Friday, March 28, 2008

Saving Money With Being Eco-Friendly

I've always been an eco-friendly gal. In fact, I have quite a few friends who refer to me as the "hippy". It's not just the interest I've had in environmentalism since I was a child (seriously, my mother would buy me books on the subject), but my liberal stance on many issues.

I've realized lately though that I'm definetly not doing my share in the world. I use paper towels; I print up plenty of stuff for school that I could attempt not to; I don't buy all organic products (although in the shift).

How does this effect me financially? I've been wanting to subscribe to two different magazines for some time now. I LOVE getting magazine subscriptions in the mail. I nearly sent off for a subscription today when I took another moment to think about it. How much paper would that be using up just to sate my lust for reading? How many books do I already own (over 300)? How many pieces of paper, trees, and pollution went into that? In reality, I could read wine reviews online easily. I could find political articles like they have in Vanity Fair easily online.

In reality, I don't need magazine subscriptions when I can get that information online. In the process, I save myself money as well as helping the environment.

Beyond that, there are so many ways that eco-friendly products will save you money in the long run. A pack of dishtowels will cost more initially, but over time will last a lot longer than the equivalent rolls of paper towels in terms of price. My previous post on starting an herb garden will require an initial output of money, but once again will save me uber-amounts of money in the long run. B and I use garlic, jalapenos, green onions, cilantro and tomatoes on a weekly basis. I use rosemary and thyme a couple times a week. We'll be saving money, but we'll know for a fact that we are gardening our products without pesticides. Furthermore, the products won't be shipped.

I currently re-use the stockpile of Trader Joe paper bags I have. Once those give out, I'm going to get a cloth bag to carry my groceries in. B and I will often walk to little eateries around here instead of driving. There's lots of little changes that can add up in the long run.

How do you save money while being eco-friendly?

Saving Money With An Indoor Herb Garden (Part I)

For my boyfriend’s birthday next month I’m planting an herb garden. We’ve been discussing the idea for a good three months now. B and I only go out to eat maybe once a month. The rest of the time is spent at home nibbling and cooking up new items. Hence, an herb garden is a good investment for us. I’m also considering a tomato plant and some sort of chili pepper for the patio. Green onions are also on the list. We tend to use these three items more than anything else seeing as Mexican food is are typical fare, followed by Italian.

The herb portion of the garden is going to be indoors. He has a set of windows in the kitchen that extend out of the house. There has to be a term for them that I’m not aware of. Anyhow, they are currently barren and provide ample space for the project.

After scouting quite a few sites, I ended up finding Backyard Gardener. It is quite comprehensive and sorted alphabetically. This enables me to look up the specific herbs B and I have wanted to plant. It also details how to plant these items in pots. Garden Guides has an article specifically on growing herb gardens indoors.

Basil, Thyme, Green Onion (Chives), Cilantro (Coriander), Rosemary and Garlic are on my list. From what I’ve read, they will all grow well indoors.

As for what chili pepper to grow, I decided on jalapeno, as that is B’s favorite. We make pico de gallo once a week which utilizes jalapeno, tomato, cilantro and green onion. Just think how much money that will save us! Plus, B always feels like he has to make a huge amount of pico de gallo since he wants to use up everything he bought. Now we can make smaller amounts. Oh, and from what I read on Pepper Joe’s, jalapenos grow well indoors and are a smaller variety than other pepper plants.

With tomatoes, it seems I need to start them off first indoors and then "harden" them before transplanting outside. I also have the option of purchasing ones that are ready to be transplanted already.

The next step is too look into where I will purchase the seeds, soil, pots and fish emulsion oil (organic food for plants). It seems I will also need a spray bottle for the fish emulsion oil. Look forward to a Part Two of this endeavor.!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Budget: Version 2.0

Between the fact that my tips have declined, my paychecks have increased (I've been trying to pick up extra shifts) and I blew the first budget to hell, it's time for a new one!

Foremost, I want to state that considering I don't have a fixed income, it's somewhat difficult to come up with a budget. Originally for my income, I figured that I make on average a hundred dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of roughly 150. That gave me the grand total of 1900 dollars a month (16 working days x 100 dollars + 150 dollar checks x 2 pay periods). Unfortunately, tips have declined with the economy going down. So, I need to reconsider my income. Now, I'm figuring that I make on average 85 dollars a shift plus two biweekly checks of 200. That gives me a grand total of 1760(16 working days x 85 dollars + 200 dollar checks x 2 pay periods).

Fixed Expenses:
Rent: 600
Car Payment: 272
Auto Insurance: 181
Gym: 45
Cell Phone: 86

Flexible Expenses:
Gas: 100
Credit Card: 200
Savings: 150
Food/Entertainment/Everything: 126

Oh, dear, god. That's not a lot to get by on in terms of going out and food. I totally admit that I'm the standard 22 year old who likes going out. A LOT. Curses. Drats.

Where in the world is Vixen On A Budget?

Funny you should ask. Finals went well. I escaped unscathed! I ended up with my grades being three A's and one B. I'm really psyched about the grades because I expected to be more like: A, A-, B+, C+. Yay!

Finals lead into Spring Break. I worked six days straight right after my last final. Then an overnight trip to the desert to visit my grandparents. More work followed by an impromptu trip to LAS VEGAS! I've never been as an adult and it was quite a bit of fun. Everything was far more affordable than I imagined.

I got back from Vegas at like 12pm yesterday and headed right to school for my first class of the quarter. Heh. Fall quarter I took twelve units. Last quarter I took fourteen. This quarter I am taking TWENTY.

It's going to be quite the quarter.

Financially, everything is stable but I blew the budget to high hell. I made up a new budget while in a four-hour long class yesterday (multi-tasking!). My tips have dropped and I want that reflected in my budget. My income isn't quite as much as it was a few months ago. I'll put up the new budget today.

Now... I have two weeks worth of blog reading to get done. May the force be with me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Finals this week.

I have two finals tomorrow and another on Thursday. I'll resurface later this week from the piles of studying I need to do. I might have to pull an all-nighter! Ugh.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sudden Technorati Boost?

For the longest time my authority level on Technorati has been a meager 1. I've seen other newer blogs have higher authority scores. Furthermore, it has never accounted for any new posts. The little display icon has always been from the very first day I registered it.

No more!

I happened to glance at it today and found that it had suddenly spiked to 25! Okay, I know, nothing fantastically high, but still! It's finally receiving the pings for my newer posts. I don't know what happened to suddenly cause the site to start receiving my updates but I'm thrilled.

Still sticking to your resolutions?

We all made resolutions for the new year, but are you still sticking to them? I want to search for some sort of public poll done that surveys people as to how long they keep their resolutions for. Like last month, let's take a look at mine:

Create, tweak and come up with a functioning budget: I came up with a budget for last month. I still haven't even reviewed it and it is four days into this month. While I'm happy I took a mid-month look at it, I'm disappointed that I haven't taken the time to review it or develop another one for this month. I really need to prioritize my time and devote more to personal finance. I'm making a promise to myself to make a Version 2.0 in the next 24 hours. Grade: C-

Keep all receipts: I've actually started getting pretty good at this one. I've been religiously tucking receipts away and using my debt card for everything. If I spend cash, I don't remember at all. Grade: A

Have two thousand invested in a high-interest savings account: This is by far the goal I kicked ass at last month! I put half my tax refund right into savings and bumped it up to almost a thousand. Now I just need to open an ING or Emigrant account and keep saving. Grade: A+

Credit Cards paid off: I'm steadily working away at this one. I moved from one-third paid off to over 42% this month. 300 more dollars will go to it this month. Grade: A

Invest 500 into wardrobe: I lumped clothes and auto fund into one for my budget. I used up the entirety of that last month. So far, fifty spent on clothes this year. Grade: D

Develop dietary and exercise plan that fits my schedule: I started the month out strong, but about a week and a half ago, everything fell by the wayside. I've been so ridiculously busy with classes and work. I really need to prioritize this better. I've been good about making healthier choices, but haven't gone to the gym in a week and a half. Grrr! Grade: C

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oy! The Carnival of Personal Finance is huge this week!

Wow! I can't believe how many submissions there were. Lots of great articles. I submitted Learning To Be Content On Birthdays in light of the one I just celebrated. By the way, the birthday party Saturday night was absolutely insane and wonderful. I had sssuuuccchhh a good time! I still feel a little hung over. Heh.

Amanda over at Value For Your Life wrote a great article on Risk-Taking For Regular People that argues the merits of making educated risks.

I'm quite glad I came across Sudden Windfalls over at Small Cents because it is such a neat little blog! I smell something new I'll be reading often.

One of the most ethical posts featured in this Carnival is over at Money and Values: Is Your Money Funding Genocide? While I avoid certain corporations that are unethical in their practices, this post addresses investing in Mutual Funds that may be supporting the Sudanese government with ethnic cleansing of non-Arab Darfurians.

I absolutely love Debt-Free Revolution's post on using a budget to get out of consumer debt. This quote particularly stood out, "Yes, my first three budgets were actually the nightmares the dreaded “B” word tends to conjure up." I just had my first month of budgeting, and erm, I need to tweak it. Desperately! This post was perfectly timed for me considering I was about to throw the concept out the window.