Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spending Habits Gone Green


Part of the reason that's making the economy even worse than it should be is that everyone is deciding to cut back all at the same time -- in a big way. This is good, but bad for the economy and for businesses everywhere. Our economy relies heavily on businesses to keep it afloat, and if we aren't buying, the economy will dip lower yet again.

A lof of us are cutting back on groceries, cutting out restaurant purchases, staying home more, and pushing off vacations. We've banished the impulse buys and occasional splurge on a piece of artwork or a the latest magazine to the stands, and we've definitely put the kibosh on upgrading to a new car. We're still cutting back on gas (which is great), keeping the electricity levels low, and the thermostat is being kept a close eye on.

But the economy has to persevere and move on in order to recover, and for this to happen, we need to start spending again -- in moderation. The first thing that we need to start doing is supporting local businesses. The businesses directly around you impact your life, your taxes, and the people around you. If you have any green home improvements to do, start with your locally owned hardware store. And while you're at it, order a pizza for your family at the end of the day from the pizzeria, or go out to eat on the cheap. You still have to live life, even in this horrible economic situation. The key is to make a budget for yourself and stick to it. Allow an expense for splurges like these every week.

When you shouldn't spend is when you're in severe debt or have a situation where your home is in jeopardy of being seized. When you cut back, you're actually shrinking the economy, so do this wisely!

If there's anything that we can learn from this current economic situtation, it's how to spend your money. Right now, there are several things you can do to green your spending habits.

1. When you shop for groceries, stay out of the middle aisles as much as possible. This is where most of the packaging lies for products. Cookies, individually wrapped 100 calorie packs, and convenient mini juice bottles use large amounts of wasteful plastic. They also cost much more than you should be paying for them. Buying larger sized containers and buying fresh ingredients can eliminate waste and save you money.

2. Get rid of the bottled water! This is huge! The average gallon of water costs around $1.09, and if you're drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water a day (which most people do not), you'll be consuming nearly a gallon a day per person. If you have a household of four, that's probably around $10-30 a week just on water! Buying yourself a tap water filter can provide cleaner water than bottled water, believe it or not, since most tap water has much higher standards and testing. A decent water filter to stick in your fridge and some replacement filters won't run you more than you would spend in a month on water. Think about the waste from bottled water -- the transport of the heavy liquid, the extraction of the "spring" water, the filtration, the gas used to transport the water, and the gas you use to bring the water back home. Doesn't sound worth it, does it?

3. Use coupons for your grocery shopping, restaurants, and virtually any purchase you make. Google the name of the company or brand that you typically buy from and there will most likely be some results for either an online coupon code or a printable coupon. Sunday newspapers are also a great source for coupons. Sites like Retailmenot.com, couponcabin.com, and of course, coupons.com.

4. Research the companies that you currently buy products from and see if there's information out there about how eco friendly they really are. Even if you're skiing, there's google search results for blog posts titled "least eco friendly ski resorts." The information is out there, you just need to read it!

5. Don't let the economy trick you into your old ways. Just because the economy is shrinking, that doesn't mean that you have to stop buying organic, fair trade and sustainable products. Prices have come down for some of these products, so take a look and see what makes sense for you to purchase.

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