy it. Don’t get it. Don’t take it in. Find a way to live with less. It’s not difficult to make small changes and small changes add up.

Reuse- This one is actually my personal favorite. A lot gets said about the other two popular R’s but this one is the fun one. It’s hard to teach though. It just comes down to looking at an item that is naturally labeled as trash and then rethinking it. It can be as simple as using the bread bag to wrap the sandwich in when you’ve used the last two slices to make your kid his sandwich for school.

I was tickled pink with Chopped did several episodes on food waste. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s a reality show that gives chef contestants special ingredients that they must use to make delicious on-the-fly dishes. For a few episodes they gave ingredients like coffee grounds, orange peels, and bacon grease. For those of us not ready for such extreme food salvage challenges, just learn to make soup. Almost any leftover can be incorporated into soup. If you make soup once a week you can use up leftovers.

FIXING THINGS also falls into this category. By all means, do not throw away that pair of pants just because the button came off. Care for your things. If you spent precious money on it, you have an obligation to care for it. If you really can’t handle a fix-it project at least donate it somewhere. Somewhere there may be someone willing to fix it and use it properly instead of it collecting in a landfill.

On the topic of donating realize that this is another way to reuse. Don’t just collect items in your house because they may have some value to you someday. If you are not using it now, it’s a waste and you’ve just effectively made your house into a landfill. Don’t let your home become the sad island of misfit toys. Find a new home for those things so they can be appreciated now.

Side rant: Please just don’t donate only junk. I know I am saying that many things have worth after many people normally would feel they would. I know that poor people are much more appreciative of your coat with the broken zipper than you would be. Just think how it would be to be poor and have to fix every zipper on every coat you ever got.

Think of it this way: if you are rich enough to donate a box of food just because the arbitrary date on it says it’s past its prime, you are rich enough to also donate some higher quality food as well.

Better yet. Eat the food yourself, even the outdated stuff, and donate money instead. Organizations can do much better with cash to buy from cheap sources than trying to shuffle, organize, and deal out the items you gave them.

Recycle- If they can take it and remake it into something else, let them. Paper, glass, metal, plastic, batteries, ink cartridges, electronics, etc.

Rot- I threw this one is for the fun of it. Normally it’s the three r’s but every once in awhile I hear this fourth one. Rot is really a superhero version of recycle. If you take your food and paper waste and compost it you get more earth! Buying and consuming things all takes away from the Earth and this one actually adds back to it. It’s super nifty.

Mr. WW actually built a prototype of a waste digester once. It was SUPER, super nifty. It turned compostable waste into both earth AND energy (specifically collecting methane gas.)

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Here the oldest learning from our own learning experience of the methane digester.

What happened to it? Well, it got trashed because we thought the collection process wasn’t working. However when it was pulled apart for recycling,  we realized one of the spots wasn’t sealed like we thought it was so it probably was working.

The friends we were visiting in another country we were working on it for decided they’d rather have Mr. WW build them a pool table instead anyhow. Which is cool because supporting relationships trumps even recycling. It was a cool pool table and I hear they still love it.

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Some preliminary pool table testing. 

Reason to buy less: No one likes a show off.

Suggestion: Beware of ‘free’.

“Hey, stop.” You might be saying. “You told us that yesterday.”

But I’m not talking about free things; I’m talking about ‘free’ things. The word ‘free’ is thrown around a lot. Rarely does it mean that something is really free.

“Buy one get one free” does not mean free. It means, “you must buy two to get 50% off.”

“Free samples in the mail” does not mean free. It means, “small, crappy version of a product in exchange for your mailing information we can sell to others.”

“Free rewards” does not mean free. It means, “Use our product/service many, many times over to earn these rewards.”

“Call in the next 5 minutes and get free shipping” is not free. It means, “We’ve done the math. We can’t hook a customer that takes any time to think, so we’ve covered all our costs in the main charges so we can rush customers without experiencing loss.”

“2 more free in every package” is not free. It means “Our package size is larger/we’ve made our product smaller but with more servings so that you will get excited and buy it.”

“Free soda with adult buffet” is not free. It means, “Fill up on soda so you don’t have room for the questionable meatloaf that costs more.”

“Free trial” does not mean free. It means… wait that one does mean free. It means “Thanks for letting us trick you into a super long, complicated, near impossible contract to get out of. Have a free month of what you will soon be begging us to take away.”

Okay, I’m a little cynical. May I remind you all that I am debt free including any mortgages and we even bought our last property with cash? Cynicism can be very helpful.

Just don’t dare let the word ‘free’ talk you into anything.

If you weren’t going to get it in the first place, don’t get it with the word ‘free’ attached.

Score a little more money in your wallet

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 19

Product: I put this product on a special day because it is so near and dear to me… or for how far and worthless it is to me. There is a product, or group of products that sucks anywhere from $700-$1500+ yearly from people, just for the sake of entertainment. I dare say that this hobby demands more time/attention/money than any other.

As Brian Regan would put it, “Go, my favorite sports team! Go! Score a goal, unit, basket… go squadron do good, defeat the opponents soundly in the skirmish.”

Yes, that kind of dedication requires lots and lots of money.

Let’s see. You have to buy a jersey to wear on game day or you’re not a true fan. A foam finger (or a cheesehead) gives you even more credibility as a dedicated supporter. You need snacks to eat, a large TV and a special cable package. Then, at least once a year, you have to buy tickets to a game. You travel to the game where you eat a $5 hot dog. This is one expensive hobby.

And for what?

Every year it’s the same plan. Players who rarely live in the city they play for are paid exorbitant amounts (which many do not know how to handle) and do their best to out-sport the other teams.

There are injuries and dramas to suck people in (I didn’t know so much time could be spent talking about PSI in a ball or how often one gets on a knee.) Every newscast devotes a chunk of every broadcast just to tell us about the current sport dramas.

The watchers are encouraged to engorge themselves on as much dedication to “their” team (based on where you used to live or go to college)while tearing down supporters of opposing teams; who support a team simply because they used to live or go to college near where “their” team is located.

Add alcohol to the mix and you can get riots. Riots! Just because some people they don’t know personally played a game better than other people they don’t know personally.

You know what I suggested instead? Go out and play with your family and friends. Put together a league or just kick around a ball with your 7-year-old. You’ll get a full entertainment experience including some good exercise.

Plus, we could all do with a little less professional drama.

Reason: You want to be responsible for everything under you control. The more stuff you have the more you have to be responsible for. Let’s go back to the feeling of when we were kids and we just had one room of ‘treasures’ and not 15.

Suggestion:  Today is my birthday… thank you, thank you. Today I got to do my part to help people live with less. The “people” is me and my family and what I was able to do was say, “no gifts please.”

Though of course I didn’t say that. I don’t need to at this point, my position had been given once or twice before.

It is great not to have to worry about giving hints or being excited over a mediocre gift. It’s also great to not feel guilted into keeping something that isn’t of use to you.

So why not try to start the shift? Release those you love from the pressure of giving you a gift. Tell them, “I love you and I would prefer you don’t buy me a gift.”

I can’t say it wasn’t odd at first. You can’t shift to non-gift giving without someone having to go first and feel like their being a cheapskate. It was easy after that.

If you can agree to a balance of no gifts either direction it’s easy all the way around.

Now, the silver lining is that when you happen to stumble on that perfect gift that reminds you of your friend/family member, you can buy it and give it to them for no reason. It’s so much more special.

Subscribe to savings

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

 Day: 17

Product: An easy way to hemorrhage money is to willingly let a company hit up your account every month in the name of entertainment. Magazines, product of the month clubs, even budgeting programs can all suck money long after the initial dazzle that drew you in has worn off.

Don’t let them lie to you about that dazzle. If their product is really that great they won’t need to rely on an automated payment plan to get your money every month.

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It’s just so very easy to say “no” to subscriptions. Cancel any you have out there and then just don’t allow any more to creep in. Subscription entertainment is at the bottom of the entertainment barrel.

Reason to buy less: Several products always require you to buy MORE products in order to use them. Not only are they clutter, they’re a drain on your wallet.

Suggestion: I know I’ve been pushing hard against advertisers. I know I sound paranoid and distrustful.

Billions of dollars (as much as 10 billion) is spent every year by advertisers to get into your wallet.

Be wise. If you are familiar with their tricks you can make a fully informed and not manipulated choices.

Beware of lighting, signage, anything. It’s all very carefully designed to make you want to buy. If you are aware you are much less likely to fall for it.

Do a bit of research today and do a bit of less buying later.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/63315403@N00/605359114″>Magazines</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Don’t drain your savings

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 13

Product: Another product you can buy less of is water. I’m not talking about bottled water, we already covered that. You can save on the water that’s coming out of your taps. Depending on your current usage you might not save all that much but every bit helps!

This is especially true when it’s changing a habit you do every day. Those days add up.

Say, brushing your teeth. Do you leave the water running while you are brushing your teeth? You should try visiting a country where you either have to brush your teeth with bottled water or where the water just drizzles out of the taps. That bit of water is precious, let me tell you.

Three drips of perfectly wonderful water.

Four drips of perfectly wonderful water.

You can also do showers instead of baths, only run the dishwasher when it’s full, limit watering your lawns—all things you can learn by paying attention to the news in California. Just pretend you’re in a drought all the time. Then, if you should every find yourself in an actual drought you won’t feel put out.

Poet. Know it.

Reason to buy less: When you finally make it big and become a Harlem Globe Trotter you will need to be able to travel light. Find out the bare minimum that you need so you’re ready to get up and go at a moment’s notice. You don’t want to miss your big chance!

Suggestion: I told you yesterday you can shoot for buying used but there’s another pocket friendly option. Buy refurbished.

This is the cool version of dumpster diving. It’s someone else’s garbage but you sweep in and save the day by offering to pay someone a small fee to fix it for you instead.

This is often the way to go when it comes to electronics. Electronics age so quickly sometimes it stinks to wait until someone is ready to sell their product second-hand because then it’s out of date for you.

There are options outside of buying things new. It may take a little more time to find exactly what you want but that is also a good way to make sure you aren’t buying things you don’t really need. Put in the little bit of extra effort. It’s good for you, I promise.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30054343@N07/5487519580″>Drops</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

The cost of a roll of convenience

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 12

Product: We could use less paper towels (and paper plates, paper napkins, paper cups, etc.) Paper towels are almost always overkill. Regular towels are the way to go.

I'm sorry. I spilled your water.

I’m sorry. I spilled your water. There may have only been a few drops left but I got it. I got it.

Now, if you’re cleaning up something gross enough or stainy enough you may want to dip into the paper towel stash, but better yet pull out a rag.

I don’t know about you but we create a crazy amount of rags around here. We’ve got two boys and they are always staining, ripping, and outgrowing their clothes. If we have outgrown clothes, we make sure they get passed on to someone else who can use them, but stained and torn clothes make their way to the rag bag.

1 stained T-shirt + 1 pair of scissors = 4 cleaned up messes of paint, bodily fluids, or extra glue.

Or there’s something else that can double as paper towels. Every day mailmen (and mailwomen) deliver lots and lots of useless paper that retailers pay for to convince you to buy their stuff.

Papers work great for cleaning windows (though I just use a regular towel) or for putting down before polishing shoes or cleaning out your oven or lining the litter box or anything else your imagination comes up with.

(Just don’t use them for getting ideas about more stuff you “need.”)

Now you’ll only need paper towels when you have guests come over and they’re used to using them.

Reason to buy less: The woman who lost her job a month ago and is looking for ____ at the thrift store will be much happier with ____ than you ever will. Take it to her.

Suggestion: If you want to buy it, most likely someone has already had your same idea and bought it. It’s also likely that someone else is already done using it. Buy it from them and they recover some of their costs, you get what you want at a lower price, and you save the thing from a trip to the dead-end landfill. Win-win-win!

Try yard sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, E bay, Facebook, word of mouth. Figure out how to not need for manufacturers to make a new one just for you.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/43264265@N00/2417204393″>080415 kitten taxes</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

A slightly warm idea

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 11

Product: Here’s a novel idea. When you’re looking to buy less stuff, think about anything you buy. How about stuff that’s pumped directly into your house?

It’s the middle of November. For a lot of people that means that it’s getting cold. It’s been warm and it’s hard to make the transition. Time to turn up the heat! Not so fast.

If you turn up the heat now, when the temperature drops more you’ll have to keep pumping in more and more heat to get to that nice comfortable temperature you’ve kept yourself used to.

If you don’t turn up your heat now you’ll feel a little cold. You’ll have to bust out the fuzzy socks and maybe that sweater your grandma made you. Then you’ll move on. When the weather gets colder yet it won’t be too bad. You will feel a little cold but you’ll be used to feeling a little cold then the feeling will pass.

You will save money, save the environment, be tougher, be healthier, and even be more appreciative when the warm weather comes back around again.

This weird kid is wearing a sweater his great-grandmother made. And he's still happy as a penguin.

This weird kid is wearing a sweater his great-grandmother made. And he’s still happy as a penguin… in a party hat… at four o’clock.

Reason to buy less: We have limited space. Sure we can buy more space but the keyword there is “buy.” The more space to store your stuff, the more you have to shell out. The less you have, the less you spend both to buy and to store the stuff.

Suggestion: Have you noticed how many limited time offers are out there? We’re so often faced with the problem of having to make a decision quickly or losing out on a deal.

Not long ago we were gearing up for a big home renovation. I think we were reroofing something. (We’ve reroofed something we own every year for the past four years: Rental home, home, vacation home, garage. I think we’re finally done for awhile. Oh, I forgot about the shed at the vacation home. Drat. Well, we’re good at it now. ) Anyhow, Mr. WW was rushing to purchase the supplies, “Menards has that 11% off sale going on now. I think it ends on Friday, we have to get something now.”

I gave him the “are you serious?” look.

“What?”

“Haven’t you noticed? Either they will extend the sale last minute or it will be back within a month.”

And I was right and I was happy to point it out. Since, every month I’ve been able to say something along the lines of, “Oh, did you see that Menards has everything 11% off now? We better go buy something quick!” It’s hilarious. I’m sure he thinks so.

The point is that the limited time offers are meant to throw you off. You don’t feel you have time to fully think through a decision so you rush it. It’s a ploy. And since it works it has to happen over and over and over again. (Try going to Visa Print. You’ll see, there’s always a deadline.)

Don’t buy it! (The stuff or the idea that you need it right away.) If you really do need it you can get it the next time the sale comes around.

If you don’t believe me you can just let my voice ring in your head mocking you every time you see another sale come around. As fun as it sounds you may just want to let my voice ring your head once and hold off on the purchase instead of risking a monthly visit.

The cure for the common cup

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 10

Product: I swear I had this on the list to tell you about anyway. I did not have anything to do with the current “scandal.” However, this is the perfect cure for the current “scandal”:

Don’t spend so much on coffee.

Strangely enough (or not,) retailers LOVE addictions. They also love making you feel you deserve instant gratification and more and more extras—even if it’s bad for more than just your wallet.

Don’t buy it; be a grown up. If you want to continue a caffeine addiction, make it at home. If someone wants to meet you for coffee bring a thermal cup and enjoy the visit without the hit to your wallet. If you have one of those fancy single cup makers, buy a refillable pod. (Remember the post about buying less packaging?)

All of these things will help you spend less, be healthier, and steer clear of a weird/stupid situation or two. Hurray!

Who wants overspend on a cup you’re just going to toss in the trash anyway?

Oh, you didn't know about the history behind the Starbucks logo? If they're using their cup to say things it is, "sex sells because in the end we're all just numbed, voyagers in this life who will easily succumb to being lured into disaster. Yep. Now you know.

Oh, you didn’t know about the history behind the Starbucks logo? If they’re using their cup to say things, it is this: “Sex sells because in the end we’re all just numbed, voyagers in this life who will easily succumb to being lured into disaster. Yep. Now you know.

Reason to buy less: If your basement floods you’re going to lose it all anyway. Wouldn’t you rather get rid of it now rather than when it’s covered in sewage backed up from the city’s outdated system?

Suggestion: On the theme of fads, here’s a way you can battle the desire to buy more: Be your own fashion plate. Don’t bend to current trends. Make your own.

Just because everyone else is into baggy/skinny/slim/wide-legged/etc. jeans doesn’t mean that you have to buy them. Just because everyone else is into getting coffee at Starbucks/not Starbucks doesn’t mean you have to get expensively prepared coffee at all.

We know it’s a bad plan to live our lives based on others. We tell our kids not to fall to peer pressure. Why should you? Be unique. Be creative. Be lazy. Don’t be buying things because advertisers tell you to.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25654510@N00/2422219264″>Starbucks Old Logo vs. New Logo — Too Much?</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;