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.

Hairy situation

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

Day: 23

Product: The people who have stumbled on the joy of this next trick stick with it. If you could possibly figure out how to cut hair, you can save a lot of money.

Boys cuts can be super easy. Clippers give an easy buzz cut. If you want anything different, it definitely more difficult, but there is good news: every six weeks you get another chance to practice.

Mr. WW just cut our own boys hair last night and he’s been cutting his own hair too for many, many years.

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Sure the seven-year-old’s hair would look better with a comb run through it, but he is seven years old. Otherwise, it’s a nice haircut.

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A few years ago Mr. WW’s cut was shorter while the boys’ were longer. It’s amazing the range you can do at home. 

Girl cuts are also easy, straight cut across the bottom and an optional straight cut in the front for optional bangs. If you want fancier, let me introduce you to my personal self-layered haircut.

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Just make a ponytail at your forehead, yes, this in a picture of the front of me, then cut a straight line as short as you like (for the first time be cautious and start small. You can always try again if it’s too long.)

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Tada! Layers coming higher around the face.

If none of these options appeal to you, take to the internet. YouTube is full of tutorials.

And cutting your own hair is strangely appealing and fulfilling. Just ask any two-year-old. You know you want to.

Reason to buy less: Contentment. Yes, that’s it. Be content with that reason.

Suggestion: Beware of free. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should get it.

This one is difficult for me. I hate things going to a landfill. If someone is going to throw something out I feel like I have an obligation to give it a home. Thankfully we have these places called thrift stores that take in poor orphaned items and helps them find a new loving home. If there is value yet, it should not go into a trash can.

Just remember that free is only worth it if you gain anything from the product. If it’s just going to be another piece of clutter to clog your life, even with its $0 price tag, it’s is not worth the costs.

Just say no.

Toying with a lesson

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

 Day: 22

Product: So yesterday we covered that we shouldn’t put our value in the stuff we surround ourselves with. We should make sure to restrict buying too many things that we think will make us happy like electronics, motorized vehicles, blatantly extravagant gear, or other types of toys we adults like to indulge ourselves with.

This is such a good lesson to learn to keep grounded. To find value in life instead of things, it can be really important to limit the things so we don’t get distracted.

This is such a good lesson why aren’t we teaching our kids?

You know what I mean, right? It is the common thought that we need to buy our kids as much as we can to give them a full childhood. We buy them learning toys. We buy them princess everything. We buy them iPads and cell phones. We buy them brand name clothes. We buy them video games. We buy them whatever the going fad is.

What is this teaching our kids? If we want them to learn that value is not in the stuff, we can’t be buying them so much stuff.

Have you ever noticed how much guilt is created by the holidays when it comes to getting kids the going gifts? How many times have you heard “Christmas is about the children” in relation to pleas to buy them gifts? Let’s teach all of them, even (especially) those who don’t live in families with extra funds, that we need stuff to be happy.

We have to quit perpetuating this. We have to give our kids life, not things.

Try this: for the next gift buying time for the kids in your life, give them things of value. Give them your time. Truly help them understand you love their handmade gifts by handmaking something for them. Give them products they can actually use and need.

To teach our kids we start by providing an example ourselves (be okay with the small, deep TV you have) then continue by limiting the things you buy them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you have enough money to buy them lots of things. Then buy them only one or two things this holiday season.

As someone who’s practiced limiting gift giving to my kids for several years now, I can attest it’s not as big a deal as you might think it is.

Plus, think of this: This has gone on for generations. Where has it all gone? Where is all that stuff from when you were a kid? Where are all those troll dolls? Where are the Jordache jeans? Where are the Pogs? They’re in a landfill.

Don’t buy the kids in your life extra things. When they grow up they’ll put those things in a landfill while they move on to other empty pleasures and the cycle starts again.

Reason to buy less: Because MacGyver is cooler than Inspector Gadget. “Go, go gadget tripping hazard!”

Suggestion: Today’s suggestion is to appreciate uncomfortableness for what it is: a tool to help you appreciate the finer things in life.

Were you one of those kids growing up with a game console? Atari? Nintendo? Nintendo 64? Did you ever go to a friend’s house that had a different console? Wasn’t it amazing?! When they let you play it you noticed every cool feature, appreciated every special button, were taken in by every extra pixel. The one you played on at home didn’t have that much draw. You played it but you didn’t appreciate it. It was just what you had.

When you live with less any more is amazing.

It’s almost become addictive for us. We keep our house cold in the winter so we can appreciate the warm air in every other building. We don’t update anything unless we absolutely have to. When we experience the extravagance elsewhere, we fully appreciate it.

Mr. WW got a rental car not long ago when I tagged along with him on a business trip. The weather was in 70’s yet we turned on the air conditioning and I had my seat warmers going constantly. I loved it. I curled up on that heated seat like a happy kitten. Is that what people do that have heated seats in their everyday cars? I’m guessing not.

Toying with an 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: 21

Product: Yesterday I gave a small-potatoes suggestion for limiting money wasted on entertainment. Today, here’s a big one. We are really good at spending lots and lots of money on toys.

But, you say, you don’t have kids? Well I’m not thinking about the kids’ toys.

Boats, snowmobiles, extra cars, fancy lawnmowers, big TVs, fancy grills, fancy grills (er, teeth)—all this stuff is an easy way to blow lots of money.

 

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The snake is crafty. 

People who like to have these things usually have the same argument for buying them, “you only live once.” Well that’s true. You only live once. So why would you waste your limited resources on things that are so empty? One fancy TV in your twenties can equal 24 TVs in your retirement if you were to invest the money instead.

I am not advocating for no extra money spent on products used just for fun. Just don’t crazy with it. Buy used, buy infrequently, and by all means share what you have.

If you get the big TV, invite others to your house for the game; if you have a pickup, lend it to friends when they need to move furniture; if you have the fancy grill, invite others over for BBQ—so they can see and appreciate your shiny teeth, ha ha.

You have to use your resources to enjoy them for what they are truly worth. Money is not meant to be hoarded. We shouldn’t translate it into empty stuff and surround ourselves with empty reminders of what we have. We shouldn’t even stash it all away in a bank and keep it forever just so we can look at the numbers and feel successful.

If we use our money wisely we can limit the time we have to work. We can put in less overtime and put in less time overall (if we want, although no matter how much you enjoy your job, not many people want to work into their 70’s.)

We can’t be wise if we collect more and more toys.

Reason to buy less: A smaller house holds less stuff. A smaller house is cheaper in mortgage/rent payments and in property taxes (which continue on even if your house is paid off,) and in utilities.

Suggestion: Experiences—it’s where it’s at. The only place you have to store experiences is in your memory and your memory is a rockstar at storing experiences. It’s been studied time and again that kids remember what their parents did with them, not what they bought them.

The same goes for you. You will remember that time your Uncle Lenny did a belly-flop when all the family decided to meet at the neighborhood pool on that hottest day of the year. You will remember when that physics professor actually launched a catapult in the classroom. You will remember when you stopped and climbed over the cool looking rocks with your kids.

Now, sometimes memories do get attached to items, and that’s fine. However, if you do that too often you become a hoarder. Do you want to find worth in the 1,000’s of knickknacks you’ve collected over the years or in your ability to belly-laugh while pulling your spouse out of the snow hill he/she got himself/herself stuck in?

I’m not saying you have to go and get rid of everything you find close to you (although getting rid of a few would make that drawer not get stuck.) Just don’t buy more with the intention of using it to make you happy.

Experiences are very often totally free and if you find it worth it to spend money on an experience your dollar will go much further than on another gadget or pair of shoes.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/39415470@N02/8264213903″>Jewelry</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

It’s time to face the music

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

Day: 20

Product: Another form of entertainment we don’t need to spend money on is music. There are lots of ways to buy music but there’s also lots of ways to get free music.

The only reason you need to buy music is if you need instant gratification. And you don’t. Unless you’re somehow involved in the music industry, you don’t need to be able to listen to a particular song just because you decide to.

You can however, listen to great music very easily anytime in the genre you like. Over the air radio is free. You don’t need to pay for a satellite radio subscription.

There are also several free sites online that stream great music. The library also has lots of CDs (yes, they still make those) so you can listen to specific songs you enjoy.

Before you spend another $1.99 for a song you can hear for free, try buying a gift for a friend or donating to pay for several meals in a third world country or put it in your savings account and have it for something important later.

Reason to buy less: You want to be spontaneous. Whether it’s a friend dropping by unannounced or an unexpected day off that you can drop everything and head out camping, you don’t want the messiness of your stuff to hold you back. Either grab the gear and go or grab the tea and stay; but you want it easy to grab.

Suggestion: It’s easier to spend less when you learn to find joy in creativity. The more products you have, the fewer times you are faced with reasons to be creative.

Remember when you got your first dorm room/apartment/ home? Remember trying to figure out how you could make a pizza with just a hot plate? It’s amazing what you can accomplish with very little. Just because you slice bananas for you cereal every morning, doesn’t mean you need to have a banana slicer. You can use one or two brain cells to figure out how to slice your banana some other way.

Before you buy a new product, figure out how many brain cells it would take to figure out a way to do without it. Then go home and give those cells some exercise.

It’s fun to be creative. It gives you a sense of capability and triumph.

Try living without that thing for awhile before rushing out to buy it.

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.

Junk is in the title

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

Day: 18

Product: Here’s another product we don’t want anyway. Junk mail. We don’t want junk mail.

Sure, it’s easy enough to throw away, but every step along that piece of mail’s life is a waste. If we can convince advertisers to stop sending it in the first place, everyone would be better off.

I did some quick internet searches and found some scary statistics on junk mail. It’s killing trees and wasting water and filling landfills and it’s really just horrible.

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If you take the average US tank… and divide the total weight of paper from junk mail by that number, you find that junk mail produced each year weighs the same as over 15,000 tanks.”

This time of year marketers are in overdrive, there’s no better time to assess and change our ways.

I found lots of sign ups out there for limiting junk mail but I’m not going to suggest any because I’m not familiar with any personally. You’ll have to search yourself and try out what you think is best and let me know.

Or you can just do it the old fashioned way. When a catalog or request for a donation or a credit card offer arrives, just call the 800 number and ask to be removed from the mailing list. At first this will be a daunting task, but it will pay off big in the long run.

Reason to buy less: Time is limited. Time spent on multiple collections (most people have collections of EVERYTHING. Right now, tell me, how many office binders do you have? More than one? It’s a collection.) is wearying and wasted. Time to go do something apart from the stuff.

Suggestion: When you are contemplating a purchase, take the time to stop and think of where you will store it if you were to buy it.

“I don’t know, I’ll find a place when I get it home” is not a good choice.

Will that new blender have to go on the kitchen counter? Is your closet already overflowing?

Sometimes our current self is tickled pick about a product but our future self is not too keen on keeping an item.

Consult your future self and realize that future self will be spending much more time with your purchase than current self will. Weigh the response accordingly.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25977280@N00/226236926″>PRODUCT placement by Burtonwood and Holmes</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;