(This is a guest article by Connor Groening*)
I used to be the girl who runs to the coffee shop every morning. On the way to the coffee shop I'd pass the coffee maker, can of coffee and filters, and on the way in, I'd dump my disposable cup out in the trash. I am now a mother and living a financially friendly lifestyle is a must - for both mine and my kid's future. Whether it’s parenthood, job change or just a want to use your finances more efficiently, there are tiny little things and even big ones that we don’t even notice we spend money on. Lets say that I was spending 4 dollars everyday on coffee. That’s around 120 dollars a month and about 1,500 dollars a year! Amazing right, over 1,000 dollars spent entirely on coffee. And to boot, 365 disposable cups in the trash can. Lets just say I make my own coffee these days and drink it in my "I Love You, Mommy" coffee mug, with a little fancy creamer to make it taste like a coffee shop latte. You don’t have to be an accountant or go to a financial school to take control of your finances and the effects they have on not only you but environmentally as well.
When you go through your everyday expenses it is amazing the little things you discover your spending thousands of dollars on a year. There are some ways to eliminate some of those expenses and even do a little eco-friendly monetary rearranging. I’ll use some examples out of my own personal experience and a few tips I have learned from others. Financially friendly living cannot only help you in your life but can even help the environment!
Have you ever watched "The Story of Bottled Water?" The basic message is how we spend thousands and thousands of dollars on bottled water, and by buying the plastic bottles not only are we wasting money, but resources that could be used elsewhere. Instead of spending money to fund big bottled water companies why not put that money and resource towards making tap water safe and drinkable all over the world. Same applies to most of the trivial things we as consumers feel we need. We are a nation obsessed with "stuff". Not to condemn American’s we are not the only consumer happy country, just the most recognized. Basically the message I am trying to convey is that there are many ways to save money and in doing so conserve national resources.
Small but Expensive
Taking a step back from the national approach I will evaluate from a more personal stand-point the things I do to live a more financially and eco-friendly life. I will start with the tiny things that we can do as individuals to cut costs in certain areas of our lives. First the minute little things. If you use a computer often then this is something I’m sure you have done. When you are done with the computer you let it go to sleep rather than shutting it down, and probably leave it plugged in as well. This seems too minute to worry about but you wouldn’t believe the amount of energy it uses yearly. Studies show that by leaving a computer plugged in costs you an average of $27.90 a year. That isn’t including a monitor if you have a desktop which generates a cost of about nine dollars a year, and the modem costing you around six dollars a year. And that's just one computer. How many computers and other electronic gadgets do you have around the house. Itty bitty expenses that add up, while at the same time hurting the environment.
Lets go back to the simple idea of a water bottle. The average family uses about 10 dollars a week on plastic water bottles. Equaling an amazing 520 dollars a year. What could you have used the 520 dollar on? A car payment, paying bills within the household... buying 10 water filtering systems for your tap water faucet? Try using a reusable bottle for water or other drinks. This reduces not only the amount of money you spend on plastic bottles but also the amount of plastic you send to landfills all over the world. These are just a few of the small things that we don’t realize we are spending so much money on. There are hundreds of things like this in our lives that we can either cut out or reduce considerably. Try sitting down and calculating the amount of money you spend on things like coffee in the morning, fast food lunches, water bottles and other things such as this. After calculating you will be amazed at where your paychecks are really going. Try coming up with creative ways to change your consumer habits, do some research and save some money!
When looking at your finances on a larger scale in a round about way there are a few skills you can use to keep your spending in check and live more financially friendly. First try making a budget. If you take the time to sit down and make a rough allocation of your money it gives you an idea of what you have left over for things you want. Needs and wants are very different and using those two categories is really beneficial when making your budget. Doing this allows you to make sure you get all of your needs covered and slowly mark your want list off with money you have left over.
Spend Wisely and Consciously
When shopping, shop wisely and with purpose. Comparing prices can be a mundane task but if you take your time shopping you will be amazed at the money you save. This goes for all shopping not only grocery shopping. Whenever possible support environmentally friendly causes. Advertisement has many, many tricks up its sleeve. Sales are one of those very touchy subjects. "It was okay I spent the money because it was on sale". Finding a good deal is definitely something you can look out for when shopping but beware of the way advertising seduces us into buying things we do not need. An example, some price tags will have a regular price and sale price printed on. Meaning that this company never even tried to sell this product at regular price. Seeing a sale price is enticing and our mind automatically justifies spending if the item is "on sale". Unknowingly we sometimes fall into the schemes of today’s advertising gurus, who if you let them will take every penny you have! Their good... but you can easily be better!
In every home there are a number of unused items maybe you have a garage full or an attic. The point is we all have things lying around that can be of use. A personal example. I recently relocated, left my job, my home and all of the connections I had back home. It is the Christmas season and I love giving. However I have just started a new job and at the moment do not have the money to spend on a ton of Christmas gifts. I love to give everyone a special gift and so not having the money was killing me. I went to the basement to do laundry and started digging around. I found some clear glass ornaments that I had completely forgotten were there. So this year everyone is getting a hand made ornament uniquely painted for each individual person. And it worked out great... in stead of buying more and more stuff, I end up repurposing some the things I already have. Sometimes something you make means so much more! Getting crafty can be applied to many different things to not only make unique gifts but to make practical use of unused items just laying around at home. There is a book by readers digest "Extraordinary uses for ordinary things: 2,317 ways to save money and time". Its amazing how some of these directly or indirectly help save the environment as well. Try finding reads like this and using the information in your life.
There are many ways to live a more financially friendly life. I hope the information I have given you will spark some interest in the things you can do that not only save money but help save the environment as well. Saving money isn’t all about being frugal. There are a lot of things that I have learned on my journey to a more financially friendly living that have helped me in many aspects of my life, and have been great fun. Explore and gain knowledge on the different ways to save money that are out there and have fun doing it. When you begin to save and look back on the money you were spending on irrelevant things you will feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride. Sometimes it really is all about the simple things in life.
If you like this article you may also like:
- What I Do to Live Frugally
- Now Frugal, Now Not
- Air Travel Checklist for the Frugal Minded Traveler
- Frugality and Hardship
*About the author: This is a guest article by Connor Groening, who loves writing about personal finance and online finance schools.
*Image Credit: Photograph by beautyredefined [via Flickr Creative Commons]