Welcome! We meet the first Thursday of each month at 11:30 a.m. at 14 Carrot Whole Foods, 5300 Sunset Boulevard, Lexington, South Carolina, 29072. Please join us for a meeting, learn more about our playgroup and explore other ways to get involved. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail us.

Friday, February 4, 2011

MEETING : Green Budgeting

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This meeting was all about how to live holistically... on a budget! One of our co-leaders was unable to attend, but shared this information through the other leaders at the meeting.
My name is Toni. I’m a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom to 20-month-old Jackson. I am also one of your co-leaders, as well as our playgroup coordinator. I’m sorry I was unable to join you all in person this morning. I did however, have quite a bit of information I wanted to share, so I’m sending it with our other co-leaders. If you have any questions about anything I’ve shared, please feel free to message me through the Yahoo group or the chapter e-mail address.

The first thing I want to be clear about is where I’m coming from. You may be thinking I have no idea what your budget is like. No, I don’t. But I do know what my budget is like. My husband, son and I have a monthly budget of about $1,000, which pays all of our living expenses, bills, groceries and entertainment. There is no money in savings, and I don’t have health insurance. It scares me to death most days, but I always have faith the universe will provide. Yes, our lives would be much better if I simply went back to work. However, as a family, we decided on our family mission and priorities. Among them is the decision to keep our son at home with us and to try to live holistically. That means tough decisions have to be made – all the time.

I’m telling you this because when people learn I’m “crunchy,” one of the first questions I often get involves the cost. “Isn’t it expensive?” Yes and no. In my experience, living holistically can often be a bit more expensive, but in the long run it actually saves money. And, more importantly, it also saves our environment for our children. There are so many examples of this.

One of the best examples I can offer are cloth diapers versus disposable diapers. I’ve seen several different numbers, but, on average, the number is somewhere around $2,000 for disposables for the duration of your child’s time in diapers. On the other hand, you can spend around $200 to $300 setting up a cloth diapering system. $1,700 is a HUGE savings, and it also points out a huge problem.

Our culture is disposable. For the sake of convenience, we are creating insane amounts of garbage. Sadly, so much of what we deem disposable could be reusable if different materials were used – ditching plastic straws for glass ones, buying a reusable air filter for your home, shopping bags, cloth napkins, cloth kitchen towels, cloth wipes, glass containers and so much more. Unfortunately, if you don’t have much money, accumulating these things takes time.

When I find something I’d like to replace, I simply start setting aside a little bit of money for it each month. For example, right now I’m taking $5/month from our monthly grocery budget to save for a $50 reusable air filter. Yes, it would be nice to just go ahead and buy it, but buying it now means sacrificing $50 from our budget instead of $5.

One of the largest chunks of our budget is for food. Processed foods are not an option in our home, and I am terrified of GMOs. Buying organic foods, however, is more expensive than your standard grocery store fare. There are ways to help. Joining a CSA saves us a great deal of money on vegetables each year. Buying meat in bulk also helps. I’ve learned to buy fruits and vegetables in season and in bulk for canning, preserving and freezing. I grow vegetables in a spot in our yard and herbs in pots on my porch. I’m going to start raising chickens this spring. I shop sales. And, when I can find good ones, I clip coupons. I never fail to take advantage of whatever savings card a store may offer. For example, 14 Carrot has the Carrot Club, which, when you spend $200, you get a savings certificate for $10.

Of course there are a million other ways to save money and live holistically. Some cost more money up front such as swapping all of your standard light bulbs for CFLs to save money on your electric bill or installing low-flow toilets to save money on your water bill. Others cost less from the beginning such as using baking soda and vinegar instead of expensive green cleaners or going no-poo instead of buying so-called natural shampoos.

If living holistically is a priority for your family, you should also consider looking at exactly where your money is going and how it aligns with your family’s mission. Most people are horrified when they learn we don’t have cable or satellite, but watching television doesn’t align with my family’s mission to fully live our lives so why would we spend $100 each month on that when we could spend it on supplies for our garden, a food dehydrator or something else supportive of our decisions? We keep ourselves on track by saving all of our receipts each month, and then having a family meeting about how we did and what our plans are for the month ahead. If I know I want to join our CSA for the spring, summer and fall, that means I have to be sure I am setting money aside for it. If I spent $600 in one month on food, we’d only have about $400 left for everything else for the entire month.

As my final point, I want to encourage you to think outside the box. You’ve all heard of the three R’s, right? Reduce, reuse, recycle? This is one of the biggest keys to saving money and living holistically.

Reduce what you buy. Ask yourself if it’s something you really need. Limit how many presents you buy for holidays and birthdays. As an example, we have a rule for my son. Whatever the occasion, we give him something to read, something he needs, something to play with and, later, we will add on something he wants. Another case? I don’t use very many cosmetics, limiting myself to a natural stain I use for cheeks and lips and mascara. I use a blend of castor and olive oils to clean my face, a homemade bar soap for bathing and baking soda and apple cider vinegar to clean my hair.

Also reuse. Before you toss something into the recycling bin or garbage, ask yourself if it’s something you can reuse – even in a different way. Last year I was going to throw away an old metal shelf from our bathroom. I put it on the porch, and, with a little thought and help from my husband, I was able to turn it into a really cute, functional shelf for my herbs. I also never, ever toss glass jars. I use them to store grains and beans in the kitchen, sort random things in the bathroom and more. Hate the ugly lids? Buy some mason jar lids or give them a coat of paint. Before giving away old clothes, think about whether you could repurpose the fabric into some napkins. You will be surprised how many things you can reuse if you just stop to think.

And, finally, recycle. I don’t mean just glass, plastic, paper. Can you give the item to someone? For example, art teachers are often in need of glass and plastic containers. Is there another mom that could still get use out of your cloth diapers? Giving is an important part of living holistically, and it helps someone save on their budget, too.

I feel like I’ve gone on too long, but I really want you to be empowered to save money and live the most holistic life you can. You really can do it. Remember that even small steps and small changes add up to a big difference for your family and the environment.

Here are some of the Web sites I use to help me save money:
  • SavingNaturally.com offers coupons, deals on bulk purchases and more.
  • OrganicDeals.com is similar to SavingNaturally.com, but sometimes has offers the other misses.
  • MamboSprouts.com is a great place to search for coupons for organic products.
  • NaturalFoodList.com is another site similar to MamboSprouts.com offering a range of deals and offers.
  • SteadyHomeDeals.com is temporarily down, but has offered some great deals. The mom who runs it has several other sites, and hopes to have it back up sometime soon.
  • Amazon.com has an Amazon Mom’s program that will give you a number of months of free two-day shipping. You can also take advantage of their “subscribe and save” program to save even more money on a number of items. And their prices (especially with the free shipping) are often cheaper than what I can find in the stores.
  • LearnVest.com is a great site for teaching you about money, budgeting and more.
  • Also, don’t forget to Google the company of a particular brand you love. Sometimes there are special offers, rebates, coupons and discounts to be found on the brand’s site or through their e-newsletter.
Suggestions from other members included:
  • Borrow from the library
  • Borrow from friends
  • Shop consignment stores such as Once Upon a Child on Harbison, Good As New on Highway 378, Madison's, Belles and Beaus and Tot Trade
  • Buy food at local farmer's markets
  • Paperbackswap.com for book swapping, you just pay for mail
  • Craigslist.com
  • Freecycle.com
  • eBay.com
  • Etsy.com
  • Diaperswappers.com
  • K.D.'s Treehouse sales

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