Thursday, February 26, 2009

Going Green On A Budget: Finding Money To Be Eco-Friendly

When asked, most people will tell you that they really do want to live a greener, more eco-friendly life. But sometimes, going green costs money.

Things like organic produce, fair trade coffee, and cfl bulbs cost more up front, and for people on a tight budget finding that extra cash can be difficult, if not impossible. And while many of our “green” choices will save us money in the long run, we still need to come up with ways to find the money to get started.

So, how do we do it?

We balance.

For instance, if we decide to spend more on cfl bulbs, we need to cut back on something else to make up for it, right?


Balancing our budget like this is an easy way to start taking small steps to live a greener life.

So, I’m offering up three easy ways to go green, and some realistic solutions on how you might pay for the added expense. It won’t cost a fortune. In fact, hopefully it won’t cost anything.

Go Green Strategy #1: Buy Fair Trade Coffee

Buying fair trade coffee helps the earth in a number of ways.

First of all, it helps coffee farmers because it gives them a wage they can actually live on. And, fair trade means that the coffee wasn’t harvested using exploited workers or child labor.

It also helps the environment by supporting sustainable farming practices. The land, the wildlife, and the local community are all better off when fair trade is involved.

Here’s how to get started…

Going Green: Fair Trade coffee costs an average of $10-12 per pound, versus $7-$9 per pound of Folgers.

How to Save: Cut out one latte per week at your local coffee shop and you’ve more than made up the difference.

Go Green Strategy #2: Switch to CFL Bulbs

This going green strategy is definitely going to save you money in the long run. CFL bulbs consume 75% less energy than regular bulbs, and last 10 times longer. Fast Company Magazine figures that each CFL bulb will pay for itself in five months.

But, they do cost more up front. CFL bulbs cost around $3 apiece, versus $1 to $1.50 for a regular bulb.

Here’s how to get started…

Going Green: As your regular bulbs burn out, replace them with CFL bulbs.

How to Save: Check with your local energy provider: many companies offer coupons or rebates to offset the costs of transitioning to CFL bulbs. One quick search online yielded savings for people living in Hawaii, Ohio, Texas, and Oregon. And that was only 2 pages into Google. Type on “cfl coupon” to see if your provider offers rebates or tax credits.

You can also save big by purchasing your cfl bulbs in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club. That’s where I got mine, and I saved a bundle.

Go Green Strategy #3: Get A Programmable Thermostat

According to Energy Star, a programmable thermostat saves the average family $180 per year. I love mine, and can’t imagine not having one. They’re so easy! The temperature goes down to 60 degrees at night, and up to 64 degrees during the day. I don’t have to do a thing. And, my heating bills are much lower than they used to be.

The up front cost of a programmable thermostat is $45-$75, depending on how fancy you go.

Going Green: Replace your regular thermostat with a programmable thermostat.

How To Save: I’ve got a few ideas for this one.

1. Find coupons- Energy Star has a page that searches for coupons or rebates on energy-efficient products. Click here to go right to the search page. You can also Google “programmable thermostat coupon” and see if anything comes up across the web.

2. Eat out one less dinner this month. Savings? $20-$30.

3. Skip the bottled water for two weeks. If you’re paying the premium (like $2 a bottle at the gas station) this can add up pretty quickly.

4. Sell something on Craigslist.


Yep, these going green strategies don’t take any balancing at all. They’re free, and will even save you money.

1. Fix That Leak

Better Homes and Gardens says that household water consumption has increased 200% since 1950, even though our population has increased 90%. That’s a lot of water we’re using, but we can trim it down by fixing our leaks. How much can we save?

Well, a dripping faucet can waste 74 gallons every day. And a leaky toilet can waste 200.

If you’ve got a leak, tighten it up. Simple as that.

2. Give Up Papertowels

Think it’s impossible? It isn’t, I promise. I’m trying to do this in my own home right now, and I was struggling until I found this awesome tip from Myscha at Her conundrum was the same as the one I currently face; every time I “need” a papertowel, I can never find a rag to use instead. Her solution is simple.

She took one of those hanging sleeves (that normally store plastic grocery bags for reuse) and hung it where her paper towels used to be. Then, she cut up a bunch of old t-shirts that were destined for Goodwill and put them in the hanging sleeve. Now when she “needs” a paper towel she has plenty on hand. After she’s used it, it’s tossed in the wash. Genius! Thanks for the great tip, Msycha.

3. Stretch Your Products Further

I do this all the time at home. Basically, I add water to almost everything to make it go just a bit further. And, I’ve never noticed a decrease in quality in the products I use.

I add water to dish soap, honey, hand soap, face soap, and juice. It’s a super easy way to make your dollar go a bit further.

4. Skip the Ziplocks

Those plastic baggies are not only bad for the environment, but they’re also getting more expensive. Solution? Stop using them! Instead, use reusable Gladware.

5. Buy Used, Buy Used, Buy Used

Need furniture? Check Craigslist. You can buy anything right now, at rock bottom prices. Need a new outfit? Salvation Army, thrift stores, and consignment shops are great places to look. Want that new blockbuster novel? Find it used on

There’s something exhilarating about finding great things that no one else wants anymore. I’m an avid Salvation Army shopper, and I must tell you that the thrill of the hunt is partly what draws me there. I have found wonderful things there: interesting paintings, cozy sweaters, fabulous jeans. All of them are treasures. To me, that is. And finding them is great fun.

A great post brought to you by Heather Levin,

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Celebrate Green

Book Review: Celebrate Green!

One area that is rarely considered when you think of going green is celebrations. From baby showers to birthday parties, it's easier to consider green alternatives, especially if you have a copy of the book Celebrate Green!

Overall, the book is an easy read. It's broken down into sections with clear headers, bullet points and call-outs along the margins. Best of all, the book offers low-cost or no-cost ideas as well as recipes. What I really liked (and a key aspect of many of the tips and information that I provide on my blog), these are easy, simple ways to go green. This is key to sticking with anything.

I loved the statistics throughout the book, which really hit home. For example, the book talks about how much paper is thrown away from greeting cards and wrapping paper, and it offers alternatives that are no-brainers.

There are many unique ideas that I learned about for the first time, such as hybrid grills, which use primarily solar power and electricity as a back-up energy source.

Other green celebrations to consider include Halloween, which is where the mother-daughter author team got their start and inspiration for the book. They offer numerous alternatives to giving out candy to trick-or-treaters. As a mom who's concerned with their children's health, who doesn't want to give something other than candy?

As a committed New Years Resolution setter, I loved the idea of green New Years Resolutions. What a great way to improve yourself and make a positive impact on the environment.

While a few celebrations come to mind when you think of parties and gatherings, this book covers the gamut, including graduations, anniversaries, family reunions and office parties. Best of all, at the end of the book is a HUGE list of green resources, which are mentioned throughout the book. In addition, there's also a glossary that provides clear explanations about terms such as biodegradable and earth-friendly (there is a difference, by the way).

I highly recommend Celebrate Green. Let me know if you get a chance to read it and what you think. Best of all, you can choose to have $1 donated to EcoLibris when you buy the book, which ensures a tree is planted for each book sold. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Should You Join a Community-Supported Farm?

One of the easiest and healthiest ways to go green is to get your produce locally. Last year, my family had the privilege of joining a local, community-support farm, Catalpa Ridge, and we just received the information to join again this season. As first timers, I have to say that it was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it. You can find local farmers by visiting There a numerous benefits:

1) Locally grown, organic food -- You can actually taste the difference between a locally grown tomato or peach versus one that may have been imported from another distant location. There's no artificial, chemically taste, just pure, natural fruit and vegetables.

2) Convenience -- The Catalpa Ridge produce is delivered to a local temple each week from June through October, which is conveniently just a quarter of a mile from our home. We could even walk to pick up our fruits and veggies, making membership even greener!

3) Cost -- Now you may automatically assume that buying into a share of a local farm's harvest would be an expensive endeavor. That's not necessarily true. From the first week of June through the last week of October, you receive 5-7 pounds of produce. Last year it cost $500 to buy a share. This year it's increased to $525 if you register early ($575 if you don't). The increase is due to what else -- the current economic conditions, which have increased the costs of fertilizer and other necessities to keep the farm running. All in all, it's approx. $26.25 per week, which comes out to $3.75-$5.25 per pound of fresh, local food. Does it get any greener than that?

4) Variety -- Also known as the spice of life, one of the best parts of joining Catalpa Ridge is the variety of greens, spices and other food that we never would've tried. Everything from butternut squash and green tomatoes to elephant garlic and white peaches. It was really fun to try different greens, including collard greens, mustard greens and endive. We even invested in a Food Saver this year to make sure we use every last piece of produce.

If you don't have the space (or the green thumb) to grow your own produce, this is definitely the next best thing. Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, February 23, 2009

How I Saved $643 in One Day

So I have to share a short story about how I saved $643 in just one phone call. I was actually giddy about this! (Yes, it's true. I am a frugal geek.)

I'm currently reading Your Money or Your Life, which I plan review once I'm done. Essentially, it gives you different steps on how to change the way you look at money. How to save it. How to stop obsessing about it (an area where I could use some help).

I keep telling my husband how great the book is and the different steps involved, etc. One area the book discusses at length is really assessing how you spend your money. It involves taking a hard look at fixed expenses and seeing where you can cut back and drive your costs down.

I had just received our auto insurance bill in the mail and was appalled that we were paying $1,200+ per year for our two cars. Granted, we live in New Jersey and pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, but it still bothered me. My husband and I are both in our mid-thirties, never had a claim, have had the same insurance carrier for 10+ years and both cars are modest vehicles (2001 Hondas, a CRV and an Odyssey minivan). After carefully reviewing our bill, I realized that we were still paying for comprehensive insurance and collision (aka comp & collision) even though we paid off both cars. (As you may know, if you have a car loan, you normally must be insured for comp & collision.) Both our auto and home policies are with the same company, MetLife Auto & Home, which also happened to be my first job out of college.

I called MetLife and told them that I wanted to drop the comp & collision on both cars. That saved us more than $443. Then I asked if I could remove my engagement ring from our homeowner's policy (much to my husband's dismay). That move saved another $200.

Not too shabby for one phone call! Let's see what other hidden savings I can find in our bills...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Track Your Savings Each Month

To truly "save," you need to 1) monitor how much you're saving, 2) where you're saving it and 3)then you have to physically put that money into a separate account.

Case in point, food shopping -- you pride yourself on using coupons and make sure you have your grocery store loyalty card. You get to the check-out, pay your bill and get your receipt. Now closely look at your receipt. Most grocery stores print your savings at the bottom, which normally includes sale items, coupons, etc. Circle that number and put the receipt in an envelope. Now you'll need to do this for every purchase where you save money. If you don't get a receipt, write the savings on a piece of paper and put it in the envelope.

At the end of the month, take out your envelope. Go through all of your receipts and add up the savings. Now once you have your total, you'll need to take that amount of money from one of your bank accounts or cash and move it into savings.

You can even turn it into a game to see if you can beat your total each month. I began doing this exercise a few months ago and have averaged approximately $200 each month.

Try it and let me know what your total savings is for the month. Can you beat $200?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

7 Tips to Pack a Waste-free Lunch

1. Use Containers
Ideally, one container with multiple compartments that fits easily into your child’s lunchbox. Due to recent studies showing that plastics can leech toxins, some parents are turning to aluminum or glass containers. Any one you choose is better than a plastic bag that is estimated to take hundreds, if not more, years to breakdown in our landfills.

2. Add a Water Bottle
Stop buying juice boxes and single use plastic water bottles and invest in a few reusable water bottles for your kids’ lunch. These days, there are many styles, designs and colors to choose from that you can find online and in many stores. There are now many popular options made from recycled steel, such as Klean Kanteen, or aluminum, such as SIGG.

3. Buy in Bulk
Cut down on packaging by replacing single serving items like boxed raisins, cheese sticks, and apple sauce cups, Instead, buy the same items in large containers and simply put what your child will eat into your lunch container. You’ll be amazed by the reduction in trash and food waste with this simple trade-off.

4. Pack Whole Fruits
Try packing a whole apple, banana, peach, peeled orange or other fruit that your kids can eat without packaging. You may find they eat more of it and you’ll feel good that you haven’t created unnecessary trash.

5. Clean with Cloth
Of course, this one is our favorite! Toss in your favorite Fabkins, or two (one for a placemat, one for cleaning messy faces and hands), and remind your child to bring it home with the lunchbox and containers. Cloth napkins greatly reduce the number of paper towels and napkins used and disposed and may even replace the sleeve for mouth wipes.

6. Wrap it Up
Swap out a container for a fabric, washable wrap for snacks and sandwiches. Those made by the company Wrap-n-Mats, come in different designs and colors and double as a place mat. Their tagline says it all: The convenient,environmentally friendly re-usable sandwich wrap and placemat in one!

7. Get Creative
Packing a trash-free lunch gives a parent more opportunities to be creative about not only how you pack your child’s lunch, but what you give your child to eat. Have fun selecting containers, napkins and water bottles that reflect your kids’ personality and interests, and feel good about doing your part to save the environment.

Written by Paige Rodgers, co-founder, Fabkins – kids’ cloth napkins (

Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: Simply Face & Body Spa

Okay, so a trip to a new neighborhood spa may seem neither green nor frugal. But, alas, a full-time working mom needs to splurge on a massage every now and then. Plus, I couldn't resist the promotion for any first-time customer -- a one hour massage for $49! If you can find a massage for less than $1 per minute, you've found a bargain.

Simply Face & Body is a new brand division of Red Door Spa Holdings. Their goal is to present spa offerings, products and expertly-trained spa profesions at convenient locations. They mainly offer facials and massages, as well as various types of waxing (e.g., eyebrows, lip, bikini). The premise is to enroll you in a monthly membership, whereby you would receive one facial or massage per month at a rate of $59 per month. As a member, you can also buy additional services and products at a discounted rate.

Now I like the whole concept. But as an eco-frugal gal, unless I receive this membership as a gift, I don't really see it happening for me. (Although I made sure to mention this gift concept to my husband.) But I digress.

After one of the most amazing massages I've ever had, I'm delighted to find out that as one of the first 200 customers, I get a free goodie bag. Score! Not only do I get a discounted massage, I get $29 worth of green products. I received a facial toner, moisturizer and eye cream, all of which are made with certified organic materials. Here's where the green aspect comes in.

Juice Beauty, The Organic Solution -- Hydrating Mist/Toner
While the toner felt great and made my skin tingle, I just couldn't get past the smell. It smelled like my grandma...and not in a good way. But I'm not one to waste free products. I find that my feet enjoy the hydrating mist just as much as my face.

Juice Beauty, The Organic Solution -- Oil-free Moisturizer
I'm all about moisturizer and use it constantly. I found that this lotion took awhile to absorb, and once again, the smell was not great. I like moisturizers to smell incredible, invigorating or calming. I thought as an organic brand, this would smell "green" (whatever "green" smells like). But it left a little more to be desired.

Originitalia -- Villa Floriani - Brightening Eye Repair Cream
A thick rich cream that actually came with a little plastic piece to scoop out the product, this was probably my favorite product of the three. Coincidentally, it was not from the Juice Beauty line, but from a company called Originitalia. It's packaged beautifully, comes unscented and gets the job done. What more can you ask from your free beauty products?

Bottomline: While I'm always tickled pink to get something for free, it's highly unlikely that I would go back and purchase any of these items. I think it's fabulous that Simply Face & Body has partnered with Juice Beauty to offer green products. That said, I'm still contemplating a Simply Face & Body membership. Now I just need to find a $59-a-month savings to justify it!

Have an idea for another green product or business for me to review? Let me know and I'll check it out.

10 Tips to Reduce Costs & Reduce Waste in 2009

This year, my New Year’s resolutions have less to do with eating healthier or working out more. My 2009 list is focused on the more pressing issues that many families are also facing: saving money and reducing our impact on the environment. Here are 10 small things that we’ve already begun to do to make a difference in our budget and our carbon footprint.

1. Switch from paper to cloth napkins:
Switching from paper to cloth napkins can save a family $1.68 on average a week (according to the National Geographic Green Guide). Instead of purchasing rolls of paper towels and bags of napkins every few weeks, buy a dozen re-usable cotton napkins for everyday use. You’ll save money over time and you’ll greatly reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

2. Eliminate disposables:
Rather than serve meals on disposable products, use the plates, cups and utensils you already have. You may justify your use of disposables by the time you save in washing, but if your priorities are to cut costs and reduce waste, this is a good place to start. If your concern is breakage with kids or outdoor entertaining, invest in a set of hard plastic plates and cups and you’ll make up the cost very soon.

3. Carry a coffee cup with you:
First, start by cutting down on buying coffee when out of the house; this is a quick way to save an average of $2.50 a day. But, if you feel the need to indulge, have a travel mug or even ceramic mug from home with you. Some cafes will discount your coffee if you bring your own mug, and you’ll reduce the number of paper cups going into the trash bin.

4. Give up plastic water bottles:
The very day I read that an estimated 40 million bottles a day go into the trash, emitting toxics into the groundwater and taking a whopping 1,000 years to biodegrade, I gave up disposable water bottles for good. At the time, about 3 years ago, it was purely an environmental decision. Now, I am happy to acknowledge the hundreds of dollars I’ve saved over those years.

5. Buy in bulk.
The cost savings of buying larger quantities of items can be calculated immediately (just stand in any isle of the supermarket and compare). And by buying in bulk, you’re also helping to save the environment by cutting down on packaging. No more individual cheese sticks, small raisin boxes, juice boxes and single serve apple sauce. It’s just as easy to serve the kids at mealtime, or fill small reusable containers for the lunchbox, and you’ll immediately cut costs and waste.

6. Pack a waste-free lunch.
On average, a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. Packing a waste-free lunch means using reusable containers, utensils and water bottles, a cloth napkin, and no packaged foods. You’ll save money by using food you purchased in bulk (along with the cloth napkin instead of paper), and you’ll cut down on all those pounds of waste.

7. Shop at consignment stores.
From buying birthday gifts (many consignment shops have never-used toys still in their original packaging) to kid’s clothing and furniture, consignment prices will always be less than what you’d pay for the same brand in a retail store. And, by purchasing something that has been around a while, you’ll decrease the carbon emissions of creating something new. Also consider for second-hand shopping online.

8. Stop using wrapping paper.
A lot of the wrapping paper is not recyclable, and if you think back to the last Christmas or birthday and the bags full of wrapping paper, you’ll know where I’m going with this. I save and reuse every gift bag I receive and I haven’t wrapped a present in a long time. I’ve also got cute cloth holiday bags in varying sizes that my mom made and I use them every year for Christmas presents. It’s our own family tradition that my kids love. I even sometimes wrap with newspaper (comics for the kids, the sports section for dads, and style section for moms) – it’s fun, less expensive and eco-friendly.

9. Bring your own bag to the store.
This one has gotten very popular in the past year. Now there are many trendy fabric shopping bags you can buy to replace the paper or plastic the stores supply. I say don’t spend any money buying cute shopping bags and just grab your gym bag, or the plastic bags you’ve hopefully saved from years of grocery shopping, and you’ve instantly reduced the number of new plastic bags piling up in our landfills and saved money. If you don’t have the gym bag or reused plastic bag option, you can find one for $1.00 or less and buy a bunch to keep in your car.

10. Cut down, or cut out, newspaper delivery.
My mom announced quite proudly just a few days ago, that by switching from daily delivery of the newspaper to just Wednesday through Sunday delivery, she cut her fees in half. What she didn’t realize was that she also made an eco-friendly decision to reduce paper waste. This seems almost too easy. Just skip Monday and Tuesday delivery, get your news online, and you’ve reduced your bill by 50%! Better yet, cancel the delivery all together and bookmark a few favorite news websites to read each day.

Written by Paige Rodgers, co-founder, Fabkins – kids’ cloth napkins (

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Be Green -- Recycle or Freecycle

When you think about it, you can recycle almost everything, from aluminum cans to cell phones. No matter what you need to get rid of, two comprehensive websites are and
A great easy-to-use site where all you have to do is enter the item you'd like to recycle and your location. For example, I typed in "batteries" and the site returned a number of stores, such as Radio Shack, and service centers, such as Firestone. As always, the more specific you are, the better the results
If you can't recycle it, Freecycle it! This is a great forum, where you enroll by location. Then you can either post items you'd like to keep out of landfills or you can opt to search for items you're interested in. I've posted everything from a non-working treadmill to moving boxes. I've also received Freecycle items, including children's clothing and a working treadmill (to replace that non-working one).

Stay tuned for more ways to keep your stuff out of landfills...

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine's Day: Lovin' Green While Saving Green

Valentine's Day is about spreading love, not spending money. Believe it or not, you can give beautiful gifts from the heart that cost almost nothing, yet are filled with meaning and keep Mother Earth feelin' the love, too.

The Card

Valentine's Day is the second biggest holiday for greeting card sales. Literally billions of cards are sent each year and most come from virgin trees. Making your own cards from recycled and or unconventional materials leaves trees standing and your sweetheart thanking the stars for your creatively thoughtful gesture.

And what to say inside a custom card?

You may not believe you are a writer, but honestly, can a professional truly express what is in your heart in a more meaningful way than you can? Even if you believe she can, just for the fun of it, why not give it a whirl? You (and your love) might be pleasantly surprised. Here are a few pointers for producing poetic prose:

  • Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables -- that's haiku, a simply beautiful form of poetry that you'll catch onto quickly. Read a few, then give it a try.
  • Of course, a letter or free verse is always an option, or if you're really wanting to knock your partner's socks off, how about writing a sonnet?
  • These sound too difficult? Here's an easier, but still romantic idea. Take each letter of the words "My Valentine," and next to it, write something about your beloved. Here's an example:
  • M My heart

    Y You are the only one I'll ever love

    V Very best
    A Always my partner
    L Love you forever

  • If your words don't capture the exact tone you're looking for, remember that laughter is a gift -- even if it is unintentional.

And if you're feeling creative, how about making some seeded paper or thinking inside the box? Select a small box. Cover the outside with pictures of you and your honey or appropriate words cut from a magazine. Inside, place some stones on which you've stamped words of love, a small bag of beans with a tag that says, "I love how you've always BEAN there for me," or come up with a (much) better play on words and items to go with it.

The Gifts

Valentine's gifts usually include one or more of the following: flowers, candy (chocolate of course, is the hands down favorite), jewelry or lingerie. All are wonderful (and usually quite welcome), especially if you think green before purchasing them, (here's how). But even better, are gifts from the heart, those you make yourself. Now don't get all nervous, we've got simple ideas that cost next to nothing, and are oh so simple to pull off.

Before we give you the list, here's a hint. Gift making together can be daring and romantic. For instance, what could you be wearing -- or not -- while cutting out a couple of dozen paper hearts on which you write your feelings, then hang by thread above your bed -- or tape...somewhere else.

Think about making chocolate candy hearts (using organic, Fair Trade, shade grown chocolate of course -- check your local natural foods store for baking chocolate). What else could that chocolate be used for? Chocolate paint anyone? Getting the picture? Use your imagination to come up with a Valentine's gift making project that will bring you together in more ways than one!

In addition to the two gift projects above, here are a few other ideas. You may choose to purchase items listed or make do with something you already have:

1. A coupon book good for one massage a month for a year using organic massage oil, and starting on Valentine's Day.

2. An organic cotton pillow case on which you embroider your sentiments or glue on heart shaped pieces of felt (just for display).

3. Glue romantic words on to the backs of a deck of playing cards and type up instructions for strip poker.

4. Pack a small bag with silly and/or romantic everyday objects such as, a roll of toilet paper (be sure to recycle after use), cotton balls, soft brushes or feathers, and silky scarves. Be sure to include the directions: Decorate each other.

For more ideas for Valentine's Day and every holiday and celebration, visit

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Are You Truly Saving Money?

You cut coupons. You shop for on-sale items. You refinance to save more money each month. But where exactly does all of those "savings" go? If you don't account for that money and physically put it in the bank each month, you're not really saving at all.

Take for example food shopping, do you revel in the amount of money the receipt says you've saved? Whether it's $5 or $50, take all of your receipts for the month, from Shop Rite to Home Depot, circle the amount saved and put them in a envelope.

While it's easier to do with printed receipts, be sure to account for any other savings you've accumulated in the month. Here are some additional examples:
  • Refinanced your home
  • Completed your car payments? Continue to put that payment amount into your savings
  • Rebates
  • Items sold on Ebay, Amazon or Craiglist
  • Money found in the couch, car, on the ground, etc.
  • New phone plan with a reduced monthly rate
Now that you have all of your savings for the month, add it all up. What do you have -- $100, $200, $300? Don't let that savings slip away! Immediately transfer that money into your savings account. You've officially saved money!!

While it's nice to buy things on sale and constantly look for ways to save, the most important part is actually putting that money aside as "saved." It's the hardest part, but also the most rewarding...figuratively and literally!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Want to Know How Green You Are?

I try to recycle everything possible to create as little garbage as possible. I'm gradually changing over all of my lightbulbs, and I compost. But do all of those things really make me "green?"

Here are some resources to find out if you're truly having an impact:

  • U.S. Green Building Council checklist to identify a green home:

  • Calculate your carbon footprint:

  • Learn about the NJ Board of Public Utilities' Clean Energy Program and incentives available to go green:
Be sure to let me know if these links were helpful!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My New Food Shopping Challenge

I religiously use and review my family's finances with a fine-tooth comb. One area that we tend to spend an enormous amount of money on each month is groceries. I realize that food is imperative, but $500-$600 a month is just ridiculous!! Our goal? Spend less than $400 a month, or $100 each week, on groceries. For a family of four, I think that's a pretty reasonable goal.

For January, we spent $397.54. Not too shabby. So, how did we do it?
  • Plan the week's dinner menu.

  • Make a list based upon the week's menu and stick to it.

  • Use coupons and, most importantly, use them on items that are on sale. This takes a little bit of homework, comparing the circular to your coupons. But in the end it's worth it.

  • Personally, I hate food shopping, so I am a faithful Peapod shopper. Yes, there's a delivery charge, but you can use more than enough coupons to make up for it. Check and see if Peapod is available in your area. Here's a coupon to get you started. Get $10 off your first order at Peapod. Click Here!

  • Stockpile non-persishable items that are on sale.

  • Don't take your spouse or kids shopping with you. They're budget busters!
I know there are larger families out there spending less. Any other tips that I may have missed?

Turn Loose Change Into a Holiday Savings Acount

So we've all read those articles about collecting your loose change as a painless way to save money. Truth be know, I've always done this, and then every few months I'd cash in the change and deposit it into my savings account.

However, my brother shared this little secret with me. Don't touch the change jar for the entire year. That's the key. He's used his loose change to go Christmas shopping for the past few years and has always managed to save at least $300. In order to prepare for the December 2009 holiday season, you need to start collecting your loose change now. Here's what you need to do:
  • Use bills -- and no change -- whenever you use cash to make a purchase.
  • At the end of each day, dump all of your loose change into a large jug or piggy bank (anything that can hold an enormous amount of coins)
  • When you're ready to go shopping, take your change to the nearest TD North Bank (formerly Commerce Bank). They'll sort and count your change for free (you don't even need to have an account with them).
It's a painless way to get your holiday shopping done! Or, you could use it towards a vacation, new appliance or any large expense. Don't forget those coins you find on the ground, in your car, under your couch cushions...