Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Make it do and do without

Lately, it seems as if all we do is spend more money than we make...ok, it doesn't just seem to happen, it is happening.  But how?  We are conscious of our small paychecks, our big bills, and are really trying to cut back on things like eating out at restaurants, or buying food in general (just kidding, but only kind-of.)  It's not like we are taking extravagant vacations every month, buying rhinestone-studded blankets for our sheep, or even buying new clothes for ourselves.  So what's happening?  Is it the little things? Everyday expenses and unexpected expenditures (like last weekend when I had to buy a new phone?)

The thing is, I don't feel like I am a person that has to have the latest thing.  I feel like in the last few years I've really begun to re-evaluate what matters most to me, and most of the time it is not the superficial. I don't care about having a designer bag/shoes/wardrobe, I don't need professional manicures, and I don't want gadgets.  I don't want stuff for the sake of having stuff.  And yet, it seems like it is everywhere, taking over my house.

Maybe I am having a case of cabin fever, but I feel like I am letting too much stuff into my house and that it may have a direct correlation to spending too much money.  When I was in high school I wanted to grow up to be an environmentalist.  I didn't exactly know what that meant (still don't) but I only applied to colleges that had environmental programs.  I graduated with a liberal arts double major in studio art and environmental studies and here I am, 3 years later working as a rural librarian and raising sheep.  I think I am the only vegetarian in my entire town.  And I also think I have gotten lazy about my environmentalist ways.

I put a kitchen compost pail on my wedding registry.  I have used it about 3 times.  I have given up buying paper towels, but I used plastic silverware at my Christmas party.  I use cloth bags when I go grocery shopping.  Unless I forget them at home.  Sometimes Joey puts an orange juice container in the garbage and I am too lazy to put it in the recycling bin.

Living simply, composting all kitchen scraps, reinventing leftovers into delicious reincarnations, and recycling every last bit of waste is easy...when you live in a remote mountain village far from landfills, where everyone works together and you feel like a jerk if you don't put your used Q-tips in the proper waste bin (like I did for a few months in college.)  I need the peer-pressure, the guilt that comes when you do your internship at an environmental education non-profit and you forget to feed your lunch scraps to the worms in the compost bins.  I need to be less lazy when I get home from work...I'm blaming cabin fever again on this one.

So usually, things that are good for the environment are usually good for your wallet too.  Unless you go out and buy a brand-new Prius.  I need to wrap my suburban-raised head around the fact that I don't need to buy more things to be more green.  I have been considering buying a bunch of plastic storage bins to organize all my excess stuff...but why don't I just get rid of my excess stuff?

So while I am going to try to up my "being green" game, I am also going to try and not buy anything that isn't completely essential (let's not get into the argument about whether Oreos are essential.)  The motto I have been trying to repeat to myself lately is:
Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do, 
or do without

In the last couple days I've even read articles on people who actually eat things out of garbage cans behind grocery stores and pick all their furniture out of dumpsters.  While I've done my share of dumpster diving, I don't think I will be eating slightly expired grocery store garbage anytime soon (I am a weirdo about expiration dates.)  I thought that was only something out of Portlandia. (watch it, it's funny.)

I've also read about families that are trying to have zero-waste homes.  One family's motto is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.  (check them out)  I think the ideas of refuse and reduce are perfect for our finances right now.

So, that was my ramble on finances, environmentalism, sketch comedy, and necessity of Oreos.  Sorry, had to get my feelings off my chest.  Anyone else's budget feeling a little stretched right now?  Any fellow dumpster-divers out there?  Any tree-huggers who can lay some peer-pressure on me?

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