Go Green Step 1: Reduce


Yesterday I encouraged you to “Go Green” by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Today, I’d like help you make it happen.

First reduce water consumption:
Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers.  Wash only full loads of laundry or dishes. Wash your car so that the extra water runs in to the grass instead of paved surfaces. Follow guidelines for watering your lawn. It doesn’t take a lot of water to keep your grass and plants healthy. If you get really serious there are numerous ways to reuse water from baths and showers or by installing environmentally friendly plumbing fixtures.

Next, reduce electric usage:
Turn off lights, TVs, and other items not in use. Unplug chargers, toasters, and anything else that isn’t essential.  (I saw a woman swear she was saving over $50 each month just by unplugging electronics when not in use…sounds like an exaggeration, but saving money would be a good extra benefit.) Adjust the temperature on your water heater or better yet put it on a timer so you’re not heating water that you don’t need.

Don't forget to adjust your thermostat...maybe even invest in a programmable one.
Don’t forget to adjust your thermostat…maybe even invest in a programmable one.

Reduce fuel  consumption:
Plan your trips more efficiently. While buying a car with better gas mileage is a worthy goal, it doesn’t make sense to buy a new car just for the mileage – especially if you don’t need a new vehicle. I’m no poster child for gas saving vehicles. A Suburban can hardly be used as a good example of energy efficiency, but you have take into consideration your needs. If you need to pull a trailer, or carry more than two passengers, or transport items, or travel, you may need to make some mileage concessions to meet other needs. Carpool. Maybe you want to use a bike for some of your transportation. John and I rode bikes to work every day during the gas shortage in the summer of 1979. Of course it helped that we were working at a camp so dress clothes were not required. I also rode a bike to South Ocala to teach summer school one year. It really does feel great if you can do this, but if not, you may able to ride to the store or to a local restaurant or friend’s house. An interesting statistic: for every 10 miles you bike instead of driving, you reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds. Just think how much I’ve saved by working from home!

Reduce use of paper, plastic, and packaging:                                                                                                                      Eliminating paper plates and other disposable eating utensils may not be practical everyday, but make an effort to use these products rarely instead of daily. Use fewer paper napkins and paper towels. You might even consider using cloth napkins. (You know you can use them more than once.) Fewer paper cups, plastic bottles, and no Styrofoam are goals to set. These are easy ways to make small changes in your habits.

The single best change I’ve made in recent years: reading digital content. We no longer need to recycle the two newspapers that were delivered daily and haven’t sacrificed access anything since we can access the information on the computer, iPad, even the phone if you can tolerate reading on such a small screen. Next Issue eliminates stacks of magazines with expanded digital content, and since receiving a Kindle for Christmas four years ago, I rarely purchase a book in the traditional format. If it’s not available digitally, then it’s time to make a trip to the library.

While the purpose of these tips is to conserve resources, they also result in saving money. Just last week I got our lowest utility bill in the 25+ years we’ve lived in this house. With five people and a pool, we’ve had utility bills as high as $600. Last week, for the first time, I received a bill of less than $200. In fact, only $167, of which $41 are for services and fees-not related to water or electric use. Of course, we’re down to two people and the pool is gone, but it sure feels good to save money, water, and electricity. Going green saves green too.


Senior Discount?

On January 26th, my college roommate, Barbara, posted the following status update on her Facebook page:

Friend my age and I were given senior citizen tickets at movie theater tonight without asking our ages. We were hoping the age for the discount was 55, but it wasn’t 🙁  Some savings aren’t worth it!


I chuckled when I read this and thought, who cares? You got a break on those overpriced movie tickets.

Well, I’ve changed my mind. John and I went to The Rialto Theater in The Villages on Wednesday to see Zero Dark Thirty and we were given the senior discount. I agree with Barbara. Some savings aren’t worth it!

One of Barbara’s friends commented on her status: Use the money you saved and buy some sexy underwear.

That may be good advice!

Check Your Bank Statement

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t always check my bank statement. Sure, I get the email stating my bank statement is available, but I don’t always sign on to my bank account and check the statement. Well, this week I got quite a surprise. When I signed on to my account, I noticed I had been charged a $14 “monthly maintenance fee”. Of course, I was livid. We have a free account – one that does not incur fees. So I looked at the statement from the previous month and there it was again, another $14 monthly maintenance fee. You can only image my anger when I found the same charge for November. A total of $42 in fees slipped past without me noticing.

This is something that would NEVER have happened to my mother. I remember that on the day the bank statement arrived in the mail, she  would immediately get out her checkbook and go through the process of balancing her checkbook – no calculators in those days – just bank statement, checkbook, and pencil. Now I know how to balance a checkbook and I’ve done it, but not with the same enthusiasm as my mom. You would have thought a new Sudoku puzzle had arrived the way she attacked this monthly task. (To be honest, she got this from her dad. I remember seeing him sitting at his desk balancing his checkbook – too busy to acknowledge his beloved grandchildren.)

Balancing a checkbook goes something like this: go through the checks returned in the statement (yes, each check written was returned at the end of the month and then you decided where to store them for the next ten years) check them off in the check register (that’s the notebook that comes with your checks that you’re suppose to use to record each check written), then take the balance on the statement, add the deposits not included, subtract the checks not included, and through the magic of math you were to end up with the figure listed on the bank statement. But, of course, this was easier said than done because you may have written the wrong amount for a check, subtracted wrong, or even added when you should have subtracted. Theoretically, this was about a 30 minute procedure, but it could take much longer. I remember my mom locking herself in her bedroom for hours because she couldn’t get the checkbook to balance; and I’m not talking about big problems, I’m talking about a few pennies. She refused to quit until it balanced to the penny. (I think she really was meant to be an accountant – too bad she didn’t get the chance.) In those days you couldn’t check you account online or even by phone, you had the responsibility of balancing your checkbook, and she took that responsibility seriously.

So I’m sure she would be appalled that I don’t even look at my statement every month. Really all you need to do is look at the deposits, withdrawals, and check for fees. If you find a mistake it’s your responsibility to contact the back promptly so they can research the problem and make a correction if necessary.

Last week I had to admit that I hadn’t carefully looked at my statement for three months when I questioned the fees. All three fees were mistakes by Bank of America. As a customer with accounts totaling more than the minimum requirement, we are not subject to these fees. As a customer with direct deposit, we are not subject to these fees. Luckily, the representative I spoke with was able to credit my account with the $42 that had been taken by mistake. With banks aggressively charging fees, it’s more important than ever to check your statement each month. you should not have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. You should not be subject to fees charged for using your debit card. Look for these charges and if you find them, challenge them, and despite your anger challenge them nicely. The person you speak with may have some discretion in determining whether or not to waive fees so you want this person to sympathize with you and go the extra mile to help.

When I got my fee problem resolved, the woman at Bank of American noticed that my savings account was only earning .05% interest but was eligible for 1.3% (still pretty puny, better) and I’m also eligible for a free safe deposit box ( a $65 value) so some good came from my mistake.

I think since we have access to our accounts online, by phone, and through text messages, we’ve gotten lazy. Yes, that looks right, but is it right? We work hard for our money. We should watch after it! It’s not too much to check you bank statement each month as well as your credit card statements. Are the charges correct? Did you really make that purchase? Is that fee required? Has the interest rate on your credit card changed, and if so, why? It’s worth the time and effort to check. Be more like grandma. Be vigilant in protecting your hard earned money.

Check your bank statement! You’ll feel good knowing you’re keeping the bank out of your pocket.



Just say no – NO to the house with the pool!

One of the worst decisions Dad and I made was to have a pool built in our backyard. I take responsibility for the money pit. Growing up in South Florida, we lived in our pool using it daily from April until November, and my fondest memories of living in Lighthouse Point revolve around our pool.

When my parents bought their first house in Florida a pool was an absolute necessity. They thought a pool home would be like going on vacation year round, and they were right. By 8:00 on summer mornings, I hit the pool. We grilled and ate by the pool; our friends came over to spend the day in our backyard. All our entertainment centered around our pool, patio, and grill. We even ate Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas diners on the patio around the pool; and I bet you can guess where we held the reception for our wedding. So of course, it seemed only natural to add pool.

However, I forgot Ocala is not South Florida. The weather here is not conducive to year round pool use. In fact, we used it only about three months a year, but those were the same months busy with travel, softball tournaments, and boating. Out of a 52-week year, we were lucky if we used the pool eight weeks.

And it always seemed as though a problem occurred just when we had time to use it—the pump quit—the filter needed to be replaced…it rained all week…always something cut in to those precious eight weeks.

So please, don’t buy the house with a pool, or add a pool to your backyard without serious thought. Consider the following:

Your water bill will increase.

Chemicals cost about $50 per month.

Electric usage and costs rise.

Time must be devoted to brushing, dipping, checking and adding chemicals. Not to mention time spent at the pool store purchasing items and asking advice.

Don’t forget about the pump, filter, gaskets, brushes, poles, nets, baskets, and timers, you will need to replace or repair.

When you calculate the time and money spent on upkeep, you’ll need to spend a lot of time in the pool to offset the costs.

Instead of a pool, let me make a few suggestions:

Join the YMCA or some other community pool.

Buy a home in a community with a pool. Sure the HOA fees will be higher, but think of all the time and money you’re saving by letting someone else take care of the pool.

Buy a hot tub. This is my favorite solution since we use ours all the time. If it’s hot out, just add a little cold water or if it’s cold, turn on the heater; you can truly use it year round. The cost of water, electricity, and chemicals is minimal as is the time required for care.

Or just use a hose or sprinkler. In your backyard, the neighbors won’t have to know you’re using this method to cool down. Heck, you can even get a slip ‘n slide or a kiddy pool for a little relief from the heat.

I’m serious about this advice. We contracted with a demolition crew that removed and filled our pool last week. Sod is being delivered Thursday, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to having a larger yard to mow!

Resist the temptation…just say no to the house with the pool!