Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recycling Is Common Sense

I watched CBS Sunday Morning, as I always do on Sunday morning, and was struck by a story on recycling. Jeremy Irons has produced a documentary on the topic and I was appalled at the pictures of dump sites, one of which was in a river, which spilled into the ocean. He showed how those in India would just take their trash and dump it in the river, which then spills into the greater ocean; which not only pollutes and clogs the water, but kills ocean animals. I think everyone knows that they should recycle, but so few do. I think there are definitely more communities that lend themselves to recycling and make it easier; especially if the city offers curb side recycling pick-up. Because I live in an apartment, I don't have that luxury. We are given two large dumpsters, but neither are for recycling. So, If I want to recycle, I need to be organized and proactive. Which is what I plan on doing. 

I've perused the internet on ways to get started. My apartment kitchen is quite small, it's a galley style kitchen with just enough room for my dishwasher door to open all the way. Two people can stand in there, but three would be very tight. So, space isn't on our side, but there are only two of us in our apartment, so we can get by with less space. The key to recycling is getting organized and having some type of recycling center with labeled bins. Before putting anything into the bins, make sure you rinse and clean them off. This will save you time later having to clean up sticky residue from the bottom of the bin or floor. Let me back track, you'll need to find out what your city/town will accept for recycling. Since you live in an apartment and most likely don't get curbside pick up, you'll need to research your town's waste management and see if there is a drop off for recycled materials. Thankfully, a municipality roughly 10 minutes from me has a great set-up. You just drive up and empty each specific recycled item into the clearly labeled large bins. They will accept plastic, paper, cardboard and glass. I would recommend having a set day that you take the recycling to the drop off, that way you're not overwhelmed by having too much to take and won't be likely to get frustrated and give up. 

Recycling is great for the environment, but I know it's much easier to just throw everything in the trash. But imagine all of your trash just floating in the ocean. That image makes me sick and makes me want to do better. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say, I have not been recycling. I wish that recycling was taught in schools. That would be much more useful information versus calculus. As a former social worker, I never needed or used calculus. But, seriously, schools should have a class devoted to real life issues, such as balancing your checkbook, creating budgets, recycling and other basic life skills. I think that those classes would benefit everyone. For items that are not accepted, like furniture and tools, etc. You can check out a site called "Free Cycle". I recently had a bed donated to me, so we had to get rid of our "old" one. I joined free cycle and had 10 offers for it! It's a great "group" via yahoo, that allows you to donate, for free, any item and you can include a picture. The person wanting the item is responsible for picking it up, so it's a win-win. 

Recycling is common sense. There is no excuse for not recycling. Your trash doesn't just disappear when the trash man takes it from you. Sadly, most of the trash doesn't break down for years, if ever. Like Jeremy Irons said regarding his documentary, "this is curable". All of us can recycle. Recycling is a small step in doing your part for your community and the greater world. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Frugal Friday: Living Within Your Means

We all know that we have to "live within our means". I mean, this is basic economics, as well as common sense. But, it can be easier said than done. We live in an expensive world, especially when you're in debt. It's hard to dig yourself out of the pit, when your old debt and new expenses collide. It can feel like a landslide when you take one step forward and the mailman delivers new bills to your door. But the truth is, this is life. Any of us that haven't won the lottery or live rent-free, has to learn the rules of living within your means. I truly believe that having a class in basic life skills, such as writing checks, balancing the checkbook, creating a home budget and learning frugal spending habits, would be much more beneficial in high school besides advanced algebra!

Unfortunately, I have been in debt since I graduated high school. I worked at a store that required you to get their credit card and charge it in order to get your store discount. The biggest purchase was a couch that I bought for me and two roommates, but, I didn't get it in writing and I was left with the bill when they both moved out a month later. I was going to college, which accrued my student loan debt and was barely making ends meet with my part-time job. I learned a lot during those early years of struggling. I can't say I would do things differently. We all have to go through struggle to learn from it. Unfortunately, my debt has followed me into adulthood. I'm not really a big shopper, I mean I think I own maybe 4 shoes! I don't care about clothes and don't have an expensive hobby, I just don't always have enough income to cover my fixed expenses.

It's important to look at your bills to see what you can decrease. Since I am home most of the time due to disability, there are things that I enjoy that I would hate to lose, such as my cable and internet. But, you can still keep cable, just decrease the movie channels and get basic, until you can afford a higher package. I've also taken up to coupon cutting, which some months are better than others, but looking for an item on sale and using a coupon with it, is how you really save money. I recently read an article on "Apartment Therapy" that said you should not spend more than 30% of your income on your rent, including utilities. I am well over that amount, I think it's really difficult to live within that range. By reading the comments on that article, I can see that most people are unable to live within that range. It's really hard to do so when you live in a city, where rent is astronomical. Not all of us can afford to own, which I've seen mortgages that are half of what I spend in rent. However, there are a lot of expenses with owning that you don't have with renting.

The best advice is to do your best living within your means. If you're over, look at your expenses and see what you can cut back on. Take up couponing; you don't have to be an extreme couponer, but if you can save even $10 on each grocery trip, that's money that can go towards your bills/debt. I love anything that has to do with organization. I especially love budgeting and bill paying. There's something very cathartic about paying your bills and balancing the checkbook. Well, it's cathartic when there's money left over! But do your best. The more you save today, the less debt you'll have tomorrow!