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#881 Halloween Savings: How To Save 50% On Halloween Candy

22 Oct

This money saving tip takes planning and patience. And a secret stash hideout that no one can find.

Step 1: Hit the post-Halloween 50% off sales on candy on November 1. (The earlier you hit them the better the choices.)
50% off halloween candy discount

Step 2: Check the expiration date to make sure the candy will be good NEXT Halloween. Check… (I did indeed buy this candy and plan this post a year ago…)
halloween candy expiration date

Step 3: Sample a few… just to make sure they’re good.
halloween candy lemonheads

Step 4: Stash the candy in a cool, dry place where NO ONE will find the secret cache.

Step 5: Hand out candy when next year’s Halloween rolls around. Sample a few just to make sure they’re still good (they are!). No one is the wiser as you hand out the candy. Repeat yearly.
halloween candy in hand

 

Bonus: You don’t have to shop for candy last minute.

It has to be Halloween candy because many candies that are not usually individually wrapped are individually wrapped for handing out. Other holidays have themed candy that makes it obvious that you are handing out the wrong holiday’s candy.

Alternatives to handing out candy to massive amounts of ungrateful children:

Keep your house dark and hope no one comes by.

Hide in the bushes with a really scary costume and jump out to scare people away.

Personally, being cheap on this one is easier than the previous two. You can still enjoy the holiday and it eliminates my pet peeve that holiday candy is always 50% off after the fact. Well, I just solved that problem for you. You’re welcome. You can use this tip for any holiday. Just don’t let anyone know that it’s your game plan. They probably will tell others to avoid your treats on the holidays. Come on people, sugar never goes bad!

#882 Halloween Savings: Don’t Let That Pumpkin Go To Waste

21 Oct

jack o lanternAfter carving up your Halloween jack o’ lantern, do you:

A. Let it rot on your lawn or doorstep until it is a disgusting heap of orange and black moldy goo.

B. Throw it away.

C. Compost it.

D. Roast it for pumpkin puree.

I pick D.

So this money-saving idea may be bordering on cheap, but I like to think of it as Native American resourceful. As in nothing goes to waste. I thought my mom was seriously cheap and weird when she did this, but then I moved to Europe where they don’t have pumpkin puree in a can. But they do sell pumpkin slices in the grocery store. That’s when I started to roast my own pumpkin, and my mom’s crazy ways seemed a little less crazy.

Please note: Pumpkins go moldy very quickly so this has to be done within 24 hours of carving to be safe. This means, don’t carve the Halloween pumpkin until the day of or day before Halloween. Who really uses a jack o’ lantern for more than Halloween night anyways?

Step 1: Discard the top with the stem and cut the pumpkin in half.
halloween pumpkin and top

halloween pumpkin cut in half

Step 2: Cut the pumpkin into even-sized cubes and trim the dried-out layer. Don’t worry about trimming the rind off, leave it during roasting.

halloween pumpkin cubes
Step 3: Place the cubes on a cookie tray, rind side down, and brush or spray with canola oil. Roast at 350 degrees until a skewer inserts easily into the cubes, about 40 minutes.

halloween pumpkin roasted
Step 4: Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then trim off the rind with a butter knife and place soft cubes in a bowl. Mash to desired consistency. Or place in food processor for a smoother finish.

mashed halloween pumpkin
Alternatives: Steam on the stove top or cook in a pressure cooker (the rind should be removed for these methods). The end result will be more watery. I like the drier finish of roasting, plus it adds a nice flavor.

Step 5: Measure into 1 or 2 cup servings and freeze what is not used right away.

halloween pumkpin puree

How this Halloween money-saving tip actually saves you money: From one average-priced $6 pumpkin, you can get roasted pumpkin seeds (isn’t that the best part of carving a pumpkin), a Halloween decoration and pumpkin puree. A small pumpkin (that in my case was actually $4.50)  yielded exactly 7 cups of pumpkin puree. libby's pumpkin pureeOne can of premium brand puree is $1.98. Generic brands are $0.99 – $1.20 per can. One can of pumpkin puree is 2 cups. That means my 7 cups is equal to 3 1/2 cans of store-bought puree or $6.93 worth of premium brand or $3.37 – $4.20 worth of generic brand puree. The premium brand canned pumpkin puree cost is more than the original cost of the pumpkin. The generic brand cost is slightly less than the original cost of the pumpkin. And that’s not factoring in that this would be the third use of the single purchase of a pumpkin.

Additional benefits of turning your jack o’ lantern into pumpkin puree:

  • No concerns about BPA in canned goods
  • Pumpkins are packed with nutrients namely beta-carotene just like orange carrots. The fresher the pumpkin, the better the nutrients so making your own means it’s fresh and hasn’t been sitting around, exposed to extreme temps to kill bacteria during manufacture and other practices that kills food nutrients.

Your regular jack o’ lanterns might not be the best flavor choice, but there are a huge variety of pumpkins. If you get one from a farm stand or farmer’s market, the grower may be able to tell you more about the richer-flavored pumpkins to choose from.

What to do with all this roasted pumpkin?
If you’re Euro, you’ll go savory with pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli or pumpkin risotto.
If you’re American, you’ll go sweet with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. I once made killer pumpkin cheese cake and pumpkin creme brulee.

The best part is that Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you’ll be able to wow the guests with tales of home-roasted pumpkin pie.

#884 Pet Savings: Two Ways to Save Money On Kitty Litter

4 Jun

cat in window

Let me out!

I was excited when we could finally let our cats outside. Our kitty litter costs went from weekly purchase to zero. Previously, we had lived in an apartment four stories up, so there was no way to let the cats out. Then we had street level access in a car-free environment, but we hesitated to let our “indoor-only” cats outside. Once those cats got outside, they loved every minute of it. And they never used the litter box again. We could cross that expense off our shopping list.

I’ve known many people (including my husband and me) who worry about their indoor cat going outside.

“But he’s only ever been inside!”

“But she doesn’t know how to be outside!”

“But he’ll get lost!”

And then somehow those same people are amazed at how their cat loves to be outside, finds his or her way home and otherwise takes to outdoor life like a fish to water. Cats really are meant to be able to roam free and enjoy lying in the sun in the garden.

I realize that not all cats can be outside. If you live in a high traffic area (the cat will unfortunately most likely get run over) or in a high rise apartment then going outside is not really an option, but if there is no reason why a cat cannot go outside, don’t keep the cat indoors. The cat will be happier, and the litter box will go unused.

cat in sink

Mmm… the sink is nice too… just not for toilet training.

If you are in a high rise apartment or live on a highly trafficked street, you’re not doomed to forever paying for kitty litter. For the brave and thrifty, you can train your cat to use the toilet and be litter box free as well. The cat toilet training works best in a two toilet home so that one toilet can be a dedicated cat toilet during the training process. The process may take weeks, but then it will be years of litter-free living.

I had a co-worker once who was extremely excited to tell me all about his cat toilet training and show me the whole system. I was less than excited to hear about it, but it is a very good idea for cats that cannot go outside. (This particular co-worker’s cat was a country cat so I’m not sure of the point of potty training him was, but…)

Videos like this on YouTube explain the basics of kitty toilet training.

Other benefits of allowing your cat to go outside include:

  • Your furniture will not be clawed. You don’t have to worry about having furniture destroyed by crazy, clawing kitties. Cats that go outside will claw outside or be able to dispense their energy so they are not apt to claw when inside.
  • The cat will be less neurotic. Cats have a lot of energy and it’s hard for them to release it all being stuck inside, which results in neurotic cats. Going outside allows cats to positively get rid of their energy and reduce being neurotic indoors.
  • Weight issues might be addressed. If a cat is overweight, going outdoors may help address this problem as they will be getting more exercise and burning excess calories.

#888 Manage Your Money Like A Corporation

23 May

coca-cola logo

How do you succeed financially? Take a cue from corporations.

Corporations may be cast as callous and impersonal, but they sure do know how to manage money. In fact, their bottom line is the bottom line. The question corporations want answered is: Is there a profit or a deficit? If the corporation is successful, it means it is making money and growing it’s capital. Sounds good to me. So if money, not people are the important, let’s not hate corporations, but learn from them.

A little more corporate ruthlessness for personal finances is not a bad thing. Take the good part of corporate money management and improve your bottom line.

Here are some thoughts about managing your money like a corporation:

  • Budget. O.K. if you read this blog regularly, you’re probably tired of hearing this one. But no company operates without a budget. You shouldn’t either. It’s really not that hard. So companies have the accounting department to take care of tracking it, but most people either see a budget or have to submit numbers for it on a yearly basis. So start doing it for yourself and learn to be your own accounting department.
  • Cash flow. Cash flow is different from a budget because it tells you what is leftover after all your expenses. So your income minus your expenses leaves your net cash flow. Everyone including corporations want positive cash flow, meaning you have something left over after expenses. Negative cash flow means you’re living beyond your means. It would mean death for a corporation if it continued to have negative cash flow year after year. Make sure your budget results in positive cash flow, which can then be invested, saved or otherwise used to improve your financial outlook.
  • Monthly, quarterly and yearly reports. If you are tracking your budget and cash flow, then you’ll already be generating regular reports to see if your finances are on track for the year. If something gets out of hand (why are my gas expenses twice what is budgeted therefore making my cash flow smaller?), you’ll be able to catch it and correct it sooner rather than later.
  • Are you in the black or red? Everyone want to be in the black (profit) the majority of the time. Being in the red (deficit) is only acceptable for short periods of time for extraordinary circumstances or expenses. Ruthlessly pursue being in the black like corporations do.
  • Get your shareholders on board. Who are your shareholders? Your spouse. Your kids. Your partner. Anyone affected by your financial decisions. Make sure everyone is on board with the financial plan and outlook so they don’t get unhappy and dump your stock. Good lessons can be learned by all.
  • Try a Board of Directors. I’ve heard this suggested a couple times, and it’s an interesting idea if it works for you. Certain financial and life decisions, which always have financial impact, are difficult and very emotionally charged. If you meet people in life who are thoughtful, and you value their input but they are not close friends, ask them to be on your personal Board of Directors. This means when there is a major and tough life decision, you can present your proposal to the Board members, and they can yay or nay the project based on whether it makes sense to them. The process of seeking impartial opinion and putting together a concrete proposal will help sort out all the numbers, reduce emotional motivations and make the move strategically more clear. Family members and close friends are usually not good choices because they are too emotionally biased or have their own motivations for a certain outcome. Old bosses, networking contacts or casual but respected acquaintances would work.

See, all personal finances can benefit from a little corporatization.

#889 Treat Your Money Like A Wealthy Business Person

22 May

warren buffett

Warren Buffett has lived in the same house since 1958. Photo via flickr by Art Comments.

If you’re dedicated to being thrifty, then you’re well down the path to treating your money and resources like a wealthy business person. First off, successful, wealthy individuals have budgets. When you have a lot of money, you want to know where it is, where it’s going and where it’s coming from. Second, they’re thrifty. Many successful business people have modest homes, cars, limited cash on hand and bargain shop. Don’t think they don’t have a shopping list and stick to it.

Here are some more ideas that you may or may not be practicing that successful (and rich) business people use to become successful, stay successful and pass the formula for success onto their children:

      •  Improve yourself and your knowledge. In no way does learning ever stop. Not after high school. Not after college. Not after you retire. Reading new material and constantly seeking information is a great way to improve yourself and your knowledge. And it’s not only reading related to your industry or interest. Some of the best advice I got from someone in order to do my job better as a fundraiser, which involved a lot of cocktails and small talk, was to read one magazine or source of information totally unrelated to my interests per month. Like picking up an copy of Cycling magazine and reading it cover to cover.  It’s shocking how quickly the material becomes relevant in ways you never imagined. Reading and getting info on your own industry will do nothing but help you on a daily basis. Reading in your own industry and interests is easier and less daunting than picking something you initially care nothing about.
      • Rely on other people’s strengths.
        handshake

        Photo via flickr by buddawiggi.

        This means valuing relationships and identifying other people’s strengths and how they can complement your weaknesses or areas in which you have no knowledge but need someone who does have knowledge. You can’t do everything yourself. Surround yourself with good people, and you’ll reap the rewards. Whether you’re building a team to work with or hiring a babysitter, relationships will make your life easier if you pick the right people and cultivate the relationship to ensure reciprocal benefit and enjoyment. For lots of people the word “networking” strikes fear into their hearts. Networking means building positive relationships and staying in touch – even if it’s only twice a year to say “Happy Birthday” and “Happy New Year.” Those relationships will come into play and reward you throughout your life.

      • Set goals. Goals usually mean physical goals versus monetary goals… Make eight more sales calls per month. Write a blog post per day. Finish a Masters by the end of the year… Instead of make $10,000 more by the end of the year or $1,000 more by the end of the month. The goals will move along and are achievable because you are in charge of pursuing the completion of the goal. Life satisfaction will follow, and most likely the money as well.
      • Treat every decision like an investment.
        money bills

        Photo via flickr by sushi♥ina.

        Ask “What is the benefit?” “What am I getting out of it?” “Is it worth it?” “If I do this then how does it affect everything else in terms of time, money and other resources?” Business people are very talented at looking at the cost-benefit of decisions when it comes to their investments, including time.

      • Keep innovating. This does not mean only coming up with big ideas or groundbreaking ideas to cash in on. This does mean thinking about how to do things that you already do better or really well. A lot of successful people have built their success on doing something ordinary really well. This means always thinking and always innovating, even if it means on the same old thing.
      • Numbers don’t lie. When it comes down to it, statistics and numbers are a powerful tool to use to help you analyze a situation and make a decision or change your course of action. Business people don’t just make a decision based on a feeling, it has to be a feeling backed up with numbers or evidence that make any kind of sense.
      • Think strategically. Not everything is a huge gain. Small gains accumulate over time for a large gain or to lead to a large gain. The small moves are part of the larger game.
      • Learn from failure. In the game, there will be failures. Wealthy people often have failed more than the average middle class citizen, which makes sense if successful business people are putting themselves out ahead of everyone else more in their quest to succeed. But wealthy business people learn from their failures in order to hone their way of doing things until success becomes almost inevitable.
      • It’s cheaper to walk away sooner. If things don’t feel right, it’s much cheaper to way away sooner and leave a deal on the table. Unfortunately, how this applies to most middle class citizens is marriage. Walking away before getting married is way cheaper than going through a divorce, both financially and emotionally. So don’t let hurting feelings, wanting to go through with it because you said you would or any other reason keep you from walking away from a deal that doesn’t seem right. Not buying a house, not getting married or not going in on any financial commitment is better if it doesn’t feel right then suffering the financial fallout, which always includes emotional fallout as well. Business people know to walk away.
      • Stay healthy. Being healthy is often associated with being wealthy. Because when something goes wrong, the wealthy can afford the best care or care at all. But a large part of being healthy is preventative care, which anyone can afford. Exercising, eating well, not incurring health and financial costs associated with being overweight are all preventive measures anyone can take. If you stay healthy, you can mimic the good body and mind care of the wealthy. Good health insurance plays a part when something does go wrong. Sadly, the poor and middle class lose out big time on this in the United States.

I originally was going to say treat your money like a wealthy person, but there are all kinds of wealth. Inherited wealth, suddenly acquired wealth, hard won wealth… the most pertinent is the wealth of successful business people because they have actively become successful (or continued to be successful if inherited wealth was a part) and have healthy money habits that allow them to continue being a successful business person. It’s really much easier than you think. All of these suggestions are good for you no matter what.

#890 Think About Your Money Like A Kid

21 May

baby playing

Mom and Dad couldn’t resist this toddler’s request for money.

She said it clearly with an expectant look on her face – “Money.” She had never said the word before. I thought maybe I had misheard. But she repeated it – “money” – with the same expectant look on her face.

Yikes! The kid’s not yet two, and she’s asking me for money. Clearly this toddler expected to receive some money. While I was scraping my jaw off the floor in shock after my child’s first request for money, my husband was dancing around with her. He was ecstatic at her growing vocabulary, impressed with her demand and handing her $1 from his wallet.

“Money, money, money,” my daughter repeated, clutching her dollar bill.

“We’ll have to save it, and you can buy something with your money when you go shopping with Mommy,” I said.

She and Daddy found an acceptable stash spot for safekeeping until the weekend. Come Saturday, which is shopping day, she requested her dollar and retrieved it from her piggy bank.

Now that she was requesting money and receiving some. I’d have to show her how to use her money responsibly.

one dollar bill

What can you get for $1?

“You have one dollar,” I told her. “Whatever you can find for your dollar, you can buy. Something you want. But it has to be a dollar because that’s all you have.”

I dreaded trying to find something for $1 (what about tax?). So we made a stop at Goodwill. I knew they had lots of $0.99 kid items. With my 10% discount card, it would take care of the tax question.

My daughter found a pack of Crayola washable markers and immediately said, “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,” and clutched the package tightly to indicate that this was it. No need to look further. And it was the on sale color of the week, meaning it was 50% off of the marked $0.99 price. This girl could already spot a deal. I was proud. With my discount card, the markers were $0.47.

I had her get her dollar from her pocket and hand it to the cashier. She parted with the money in exchange for the markers with no protest, much to my relief. I told her the change was hers to keep.

As we progressed through grocery shopping, I had promised to get her a dog coloring book to go with her markers. “Wouldn’t it be nice if she could get it on her own instead,” I thought. We shuffled through the whole coloring book display to find the coloring book with only dogs. The last one left had a box cutter slash through the cover from when the stock clerk had opened the box. It was $1. I saw how this could work.

“Here’s the coloring book. Mommy will bargain so you can buy it with your money,” I told her.

At the register, I used my usual friendly and casual mention (with a hint of concern) to point out the box cut cover.

“I’ll mark it down to $0.50,” said the cashier.

Score! At $0.53 for the coloring book and $0.47 for the markers, it was exactly $1 for my daughter’s first purchase. No extra money from Mommy, just a little bargaining help to compensate for her limited vocabulary. I’ll never be so lucky again. But the whole process got me to thinking about how I thought about money when I was a kid, and how I want to teach my daughter responsible money habits.

Here are kid thoughts on money that would help anyone:

  •  The money you have is it. There is a $1 in your hand. There are lots of items out there that you want but only the items that are $1 are available to you to buy. No credit, no extra indulgences. Pick an item that matches up with the money in your pocket, and you’re done. This is perfect for daily purchases and everyday necessities.
  • Put the money away for safekeeping. You don’t spend your money right away. You put it in a safe place and retrieve it when you’re ready to buy what you want. You wait patiently. Occasionally you can take a peek at the money to make sure it’s still there. But no touching it until it’s time to spend it.
  • You can spend or save. You have money. You can choose to spend it, or save it. If you spend it, you don’t have any money left. If you save it, you can get something bigger once your money accumulates. Or you can keep saving like a squirrel storing nuts, planning for the long winter.
  • You have to earn your own. Even if parents give you money, it has to be earned. For chores, for working a “real” job or, when you’re not quite two, for impressing your parents with your vocabulary.

I can see a whole thesis being born based on this philosophy. All I needed to know about money, I learned in preschool…

#891 Reuse Ziploc Bags

17 May

brownies in ziploc bag

Photo via flickr by quinn.anya.

This is one of those things my mom did that I swore I would never do. But then I hated to throw out a Ziploc bag that was perfectly useable. And I hated even more to run out of Ziploc bags when I was in the middle of trying to throw something in the freezer. So once I was the one cleaning up the kitchen and freezing food, I started to reuse Ziploc bags. Something I really disliked before suddenly seemed like a great idea. An added bonus is that it saves money by significantly reducing how often you buy Ziploc bags.

Here are some ideas for reusing Ziploc bags to save money and reduce trash output:

  • Get the good kind. If you’re going to be reusing bags, the good brands are sturdier and will endure more washing and re-washing. Generic brands tend to be flimsy and thin. Neither Ziploc or Glad zip bags have BPA so that is not a concern with re-use.
  • Only get the large ones.
    sandwich bento box

    Go reusable for sandwiches and lunch items instead of wasting money on sandwich bags. Photo via flickr by anotherlunch.com

    Limit purchasing Ziplocs to gallon and quart sizes, which are great for freezing and storing food. Use a reusable, plastic sandwich saver or Tupperware container for sandwiches. Sandwich bags are a waste of money and resources. Plus your sandwich will never be crushed in your lunch bag if it’s in a hard plastic container. When using the large bags for food storage and freezing, limit your use by using a more durable, reusable container if possible. Ziplocs are ideal for freezing chicken breasts and fruit or keeping fresh an open bag of chips.

  • Mark the bags. Most large Ziploc bags come with a spot where you can write on them. Write down the contents and date it with a permanent marker. When you wash the bag, use the bag for the same item again and re-date. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use a bag used for chicken for cereal, so I avoid cross-contamination skeevies by reusing chicken Ziplocs for chicken. It’s easiest to reuse Ziplocs used for bread or dry good storage because if the product was in a bag, the Ziploc might just need an quick, dry wipe out to reuse.
  • Wash and dry properly. To really get a good clean, make sure the bags are turned inside out, and the Ziplocs get a good hot water and soap scrub. Inside out bags can also go in the dishwasher. Now for drying, they can be hung clothes line style in your kitchen or on your clothes line with the open bag end down so the inside and outside are aired out. Make sure the bags are well opened so they can dry thoroughly. If I need one right away, I will get a fresh dish or hand towel and pat dry.
  • Know when to throw them out. I think why I hated my mom’s version of Ziploc reuse is that she continued to reuse them well past when they were done in. If the seams are ripping or the bags are irreparably greasy (bacon and tomato sauce are the worst), then throw the bags out or recycle them if your waste disposable accepts them for recycling.

Happy saving!

#892 Don’t Get Rid Of Dead Batteries

15 May

batteries

Photo via flickr by Matti Mattila.

I have to admit this one came out of desperation… and then I realized it actually worked. When the battery or batteries die in a remote, toy or appliance, don’t assume the batteries are totally dead. Instead I put the “suspected” dead batteries into a zip lock bag to save for later use. What can these “suspected” dead batteries be used for? Items that don’t need much juice can use a battery that otherwise doesn’t “work.”

I started using suspected dead batteries in my wireless mouse. Turns out a wireless mouse uses very little power and can use the charge left in a battery that otherwise doesn’t power other items. I’ve run my mouse on “dead” batteries for a month or more. Once I use up my not-really-dead battery in my wireless mouse, I then put the “really” dead batteries in a separate zip lock bag for later recycling.

call2recycle logoNow when I’m caught with no fresh batteries in the house, I have a store of “suspected” dead batteries to try out. After success using the batteries in my wireless mouse, I started testing the suspected dead batteries in toys and other items before using new, fresh batteries. More often than not, the batteries will work. Sometimes for a longer time than others, but at least I get a little more life out of them. Other times, if a full set of suspected dead batteries doesn’t power the item, I’ll put in one or two fresh batteries (usually because I don’t actually have the correct amount of batteries needed) and one or two suspected dead batteries, and presto, it works! If I’m mixing and matching, I mark the non-fresh batteries so I know that when the item needs new batteries to only switch out the older one or two batteries instead of all three or four.

Getting the longest life possible out of a battery means spending less on new pack of batteries. Other ideas to save money on batteries include:

  • Buy generic. Tests by companies who test that rid of stuff show that generic batteries work just as well or better than more expensive brands. If the expensive brand does last a bit longer, the price difference does not make up for the performance difference.
  • Get rechargeable batteries. The electric cost to recharge batteries is much less than spending on disposable batteries and it reduces battery waste. Rechargeable batteries can be used many times over.
  • Keep batteries cool. Keeping batteries in the fridge, especially in hot climates can help extend the life of the battery. It’s a small amount, but if you’re storing batteries, why not keep them in the fridge to make sure they last as long as possible.
  • Take the batteries out. If you’re not using the item all the time or use it only seasonally, take the batteries out of the item when not in use.

Whatever you do, don’t throw batteries away! The chemicals they leak into landfills are serious contaminants. They should always be recycled. While this can be a challenge sometimes, Radio Shack or other electronic stores may have a recycling program if your local waste disposal does not recycle batteries. For rechargeable batteries and cell phones, look up a drop off service from Call2Recycle. You should always recycle your dead cell phones and laptop batteries as well.

#893 Put A Hold On Toilet Flushing

14 May

fresh water

Be a good fresh water steward, use less water at the toilet. Photo via flickr by Corey Leopold.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow… If you live in a dry or drought area, you’re probably familiar with the waste of fresh water to flush toilets, and the cost to flush every time you use the bathroom. It’s not just a monetary cost, but the strain on the water table and fresh water resources costs as well.

Old toilets can use as many as four to seven gallons of water per flush, more water than an average citizen in many parts of the world would use per day. Newer toilets do a bit better with one and half to three gallons per flush. Either way, limiting flushes reduces fresh water waste and saves money. At pennies a time, the big savings would occur over a lifetime, but small savings per year also accumulate. Not only does saving fresh water by reducing flushing save money on the water bill, but it also helps with the future outlook of limited water resources.

toilet

Don’t flush your money down the toilet. Photo via flickr by Titanas.

While water is not expensive currently, many speculate it could become the next oil, a treasured and expensive commodity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American households spend about $2 per 1,000 gallons, and $474 on water and sewage charges per year. The EPA estimates the average American uses 90 gallons of water per day, while a European uses 53 gallons and a sub-Saharan citizen uses three to five gallons a day. A single person saving three flushes per day could save seven gallons of water per day (calculating average flush use of four gallons of water) or 49 gallons per week or 2,548 gallons per year, which would be just over $4.50 per year saved. Multiply that by a family of four, and the savings increase to $18 a year or $324 for 18 years of children living at home. This of course is assuming that the $2 per 1,000 gallons will not increase exponentially as water becomes scarce due to drought and contamination by farming, pollution, runoff and sewage.

In many ways, conserving water now is a way for payoff in the future. Being good stewards of the resources we have now will mean that we’ll continue to enjoy those resources at a low cost in the future. Not flushing every time isn’t the only way you can save water at the toilet. You can multiply savings a few other ways as well.

First, check for leaks in your toilet. A few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank will tell you if you have a leak. If the color comes through in the bowl after 15 to 20 minutes, then there is a leak and fixing the leak can save 1,000 gallons or $2 a month or $24 a year. It’s an easy fix that most likely involves replacing the valve seal. A brick or plastic bottle filled with sand and sunk into the tank will displace water, which means there will be less in the tank and less water per flush. You can replace an old toilet from a four to seven gallon model to an efficient one and a half gallon model. I like the European model toilets that are tankless and allow you to have a “big” flush button and “little” flush button to address the issue of not always needing a huge flush.

Here are some tips for refraining from flushing and saving water on bathroom use:

  • Don’t be grossed out. The mellow yellow approach is best saved for in home use. As long as you’re home by yourself or with family members who are all on board with the practice, it’s just a matter of getting in the habit and not being offended by it. Have a rule for flushes, like every other pee or every three pees so the yellow and TP don’t collect excessively. When guests are over, social convention kicks in with toilet flushing, unless you are in a drought area and comfortable explaining the limited flush model. Remember pee is sterile. Obviously anything besides pee should be flushed.
  • Don’t run the water at the sink or shower. Don’t wait for the water to get hot, jump right in or start to wash right away. A little wake up isn’t bad. Some people end their shower with a cold blast of water as a health aid to improve alertness. Or change your shower head to a low flow model. My family has one where you can shut the water off at the shower head as you soap up and shampoo. If you have a warm bathroom, it’s not unpleasant to skip being under the running water the whole time.
  • Consider graywater. Why use fresh water for toilets? Some people ask this and say don’t. Graywater is the water runoff from showers, sinks, dishwashers, ect. Anything that is not sewage from toilets. If you are constructing new or doing major renovation, look into recycling graywater into your toilets so the household water flows from the freshwater sources into toilet use, which eliminates wasting fresh water on toilet flushes. You can even use graywater for irrigation outside.
  • You’ll be saving your septic and sewage. Saving on water in the bathroom means that your septic or sewage system won’t get overloaded with water. This means less to go wrong and less overflow contamination of other freshwater sources.
  • Don’t think it doesn’t apply to you. I don’t pay for water, I don’t own a home, my water is included in rent… whatever the reason that you think you don’t pay for water, you do. It’s part of the cost of living whether you feel it or not.

 

 

 

#895 Use The Right Amount Of Soap

10 May

dishwahser dishes

Using too much soap will shorten the life of your appliances. Photo via flickr by David Locke.

No one wants to flush money down the drain. But think about how many household soaps you use that you may be overusing. Do you know exactly what the dishwater needs? The washing machine? Shampoo? Face wash? Hand soap? If you’re anything like me, when the bottle is new, I end up dumping out way too much. And then when the bottle is almost done, I’m scrimping the last bits to get out a drop to finish the job.

The best thing to do is make a conscientious effort to find out how much is an appropriate amount of soap for the job. Read the dishwasher and washing machine instructions. Or at least the back of the bottle or box of soap. Technology has advanced rapidly. High efficiency soaps and machines need a lot less product than you may have used in the past. It’s even the case that the recommended amount of soap can be halved in most machines. Contrary to what most of us think, lots of suds means way too much soap in washing machines and dish washers. If you don’t think you are using too much soap, run these tests to see what your results are. Most likely you’re using too much soap.

front loading washing machine

Front loading washing machines need very little soap. Photo via flickr by Editor B.

Not only is too much soap in washing machines and dishwashers wasting money on your soap product, but over-soaping wears out the machinery faster by gunking it up, creates mold and mildew (you wouldn’t think as it is soap!), wears out your clothes faster and leaves your dishes filmy.

As for shampoo and other liquid soaps, unless they come in a pump bottle, it’s too easy to dump out twice as much or more than you need out of the original bottle. I recommend getting a pump bottle for your shampoo and conditioner to be able to control the amount of shampoo and conditioner you dole out. Squeezing it out of a standard flip top bottle leads to a lot of waste. How much shampoo you need really depends on your length of hair. For chin to shoulder length hair, which is the standard for most bottle instructions, it would be a portion of shampoo the size of a quarter (2.5 cm). But for shorter hair than this, it would be less, closer to nickel size (1.5 cm) and longer hair would be a little more.

bar soap

Bar soap is cheaper and less prone to overuse than liquid soap. Photo via flickr by Horia Varlan.

For body wash and hand soap, I would recommend getting rid of liquid versions altogether and using bar soap. Bar soap is cheaper, and you are much less likely to overuse the soap. Contrary to some thinking, using a bar of soap for a household doesn’t transfer any bacteria or germs. Especially if the bar is given a clean off rinse after use. The only drawback to bar soap is the filmy wet scum, which can be combated with a good soap dish. If someone in your household is really attached to liquid body wash or other liquid soaps, a pump bottle if it doesn’t already come in a pump bottle is a good idea. Don’t be afraid to use only half a pump if that’s all you need.

Once you start watching your soap use, you can make your soap products last twice as long or more by using the appropriate amount of soap for the job at hand.