Monday, February 26, 2018
Countdown to Financial Fitness: Reducing Paper Waste: Last week we planted trees to celebrate Georgia's Arbor Day. The goal of planting these flowering species was to attract pollinators, w...
Last week we planted trees to celebrate Georgia's Arbor Day. The goal of planting these flowering species was to attract pollinators, which have been on the decline in recent decades, threatening the world's food supply.
When I think of trees, I also think of products we derive from them. Like paper. And how much paper is wasted every day. And how many trees could be saved if we didn't waste so much paper.
So here are some tips to minimize the amount of paper we waste:
· Resist the urge to print out every email you receive. I once had a boss who did that. Detailed directions, prep for an upcoming meeting, a completed progress report, I could see. A phone number? Confirmation of a lunch date? Why waste a clean sheet of paper, as well as printer ink? Jot it down on a piece of scratch paper. A simple joke or daily platitude? Read and delete. In the mountains of paper you're keeping, you'll never find it again anyway.
· Capacity for electronic storage is increasing, especially with The Cloud. Handle electronically as much bill paying, record keeping, and correspondence as possible. (But do pay attention to cybersecurity, and make it a habit to back up your data regularly.). At the Fayette Humane Society where I volunteer, we used to spend close to $2000 every quarter to produce and distribute our 8-page newsletter, complete with color photos. Converting to electronic distribution was met with a lot of resistance, but we finally did it. The money we save is better spent on caring for the animals we rescue.
· Print on both sides of a sheet of paper whenever possible. Some writers find it impossible to edit on the computer. If you must print out your drafts to find errors, why not use both sides of the page? If your printer doesn't do "double-sided," print on the back of old draft copies.
· Don't waste a clean sheet of printer paper to jot down a reminder or make a grocery list. Why not recycle a junk-mail envelope, or use one of those free notepads sent by charities?
· Print out directions, hotel confirmations, and boarding passes on recycled paper. The TSA agent won't care that the back of your e-ticket contains a marked-up excerpt from your novel-in-progress.
· Shred no-longer-needed documents and use them for packaging or to line a birdcage. Or donate to an animal shelter as a puppy-pad substitute.
Reducing paper waste not only helps the environment, it can save you money. And there's nothing like financial motivation to do the right thing.
What tips do you have for saving money on paper? I'd love to hear your comments.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Countdown to Financial Fitness: Don't Let Valentine's Day Break the Bank: Valentine's Day is a romantic occasion; a time to splurge, to prove your love for your partner. If you're dating someone, it's ...
Valentine's Day is a romantic occasion; a time to splurge, to prove your love for your partner. If you're dating someone, it's an opportunity to show your intentions.
Who doesn't like to be pampered?
Just don't let the pressure of impressing others drive you to spend more than you can afford. Like any other expense, Valentine's Day gifts should be planned for and budgeted. After all, the holiday comes around every year.
Don't have two dozen roses delivered to your spouse's office by a singing Cupid because you're afraid her colleagues will scoff at a simple spring bouquet and a homemade card. Or that someone else's spouse will outdo you.
She may love being surprised by a pair of diamond earrings, but they'll lose their sparkle once you're saddled with the extra credit card debt. And not many people need the calories in a two-pound box of imported chocolates, despite the initial joy of receiving it. A small sample of her favorites to savor might generate the same appreciation.
The old adage, "It's the thought that counts" may sound like an excuse for being a cheapskate. But there are plenty of ways you can recognize the special day and demonstrate your love without spending a lot of money.
Time is one of our most valuable commodities. Why not take that long walk in the park with her you've been promising? Why not sit down and watch that game with him, even though you hate sports? Accompany it with a home-cooked meal and a bottle of your beloved's favorite bubbly.
If you're in a new relationship, the way the other person handles the holiday will supply clues about what is to come. The person who showers you with expensive gifts might be generous. But she might also be a poor manager of money. The person who writes you a poem in lieu of buying a present might be a romantic, or maybe he's just a tightwad.
Do you really want to spend your days with someone who was insulted that you bought her flowers from the grocery store or the kid on the street corner instead of from the town's best florist? Or maybe you are that person, and you can't abide such party-pooping frugality from your partner on a romantic holiday.
If your relationship is getting serious, Valentine's Day can prompt you to have that all-important talk about money. Is one person a saver, and the other a spender? Before you commit to a life together, find out if your attitudes are compatible because chances are, they probably won't change.
Disagreement over money is one of the leading causes of divorce. The more you know about each other, especially about each other's approach to handling money, the better the chances that the relationship will last.
How do you plan to spend Valentine's Day? Will you think about money, or go all out with a splurge? I'd love to hear your comments.
Friday, February 2, 2018
Countdown to Financial Fitness: Staying on Track with Goals: We're a month into the new year, and many resolutions, although made with the best intentions, have already fallen by the wayside. But ...
We're a month into the new year, and many resolutions, although made with the best intentions, have already fallen by the wayside. But instead of giving up, why not try to figure out what's not working and recommit? You still have eleven months to get something accomplished this year.
Maybe the goal is not specific enough. "Save more for retirement" is vague. How much are you saving now? Whatever it is, vow to increase your contribution by a realistic percentage. Go online today or call your employer's human resource department and adjust your payroll deductions. If you don't have a workplace retirement plan, set up or increase automatic contributions from your bank account to an IRA.
Maybe the goal is not measurable. "Manage my money better" doesn't have any criteria attached. What does managing your money better look like? How can you tell when you've reached your goal?
Maybe the goal is not really achievable. "Become debt-free" might be a pipe dream if you're mired in credit card bills or skating on the brink of bankruptcy. Sort of like, "look good in a bikini this summer" or "run a marathon" when you're 100 pounds overweight and have never exercised in your life. Start smaller. Identify one bill to tackle, preferably the account with the highest interest rate, and focus on retiring that debt. Or choose a card with a relatively low balance, pay it off completely, and vow to keep it clean (paid in full, on time, every month) so you can use it for new purchases without incurring additional interest while you pay down other debt.
Maybe the goal isn't realistic. "Save enough for a down payment on a house" could be out of reach if your income isn't covering your daily living expenses. Look for ways you can reduce those expenses so you have enough income left over to start saving. Setting a goal that is too lofty just leads to frustration.
Maybe the goal doesn't have a timeline. "Start an emergency fund" is a good goal, but when are you planning to start? How often will you contribute to the fund to build it, and by what date will you strive to accumulate what amount? For example, maybe you'll set aside ten dollars per paycheck, beginning with the next one. Maybe you're expecting a bonus or a tax refund soon, and you'll use that windfall to jumpstart your emergency fund.
If your resolutions are off-track, take another look at what you set out to accomplish and why. Then tune up your goals to make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-limited.
What New Year's Resolutions did you make this year? How are you doing with them? I'd love to hear your comments.