Photo credit: LoverlyHeather
Often times with saving money, it is the smaller things that add up over time. Even tough you clearly feel it in your budget when you have to repair a car or buy a new washing machine, these events happen much less often then, say, buying food, driving your car or paying your utility bills. That is why even though changing habits in these areas often only nets you a few dollars at a time, because they happen over and over again, your savings add up over time.
Case in point: Our trash bill.
Even though we have grown from just my husband and I, to a family of six, we have managed to cut the trash being picked up at the curb in half. This change currently saves us $7.18 per month, or $86.16 a year. Plus, I would argue it also feeds into the momentum of doing things to save money.
So, how did we do it?
First, we started composting. There are tons of sites that will tell you all sorts of detail about composting, but basically, we use our food scraps (except meat or dairy items) to mix with other soil and brown (leaves) and green (grass clippings) debris to make more wonderful soil. We use this in our garden. Composting can be done in something small enough to fit on your counter, all the way up to huge bins in your yard. The amount of food we are able to keep out of the trash by composting is nothing short of stunning. That was a large part of our waste.
Second, we keep packaging to a minimum. We tend to buy in bulk, we use reusable bags for grocery and produce items and we wash and reuse our plastic food storage bags (except when they hold raw meat). I also freeze my own chicken broth, soups and other liquids in mason jars, which can be washed and reused. I often make my own bread and baked goods, and those are stored in reusable bags, as well. We buy our beef in bulk (1/4 cow at a time), and that arrives in butcher paper, instead of styrofoam and plastic wrap.
Third, we have dramatically increased our recycling. Over time, we have opted for packaging that can be recycled over those that cannot be recycled when making purchases. We recycle all of our junk mail, envelopes and papers. We cut papers that are blank on the back side into quarters and use those for scratch paper before recycling them. I pass magazines onto my friends, then they are recycled after that. We heat our house with wood part of the year, so we use our newspaper to get the fires going. We have also used our newspapers to lay under mulch to keep weeds from germinating. We save our cardboard (the kind that will burn clean) to start fires, as well. We pass along toilet paper rolls to the school when the need them, and we pass our egg cartons onto a local farmer who occasionally gives us fresh eggs in return. Our sanitation service gives us a huge recycling bin and does not charge more for a larger bin, so we fill that thing up to the brim every two weeks.
Finally, we have become better about fixing what is broken, donating what still has life in it and passing up deals just because they are deals. If we really will not find an item useful, we have gotten better about being truthful with ourselves and just saying no. And we have found that utilizing Freecycle is a great way to find a home for that odd item that you cannot donate, like 6 leftover tile pieces (a mosaic artist picked them up!).
Of course, we are far from perfect and you probably would not have to dig very long to find someone who can beat us in the game of being green, but I am proud of our progress (finally being done with diapers did not hurt, either). It is one of those things we have just challenged ourselves on slowly over time and it has paid off in so many ways that the annual savings is just a bonus.