Our town limits the amount of garbage that we can put out to the curb each week. The other morning, Mr. Smith told me about an interesting thing that happened while he was putting out the garbage. He brought our one can to the curb (for a family of five), when he noticed the neighbor from across the street, placing a bag of garbage in a trash can. The noteworthy thing was that he was putting it a garbage can for someone else. They only have a family of four, yet they had more than the permitted four cans of garbage. Mr. Smith jokingly threatened to tell on him. To which our neighbor responded with a finger held up to his lips, “shhhhhh.” My husband couldn’t believe that they had that much garbage. Granted, we don’t know if there was some out of the ordinary garbage-creating activities going on in their house. However, I always see so much out at the curb, up and down the street, on garbage day. How do we keep our trash minimal, and why does it matter?
We usually have one bag from the kitchen, one from the bathroom, a couple bags with kitty litter, and the diaper-genie bag every few weeks (we only use it for the smelly diapers). Of course, we have some extra garbage once in a while. But for the most part all of this fits in one big garbage can. We keep our trash minimal in a couple of different ways. First of all, we recycle a lot. Mr. Smith is always reminding me to put things in recycling instead of the garbage. We recycle all sorts of packaging, from milk containers, to cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Secondly, we have a compost pile in the backyard. We keep a Tupperware container in the kitchen sink for collecting egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, and cores or rinds from fruit and vegetables. This all gets added to a big pile of decomposing goodness that will provide nourishment for our garden. Our final technique for cutting down on our trash is . . . not buying things.
Jerry Seinfeld recently did a stand-up bit about garbage that is pretty accurate. Skip ahead to 2:19, where he says, “Your home is a garbage-processing center, where you buy new things, bring them into your house, and slowly crapify them over time. This is your life.”
The trash we put out to the curb made its way into our house at some point. Where did it come from? All of our material possessions were purchased at some point (by us or someone else), either new or used, with cash or charged on a credit card. When buying new things, you’re often replacing the older version of it, which may still work just fine. Perhaps you made an impulse purchase of something you might not ever actually use. The point is:
Filling up multiple garbage cans on a regular basis means you’re spending too much money on bringing home new material goods.
You’re definitely not being resourceful, working with what you already have or finding a way to do without new expenditures. Ultimately, you’re spending money on stuff instead of investing it or paying off debt. Our minimal trash output shows our frugality. It demonstrates that we’re making smart financial choices, instead of just spending money on whatever beckons to us from advertising and/or promises to make our lives just a little more convenient. Personal finance is all about choice. You can buy the miscellaneous item from the store that will most likely find its way to the curb at some point, requiring that you put in some additional work to earn that money back. Or, you can save that capital and use it towards buying freedom.
Also, while I may not be a hardcore tree hugger, I do believe that we should all be conscious of our impact on this earth. By cutting back on consumption, you’re helping both your wallet and the planet. It’s easy to just disregard your trash the moment it’s hauled away by a garbage truck, but it doesn’t just magically disappear. All of your trash fills up dumps which continue to expand their reach. I know that everyone is aware of this, but it’s worth mentioning.
Jerry makes a good point. Most of what we purchase ends up at the curb at some point, or sold for a fraction of its cost on eBay or garage sales. Before making any purchase, ask yourself:
“How long before this ends up in the trash?”
If you keep this in mind, it should help you spend less money on stuff, which will always improve your finances. The old adage of “waste not, want not” comes to mind, or the World War II motto of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Whatever phrase works as your mantra, just do yourself a favor and stop throwing away money!
Sorry to make you wait so long for a new post. My little guy came down with a bad flu, which he shared with me, then Tornado got sick, and now Mr. Smith is starting to have symptoms 🙁 My family and health have to come first and unlike all of the really disciplined bloggers out there, I don’t have a stockpile of posts ready to go. But now I’ve returned to the land of the living . . . so did I miss anything while I was out of commission?