Monday, June 27, 2011

Throwing Money in the Trash (or not)

Why do we throw away money on things that don't matter to us?  Our garbage cans reveal the ways we waste money, literally.

There are a lot of traditional frugal activities that lead naturally to spending less money at the same time that we generate less trash.  The very act of buying used items instead of new store-bought items, for example, means that we don't buy all the packaging that comes with that toaster oven or racing-car-toy.  Cooking a couple of pizzas from scratch creates a lot less waste than having a couple of pizzas delivered in those huge cardboard boxes.  Patching a pair of pants means keeping one pair of pants out of the trash, and it also means not wasting money on a new pair of pants.  Being careful about what we put in our garbage leads to two positive changes:  more money and less trash.

The packaging around what we buy is one of the biggest sources of residential garbage in the United States.  It is often unintended waste, meaning that we didn't really want the plastic packaging or the cardboard box -- we really wanted the razor or the breakfast cereal that came inside it.

But another big part of the problem with our current society is that we buy lots of things that are intended to be thrown away quickly.  Plastic bags, coffee filters, paper towels, paper plates, plastic spoons, newspapers, magazines, and disposable anything . . . we throw away our disposable income on disposable items.

If your trash cans are full, that might explain why your wallet is empty.

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