Do You Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

I’m not the greatest at recycling, but now that I’m on my own I’m beginning to see the benefits of it. Not just for the environment but also for your wallet (which I have to admit to me is much more of an incentive.)

I’ve found myself stuffing the trash can more full than normal to save on trash bags, reusing sandwich bags that had chips in them, turning off lights and fans when I don’t need them and cracking the windows instead of turning on the air.

That’s just a few things I’ve found myself doing, but I am sure there are countless ways to reduce my use, reuse certain products and recycle all around. All of these things reduces waste and helps both the earth and you.

So why don’t more people do it? It takes a little bit of effort and this thing some of us don’t like to do all of the time called “thinking.” But it’s well worth it and if we all would take a little bit of time and go out of our way to recycle ultimately everyone would profit. You can recycle almost anything–paper, plastic, glass, food (for compost)–and you can often reuse things around the house.

Here are a few fun facts I found about recycling*:

  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your TV for 3 hours
  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a compact fluorescent bulb for 20 hours.

Do you recycle? What are some ways you practice this?

*Facts found at Recycling Revolution

Quick Tip Savings Calculator

Ok, this isn’t rocket science or anything, but sometimes we just don’t think about everything we’re spending money on.

Personally, I think I’m finally getting the picture of how far a dollar can really go. It goes further than we think. Especially when we add that dollar to another dollar and then those 2 dollars to other dollars. And then we invest them and it multiplies. 😉 So cool.

I ran across this “Quick Tip Savings Calculator” on GoBankingRates.com and thought I’d share. It’s nothing you couldn’t figure out w/ a pen and paper, but it will make you think.

Check it out here.

I had to say “no” to a few things cause I am already doing them but what I had to say yes to was:

1. Lower your thermostat. (I haven’t actually had to deal with this yet since I don’t pay the electric bill but I will starting next month! But I love being warm. I know I can wear more clothes to save a few dollars every month!)

2. Play the market: wisely use coupons. (I have just started realizing coupons actually save money. I thought the time it took to cut them out wasn’t worth it but if you use coupons on things you already normally buy you’ll save money. Don’t use them for things you wouldn’t buy if you didn’t have the coupon. That is called “spending money to save money,” and it doesn’t work well. =)

3. Go green-Convert to energy-efficient bulbs. (I don’t know much about energy-efficient bulbs but maybe you do? I’m guessing they cost more but maybe last longer? Does anyone know how that works?)

That’s all I could work on, and if I did it could potentially save me $165 a month. Wow. If that’s true then I’m definitely taking the extra time to do them.

What could you do differently and how much would it save you??

Back to the Basics Part 3-Budgets

Either I’m going to go out and spend all my money on food, new clothes, and awesome entertainment, or I’m going to sit inside and sulk that I can’t have any “fun” right now because I’m saving it.

Neither option the way to go, of course! But sometimes that mentality wants to sneak in on me. But I won’t let it. Balance is key!

Regardless of what others may say, the key to financial balance is having and maintaining a budget. Some feel it is too constraining but in reality it is very freeing because you get to control where your money is going instead of letting it control you.

A budget is easy to make and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different templates you could use. J. Money at Budgets are Sexy has some pretty rockin’ ones you can find here. I’ve decided to create my own that probably only makes sense to me but here is the breakdown…

My Budget

I get a paycheck every 2 weeks so that is [usually] 2 a month. I call one paycheck, “Paycheck 1” and the other, “Paycheck 2.” (Simple, huh?!)
Paycheck 1 I designate out this way:
  • Cash Savings
  • Vacation Savings
  • School Savings
  • Rent
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Anytime Fitness
  • Life
A certain amount of money goes toward each of those categories and when they are all added up it equals the total amount of paycheck 1.
I do the same thing with paycheck 2 except it’s categories are a little different:
  • Cash Savings
  • Vacation Savings
  • School Savings
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Cable
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Phone
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Life
  • Best Buy
And once again, a certain amount is designated to each and there is none left after that. =) I plan ahead of time where my entire paycheck is going so there are no questions.
Once I have built up my “cash savings” I will have some leeway but right now I want to get my emergency fund up.

The Usefulness of a Budget

Having and keeping a budget up will save you tons of stress and worry and will also pay off for you in the long run.

The key is to pay yourself first (in the form of savings) than your bills than day-to-day living.

Once again, it’s basic. But I know some of you aren’t doing it. 😉 You can start today. I’m not an expert on budgets but I play with mine every day and have looked at a lot of other templates. If you have a question about one please feel free to contact me.

Do you keep a budget? Why or why not? How has it helped you achieve some of your goals?

Back to the Basics Part 1-Savings: Emergency Fund

Consider this: You walk into work tomorrow and your boss calls you into the office. There has risen a need for layoffs in the organization and unfortunately you are one of them.

Been there before? Or heard of people who have?

It’d suck, wouldn’t  it? Not being able to afford what you need…right NOW?

It doesn’t have to be this way!

As we work to build a solid financial life there are a few items that must come first. And they may seem obvious, but I have to admit I know more than a few people who don’t participate in these.
The first and most important of these is called saving. It’s basic. It’s simple. It’s easy. But it does take some conscientious effort.
And more important than saving for vacation or a new laptop or TV (of course we’ll discuss those later) is saving for emergencies.

This is where the Emergency Fund comes in. Haven’t heard the term before? Maybe you could check out Dave Ramsey or a number of other personal finance bloggers! The Emergency Fund is the first thing you need to build up! Haven’t started? Today’s the day!

Most people take this view of Emergency Funds….
It’s a savings account set aside for, well, emergencies. Such as immediate car repair needs, immediate medical attention, immediate repairs on the house, etc., etc.

I tend to take a different view on them…(sue me. 😉
It’s a savings account set aside for use if I lose my job or end up on extended leave-without-pay and can’t pay the bills and feed myself.
(Maybe my view is a little extreme, but I think emergencies like car repairs, etc. can actually be foreseen to a certain extent. My car is 13 years old now, and I KNOW my car is going to need something done to it. I have a different savings fund for these called my “cash savings.”)

So how much should be in the Emergency (AKA: I-Don’t-Have-A-Source-Of-Income-But-Am-Looking-For-One) Fund?
Most professionals suggest 6-8 months of living expenses.

Sounds like a lot, huh? It is. But it’s better than not having any and being put out on the streets or having to move back in with your parents. 😉 Plus, you’ll just start “feeling” wealthier with that sitting in an account somewhere (making dividends of course) with your name on it. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it!

Right now, I am definitely still working towards this. In the meantime it also serves as my “cash savings” (for repairs and other emergencies that don‘t include me losing my job =) but once I get it built up to 6-8 months living expenses I will start another fund that would cover any minor emergencies.

So how do we even start building up an emergency fund?
I suggest “paying yourself” first (this takes a budget.) When you get your paycheck or see the direct deposit in your account, the day you receive it, put a certain amount (or percentage) into your Emergency Fund. How much is up to you. Maybe it’s 10% (shoot at a minimum for this) or 25% or maybe you can put even more back if your bills will allow. But put SOMETHING back.

I have been putting back around 20% of my paychecks into my emergency fund, and it’s refreshing to know I have something to fall back on if something were to happen.

Of course there will be other things we want to save up for before we hit the 6-8 month living expense mark in our E-Fund, so I think it’s safe to say once you have $1,000 in your E-Fund you can start to split up your savings to other things as well. Just don’t forget about your little E-Fund. He wants to grow and the long-term goal is to get it up to that point it will cover 8 months of your living expenses if needed. =)

What do you guys think? Agree or disagree? Do you have an emergency fund or are you building one? What keeps you motivated and do you have any cool tools you use to save?

Mindless Money Wasters

J Money at Budgets Are Sexy is always a source of inspiration for me. I know there are many personal finance bloggers out there but he’s just my fav. He was also really the 1st one I stumbled across so I think I’m biased.

But he posted here some mindless money wasters he had got from Free Money Finance who I guess had gotten them from Yahoo. All that to say I couldn’t relate to many of those mindless money wasters but I know I have my own so here is confession time. I know there are many more but that is for another time and place. 😉

(I know I haven’t written a lot about my finances, budgets, etc. but please have the understanding I really love to keep track of that kind of thing, and I try to be frugal. So this is a hard list for me to share with you guys!)

1. Movies.
Watching movies is one of my new favorite things to do. And most of the time it’s in the theater, opening weekend. So I do throw too much at this. I’ve been trying to find some more good, cheap (or free!), fun things to do though and lately I have succeeded on a few occasions. 😉

2. Popcorn and drink at the movies.
I used to NEVER do this. I mean, I’m paying as much for that as I did for my ticket. But then I met my awesome friend Chara who I don’t think even believes in watching a movie without popcorn and a drink. So now I’m hooked.Popcorn with Kernel Season’s Jalapeno Seasoning (the BOMB) and a half Pepsi, half diet-Pepsi drink.
I’m thinking to cut down, maybe every other time I’ll eat right beforehand and then just drink water during. 😉

3. Eating out.
Of course, this is a big one for all of us, I am guessing. I try to limit my eating out to the weekends when I can actually enjoy it with people I love. But I need to cut it to only 1 time a week. Right now it’s hovering around 2-4. Some weeks are better than others.

4. Good deals.
This week I had committed to a “no-spend” week where I wouldn’t spend any money unless I absolutely had to (gas and bills.) But I realized what a sucker I am for good deals when a woman at work is selling makeup products for half off. I gave in and bought a few though I didn’t absolutely HAVE to have them. And then today I bought a $4.99 cutlery set online because well, I will need it eventually and it’s such a good deal.
I’m all about good deals but they can potentially be mindless money wasters if you are only buying cause it’s a good deal and not because you actually need whatever it is.

Ok, don’t think I’m crazy but that is pretty much it for me…right now. I’m saving for A LOT of things so much of my money goes toward different savings accounts.

But what about you? Have you fallen prey to any of these mindless money wasters?

Smarty Pig

Let me share with you a secret…

Saving money can be fun. For real. It’s always been fun for me to make a goal and work to reach it, but it’s even more fun now that I’ve come across a cool new website (and basically financial institution) called Smarty Pig. You can also find Smarty Pig on twitter @smartypig

With Smarty Pig you can set one goal, two goals or ten goals. And then you can set it up to have money withdrawn from your checking account either automatically or whenever you choose to go towards your goal. When you add to it, there are graphs and percentages to show you how close you are getting to reaching your goal.

And the REALLY cool thing–that I have yet to experience–is that other people can contribute to your goal. You can send out a link on twitter or facebook or set up a link on your blog where anyone who wants to can see how close you are to reaching your goal and help you out if they’d like. And speaking of! If you just feel the inkling down deep inside to contribute to my current goal you can do so HERE.

It’s really simple and actually a lot of fun.

Right now my only goal is my 2010 vacation. I’m hoping to save up $1500 by August so Chara and I can go on a cruise in the fall. I’ll write more about our ideas later! I haven’t been on vacation in so long and am definitely looking forward to it.

If you’d like to start saving for something in specific, you might check out Smarty Pig and see what they have to offer.

What are you currently saving or wanting to save for? If you’re not saving yet what is the biggest hindrance you face?