Puttering away our nickels

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

Day: 30

Product: It’s the last day to our monthly focus on buying less and I’ve saved a favorite for last. We rich people are very, very good at wasting our money on this one thing. We waste it daily. We nickle and dime it away and either don’t think of it at all or when it comes to our attention we insist we need to dish out the money as often as we do.

It’s gasoline.

Sure we are getting better. We pay attention to MPG when we think of buying a new car. We are aware of gas prices. We can do better yet.

Here are some gas wasting routines and suggestions on how to fix them.

When we use a drive thru. Every time you choose to carry your seated self around the building instead of walking inside to get your food/prescription/dry cleaning/beer/whathaveyou, you are wasting gas. Not only that it’s bad for your health. Unless you’re picking up your pain prescription for your broken ankle, you should walk inside. It’s easier to see the clerks as people that way too.

When we use our cars to transport only our one loney self. Vehicles usually have at least 5 seats. Think of the difference it would make if 5 people going to work every morning took one car instead of 5. I love carpooling. Conversely it is very hard to see streets full of cars with only one person in them.

When we brake hard and accelerate fast. By all means, brake hard if there is an emergency, otherwise slow down and put more space between yourself and the car in front of you. Every time you hit the brake you are wasting all the gas put into making that energy that wants you to go forward faster than you really want to. And wearing out the brakes. We don’t want to get to that squeally stage any quicker than we have to, right?

When we sit idling at any time. There’s a reason that these newer cars turn themselves off when they idle. You get 0 miles a gallon when you idle. There is a old wives tale floating around that says that it takes more gas to restart the car than it is to idle. That’s only true if you’ve idling for less than a few seconds. Turn it off.

When we take separate trips. Combine all your errands at once. There are two reasons. One is obvious, that combining errands will have you traveling fewer total miles, but it’s also helpful because your car just runs better when it’s warmed up. If you have to start your car cold for each separate trip, it is more wasteful than having one cold start and several stops.

When we get lost. Honestly I think this one may be worth it. I also may be the only person alive who thinks that getting lost is actually a good thing. I think it signifies adventure and a daring spirit going into unknown lands. I’ve said it to Mr. WW before when he’s gotten spun around, “hey, this is why we save money on gas in other ways. Don’t beat yourself up about it.” Hey, there’s always some ways we’ll be wasteful. We don’t do it intentionally but when we do we embrace the situation and don’t worry about it. Though hey, you should probably try and plan better so you don’t get lost in the first place if you can help it.

When we use gas power instead of people power. My favorite. Really, my favorite. I love, LOVE my push-powered lawn mower and I mowed our lawn with it every single time this year. I love my hand-powered hedge trimmer and I forged two new trails through heavily thorned brush with those things. But most of all, I love my leg-powered bike. The boys and I bike to school every day we can. The youngest is actually winey with the fact it hasn’t snowed seriously yet because he wants to bike in the snow. We always bike in the winter anymore. Cold isn’t a good enough reason to stop. There is something so empowering about commuting by bike. It’s invigorating. It’s wonderful. It takes no gas.

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Bikes still run wonderfully in cold weather. In fact they handle the cold weather better than gas guzzlers.

These things add up to hundreds of dollars for most people every month. Combine that with taxes, insurance, wear and tear and it might be worth it for some of you to ditch the car and take the bus everywhere. That would really save on gas, wouldn’t it?

I won’t ask you to seriously ditch your car if you weren’t thinking that way anyway. I will ask you to at least be more aware. Think about how your everyday decisions add up. You can make positive changes in this area, I’m sure.

Reason to buy less: You can’t retire on ketchup packets and costume jewelry.

Suggestion:  For the last suggestion I have a tried and true way to curb spending. Only buy something if you really love it. Make sure each purchase is an intentional positive in your life.

If you find yourself buying things because you feel like it’s a good deal or because someone else thinks you should or your find yourself otherwise obligated, you’re buying too much.

Just say “no” to things you don’t love. Here are a couple hints I’ve heard:

For clothes only buy something you would be excited to wear right out of the dressing room. I did that at Goodwill once. I tried on a skirt I loved so I wore it home and tore the tag right of myself at the register to give to the clerk. I still have that skirt. And I got a compliment on it last time I wore it. Good choice.

Or try imagining some random person offering you either the product or the equivalent cash. Would you take the cash? Then don’t buy the product. It’s easier to distance yourself from the shopping hormones and really focus on the love for the product if you think of it as equivalent to the money it costs.

Anyway, if you only buy things you love you won’t be filled with regret when the credit card bill comes. It will have been worth the money spent and you will gladly pay the bill (in full with money you intentionally set aside at the beginning of the month for your credit card bill of course.)

So, I’m sure I have lots more to say about spending less but I’m sure you’re tired of me harping on it for now. I’ll be done for a little while while you mull over this information and let it grow on you.

Was there anything you thought was important that I missed?

Are there any tricks you use or are there any products you are careful to limit yourself with?

I counter your doubt with today’s example

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

Day: 28

Product: When we bought our cabin we got a very, very run down place. It’s been over a year now and, as much as we love to come here as much as possible, we’ve been repairing it very, very slowly.

The countertop had this huge crack right in the middle of the sink, front and back. The sink itself sprayed water everywhere when you turned on the water.  And we’ve been living with it for over a year. We are finally getting it fixed and boy am I excited.

We’ve been looking at new countertops for awhile but now we’ve finally decided that we’ve earned the new countertop/sink.

Yesterday Mr. WW headed to one of those warehouse/flea market places for building supplies. There were huge buildings full of scraps/incorrect special orders/damaged/reclaimed goods. He found a countertop that would work with a big bubble right in the middle. Since our sink would go in the middle, that bubble doesn’t bother us a bit.

He then brought it home on a trailer borrowed from a friend. See, he and the friend took the trip together so the friend could haul some of his scrap to the dump. We supplied the vehicle, the friend supplied the trailer. Both got something they wanted out of the trip as well as spending time together.

When it arrived home our ten-year-old was keen on watching and learning how to install the whole deal.

Mr. WW pulled the sink from the shed he’d bought almost a year ago. It’s extra deep and a nice style so when he saw it for cheap at a thrift store he had picked it up.

While they where figuring out how to caulk the new sink it was the 10-year-old who had the idea to put it in then turn it over and caulk from underneath so that’s what they did. They then recruited the 7-year-old to help by moving things out of the way and the mom (me) to lift the whole shebang high enough to get it onto the counter. All in all it was very much a family affair.

Now there were some issues. There were boards that needed trimming, the faucet that came with the sink ended up being kaput, and the sink had an extra hole than what we needed. But we worked through them. The wondrously weird clan used their noggins and figured things out.

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Here’s the eldest trying to recapture the cord to the refrigerator I so flippantly tossed aside as we were placing the counter top. He had to hold the flashlight in his mouth but he got it. 

The bottom line? The counter top that normally would have been at least $150 was only $50. The sink that would have been $250 was only $8. I have no idea how much it would have cost us to pay someone to put it in for us and we got to keep that experience for free. We also kept good things from going into a landfill somewhere.

When it comes to building supplies there are tons of ways to minimize. Think outside of the box. A lot of things are made for others and they can’t use it like our counter with the bubble in the middle or the leftover tiles after a job is completes or a door that the distributor put the handle on the wrong side or a 2-year-old off-white microwave after someone decided they want their kitchen to have black appliances.

For those do-it-yourself projects your problem solving skills are already getting a much-loved workout. May as well flex that muscle a bit more and see how you can save your wallet some money as well.

Reason to buy less: It’s hard to focus on small quiet things when a house full of clutter looms large.

Suggestion: I don’t know if I’ve made this clear yet: a manufacture’s job is to make as much profit as they possibly can. Everything they do, EVERYTHING, is with the point of making more money.

You can’t blame them, that’s their job. Just remember that that’s their job.

They don’t have sales or deals to help you out. If they can convince you to buy something of theirs it is for their profit, not for your benefit.

That weekly grocery store trip to stock the trash can

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

Day: 27

Product: So how’s today gone for ya’? Besides being a day retailers have devoted you to shopping all day, it’s also leftover day.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever done the full Thanksgiving meal all myself. 9 dishes and 2 pies all made from scratch and ready at the same time. Besides a little fear that the potatoes weren’t boiling fast enough, it all came together wonderfully. The turkey was falling apart moist, my self-described pre-teen was sucking down the gravy wondering why it kept disappearing on his plate as he mixed it with every dish, seconds (and sometimes thirds, and fourths) were had by all.

Thanksgiving is the day we celebrate our blessings by intentional decadence. If we live with this kind of decadence all the time Thanksgiving wouldn’t be special.

That’s why during every other meal I make sure the turkey is dry- maybe a little charred.

No. Of course that’s not what I mean.

I mean that expecting and getting everything you want to the point of uncomfortable bloatedness is not done at every meal. We respect the food and limit ourselves unless it is some special occasion.

I’ve got some horrific statistics for you.  40% of the food produced in the US is thrown away—that’s almost half! The average American throws away 25% of the food they buy. That equals 96 billion pounds of food every year that would be worth $165 billion. The average American household, retailer, and farmer is very wasteful.

It’s not really our fault. It’s what we’re used to. Farmer’s can’t sell produce that’s ugly. Retailers sell more with overstocked displays. Individuals think that food past the best by date is unsafe.

We need to change our thinking and we can do a lot at the home level. I could do a series on food alone for a whole month. Here are a few things:

  • Those best by dates are totally arbitrary. Besides baby formula that is regulated by the government, suppliers set their own date standards for their products. It is more financially beneficial to them to hold those dates as tight as possible. That product is not going to magically go bad the moment the calendar rolls over to the day it says on the package. Use your good sense God gave ya’. If it smells, is slimy, or looks different don’t eat it. Otherwise dig in.
  • Eat leftovers. Please. Who do you think you are that you need freshly prepared food every meal? Eat some humble pie that was made two days ago. It’s still perfectly good.
  • Don’t dig around in the produce department. I know this is a hard one. We want the most for our buck but let me tell you, if you don’t buy that smallish head of lettuce no one will and it will rot in a landfill. It is likely that if you buy the biggest head you won’t eat the entire head and the difference will end up in your trash anyway.
  • Buy ugly produce and funky packages. Just two days ago I was buying a two liter of soda. I grabbed one and went to move along when I noticed one without a label. The missing label was sitting next to it, apparently victim of some faulty glue. I put my good one back and picked up the naked one with the loose label for the clerk to scan. If I hadn’t rescued him he would have certainly headed to the dumpster.
  • Just buy less. Make a list and stick to it. If your meals are planned you don’t have that broccoli sitting in the fridge just waiting for you to notice him when you’re in the mood to be healthy. Plan when you are going to eat that broccoli so he isn’t stood up and ends up wilting and leaving dejected to your trash can.
  • Don’t toss the entire product if some is bad. Of course this doesn’t work for milk but you can safely cut mold off cheese, black spots off cauliflower, and bruises off of apples.

If you can’t bring yourself to do all these things just think of this: what would it be like to have a 25% larger grocery budget? That’s what it would be like if you didn’t throw food away. Eat it all. As your mother would say, there are starving children in Africa who would appreciate that good food.

Oh here’s another statistic: 1 out of 6 of Americans are food insecure and reducing food waste in America by just 15% would provide nutrition to 25 million Americans. Maybe mom was onto something.

Go eat those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Reason to buy less: You don’t want any extra reasons for a thief to be in your house longer.

Suggestion: When you buy things it is important to carefully think through your needs and decide when quality matters. Sometimes (only sometimes) you will want to spend a little more for a higher quality item.

I’m a big fan of dollar stores but sometimes they are just landfill fillers. If that product doesn’t work for you and you have to go back and buy it again you are just perpetuating waste.

This is why I am a huge fan of buying used. If a product has survived someone else’s use and is still going strong, you are buying a quality product.

Now, not everything you own should be the high-end type. A good way to see what you should buy for quality is to buy the first one the dirt cheap version. If you’re use trashes it too quickly to make it worth it, then allow yourself to buy a nicer version. That way you’ve basically earned the right to make that decision.

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.

You need this product to cover all your rocks

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

Day: 14

Product: What if you could cut down a specific product you buy by half. That’s a good rate. We’d all like our money to go twice as far, right? This one is simple and easy.

Print on both sides of your paper. Paper comes with two sides, each equally perfect for writing or drawing or taking notes on. If you use both sides of a piece of paper, we get double the use out of our paper.

This is easiest to do when we have a letter or report or something that is over a page long. Just print the first page then turn it over and print more on the other side.

It takes a little more conscious effort to use both sides of a paper when you use them for something that is only one page.

The trick is to have a spot with half-used paper and to draw from that spot when you print a one-paged thing or return papers to when you’re done using them and their only half used.

You should always use your paper wisely. You don't want to run out.

You should always use your paper wisely. You don’t want to run out.

I even use the other sides of papers that others have used. When I had to spend some time in the hospital they sent me home with a bunch of single-sided pages of instructions. I get flyers for events my kids are invited to –often in beautifully bright colors- I get mail with only side printed. I even got a full box full of one-side-printed paper from Freecycle to use.

The same goes for other types of paper as well. Do you make out a shopping ling on those long list papers? When you’re done with your shopping, take the list back home and spin the paper around and use the opposite side the next week. (It may be helpful to see what you purchased the week before anyway.)

Yes, I know using paper so thoroughly sounds cheap and petty. How expensive is paper anyway? And are we saving the environment that much? Paper is easily recyclable.

It’s just that simple living is a way of life. I kinda permeates into everything, even down to paper. This thing is not hard and it’s just good practice. We should be aware of our actions, no matter how small.

So pay attention to that beautiful blank white page ready for your use the next time to come across paper with only writing on one side. It’s value is there. Don’t overlook the little things.

Reason for spending less: You don’t want to dust any more stuff!

Suggestion: It’s a lot easier to spend more if you go shopping with friends. Friends are great at pointing out what looks good on s and what great taste we have. Encouraging friends are wonderful people to have in our lives. However, if their encouraging causes us to spend money we don’t need to spend, it’s better to have them over to play cards or something.

This suggestion does not apply if your friend is me, of course– or anyone like me. A friend who is conscious of overspending is going to encourage you not to spend.

Now, it may be that I’m a miserable person so shop with, but I don’t think so. I do like to shop because I have never had a problem picking up an item, admiring it’s beauty or function or comedic nature, then putting it back. Until you learn the fine art of appreciation without spendation, just don’t shop with friends as a fun time out.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/13589188@N00/3164059182″>How We Roll – 52 Stories – Pt 1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Let’s buy less!

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October is almost over and November is just hours away. November brings increasingly cooler days (especially here in the Northern Midwest) but most people think of November as the start of the holiday season.

If you’ve lived in the US for more than a year, you realize that we take our holidays pretty darn seriously. And as Americans, what do we do if we’re serious about something? We spend money on it.

How about this: In 2000 we spent about 400 billion dollars for the holidays. Last year we spent almost 620 billion! (A 220 billion dollar increase in 14 years? What a jump!) This is obviously a big deal for retailers.

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We all know that the retailers are out to get us this time of year. We do our best to stave off the shopping as long as we can to make it through Thanksgiving. Then Black Friday comes and we are pressured into a frenzy of deals that starts strong and keeps going until December 24th. Many stores realize that often we can’t even wait until Thanksgiving so they are happy to let us get started even earlier.

The confliction has been very apparent recently. We don’t want to be overtaken with commercialism. We want to focus on family. There have been boycotts and public shaming… yet at the same time the uptick of ads in the mail, shows on crafting the perfect centerpiece, and the scheming of coworkers to obtain the perfect gag gift is undeniable– and we feel it is unavoidable.

Of course nothing is wrong with good deals, beautiful centerpieces, or grossly oversized coffee mugs that say, “Just let me finish this one cup and then I’ll handle your problem.”

But 620 billion dollars worth?

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At the beginning of the year  I tried to encourage everyone to declutter and clear out a lot of the excess that can get in the way of enjoying life. How about I now try to encourage you to bring less into your life in the first place? Let’s combat this drive to purchase so much and instead save so much (money and time) in the process.

For all of November I will be writing daily short blog posts encouraging you to scale back. These tips may be most helpful during this most expensive (and many say “stressful”) time of year but they can be used all year long.

So come with me on another journey of intentional thinking about how much stuff we all have.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44836615@N00/3135508115″>aftermath</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;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/56028148@N00/3146198325″>Dia Disappointed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;