Cast your vote for good [day 22 & 23]

The purpose of doing a challenge is to stretch our thinking and to initiate lifestyle changes for good purposes.  For that reason, I’m not too legalistic with my rules.  The idea is to make good and logical choices.  I have decided to make a small change in my shopping habits for the remainder of this challenge.

the-shiftThe Shift

I’m adding 100% recyclable packaging to my list of approved things to purchase.  Why?  Because it’s near impossible to live this way.  I could do it, but not with a full-time job and being a full-time single mom.  It’s not sustainable.  There are parts of it that are sustainable though.  This process is all about how to make some simple lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on our lives, the lives of others and our resources.  Continue reading

minimalist challenge update… 88% depreciation?!

With a goal of 365 items, downsizing one item a day over a one year period, has proven to be more difficult than I imagined.  With the exception of my garage, there’s just not much left to downsize in my house.  When I open a cabinet or a drawer, thinking I might be able to find some things I’m not using anymore, I’m rarely able to find anything.  This is good, as I don’t have a lot of clutter and a lot of stuff, but on the other hand, I still have 214 items to go.

Now I still have a lot in my garage.  Way less than I had a few months ago, but still way more than I need.  The problem with that right now is the heat.  It’s too hot to clean anything out, as my garage faces west. It’s a sauna x3.

At 150 items, here’s some financial info… that makes me want to cry.  Think we don’t spend a lot on stuff we don’t need?  Take a look at this.

If I bought these 150 items right now at the store, full price, it would cost me $12,320.36.

I paid $8,523.89 for these items, mostly shopping second hand and discount stores.

I didn’t sell much, as I gave most of it away.  I have made $180.00, with an estimated potential of $1,487.00.  Best case scenario, my stuff depreciated by 88%!!  If this isn’t a reality check, I don’t know what is.

Wow.  Even I’m astonished at these numbers.  Even though I’ve had much of this stuff for many years, it’s still a disturbing snapshot of how much money I can waste.  Have you ever added up how much money you’ve spent like this?  If so, please share.

The 3 most difficult things to part with so far 

Continue reading

cost analysis, kid style [day 309]

My youngest son came home with this a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure why he decided to draw this, but I’m glad he gets it.  Joe likes money and likes to spend money, but he also lives in the real world.  He’s 10 years old and somewhat budgets his money, that is, enough budgeting to get what he wants to buy.  He talks about buying stuff all the time, but he’s selective when it comes to actually making a purchase.

My oldest talked about an idea he had for an environmentally friendly missile.  While we were sitting in our think tank (hot tub), Cole spent almost 15 minutes telling me about his missile design.  It’s a missile that puts out an environmentally friendly gas that temporarily paralyzes people, allowing the police to ‘go in’ and get the bad guys, place them in prisons, and when the gas wears off, nobody is harmed in the process.  Here’s the blueprints.

Here’s the best part.  Yesterday, he did a cost analysis and figured out was his profit margin will be.  ??!!??!  How does he know how to do this?  He’s eleven years old.  I’ve talked about cost analysis stuff, but I’ve never shown him the process on paper.  Take a look.

Not only did he think of the labor costs, but when Joe talked to him about advertising, he adjusted the analysis accordingly.  I’m guessing Joe’s ad plan for him was to advertise during the Super Bowl.  If my two radically different kids partner together in the future, using their gifts to collaborate for good, they’ll do great things.  Yes, I’m the proud parent today.  :)

light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent – 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  :)

no retail shopping cost analysis [day 233]

Several people have asked me to compile this information, so here it is to the best of my knowledge.  I did not start this challenge to save money, although it’s been a nice benefit.  Here’s a few of the details, and I will be tracking this more going forward.

My bank records don’t go back to the start of the challenge in May, but I was able to grab the last six months.  I rarely pay cash for anything, I mostly use my debit card, so this is a pretty accurate picture of my retail shopping.  The retail amount spent during the challenge is at thrift stores or retail places that carry used merchandise, such as Half Price Books or Plato’s Closet.  Here’s some interesting data.

Savings: $1,767

Again, this was not by purpose, but it’s a nice benefit.  My finances feel better, as I’m not always broke and I feel like I’m living within my means.  It doesn’t feel like I’ve made sacrifices either.  I’m buying less, but making better choices.  What does that mean in layman’s terms?  I like and appreciate the smaller amount of stuff I do get, and less sits around collecting dust.

Thrift store shopping up 70%

Before the challenge, I shopped at thrift stores for 3.4% of my purchases.  Now it’s 73.8%.  What does this mean?  It means I’m getting things for a fraction of the retail price, and in the process, supporting local charities while keeping stuff out of landfills.

Behind the scenes

Looking at my expenditures was a little scary.  I spend way too much money on eating out and in fast food places.  My craigslist purchases are not reflected in the chart, as these are cash transactions.  I made 2 major purchases for about the same amount.  The first was before the challenge, my living room leather furniture for $700 (retail $3500) and the other, during the challenge, the hot tub that I blogged a week ago.

There’s a lot more data and things to report in this area, so stay tuned.  Anything you want to know about the challenge that I’ve not posted?

2 stores in store [day 228]

I had to go to 2 stores for work yesterday.  I needed a frame, a mat board and to have 1 photo printed.  I decided to go to Aaron Brothers for the frame and mat board, because in January, they have their “buy one, get one for a penny” sale.  I found the perfect frame, however I have no idea what we’ll do with the second one.  1¢ is too close to free to pass up.

It felt strange to be in a store.  I looked around a little bit, as they have art supplies, but I had no desire to buy anything.  I really didn’t want to be there.

Next, I decided to go to Wolf Camera for the print.  Now, I love camera equipment, but walking into the store still felt odd.  The aroma of film processing chemicals was a sweet reminder of the past, having to pay a lot of money for my photography habit.  It sparked a momentary appreciation for digital photography.

I rarely print photos, so I had to ask the quickest way to get one photo printed.  The sales guy pointed to the large yellow machine that does instant prints.  After several failed attempts to get it to read my jump drive, the sales guy tried.  After his many more failed attempts, I decided that wasn’t meant to be.

I had no desire to shop in either of these places.  Had I wanted to buy something, and did, it would be classified as an impulse buy, right?  It made me think about how many times I’ve done that in the past.  Going into a store to buy something I wanted and coming out with other things, things I didn’t need.    Continue reading

self-awareness [day 47]

I was at a staff retreat all day today, so no time to think about shopping.  I did, however, do a behavioral style assessment through idynamx.com, and the results were quite interesting.  I really enjoyed this process, not only learning more about my behaviors, but learning more about the people I work with.  After reading it, it’s no mystery why I started this blog, or for that matter, all of my blogs.

Of course, all of the material is copyrighted, so I’ll just highlight a couple of interesting things.

Need: To learn experientially from life and speak out their ideas. Yep, that’s me.  And that explains why I blog a lot.  I do like to speak out my ideas, but I also like the conversation.  I like to hear others ideas, learn from other people and I also love to debate when there’s a contrasting idea.  Playing devil’s advocate is a good and healthy process.  It enhances good ideas and modifies the not-so-good ideas into new ideas.  And there’s also those times where there’s more than one right way or several good ideas to accomplish the same thing.

Like: Emotional “peace and quiet”. Okay, so I’m not the warm and fuzzy type, I’m more cognitively and goal driven.  The words used to describe me cracked me up a bit, most were not too surprising, but other were… interesting.  I have a strong personality and I sometimes like to influence others by intimidation or forcefulness.  I guess I do come across that way sometimes, as I do like to get on my soapbox a lot.  I really just want to share my life experiences in a way that motivates people to do something different or make a positive change.  I like to learn from others, so I guess I just assume everyone does.  So anyway, thank you for reading my blog!  If I come across as a bully or overly dominant, free free to call me on it.  Then I’ll tell you to quit crying and accomplish the goal.  LOL  I’m sharing my challenges and ideas of the one year of no shopping, but many of my ideas have been generated through feedback I get, so please feel free to leave comments.

Relational description: Verbalizer.  Well, that speaks for itself.  Can’t argue with that.

I’m aware that I’m quite quirky in comparison to the ‘normal people’, and quite honestly, that makes me happy.  We are all unique in our behaviors, but I often wonder how much is influenced by our society?  Suppose our core behaviors are part of our personality, and I could get into the whole nature versus nurture thing, but how much of what we do is following and participating in our culture?  Shopping, for instance, is a social thing, necessary for some things, frivolous and exorbitant for others.  I’ve also heard the term ‘retail therapy’ for the need to shop, you know, if you’re feeling depressed or sad.

It’s just a thought, as I couldn’t help but wonder how all of this plays into my one year of no shopping.  I’ll ponder that.  :)

a boutique [day 43]

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

My friend E got an amazing espresso machine for Christmas last year.  It takes little pods (they call them capsules), similar to the Keurig machines.  E needed to stop at the retail store to buy some more pods.  Now I can go into retail stores, but I can’t purchase anything.  So I went with her.

I buy my coffee beans online from wholelattelove.com, and I have no idea if they have a storefront.  (I do know that the beans I buy are fair trade)  I’ve been to a few coffee stores before, but this was a coffee boutique.  We knew that immediately when the doorman opened the door for us.  At first I thought he was a bored employee just being  gentleman and opening the door for us.  Nope, that was the dude’s job.  He looked like a bar bouncer, as he was large, sort of mean looking and had that ‘secret service’ kind of stance that says, “I can and will throw you out if I need to.”

E went to the back to get her pods.  I walked around, wanting to take some photos, but that wasn’t allowed.  Besides, Guido saw my camera and he was ready to take action if needed.  The sales guy, who I’m pretty sure takes espresso much more seriously than anyone else on the planet, was giving another guy a demonstration of one of the machines.  I stopped to watch, until the sales guy gave me the evil eye, insinuating it’s not my turn and I better no mess up his sale.  I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in the boutique, and I guess it’s fair he judged me that way, as I might actually carry that ‘thrift-store-cheap-i-have-no-money’ look, and without the rich boyfriend.  The customer guy was clearly enthralled and chatting on his iPhone to someone, giving the play by play of how cool the machines are and sucking down the espresso drinks.  Hmmm, free lattes?  😉

I joined E in the back, taking in all of the modern displays and rainbow color-coded capsules of espresso, carefully arranged to make you want to buy a box every blend.  The girl helping E was asking what model she had so she could add it to the ‘big brother’ database for future capsule-solicitation.   When she asked about the espresso button, she pronounced it ‘expresso’.  If you work in a coffee boutique, can’t you get fired for that?  Good thing Guido didn’t hear her.  E was then formally welcomed to the Nespresso club and told she can talk to a live coffee specialist anytime she wants to, just call the phone number on the receipt.  Now that sounds fun.  I would call the live specialist just for fun and ask questions like, “Where were you born?  Do you have a dog?  What kind?  Do you fold you underwear or just throw them in the drawer?”  What?  It could be fun.

I suppose this brand is geared toward rich people, but what if they didn’t have the boutique, all that overhead cost and Guido’s salary?  Maybe the machines would be a little more affordable.  Although it is not prominently displayed anywhere in the boutique, the capsules can be recycled… but not in the United States.  That doesn’t at all surprise me because the US has endless resources and a bottomless trash pit, right???  Wow.

So why am I telling this story?  Because I felt like it.  LOL, seriously, I’m a coffee addict and you can read about my machine and coffee choices here on iembracechaos.com.  Here are some tips for coffee addicts that want to support fair trade, save money and be green.

  • Do a cost analysis on your coffee drinking.  My Pasquini machine, purchased on eBay refurbished, paid for itself in 5.5 months.
  • Research your coffee beans. Do they participate in fair trade?  Do they have green practices?  In less than 5 minutes, you can research this on the internet and make choices that will impact many people and resources in our world.
  • Buy a used machine. Many people purchase these machines and then never use them, therefore making a good buyers market.  Read reviews on the machines to make a good choice, as there are many machines and many options out there.
  • Advertise. If you found a good machine, good fair trade beans or any other ‘good’ coffee thing, share it with others.

Simply taking a few minutes to research before you buy can mean a lot to a worker on a coffee plantation or make a better, cleaner world for all of us.  And don’t worry, Guido could find a job somewhere else, maybe as an enforcement official for an environmentally friendly, fair trade coffee company.  It could happen…