Earn Huge Savings with Tiny Changes

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There are endless amounts of small changes we can all make to lighten our environmental footprint, which you can learn a comprehensive amount of information about from Zero Waste Home, (Read the book for a definitive guide), this blog specifically focuses on those little habits that keep money in our bank account (which most often does add up to a savings in consumer waste as well). It’s a hassle sometimes to acquire the right tools to keep more money in our pocket. For some examples, it can be a pain to walk outside in the cold to compost a bowl of table scraps. It can be painful to turn down a trip to the ice cream shop. It can seem damn right counter-intuitive to sell something new for the exact same thing in an older model. But all these things are examples of small changes I’ve made, some of them were one time changes while others are daily changes.

Deciding Which Changes Will Be Worth it

A big part of the name of this blog, “The Scratch Paper Saver” comes from the idea of using scratch paper to casually predict outcomes depending on certain variables into the future. For someone who struggled with math my whole life (I swear to god it was a miracle that I passed each math class I took from Sophomore year of high school up until university), this is very doable as long as you take the few minutes to look up the variables to make sure they’re accurate.

one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig

Oftentimes a quick google search can come up with articles in which others have already done the calculations for you, such as in this case where I quickly googled k-cup vs reusable filter cost comparison and found this awesomely detailed and compelling article  by the personal finance blogger, Squawkfox toward the top of the simple google search pile. So by this article’s rather diligent explanation, one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig rather than the severely trashy and expensive K-Cups that are relentlessly marketed for use by Keurig owners. So with simple back of the napkin math, if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day (a rather modest estimation by stay at home mom and dad standards), that’s a savings of about $37 a month. And to magnify the savings, just multiply that amount by 12 to find out the savings in a year (Around $450)! With every change, you also have to evaluate the time/effort factor that goes into each change. This is a personal decision that depends on the amount of spare time you have and how flexible you can be with external expectations (not going out to lunch with your co-workers for instance).

Using a Compounding Interest Calculator to Estimate Long-Term Savings

To make things even more mouth wateringly juicy, use a compounding interest calculator to play with the savings amount when that yearly savings is invested in an index fund with a 7% average return. This is where you put the pedal to the metal when it comes to the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned” my friends, as we are now very  quickly and easily going from 61 cents to thousands of dollars. Now when you throw away one of those flimsy K-cups you can simultaneously imagine reaching into your wallet, pulling out several dollar bills, and tossing those in the trash too. That thought right there should be enough to get us to take the 30 seconds needed to compost those coffee grinds and rinse out our own filter in the sink with a smile!

Small Changes Worth the Effort

    • Go to the library over purchasing new books. If you do purchase new, resell them on eBay.

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    • Sell your unused stuff on Craigslist. Learn from my mistakes here

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    • Make as much home made meals as you can from scratch.
    • Prepare a to-go breakfast the night before such as soaked steel cut oats or chia seed yogurt
    • Take a sack lunch to work
    • Freeze prepared meals for the work week on Sundays
    • Use the crock pot to make dinner while you’re at out
    • Stick to the memorable slogan, “Something to Wear, Something they Need, Something they Want, Something to Read” for your child’s holiday gifts
    • Simplify or opt out of traditional family/friend gifting

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    • Discover even more money saving (small) change that are worth the effort in this post.

 

What other money-saving changes have you made? Please share in the comments!

What I Gained When I Ditched My TV

I know I made a post a couple weeks (months?) ago about getting rid of my TV, and it’s been a process to actually do it. Gurus, Yogis, Hippies, and enthusiastic Waldorf families are among the first stereotypes of individuals that come to mind when I think about all the folks that eschew television. It was kind of hard for me to let go. There is just something that’s a bit all-American about the TV. It’s how you watch the Super bowl, the Macy’s Day Parade, the ball drop on new year’s eve, and presidential debates. It’s become an access point for the never-ending procession of “water cooler shows” as well as its currect incarnation of an endless opportunity to binge-watch Netflix. Even in children’s programming you’re up against the ever-wholesome Sesame Street.

I’d love to say that parting with my TV is a statement I’m making against our consumerist culture, but in truth I was making that statement from the time I moved out on my own 7 years ago, by not ordering cable or finding a way to even get local channels. At that point TVs were just kind of given to me, and the then-boyfriend brought along plenty of videogame consoles that allowed for DVD watching, and my long term relationship with Netflix became established.

Netflix has been a good friend to me. It has given me old shows I thought I’d never see again, has allowed me to see fascinating documentaries and weird foreign films. But when Sierra came along, and I saw how immersed her whole being became when I turned on a show, it made me uncomfortable. The situation became even more volatile when I would turn off the TV and she would spiral into a full-on meltdown. Of course it being a huge flat screen that was the focal point of our living room didn’t help.

As the popular book title suggests, I believe that TV really is a Plug In Drug. It stimulates parts of the brain where neurons connect, and this constant stimulation over time creates strong bonds in the brain that crave constant stimuli. This is the point at which the silence of an empty house can drive you insane. Having the nice big flat screen there staring at you is like a starving child sitting next to a casino buffet. It’s almost excruciating to resist partaking in the Netflix smorgasbord.

So to get down and dirty, here was my process in amputating my TV from our home:

  1. Cancelled Netflix, first the DVD subscription, then Netflix instant. This was pretty painful, although to ease the pain I started following more health-wellness-educational channels on youtube.
  2. I unplugged the TV. This part would have never happened had my husband been here, and it took several explanations over the course of the next few weeks to Sierra of why we couldn’t watch TV anymore.
  3. Selling the TV. Of course, I did this through Craigslist and found that the TV was worth WAY less than it had been when it was new (come to find out they came out with smart and HD TVs that made my simple Plasma display passé). I did begin to panic when the buyer was on his way over, but after it was gone I felt a definite shift in the atmosphere in my living room. It was a calm, simple peace. No more big black box staring at me!

Now the awkward part is I have a big bulky entertainment center with a gaping hole in the middle. I’m working on getting it sold, but so far no one has gone through with buying. I’d love to say we are free from technology all together, but I know that will probably never happen. I use the computer for so many things, and my old mac lets me watch DVDs so we won’t be media free anytime soon.

What I’ve gained: I don’t feel compelled to watch every hot new show that the networks spew out (Gain: Time! also Time spent being productive, or making memories as a family). I don’t feel like I need to run out and buy any new products I see in ads (Gain: Money!). And I don’t pay for any subscriptions (Gain: More Money!) I was able to put the money from selling the TV to a worthy cause (Gain: Good VIBES!). Now if I feel boredom creeping, I have to use my brain to think of something worthwhile to do (Gain: Creativity). Also notice that keyword *do*. When you don’t rely on TV to distract your brain from real life, you find yourself moving your body to get things done more. This is good for your health and also can contribute to an exponential amount of other positive possibilities in your life (starting a small side business, selling clutter, trying new recipes, starting a garden, going on a hike, etc.) Its sort of sad but true that I used TV as an anti-depressant as well. Whenever I was feeling lonely or down, a stand up comedy special would help me smile again. But now I don’t get the quick fix, or the band-aid. Now I have to really feel my emotions, which is sometimes uncomfortable. But I know that in a way, this is important inner work, to really experience the deep feelings. It’s part of the human experience and a catalyst for introspection and reflection.

Remember: You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. -Dr. Seuss

Turn Trash into Treasure Using Craigslist

Craigslist is an awesome ally to have in your quest to A) minimalize and B) gain wealth, two things that will increase your happiness for years to come. I also love it because it saves junk that would have gone into a landfill, or may have ended up being passed over at a thrift store, making a roundabout route to floating in the crystal blue ocean next to Free Willy. I’ve been using Craigslist so much lately  (and for a long time before that for that matter), that I’ve realized I made a lot of shitty decisions that ultimately screwed me out of cash and/or free time. On the other hand, I’ve also made a substantial chunk of change using it ($100 just in the past week!). So I’m going to give you some of my Craigslist tips so that you can sell your shit and get rich too. By the way, several of these tips can also be used on EBay, though I recommend only selling higher dollar (worth over $20) and smaller items on Ebay due to the shipping costs.

1. Post a descriptive title. When people search for items, they don’t always use the same wording that pops into your head. Sometimes people search for more broad categories as well, or they could do the opposite and search for a very specific brand. It’s best to cover all your bases.

-Don’t: “Honda Fit”

-Do: “Silver 2008 Honda Fit SE 4 cyl. Compact Hatchback with Manual Transmission, Low Miles and Clean Title”. You get the idea!

2. Act like you are a salesman when you are writing your description. Not only are you selling people on buying your old crap, you are letting them know that the item was appreciated and taken care of by you. It also lets them know that you are an enthusiastic seller and will be polite and responsive to them. If you’re not sure of what to say about the item, you can always google it and just use the item description you find!

-Don’t: Old jacket. Worn once. Text if interested.

-Do: I decided to part with my beautiful size M amber brown Michael Kors Trench coat with silk lining purchased at the Michael Kors boutique in Las Vegas. I received a similar one for my birthday and want it to go to someone who can use it! It is completely waterproof and comes from a smoke and pet free home. I will respond to all emails by the end of the day. Asking $40 but will accept lower offers after 5 days. Thank you for looking 🙂

3. Often people make the mistake of pricing an item too high and get discouraged and end up donating it. Don’t be daunted! Remember that anything used is only worth half of what it was new unless it’s a rare or very, very expensive item. Often it’s worth even less. The goal here isn’t to get back what you paid, but to recoup just some of your loss. If you are a craigslist buyer you can really luck out and sell the item you purchased on craigslist for the same price! No loss at all! Remember, it’s not about how much the item is worth but how much people are willing to pay for it. Do a craigslist search of your own to see what similar items are going for. Sometimes it’s not that you priced it too high but there’s just not anyone looking for that particular item at that time. Don’t be afraid to repost the ad, going down $5 in price each time.

-Do: Price items at half or less of the new price, going down or saying “Or best offer” if need be.

-Don’t: Overthink it. Remove your emotions from the equation and go into it with the fail-proof idea that you’re exchanging your unwanted crap for CASH!

4. Now this is arguably the most important part. Try and post lots of pictures if you can (think different angles, show all parts, show the original box if you have it, include a photo of the item new from the manufacturer). First, make sure the item is clean and presentable. Try to “showcase” the item by using natural light and photographing it against a neutral background. If other things get in the photo, crop them out. If the item is damaged don’t try to hide it but be honest about it and take photos of the blemishes as well. Just make sure to make the best picture the first one.

-Don’t: Post anything without a picture or with unclear pictures.

-Do: Clean the item first, and make it stand out.

4. You’d think the work is over after you publish your ad, but it’s not! Next you will need to field inquiries. If you’re lucky you’ll instantly get a great buyer that offers to come buy it, shows up on time and pays you what you ask. Sometimes buyers want to meet you in a public place. I always make sure I need to go the location anyway, such as the grocery store so that it’s not a waste of time if they flake. If I’m meeting them, I make sure to get their number so I can communicate where to find me. If they’re coming over to pick it up, I always give them my number and ask them to text me when they’re leaving before sending the address. This ensures you’re not waiting around for nothing.

-Do: Respond to the first interested person. Even if they offer you less, let them know you will get back to them if you can’t sell it for your asking price.

-Don’t: Give your address until they’re ready to pick up/on their way.

A lot of folks are leery of strangers off of craigslist, but I’ve never had a bad experience. In fact, I’ve made friends with some people over shared interest alone!

I hope this empowers you to empty the dusty attic out and do some posting. Let us know how it goes!