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We’ve Had Recycling this Whole Time!

We moved into our new home in mid-October 2012.  I saw a few recycling bins around the neighborhood, but I assumed it was an additional fee since only about a quarter of the houses seemed to have one.  Well, you know what assuming does…

Finally Looked Into Recycling

Well, the lack of easy recycling has been annoying me a little.  We are a household with 5 adults and throwing away aluminum and paper makes me cringe.  I was saving our aluminum cans and newspapers, and then would Craigslist them for free every few months.  But that was taking up a lot of room and brought in some bugs to the garage.  So I stopped earlier this year.  :-(

Overall, I’m not a sustainability fanatic in general, but I am a fan of doing the easy stuff to save money or help the environment.   For example, we use those energy-efficient light bulbs when we replace burned-out bulbs.  Why not?  The extra cost makes up for itself and then some apparently.  We also bought a Prius in 2008 instead of the SUV we were looking for since it had the storage we needed and cost $5000-$7000 less.  It having way better gas mileage is just a gigantic bonus for us.

In short, I was hoping to find an easy way to recycle that wouldn’t cost me extra.  When I was talking about that last week, one of our friends – Anne – offered to pick up our recycling every week when she visits and just throw it into her bin since her neighborhood just upgraded to those gigantic ones that are as tall as me.  I loved this idea but it did motivate me to call and see how much our own recycling bin would cost since I would feel a little bad sending our trash home with a friend every week.

Recycle

Bin on Its Way

I first called our water utility provider since that is who is listed as our trash provider as well on my home owner’s association’s webpage.  They nicely informed me that they did not run our trash, but they gave me the correct phone number.  So I called that one and had to leave a message.  A rep called me back within 10 minutes and let me know that they only handled trash, but they also were super friendly and gave me the phone number of the recycling company for our area.  I finally called the right number and found out some very interesting info!

Not only did they provide recycling bins, but the service was already paid for through fees on our water bill!  So I have been paying for recycling pickup for 6 months and didn’t even know it!  Moving on…our recycling bin will be dropped off today.  And I finally understand why our bill is about double that of our old house even though we use similar amounts of water.  So two birds with one stone, yay!

Now Recycling…

The company even seems to accept a lot of recyclables and I don’t even need to sort them:

  • Paper – magazines, newspapers, copy paper, computer paper, catalogs, pizza boxes, paper egg cartons, shredded paper tied tightly in plastic bags, etc.
  • Plastics – juice, water, milk, soda, cleaning and detergent containers (if in doubt, check container for stamp. Most plastics have mold stamp; they collect #1 – #7).
  • Thin Plastics – grocery store bags, dry cleaning bags, produce bags, plastic sleeves from newspapers
  • Aluminum – any type of soda, beer, drink, foil, pie pans, trays, etc.
  • Tin Cans – any food can, pet food, etc.
  • Cardboard – boxes, cereal, food, detergent, pet food, etc. (please break down larger boxes)
  • Glass

Getting the Word Out

I bet I’m not the only one who has been paying for recycling that they haven’t been using, so I’m trying to get the word out.  I posted a topic in the forums on my HOA’s website.  I updated my welcome-info form that I’ve been giving to all of the new families that move into this neighborhood.  And I am going to request the recycling company’s contact info be placed into the community newsletter.  With any luck, way more people in our neighborhood will be participating by this time next month.  :-)

Do you have recycling pickup where you live?  If not, make sure, lol.  Would you participate if you could?

I Use a Dryer for my Clothes

As you may already know, I am a staff writer at 7 other blogs on a weekly, biweekly, and bimonthly basis.  I staff write for Bargaineering four times a week.  I have found that the readers at all the places I blog are similar to my readers EXCEPT for some at Bargaineering.  I seem to tick them off with my non-frugal ways.  I really try to not mention certain things so I don’t get fired, but sometimes I slip.

My Dryer Slip Up

Case in point, I just wrote a post about Business Clothing on a Budget and had two little, no thought lines in the last paragraph,

…To keep my blouses and slacks unwrinkled, I hung them immediately after the dryer was done with them. For the more fragile fabrics, I hung them when they were still damp in the hall closet to dry.

Did anybody zero in on my fragile fabric line?  Nope.  But a few people did notice that I use a dryer and kindly explained to me that I shouldn’t.  Well, mostly kindly. 

What’s Wrong with a Dryer?

Here’s my question, why attack the dryer?  I understand it uses energy, but so does my refrigerator and nobody has told me to unplug that yet.  How about coffee makers?  I don’t drink coffee, so can I bank those credits to use for the dryer instead?  What about the washer?  If we all washed our clothes by hand, I am assuming we’d save a ton of energy, but nobody seemed to care that I use a washer. So, why is my dryer usage, specifically, annoying people?

This is a real question.  I do not understand.  I will admit that even if somebody explains it to me, I truly doubt I will ever line dry.  BUT, if it’s a good reason, I do promise to stop rolling my eyes.

Why I Don’t Line Dry

And since somebody will ask, here is why I do not line dry:

  • I don’t have room in the garage or house, so that leaves my back yard.
  • The back yard is full of dust and pollen and humidity (I live in Houston, TX).  Even if I wasn’t asthmatic, it seems silly to wash my clothes just to set them outside to get dirty.
  • Naturally dried clothes are stiffer than dryer-dried clothes.  I don’t like scratchy clothes.
  • I do not want to spend time hanging clothes to dry.
  • BIG REASON – The dryer is faster.

There you go.  I use a clothes dryer.  I know a dryer apparently wears out clothes faster, but I am okay with that.  It’s worth it to me and I need to force myself to buy new clothes once a year or so anyway just to keep wearing correct sizes.

Now I just have to avoid bringing up bottled water at Sustainable Personal Finance…  ;-)

Do you use a dryer?  Do you avoid them like the plague?  Why?

How to Make Your Home More Sustainable

The following is a guest post on behalf of Eon Energy.

There are many options to consider when deciding to go green and many can help to reduce the cost of your gas and electricity bills. These choices can range from smaller steps that have a gradual, smaller impact to large scale energy savings. Help the planet and your pocket by making your home more sustainable using these practical tips.

Change your Light Bulbs

Start small by switching to energy saving light bulbs. These compact fluorescent or LED bulbs use 80% less electricity than normal bulbs and but still offer the same amount of light. This means they last longer and can help you to make savings on energy costs over the course of the year.

Use a Clothes Line

Energy hungry tumble dryers are expensive to run and can be an unsustainable investment. A solar clothes drier (a clothes line) can still leave your clothes with that just-washed scent and will save you the cost of tumble drying products. You may also see the benefit in your clothes, which often lose fabric during a drying cycle.

Upgrade your Curtains

Dress your windows in opaque drapes that will allow sun to come into your home when you need heat, but reflect it out when you want to remain cool. Further measures can be taken to stop your windows allowing heat in and out, such as insulated curtains. These lined curtains keep warm air from leaving or entering your home, minimizing your reliance on the thermostat.

Go Solar

If you’re ready to take bigger steps on the road to becoming more environmentally friendly, consider the option of solar panels. As solar power is a renewable source, there is no danger of it running out and whilst the sun may disappear behind clouds from time to time and is not available at night, it is able to run at full force the majority of the time. In addition to being a non polluting energy source, once you have paid for the installation of your solar panels, there are no energy bill expenses.

Insulate

With a significant amount of heat lost from the home leaving through the walls and roof, taking steps to reduce this could save you a considerable amount in heating bills as well as around 750kg a year in CO2 emissions. Wall cavity insulation sees a technician ‘injecting’ the cavity insulating material into the walls from the exterior. Loft insulation is also an effective measure to help you save money and energy in the home.

Crystal’s Comments:  I’ve actually thought about looking into solar panels but figure they’d get beat up pretty bed with the hurricanes and storms in Houston.  But we do insulate our home well and are switching over to the new light bulbs as the old ones burn out.

Freecycle – My Personal Experiences

Since my husband bought me a desk, I have been getting rid of stuff from our guest bedroom to make myself a somewhat organized office.  I have been trying to Craigslist some furniture and used Freecycle to get rid of some empty boxes and tupperware-like storage containers.

Freecycle is a group started to rehouse used items for free and local groups pop up all over the place for it.  I am personally the member of 2 Freecycle groups that are only for my exact area of Houston. 

I have used Freecycle more than 10 times in the past 2 years.  At least 9 of those were me getting rid of stuff and once was me finding doggy stairs for my Pug.

Freecycle – A Great Way To Get Rid of Stuff

I have freecycled a bunch of things.  It is pretty easy to type up a simple description and post a listing.  Then I just emailed the first person back who emailed me to schedule the pick up.  It usually takes less than 24 hours to have stuff picked up.

So far, I have freecycled:

  • A young palm tree
  • A bent queen-sized bed frame
  • A broken tv hutch
  • Multiple loads of empty boxes
  • Extra dirt
  • A whole load of off-brand tupperware
  • Dog food that was too fattening for my senior, Miss Doxie, and gave Mr. Pug an allergic reaction because, as we found out later, he is allergic to meat.
  • An old runner for a hallway

In all of those cases, I posted simple and honest descriptions of all of my items.  Even though I made sure to highlight all of the negatives, all of the items were picked up in less than 2 days!

Woot for turning trash into treasure!  I love being able to get rid of something while simultaneously making someone else happy.  It is just too cool! 

I’ve asked people why they wanted my broken whatever before and have been told that they either are going to fix it and use it or break it down to use its parts.  Sounds great to me!

If you are interested in finding a freecycle group in your area, I’d suggest Yahoo Meetups first since that worked well for me.  Good luck!

Have you ever joined a Freecycle group?  What do you think of them or the idea?

Green Your Routine – Ecologically Friendly Product Alternatives

This is a guest post about ecologically friendly beauty product alternatives from Mrs. Money who writes at the Ultimate Money Blog, where she shares tips on frugal living, how to live green, and living a simpler life.

One of the areas of your budget that can be pretty easy to cut is beauty products.  Shampoo, conditioner, facial cleansers, lotions, and other beauty products can cost a lot of money; not to mention they can be hazardous to your health. 

Many shampoos and lotions contain many ingredients that can cause health problems.  Parabens, for instance have been linked to cancer.  Sodium lauryl sulfate is a common surfectant that’s found in almost all shampoos. It is very harsh on your skin and can cause irritation, yet many companies continue to use it because it’s cheap. 

Don’t feel like you have to go run out to buy eco friendly beauty products.  There are many different options for you to make your own beauty products at home for cheap!  Here are some things you can do to save money and green your beauty routine.

Ecologically Friendly Product #1 – No Poo

Go No Poo.  No poo is a method of shampooing your hair using just baking soda and an apple cider vinegar rinse.  It’s super cheap and easy to do.  There are only two ingredients: baking soda, and apple cider vinegar.  Both are inexpensive and natural.

Ecologically Friendly Product #2 – No Conditioner

Stop using conditioner.  You can make your own hair conditioner using apple cider vinegar and water.  Dissolve two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water.  After shampooing, pour the mixture on your freshly rinsed hair.  Allow it to set for a few minutes, and then rinse. Your hair will be nice and soft!

Ecologically Friendly Product #3 – Make Your Own Toothpaste

Use a toothpaste recipe and make your own toothpaste.  The ingredients include: baking soda, glycerin, salt, and peppermint oil.  It doesn’t get easier than that!  You can also use plain baking soda to brush your teeth, but I think it makes your teeth too sensitive so I make my own.

Ecologically Friendly Product #4 – Oil Your Face

Follow the oil cleansing method to wash your face.  Using oils to wash your face sounds counter intuitive, but I’ve used it for years now and my skin hasn’t looked as good or been as clear as it is in years!  You can also use small amounts of the oils as facial moisturizers. 

Try those steps to ease yourself into eco friendly beauty products.  You’ll save money and green your life at the same time!

Crystal’s Comments:  I am lazy and like my products to come ready to use in a bottle.  Yep, I am not completely green.  :-(  But, I do like to know about alternatives.  The apple cider vinegar and baking soda idea sounds alot like what we use to clean out our sink (regular vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar), so I do see how it could work for my hair.  I only wash my face using water, so I guess that is ecologically friendly, lol.

Have you tried any of the tips above?

Recycling- Good for Your Pocketbook?

The following is a guest post from Kevin at FinanciallyPoor.com, where he writes about many personal finance topics but focuses on changing your attitude about money.

As you try to reach your personal finance goals, sometimes a little extra money may be the key that you need. When money is tight, an extra $10 or $20 can really make all the difference. If you want a little extra money without going out and getting a side job, recycling is an easy way to start. It is good for your finances and is a great way to do your part to save the planet.

Use What You Have

Many people run out and get extra containers or storage bins before starting to recycle. This completely defeats the purpose. If you are recycling to get some extra money, spending money won’t do you any good. Recycling isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It will take a long time to build up to a small amount of money. Use things you have to maximize your earnings. An old cardboard box or trash can is a great place to start throwing bottles and cans. An empty trash bag will even do the job.

Get What You Pay For

One reason that recycling is such a good idea, is that you really are usually only getting your own money back. In many states bottled goods are charged a deposit. This deposit is encouragement to recycle. You might be paying five cents a bottle at purchase and then have this returned to you when you recycle. By taking your bottles and cans to the recycling center, you are only getting back the money you have already invested.

Little Amounts Add Up

Many people don’t recycle because they feel that the pocket change they are saving doesn’t matter. It is true, you aren’t going to make a ton of money recycling. However, you may be able to get $40 or $50 dollars each year. If you are running low on funds before payday, those bottles and cans might really come in handy. Many supermarkets have recycling centers right outside. This means that you can take your recycling quickly without having to run all across town.

If you are looking for a great way to build up a little extra cash for something you already have laying around, consider doing your part to save by planet by recycling. Don’t just send your extra cash to the dump, take a little time and recycle; it will be worth your effort.

Do you recycle?

Crystal Comments:  We don’t have recycling pick up, so Mr. BFS and I only save up aluminum cans in trash bags and newspaper in a couple of cardboard boxes.  We stopped drinking soda regularly and only get 2-3 newpapers a week, so we have yet to do anything with our cache.  I’m hoping for $10-$20 when I finally drop off the cans.

Achieve Your Goals by Reducing Waste, Increasing Efficiency, and Using Your Time Wisely

The following guest post is by Kevin of Invest It Wisely.

What is the most precious and valuable resource in the world? I’ll give you a hint: It does not glitter like silver and gold, there never seems to be enough of it, and if you try to catch it, it slips out of your hands.

The most precious and valuable resource in the world is time.

I want to talk about three different ways that you can increase your life expectation by using your time wisely. Each of us only has so much time to work with, and none of us are getting any younger. By making more effective use of your time, you have a better shot at achieving your personal goals.

Improve your productivity with structured time

In today’s always-connected age, we are bombarded by requests for our attention from left and right.

One of my own dreams is to work from home, but one of the problems of working from home is that there are too many distractions; the TV is nearby, there is the temptation to “take a break” to play games or to check my email every five minutes, or I end up chatting with my significant other. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I also had kids at home.

My first tip is to cut out the noise. Time spent in recreation is important, but if you are not careful, you will wonder why you didn’t have time to do everything that you wanted to do.

First, give your most important priorities the time that they need. Structure the amount of time that you need to get things done, and then find yourself a quiet space, either in your home or nearby, where you can work and study in peace.

I find that it helps when you dedicate a place to work, study, and play, for the same reasons that your bedroom should be devoted solely to rest and spending time with the significant other. I personally like to study at the library, because I can focus strongly on the task at hand without anything nearby to distract me.

Reduce “dead” time.

We should commit to reducing as much “dead” time as possible. What is dead time? Dead time is simply another way of describing all of the time spent doing something when we would rather be doing something else.

Here are five tips to reduce your dead time and simplify your life:

Do you spend a lot of time leaving home to do groceries, go to the pharmacy, and pick up packages at the post office?
With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can cut down time wasted going back and forth dramatically. Simply make a list of everything that you need to do and everything that you need to buy, and schedule a time where you do not expect big lineups at the store. Instead of leaving the house to do your errands, you can make it a part of your regular route between work and home.
Do you hate waiting in line at the store?
Learn the times when employees get off work and lineups grow exponentially longer, so you can avoid having to wait in line for ages simply to pay for your stuff.
Do you hate waiting in line at the bank?
Sign up for online banking and bank online from the convenience of your home.
Do you spend two hours cooking every day?
Plan some of your meals ahead of time, so that you can spend a Sunday afternoon cooking all of them together in bulk. By using common ingredients, you can cook several meals ahead of time without having to eat the same thing every day.
Do you find it hard to find time to exercise?
Instead of wasting time going to and from the gym, take the stairs, park as far as you can from the store, and do bodyweight exercises inside your own home.

Trading time for money

Then there are the things we do to save a bit of money here and there, without realizing how much time this is costing us. Sometimes, it can be beneficial to trade your money for additional time.

I can think of three examples off of the top of my head:

Do you spend half an hour washing and drying the dishes every day? That is time you could be spending with the kids instead, or working on your own projects. If a dishwasher costs $500 and you value your own time at $20 an hour, then it may be worth it for you to purchase one instead of toiling over the sink every day.

What about DIY repairs? If you truly enjoy DIY, then this could be time spent wisely, but what if you spend a whole day breaking your back trying to reseal your driveway? If you end up doing a sloppy job, you’re going to have to pay somebody else to fix it, anyways.

The final example that comes to my mind is ultra frugality, whether it is making your own dryer sheets or running out of the house to save $2 on a roll of paper towels. Unless you planned your trips ahead of time, the savings won’t even cover the cost of your gas, and is the time spent in making your own dryer sheets really less valuable than the extra buck you would spend on just buying some?

Trade is mutually beneficial, and both parties are better off for it. Consider trading your money for additional time when you can put it to good use.

So, reader, what additional tips could you share on making better use of one’s time? I am not perfect, and while I try to cut down on wasted time, there are times where I slip up and wonder where all of the time went. I’d love to hear your stories.

Kevin currently lives the white collar lifestyle, but his real dream is to get out of the rat race one day. He writes at Invest It Wisely, and he enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.