Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Commuting Strategy

I've started to take the bus to work in San Francisco. This approach has several advantages:

1) No Driving - Since the bus stops a block away from our house, I no longer have to drive to the train station. In addition to wear-and-tear on the car, I also save on parking fees and gasoline.

2) Drop Off Point - The bus terminal is also one block from my office. As a result, my overall commuting time is reduced slightly.

3) Comfort - I can always get a seat on the bus. This is not usually the case on the train.

This will bring down my monthly driving to around 50 miles a month, down from about 100. No Toyota Prius here, just good old-fashioned frugality.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Monthly Recycling Report

This month I switched over to recycling only aluminum cans because my local recycling center always runs out of room in their plastics container when I show up on the weekends. While the switch means I will get less money per month, it also saves me a lot of time and effort in my recycling duties each month. That's because plastic bottles take up a lot more space than aluminum cans, and they take more time to crush. I even created a sword-like stick to puncture plastic bottles in order to make my life easier.

Still, I would spend 75% of my time on sorting and crushing plastic bottles, but getting less than 30% of my recycling money from plastics. I calculate that focusing on aluminum will save me some 10 hours per month, yet I will still net around $80 per month based on about 3 -4 hours of can collecting and crushing per month. Not a bad tradeoff!

This month, I recycled about 1500 cans and a few hundred plastic bottles that netted me $80 at the recycling center.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Light Bulbs: Compact Fluorescent vs. Incandescent

I just bought some incandescent light bulbs at Wal-Mart this weekend. Four bulbs (40, 60 and 100 watt) cost $1.09. They are made in the USA. The CF bulbs for sale next to them cost $4.69 each and they are made in China. Did I mention that each CF bulb contains 4-5 milligrams of mercury?

My electric bill averages only $15 per month, of which 2/3 powers the fridge and the water pump that keeps my basement dry. So our monthly bill for lighting is only around $5 per month. Based on these figures, it makes little sense for me to buy these newfangled light bulbs that cost nearly 20 times what they are replacing.

On the other hand, if you are an energy hog, and like to keep the lights burning in many rooms throughout your home, then these light bulbs might be right for you. You'll feel better about yourself as you waste energy, and drive up the nation's trade deficit in the process.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bag Lady in Chinatown

We went food shopping yesterday in Chinatown with the kids and Jenny's mom. As usual, I carried a supply of bags with me as we went from store-to-store. We ended up reusing about 5 or 6 bags as a result. Afterwards, Jenny's mom said (as translated by Jenny) several storekeepers commented that it was nice to see someone recycling bags.

I once counted the number of times I can recycle a bag, and I came up with about 10 times for plastic bags and 15 times for paper bags. This means over a 90% reduction in the number of bags that my family uses.

One of the good things about shopping at Safeway and Nob Hill Foods is that I get 5 cents for every bag that I recycle. Over the period of a year, I end up saving about $25 as a result of reusing my shopping bags.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This Blog's Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to document my efforts to save money through thriftiness, bargain-hunting and a desire to simplify my lifestyle. This blog is intended as a counter to the so-called "No Impact Man", a self-described "tree-hugging" liberal who is pursuing a year-long stunt to minimize his environmental impact in order to sell a book.

I am not trying to sell a book. I am trying to save money for my family so that we can occasionally go on vacation and have more money around when we really need it. Whenever possible, I try to advise others on saving money through easily-applied, common-sense principles.