Saving money and the Earth: Green Ways to save Greenbacks

Hi there income streamers!

As many of you know from a few mini-rants about driving less and using reusable water bottles in my penny-pinching guides, I have a passion for protecting our Earth. We’ve only got one, after all, and I want to do everything in my power to preserve it. The good news is that breaking the consumerist addiction and reducing your waste is often the best way to save money, and it’ll save the planet you’re planning on spending financial independence on! So without further ado, here’s a few ways you can protect that planet while also fattening your wallet:

1. Drive less!

Like I said a few weeks ago in my post on saving money on transportation, the average American is driving way more than they need to be. According to the National Household Survey, 60% of Americans choose to take the car on a trip of a mile or less. That’s a 15 minute walk! I understand that sometimes we have to hurry places, but I’m sure we could all leave the house a little earlier and burn some fat while saving some money for those trips. If a 15 minute walk intimidates you, try hopping on a bike, or working your way up to walks of that length by cutting out half-mile drives.

2. Buy a reusable water bottle

I’m just going to repeat what I said last time about this, because NO ONE ON EARTH SHOULD BE USING ONE-TIME USE WATER BOTTLES.

Bottled water costs 2000 times as much as tap water per milliliter. Bottled water is murdering our environment needlessly. And reusable bottles are supersuper cheap. If you don’t want to spend $5 on Amazon to purchase one, try a little phone and laptop earning – it will take you less than a day to make enough for a reusable bottle, and it’ll help out both you and the Earth.

3. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store

I can’t speak for every grocery store in the nation, but my local chains give a 5 cent rebate for every reusable bag you bring in. Reusable bags cost about a dollar, so a 5% return per use is pretty great – and you can even use the store’s own paper bags from previous visits as reusable bags, skipping that 1 dollar investment altogether!

4. Recycle cans

Grocery stores charge you 5 cents per recyclable bottle and can you buy – so for a $1 drink that reflects a 5% tax. Why not get that money back? I have fond memories as a kid of gathering cans from our house and recycling them for a few dollars at the end of the month – which I then used to purchase a candy bar. So if you’ve got some children around the house, encourage them to start collecting your cans at the end of meals and let them keep the money from recycling them.

If you’re a hiker or trail-runner, bring a bag with you and pick up littered cans as you go! It’s a great way to make a few bucks while keeping your favourite trails clean. Not to mention the fact that a clean trail will discourage future litterers – it’s a lot easier to litter when the place is already covered in trash!

I’ll be reporting on this earning method as a weekly earner soon. Stay tuned!

5. Cut back on water use

Americans spend between 25 and 70 dollars a month on water utilities depending on location – so that means setting a timer for your shower could put 12-35 dollars back in your pocket every month! There’s a million ways to use less water, including cutting back shower time, hand washing clothes and dishes, watering plants less frequently and turning off the tap when you brush your teeth. Surprisingly, it’s actually healthier to shower every other day than every day, but I haven’t made that leap yet.

6. Insulate your home

Insulating your home will reduce heating bills and gas use, and even get you tax credits in some states. There’s a lot of low-tech ways to do it, so it’s worth a try if you’re handy!

7. Lay off the temperature control

Coming from Boston, it always surprised me to see people from Florida call 50 degrees chilly and yet be comfortable in 100+. I’ve recently been informed that this is due to temperature adaptation, an evolutionary feature of humans that allows them to handle whatever temperatures they are frequently faced with. This also explains our growing dependence on temperature control. As we’ve become accustomed to A/C or heat all year round, our bodies forget how to handle even slightly uncomfortable temperatures. Get your body’s amazing natural abilities back! Take baby steps, and let yourself survive 70 degree homes rather than 68 degrees this summer. Open the windows instead of cranking up the A/C. Try some ice water. Soon enough, you’ll feel fine in 68 degrees and you can push the envelope a little farther until your body is strong enough to control its temperature again.

9. Go paperless

The average American consumes 700 pounds of paper per year, or the equivalent of 6 times as much paper as the average Asian, or 30 times as much as the average African. This paper forms 16% of our landfill waste, even though it’s recyclable! Going paperless will make your documents accessible anytime you have an internet connection by uploading it to a cloud service like Google Drive, will save you money on printer paper, and will save a few trees in the process. Plus, if you go the extra mile and sell your printer altogether, you’ll save money on electricity, ink and maintenance! Win-win all around.

10. Switch your energy provider

You could go the extra mile and calculate whether installing solar panels makes financial sense for your home – what I’ve found is that if your home is luckily positioned eastward, and you can either participate in a group purchase or receive tax credits, it’s worth investing in. For the rest of us, however, we can sign up for a renewable energy provider to receive clean power at a comparable or discounted cost to traditional energy, when accounting for tax benefits.

11. Repair, don’t replace!

Repairing items is a satisfying way to grow your skills while gaining a new appreciation for the things you need in your life. That can mean repairing your car, mending clothes, or fixing up your computer (whether it’s a hardware or software issue) rather than buying a new one. All these repairs saves you money and stops you wasting needlessly.

12. If you’ve gotta replace, reuse!

Ask your friends if they happen to have whatever you’re looking to replace. Scour Craigslist’s “free” section to see if what you need is being given away (even if its a version needing repair – repair is a good thing to learn!). If those strategies fail, check secondhand store inventories. If all three of those strategies fail, which isn’t likely, then it’s worth trying a consumer store. Learning this process of replacing things (try to repair, ask friends, check free sources, check secondhand sources, THEN resort to consumer stores) will delay your purchase, giving you time to think about whether what you’re replacing is a want or a need, and will also save a lot of waste by reusing old items.

13. Get a more efficient car

You thought I was done talking about transportation, right? Wrong! A 2011 Prius can save you $2000 on average annually on gas and in excellent condition costs about $10k according to KBB. That means it’ll pay itself off in 5 years and whatever you eventually sell it for will be pure profit. I’ll take that deal any day!

14. Air-dry clothes

Line drying clothes saves about a dollar per load, so with two loads a week thats $100 annually. It also reduces your carbon output by 2400 pounds per year. It’s worth the extra minute of work!

15. Insulate your water heater and pipes

Insulating pipes helps your hot water lose less heat in transition, so your heater doesn’t work as hard to get your shower and cooking water warm. Insulation costs about $10-15 in materials and saves you 3-4% on water heating use annually, so it’s worth the investment.

16. Run machines when they’re full

By waiting to run dish washers and clothes dryers until they’re full, you save water and electricity, and you save yourself some time on unloading. Or better yet, hand wash them when it’s a small and manageable amount!

17. Garden

Gardening is a gratifying hobby and lets you save money on produce while getting some fresh air and possibly bonding with family or friends that you garden with. It also saves trips to the store and means you’re not buying fruits and veggies that had to be trucked over to your local grocery store. Try it out by starting with something easy to grow, like potatoes.

18. Use rags instead of paper towels

American families spend $182 a year on paper towels. Luckily, we have these fantastic inventions called cloth rags that can cut that spending out entirely! Technology is amazing.

19. Unplug and turn off products when they are not in use

Appliances tend to “ghost-draw” electricity when plugged in, even if they’re turned off. Shut them down and unplug them when you’re done, or better yet, purchase a power strip that will automatically stop ghost-draw when you shut them down.

20. Stop junk mail

Junk mail as an industry kills 2.6 million trees per year, and attempts to manipulate you into impulse purchases. It also wastes your time by having to go through your mail and throw them away. You can remove your name from product mailing lists at http://www.dmachoice.org/ and credit card mailing lists at http://www.optoutprescreen.com/.

21. Compost

Now that you’ve started that garden in step 17, skip the gardening store and feed it your own compost. Soon you’ll have a self sustaining food source of your own and can prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Unless zombies like fresh produce. Then you’re done for.

22. Use rain barrels for your garden

Feeding your garden your own compost wasn’t survivalist enough for you? Get some barrels and gather rainwater to keep those plants hydrated. Now you’re a real gardening cowboy, ready to live all your lonesome, with no need for water companies or plant feed from the store. The zombies won’t know what hit them.

23. Use a manual lawn mower

Manual lawn mowers seem like a charming tool of yesteryear, but I still like mine as it’s way cheaper to purchase and maintain, and I don’t have to buy and burn gas for it. Plus, I’ve always found loud and stinky lawn mowers highly obnoxious. On the other hand, a gas mower would be a pretty great melee weapon against the zombies. Proceed at your own risk.

24. Cook from scratch

Cooking from scratch cuts out the wasteful middleman step of inefficiently producing prepared meals and packaging them with harmful plastics, not to mention the markup you’ll be paying for letting someone else perform such an easy job. Cooking from scratch will let you know exactly whats on your plate and will make you appreciate your meal that much more.

25. Use the library

Why pay money for books and kill that many more trees when you pay taxes for shared books? If you need the information long term, you can always take notes. Better yet, use your phone, laptop or tablet as an e-reader.

26. Eat less meat

The meat industry produces 21% of annual carbon dioxide waste, and red meat is terrible for you. I like you guys. Don’t die. Meat is an unnecessarily expensive way to get protein, and luckily Kitchen Stewardship provides some great beginner recipes to start cutting back. I’m no vegetarian, but I am aware of the health risks and want to make sure I live as long as possible to enjoy the fruits of financial independence.

27. Switch your light bulbs

Switching to LEDs or Fluorescent lightbulbs will use less electricity, generating a $150 return over traditional lightbulbs over their lifespan. That’s money that you could be investing and putting to work for you!

28. Get efficient appliances

Replacing just five appliances with energy-efficient versions can save you $75 per year, so you’ll have to compare costs of trading in your appliances to calculate whether this investment makes sense for you. Considering a real return of 7% after inflation in the stock market, calculate the trade-in cost of your five appliances and see if its return of $75 per year is more than 7% of the cost. Alternatively, if you want to make the switch to reduce your carbon footprint, you may wish to just go ahead and shop around for Energy-Star certified appliances regardless of the financial benefits or costs.

29. Stop using disposable products

Disposable razors, disposable plates and cutlery, disposable anything, is absolute madness! Disposable is another word for “recurring purchase” and it means that you’re buying short-term low-quality items when you could save in the long run by purchasing a real version of the product. And, it creates needless waste. Do yourself and the Earth a favour and get a real razor and real dining products.

30. Take a deep breath and enjoy this Earth

I don’t want to scare you guys off. These 30 actions and habits you can take to help the Earth and yourselves is a lot to digest at once, so I want to remind you why we do it all. As a member of the human family, I want to see our kind survive as long as possible, able to reap the joy of a walk in the woods in the same way I have been able to my whole life. Go for a walk, and think about the bounty of beauty and love this Earth has for every member of it. That’s why I care so passionately about preserving it.

That’s all I have for now folks. What’s your carbon footprint like? Did I miss any good strategies for reducing waste and spending? Let me know in the comments!

 

Grubhub vs Postmates as a Side Hustle

Hi there income streamers! I’ve invited thesimplebachelor to come talk about his experience side-hustling for courier apps. I find his insights valuable and I’ll be certain to add these apps to my weekly earner lineup for testing. Take a look!

~~~~~~~~

A little while back I found myself in over my head with a monthly car payment. The bill just kept coming every month and I found it increasingly hard to keep up with the payments. So what does one do in this situation? They get a side hustle…fast!

Now what is a “side hustle” and why would you want one? A side hustle is basically a secondary job or business you have outside of your main job to supplement your income. 

Some take on a side hustle with the intention of replacing their full-time job. For example, one could replace their full time job if they start a successful business. Today, I will be sharing a more short-term and immediate side hustle you can start today that I have personally done myself.

They are called delivery/courier apps.

What are these delivery and courier apps? There are quite a few I will name, but I will mainly discuss the two I have personally done to give you a better idea of how they operate.

GrubHub

Grubhub is a great side hustle because they offer a few perks, such as priority scheduling and a minimum hourly pay rate. The on boarding process is fairly simple. You sign up to become a driver on GrubHub’s website, provide the necessary documents, and pick a date/time to attend an onboarding session.

When you attend an onboarding session you will be briefed on how the app and pay works, and be given delivery gear such as a company shirt and a hot/cold delivery bag. Grubhub is only for food delivery so be prepared to handle that accordingly!

Who Can Deliver For GrubHub?

Anyone with a car or a bike. You will have to specify which when signing up. In order to switch, you will need to email a GrubHub rep.

The Pay

Grubhub will pay an hourly minimum based on the city you deliver in. In New York for example, the guaranteed hourly minimum is $12. If you happen to make more than that rate in an hour between tips and delivery fees, you keep it all! There are conditions to receive that hourly minimum of course. 

You must accept a certain percentage of the deliveries you are offered during the block you work. Grubhub will provide you that information at the on boarding session, since every city is different. The pay is normally distributed via direct deposit on a set day the following week, for everything done the week before. 

Who GrubHub is NOT For

Grubhub has its perks when it comes to hourly pay, however the delivery hours are limited. In New York for example, you can only deliver between the hours of 8am – 11pm. Additionally, you must have a scheduled block to work or you can not deliver. 

Depending on your city, it may be easy or hard to get blocks to work. If you want an app similar to Uber that you can turn on any time and start working, Grubhub may not be for you. Which brings us to the next option:

Postmates

Postmates was actually the first delivery app I tried. They have a similar sign up process as I explained with Grubhub, but there are a few differences on how the apps work. Postmates does not use scheduling and can be turned on at any time to start working.

With Postmates you can expect to deliver anything from a burrito at Chipotle, to a light fixture from Home Depot (I have done both.) It is essentially a mix of a courier and delivery app. 

You are given a “PEX card” at on boarding which is essentially a prepaid debit card used to purchase items being ordered by customers. The card can only be used to pick up a requested order, at which time Postmates will load the card with funds.

Who Can Deliver For Postmates?

Anyone with a car or a bike. Your delivery method is interchangeable within the app!

The Pay

Postmates does not offer a guaranteed hourly rate since it is based per-delivery. There is a delivery minimum you can make, mine was $4 per delivery not counting tip. 

Postmates will distribute your pay via direct deposit 4-7 days later for a single delivery day. In theory, you could be paid by Postmates multiple days in a row!

Who Postmates is NOT For:

Postmates is not for someone who is looking to make a garunteed amount or have set hours to work. It is also not for someone that wants to pick up orders already made up all the time. 

Unlike Grubhub, you may have to go and order the food when you recieve a request, which you pay for with the PEX card you are given.

Conclusion

Grubhub and Postmates are of course, not the only two delivery apps and can be done in tandem! 

There are other deliver/ courier apps such as DoorDash, Caviar, UberEats, etc. but I have decided to share the two I have actually done and know about to give you the best idea. 

Now get side-hustling!

Weekly Earner #2 For August 2017: Freelancing on Reddit!

Hi there income streamers! I’m continuing the weekly earner series with a bit of an odd earner: freelancing on Reddit. I’ve been using /r/slavelabour, /r/signupsforpay, and /r/phoneverification for about a year now, picking up on various small tasks like data entry, writing and programming. I’ve enjoyed this method of earning a few bucks when I need it because the work is spontaneous; I can do some whenever I feel like and the tasks can all be completed within fifteen minutes. Furthermore, I can pick and choose what tasks I’d like to do by combing through all the posts of the past day.

The way it works is pretty simple. You create a profile on /r/SLRep that allows employers and freelancers to observe your reputation, and then you either make an [OFFER] post on /r/slavelabour describing your skills and soliciting tasks, or you comment on [TASK] posts that interest you and PM the poster. After contacting the poster, they’ll get back to you with details and you can choose to accept or decline the offer.

In my experience, the most important part of earning with this method is choosing the right tasks. It could be tempting to simply try and claim every offer you see and make as much as possible, but the truth is that most of the offers there are either by disreputable posters or not worth the time required. I’ve found that the only offers that make sense in terms of pay compared to time and effort required are phone verification tasks, easy signups at websites, and data entry. If you have programming knowledge, you can make some good money sending over snippets to junior coders, as many of the posts are simple programming questions that could be answered on Stack Overflow.

How much does it pay?

Most slavelabour offers range between 5 cents and 10 dollars per offer, depending on the type of task. That means that if you have relatively high-paying skills like programming and writing you can earn a nice per-hour rate compared to data entry offers. Phone verification usually runs about a dollar per verification, which is great for a fifteen second task of PMing some redditor a confirmation code you were texted. Signups for pay run between 10 cents and a dollar, so the higher paying ones are worth your time.

When can I get paid?

Usually instantly! I’ve seen posters there offer to pay by Paypal, venmo, bitcoin, and gift cards, so whichever payment method you prefer should get to you instantly upon completion.

Is it worth the time?

Like I said above, the niche skill slavelabour offers can be worth it, as well as phone verifications and easy sign ups that just require an email on signupsforpay. I’ve made about $15 in an hour of phone verification, which is nice for such low effort.

Can I turn it into a passive income stream?

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is possible. The tasks on slavelabour are too varied to set up a bot to complete them, and signupsforpay specifically exists to allow people to get human referrals for certain sites and apps. I suppose someone could try to set up a bot for phone verification, that is triggered by request posts in the subreddit and automatically requests a verification code and forwards the text to the poster, but I haven’t programmed with SMS before and I’d be frightened of breaking the ToS with my cell provider.

That’s all I have on freelancing on Reddit. All in all, I think it’s a nice way to earn some coffee money, but with this method you’re definitely working for pay, not setting up an income stream. Your time can most likely be invested better elsewhere.

Does anybody have any other ideas for weekly earners? I’m hoping to continue this series, so let me be your income guinea pig and try the earning methods you’re curious about. As always, stay earning income streamers, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

For more income exploration check out @StevesStreams on Twitter!

Ultimate Penny Pinching Guide Part Three: Entertainment

Hi there income streamers! The ultimate penny pinching guide is back, and this week we’re tackling a common target of budget cutters: entertainment. Unlike many financial independence bloggers, I really believe entertainment is an essential component of any happy lifestyle, and I don’t think someone should feel guilty on spending money on methods of entertainment that are constructive and fulfilling. These entertainment methods can be solo or in groups, and I think alone time as well as socialisation are important parts of any healthy schedule. With that, let’s dive in on ways to entertain yourself on a budget:

1. Consider a free, social option first

If you’re simply bored, it can be a lot more fun to fill that free time with one of these activities rather than spending money!

2. Stay in rather than going out

A $300 Xbox may not seem like a frugal financial decision, but if it stops you from going out and dropping $50 at a bar it will pay for itself in no time.

3. Buy unwanted gift cards for your toys

Like I said, Raise.com is a great resource for buying up unwanted gift cards at a discount and saving on what you planned to buy already. I always do a quick search on their site before buying games or other playthings.

4. Be sure to check for age specific discounts!

Movie theatres, restaurants and event venues often have discounts for high school students, college students, seniors, and more. Always be sure to check out their discounts before buying a ticket.

5. Use the library!

First of all, no one needs to buy a book. You pay taxes toward a library, so go ahead and use it! If you really need the material long term you can always take notes. But even for non-readers, libraries hold a ton of entertainment value. Many of them carry DVDs, CDs, and games, and these materials can often be accessed online. Check your local libraries website to score some free fun.

6. Try free online games

I’m in the process of compiling a big list of free games, but the first ones to come to mind include incremental games like Venture Capitalist and Cookie Clicker, and some MMPOGs like Clash of Clans and a multitude of phone and tablet apps. If you’re itching to game, definitely give a free game a try before dropping money on something else.

7. NEVER shop for entertainment

I’ve often heard my friends talk about going shopping as if it were some activity in itself. That’s ridiculous! Why would I spend my money, purchased with a sacrifice of my limited time on this Earth, needlessly as a source of entertainment? If the value of a “shopping experience” comes from trying on new clothes, you could do a quarterly clothing swap with friends or check out a thrift store. Those experiences tend to have much more genuine and wholesome fun involved, anyways.

8. Pregame.

This one’s pretty self explanatory. I see the social value of going out to a bar or club and drinking some there, but if the goal is to get smashed, you can do most of the legwork at home and save in the process.

9. Brew your own beer!

Microbrewing has gone from strange hobby to thriving industry in America and with pre-assembled kits it’s never been easier to save money and learn a valuable skill by brewing at home. Just be careful to follow directions and keep things safe for consumption.

Well, those are the tips I have for now. With all the activities I listed a week ago as well as these extra strategies for shaving cost off entertainment, I’m sure we can all enjoy ourselves on our journey to financial independence. Do any of you have more tips? Do you disagree with what I’ve got to say on lifestyle balance? Let me know in the comments!

For more fun and frugality check out @StevesStreams on Twitter!

What to Do When you Fall Off the Wagon

Hi there income streamers!

If you haven’t noticed, my blogging pace has faltered a little bit in the past week. I regret to inform you its because I suffered some burnout recently. I realised that I was focusing so much on saving and budgeting that I wasn’t letting myself enjoy even cheap nights out, and I was overthinking my whole financial strategy. Shouldn’t it be simple? Earn more than you spend, throw the difference in index funds?

And yet, there I was, plugging away at spreadsheets as if that’d somehow accelerate my journey to FI. I had made the classic mistake of thinking that worrying = work. The truth is, whether I like it or not, I am entering the “autopilot” stage of my journey to FI for the most part. If I can find ways to reduce spending further, get creative with tax-deferred investing, or earn more, that’s great, but I already have a long term investing and saving strategy nailed down so tweaking it won’t help.

So what did I do to handle this built-up stress? Unfortunately, I spent pretty recklessly for two days. I treated myself to pastries, new books, and expensive dinners out. And you know what happened?

Not that much, really.

In this particular scenario, I exceeded my weekly “fun” budget by about $40. That just means that if I want to get back on track I have to trim four dollars a week for ten weeks. And that’s definitely doable. More importantly, what I learned from this experience is that stressing about small financial details and trying to 100% optimise my saving and investing is only detrimental to my success by making me actually resent my finances rather than being excited by the opportunities I’m opening up for myself.

The question remains, however, on how I should handle stress buildups like this in the future. I could give myself a quarterly thought-free spending weekend and just make up for the extra spending in the following weeks, but I don’t think relying on money to destress is a good idea. I think in the future I will instead allot myself a walk outside before and after every budget review I make. That will let me compartmentalise my financial planning and thinking to that time of the week, and the thinking time in the woods will let me transition back to a normal, fun-loving mindset rather than my intense financial one.

As far as how to financially handle a little relapse into consumerism, I think the best approach is to use it as a motivator to either earn more or spend less to make up for what you spent. Finding a place to shave off four dollars a week will require a little creativity but it should be manageable. On the other hand, earning an extra four dollars a week wouldn’t be too hard online and it’d give me some great motivation to continue the weekly earner series. I’ll probably try doing both for the sake of a good experiment and report back on which method was more effective.

The most important thing I can tell you to help pick yourself back up, though, is that your finances do not define you. Spending some money is not the end of the world, and you can easily get back on track. Falling off the wagon is not a sin but rather a sign that you might need to reevaluate your life priorities and possibly adjust how much focus you apply to saving for the future over enjoying the present.

Have any of you fallen off the wagon? Do you have any strategies to avoid burnout? Would any of you like to publicly chastise me for being a bad financial role model this week? Let me know in the comments!

For more heart-to-heart financial advice check out @StevesStreams on Twitter!