Disposable stuff is art supplies [day 24]

art dumpsterYou know, I can complicate anything.  I didn’t have a blog post yesterday because I had written so much, I didn’t have the time to edit and organize it, much less find images for it.  Today is simple.  How much disposable stuff is imposed on us?  Receipts?  Flyers?  Napkins?  Bags?  Packaging?  Junk mail?  Magazines?  There’s a lot, although many retailers are now asking, “Would you like a receipt?” or “Would you like a bag?”  YES!  They get it.  Continue reading

If it’s the thought that counts, think about it.

I wasn’t going to do much blogging on holiday shopping, but people keep asking me what kind of stuff I’m buying for Christmas gifts or what are good gifts to give that give back to people in need?  So here it is… my brain dump on Christmas shopping.  Yes, I call it Christmas shopping, not holiday shopping.  I suppose we could also call it Black Friday shopping.  It seems as though that’s become a bigger holiday than the actual Christmas holiday we’re shopping for.

Now that I think about it, these principals could apply all year long and to any holiday where it is customary to give a gift.  Birthdays and Christmas are the two big ones.

So what gift shopping is considered good?  Shopping in and of itself is not bad, it’s some of the things associated with it that are bad.  Debt is bad.  Buying gifts for people you don’t want to buy gifts for because you’ve succumbed to the cultural purchasing pressure is bad.  Buying people stuff they don’t want or need is bad.  Spoiling kids with a bunch of stuff they don’t need is bad.  If it’s the thought that counts, then let’s think about it.  There are many positive ways to shop, supporting good for humanity, the environment and for your pocketbook.

Service, not stuff.

You might believe our country is using up most of our planets’ resources and you might be trying to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible, or you might even think that’s all an bunch of hype.  No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, buying services versus physical goods is, well, all around good.  Why?

  • You’re supporting a skill or a trade.
  • You’re helping the economy without physical stuff.
  • You don’t have to worry if the recipient likes your gift, and the best part? No looking around their house to make sure they’re using the item you gave them and no getting your feelings hurt when they tell you the dog broke it.
  • Maybe the gift recipients will get this concept too, then they won’t give you anymore giant golf ball candles, Chia pets or Santa figures that poop candy.
  • Most service places have gift cards or gift certificates.
  • It takes less time to shop because you can shop at places you do business while everyone else is in line at W*%#@!t.
  • There’s a better chance they’ll have a need for a service than a need for more stuff.  If you need something, or even want something, you go buy it, right?  Why would your giftees be any different?  Well, they could be unemployed.  If that’s the case, they have needs, not wants.

So what are good services to buy?  There are many choices here, some more practical than others.  Some of these services could be provided by you, which means no cost to you other than your time.   Continue reading

serengeti sunglasses [minimalist challenge item #135]

[item] Serengeti sunglasses

[purchase info] Found these in the trash while acquiring photo props

[time in my possession] Approximately 9 months

[last used] A few months ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] eBay

[info] I like these, but they’re not my favorites.  I just don’t need several pairs of sunglasses.  These retail for over $100!  What a treasure find that was!  I haven’t listed these yet if anyone is interested…

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   Continue reading

returns [day 212]

It’s the day after Christmas, the day where everyone returns the gifts they don’t want.  I gave myself a Christmas gift yesterday, and that gift was to take a day off of blogging.  I’m a couple of days behind and will get caught up.

I did go dumpster diving on Christmas day.  It was way too cold to be doing this, so I only hit a couple of them, but I did find some interesting things.  I found one full of books, CD’s and DVD’s.  The sad part about it, is that most of this could have been placed in a recycling bin, not a trash bin.

At least if I don’t like the stuff, it’s easy to return.  :)  The fact that return lines are longer than purchasing lines, the day after Christmas, supports the theory that not only do people not need all this stuff, they don’t want most of it either.  I guess I should go diving in residential trash bins, although I hope the unwanted things make it to a thrift store.

white elephant gifts [day 209]

As usual, I had to look up some information on this.  The white elephant gift exchange is defined on Wikipedia like this:

white elephant gift exchange is a popular holiday party game found primarily in North America. It has many variations in both the name and the game play. Generally, white elephant parties need a minimum of six participants. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. White elephant parties have been known to result in intensely vicious and/or playful rivalries between players trying to get sought after gifts. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. This game is sometimes called a Yankee Swap, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, or Parcel Pass.

I think the key phrase here is the goal, it’s to entertain rather than gain.  The term white elephant is defined as:

white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

Most white elephant gifts I’ve seen don’t completely fit that description, but most are useless or outdated.  Here’s a few gifts from a white elephant gift exchange I participated in about a week ago.  Continue reading

I’ve saved a lot of money, but that wasn’t why I did it [day 201]

I’m speaking tonight at Preston Trail Community Church, in the Financial Peace University class, about the “no retail” shopping challenge.  I didn’t start this to save money, but it did turn out to be a nice benefit.  Here’s a recap of the posts from the last 200 days that have to do with saving money and thinking differently.  Enjoy & save!!

Basic & small money saving tips

A money lesson from Barbie. [day 198] – You can learn a lot for a dummy, I mean a Barbie.  This has tips on teaching your kids about money, and even though it’s Barbie, it’s good for boys or girls.

Saving electricity [day 191] – It’s a small thing, but these add up, as my last utility bill was $52.01 on a 100% renewable energy plan, 1,780 square foot house with huge vaulted ceilings and 16 year old appliances.

White elephant gifts [trashogram] – Give it away or trade it.

Junk drawer [trashogram] – You know there’s money there and also in your couch cushions.  It’s not collecting interest, that’s dust.

Made in China [day 176] – Know the difference between cheap and frugal.

To buy or not to buy? [day 167] – Kids spending money and get a small loan, because your going to the movies and buying popcorn.

Ask the chickens [day 162] – Expiration dates and tips on not being wasteful.

Fine!  Dress me up like a fairy princess! [day 161] – Tips on thrift store clothing shopping.

Shopping tips [day 160] – We’ve been subconsciously trained by little yellow tags.  Buyer beware.  Continue reading

AWESOME dumpster diving video! [day 199]

This video was created for a school project by a student at the Clarion University of Pennsylvania for a Physics of Energy and the Environment class.  It’s a wonderful video on the how-to’s of dumpster diving with some alarming statistics.  Check it out.  It’s well worth 8 minutes of your time.

black friday shopping: the new olympic sport [day 170]

Okay, so it’s not an olympic sport… yet.  I do however, find this black friday business very interesting.  The idea for this blog post started with an article I found in a local magazine, called Black Friday: Survival Tips.  Please understand, if you choose to participate in this sport, I’m not saying it’s bad, this might just be another way to look at it.

Black Friday, ironically a name associated with financial crisis, started back in the mid 60’s and has become a cultural icon of holiday shopping addiction.  “Door busters” is another iconic shopping term, born out of the black friday marketing efforts of the major retailers.  Back in 2008, a WalMart employee was trampled to death by a black friday door buster event.  Is this really what its come to?

Back in 1993, I worked as a manager for Toys R Us in Miami, Florida.  This was during the Power Rangers craze, where people would line up outside the doors, knowing the the shipment came in the night before.  At opening, two people had to unlock the doors, simultaneously at the count of three, then run to paste their bodies as close to the wall as possible, as to not get trampled by the insane crowd pushing their way into the store.  I only wish I had saved the security tape where we recorded this, as it’s hard to put into words.  I also remember calling the police several times a week to break up a fist fight between parents fighting over the last of some random toy that is probably in a landfill by now.   Continue reading

pulling food out of the trash? [day 120]

For some people, that’s a completely insane question.  After all, who would pull food out of a trash can?  Especially if you don’t need it?

Well, someone I know did just that.  To protect my friend, who did what I probably would have done, I will change some the details in this story or be very generic in my descriptions.

After a large meeting, where they sometimes bring food, my friend saw someone throw away a plastic tray full of McDonald’s breakfast burritos.  Several minutes after the person walked away, my friend, still bothered by the wasteful act, looked around to see if anyone was looking, and when they weren’t, pulled them out of the trash.  My friend gave me the tray and told me the story.

Would you eat one of these? I did.  Yes, they were sitting on top of the trash, but protected in a thick, plastic bubble.  I really don’t care for McDonald’s food, nor do I like to eat food with meat in it, but I ate one because I dislike waste WAY more. Continue reading