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!

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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!

Why I Broke Up With Wholefoods

You know when you were a little kid and you knew a field trip was coming up? And the night before the field trip you’d toss and turn with excitement? Well, I used to think of making the journey to the Wholefoods in Sacramento with the same feeling. I had just become vegan at the time (I was a teenager living at home in the suburbs), and Wholefoods was like the golden ticket to eating all the food I was used to eating in my sinfully omnivorous days. Tofutti Break! was a popular outcry in my house, and I had several brands of soy burgers always in rotation. There was also a point a few years later when I had just finished reading Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet that I spent $500 on a whole slew of macrobiotic groceries that filled up my personal mini fridge and a dedicated pantry shelf at Wholefoods. The checker did not bat an eye.

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Now that I live an hour from the nearest Wholefoods, I’ve learned to completely live happily without it, and have grown to respect the many ways in which taking Wholefoods out of my grocery equation has saved me time, money, and a whole lot of empty calories from my diet. First I started with the organic options at my nearby HEB, which I’ve found you really can get by with most of the basics such as spinach apples, and all kinds of pantry staples. In the produce department I graduated to using Bountiful Baskets, a more direct supplier-to-customer type of group that has spread nearly everywhere.

They have the regular basket and also the organic basket, which is regrettably quite a bit smaller than the regular basket at while a full $10 more is tacked on to the price tag. Now I am so happy with a strait up CSA (community supported agriculture) program brought to me by Austin’s own Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Not only is the organic produce so much more fresher, it is very local and a farm that is actually a family business that cares about its customers. There is no huge line to wait in either! I just pick up my basket at my local organic restaurant So Natural.

I have been very excited in stocking up on most of my bulk dried items (such as beans and grains) at In.Gredients, the FABULOUS zero-waste market in Austin. But because of the distance I only go by when I have other activities that call me that direction. Otherwise, it’s the organic options for these one-ingredient packaged foods at HEB. I also use SAM’s Club for their surprising offerings like organic agave nectar, almond butter, bananas and Chia seeds.

Melluvia Babe enjoying organic whole rolled oats for brekkie

Nowadays, most of the food I eat is very simple, and made of extremely basic ingredients, such as oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, a simple salad with leftover veggie soup for lunch, and a flavorful asian stir fry with rice for dinner. As you stop buying packaged, frozen, canned and otherwise processed foods you really begin to stop craving them. As you only have the basic items in your arsenal, you are forced to get creative in the kitchen. I’ve started to love cooking again, and really knowing that the food I’m eating and feeding my family is not only completely healthy but didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

I still have many friends that continue to shop at Wholefoods and love it. One friend on the Dr. McDougall diet fills her cart with frozen fruit. Another is an overweight vegan who stocks up on the wildest of novel concoctions of foodstuffs like lemon bar flavored sugar free raw paleo dessert morsels. While I do think Wholefoods can be an exciting place with a world of flavor possibilities, it is so easy to spend a WHOLE lot of money on (when it comes down to it) what is simply energy for your body.

I look forward to posting my next blog about other new changes going on in my life right now!

Wishing for Less

Sometimes all we need is a little less. There is a huge and profound connection between owning less, having less stress, spending less money and having less health problems. When we let go of the things in our life that don’t serve us by either being of practical use or pleasing to our senses, we actually begin to highlight the things in our life that really do serve us by making us more happy and productive.

The more we let go of, the more gratifying it is to live our lives amongst the treasured and trusted objects that we have carefully selected to be a part of our day to day routines. We begin to notice the way we feel more, we have space for quiet contemplation and tranquility in our day. When we own less it also forces us to think creatively. Instead of going to the store so we can buy all the latest technology, we can spend our time exploring the potential of the nifty things we already own- such as all the settings of our digital camera or rediscovering our collection of CDs from college (Radiohead, anyone?). When we own less there is less to worry about, manage and maintain. Even if it is as simple as a big assortment of totes with random bits and bobs taking up space in the attic, it still causes us mental clutter when we are reminded of these items and we expend mental energy trying to remember what is stored there and if those things are still useful to us, and even thinking about decisions of what to do with the items. When we surround ourselves with only the things that we truly love and care for, we feel less compelled to purchase new items on a whim or because everyone else has it. This saves us loads of money over time- money that we can use to pay off debt, invest, or donate to a great cause. When we become less stressed, we have the mental energy to pursue our interests instead of parking it on the couch for a night of TV watching. Even better- when we cut out TV all together, we automatically will find other exciting activities to pursue that don’t involve sitting in front of a screen. Naturally this will help to burn calories as we spend our time having fun and being active.

These are just some of the many ways that owning less opens up doors to exuberant happiness in our lives. There are no rules or time limits to how one should go about minimizing, and the journey to owning less will be as unique as the person taking it.

10 Things You Can Stop Buying Now

Over the years, I have picked up many different ideas for how to become more sustainable, how to save money, and how to live a healthier life. Many of these ideas are a perfect union of those three attributes, and even though some of these may require a small investment up front, the items can be used for years to come.

1. Notecards/Thank You Cards/ Stationary / Birthday cards

You don’t have to be a master scrapbooking hobbyist to make your own notecards. It can be as simple as using the back of your children’s artwork, or cutting out pictures from old cards and pasting them on the blank spaces behind the front of old cards.

2. Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags

When I think of all the Christmases as a child where we overloaded our trash can with heaps of crumpled wrapping paper, tissue paper and ripped up gift bags I cringe. I’ve been saving my gift bags and tissue paper for years, and have a stash of about a dozen or so to choose from at any given time. I keep ribbons and bows, and a variety of small boxes as well. My dad always used the funnies from the newspaper as wrapping paper, and my aunt always sewed simple gift bags from discount fabrics. She also made reusable cross stitched gift tags to accompany the bags, and they’ve had decades of use with zero waste! Ingenious!

3. Cleaning Products

With a few very inexpensive household products (think vinegar, and baking soda) you can make very dependable and eco-friendly cleaning products that get the job done. You can make fancier recipes using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and essential oils as well, but I’ve found most things can be easily cleaned using just those two ingredients.

4. Paper Towels and Napkins

Start stocking up on dish towels (keep a drawer or basket of them in the kitchen) and you will never again need to buy paper towels. Same for cloth napkins and disposable napkins. To make it easier on myself I put a small bucket on the counter to throw the dirty ones into, then I just throw them in the wash when the bucket gets full.

5. Herbs

It is so simple and easy to grow your own herbs. If you live in a cold climate, you can always find an empty windowsill to use. Herbs grow relatively quickly and take up very little space. Right now I’m growing oregano, mint, dill, rosemary, sage and basil, but you can grow virtually any herb you can think of. For an even cheaper option, you can order organic herb seeds online. Many herbs are perennial meaning they will continue to grow, giving you a limitless supply of fresh herbs! You can even grow rosemary just by taking a sprig off and putting it in the dirt. So easy!

6. Bottled Water

This one is kind of a no-brainer. I think the key to this is thinking ahead. For one, you will need several high quality water bottles (think stainless steel or these glass ones I love) for multiple members of your family, and also for when some are in the dishwasher or lost. Plastic ones are cheaper, but they may release nasty chemicals into your water when they get hot or sit for a long time. Keep some in the fridge so they are cold and ready to grab and go when you’re headed out the door. Then when you get back home, make sure to bring your water bottle back inside. It starts to become second-nature when you do it consistently.

7. Disposable Diapers

Cloth diapers are not the cotton fabric and safety pins that your grandma used. Today they come in many different kinds that are so easy to put on with snaps and Velcro, and come in many cute patterns. They are also much easier to store and wash then you’d think. All you need is a large wet bag for home, and a small wet bag for on the go. It zips completely closed and keeps them nice and contained. About half of the diapers my daughter uses now are the same ones we bought before she was born (she’s now 2!). I think I will write another blog post just on cloth diapering soon!

8. Pads or Tampons

Cloth pads are infinitely more comfortable than disposables, and all you need is enough for a few days as you can just throw them in the washer. On the other hand, there are many reusable menstrual cups such as the Mooncup that can be easily rinsed off each time.

9. Tupperware

I actually can’t believe that I’ve just started doing this, it is so obvious and easy. Just save all the glass jars when you use up your pantry items such as all-natural peanut butter, pasta sauce, jam and pickles. You can use them to store dry goods like beans, grains, loose herbs and teas, and also to store leftovers in the fridge. Just rinse them out and run them through the dishwasher to use again and again.

10. Toothpaste

There are many recipes floating around out there for home-made toothpaste, and most of them involve baking soda, charcoal, and mint essential oils. Infinitely cheaper, infinitely less waste, and much healthier for you as they don’t contain dangerous chemicals like fluoride.

There are so many other things you can stop buying now if you think outside the box. Oftentimes when I feel the need to buy something, I just wait a few days and I usually think of something I already have to use instead. What have you stopped buying?