• dsmulonas

Podcast #33 - How Long-Term Sustainable Products Reduce Your Budget While Helping the Environment

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Main points of discussion:


-Examples of products that you can buy that reduce the plastic footprint

-The length of time before you have to repurchase products again

-Examples of the savings that you can achieve in your budget over time

-The amount of compound interest that you can build with your investments


David

Now it's time to get into this week's personal finance topic and this has to do with buying quality products that save you money but they can also help save the environment. This is a similar topic that we talked about in Podcast #4, Buying Quality Products Saves You More Money Down The Road.


So on that podcast we said the premise was not to buy things that are cheap that can keep breaking or need to be replaced when you can buy something one time and have it last much longer; so that down the road you're actually spending less money.


Cindy

This is a favorite subject of hours because purchasing items with his mindset is often a hidden thing in the budget that people don't necessarily execute and people don't even realize or think that they can actually put more disposable income in their pockets.


David

So for this particular subject we're going to go deeper than we did in the first podcast in that, yes you can save money down the road by buying quality products, but the difference here is that you will also help the environment and specifically we're talking about our main culprit which is plastic.


Cindy

Oh man! I grew up in the world of plastics; my whole family was plastic mold injection manufacturers. I was on a machine making plastic molds. You know me, I love plastic but you also know me and I've seen the light.


David

Well when we met everything Cindy had her hands on was plastic.


Cindy

Remember we would go into a store and that's the first thing I would gravitate towards was anything like plastic plates, plastic cups . . . I mean literally my whole world was plastic.


David

You would get agitated with me because I'd say why are you buying all of those things and also all of those things that you bought were cheap anyway . . . I'm like let's find quality stuff that lasts a long time, but your mindset was probably ingrained because you worked around plastic.


Cindy Now that I see the light let's talk about some of those prior examples that we did refer back to in Podcast #4, and one which I love because I do this and it's my domain, was buying a lawn mower rather than having a service do the work for us.


David

Right the cost came out better. It didn't really help the environment but it put money in our pocket; but the other item is rugs. Cindy loves rugs.


Cindy

I love rugs. I have a thing for rugs.


David

I’m going to say in all of our time together . . . 8-9 years, that she has given away 25 rugs by then giving away.


Cindy

But that's the good thing because they went to homes that needed them; and further to that, it's a good thing to remodel. It's a frugal way to remodel a room; and I only buy them on sale.


David

Why not just buy a quality rug rather than repurchasing it later?


Another example was the garbage can. I kept buying them and they’d break every couple years so then I went out about an eco-friendly one that might last 15 to 20 years and I probably will save that money several times over.


So the difference here with this particular subject is that we’re talking about things to get used based on consumption. A good example would be like Ziploc bags . . . you use them once and you toss them or Starbucks coffee cups, but there are several products that you use over and over in your household that can be reduced and have long-term use for them.


Cindy

This has actually been a lot of fun for us because the challenge has been finding eco-friendly products that are more than single use that create a solution for our house. So we've been buying products that we use consistently. We don't have to replace them for a long time horizon; the best part is that our disposable income is increasing and this is what we're going to run down now by providing some examples of what we've done and what else you might be able to do.


David

We started by going to the Internet and just started looking around for companies that sold products using a basic search of “products that can eliminate plastic” and there's a plethora of them out there. So after doing some research we decided to go knock out some things that we thought were pretty easy to do.


The first thing was light bulbs. So as incandescent bulbs started going by the wayside and the LEDs or CLFs came into play, we started switching those out as the other bulbs burned out much faster; and from looking at some stats on the Internet it says that the average house has 40 light bulbs in it.


Cindy

40?


David

I mean if you think about it look in the room right here . . . . 1, 2, 3, 4 (David counting) and . . . 5! This is just one bedroom. Without a doubt we definitely have more than 40, but anyway that's a lot of light bulbs, right? So at the time we were doing this, each light bulb was like six or seven dollars; but it's like anything else . . . when there's a new product and there's not a lot of supply, the price is high and then eventually it evens itself out when the supply and competition gets bigger and more people buy their products.


So for example, I did some research on light bulbs and it says a


-100 watt incandescent bulb costs $131 for its lifetime

-100 watt bulb for CLF costs about $32 for its lifetime

-100 watt bulb for an LED is about $21 for its lifetime


Now the major difference between the three of these bulbs is how long that they last. Now this is just a basic information off of the Internet, but you can tell from what I just ran down here, it's cheaper to buy an LED; and now LEDs also give you the colors that you want.


Cindy

That's what I was going to say. I'm a warm light person so LEDs were always associated with just bright white light and now they offer them in warm yellow light.


David

So that's what companies try to do; when they come up with a solution they still want to have elements from the old school product so that they can still attract buyers, but I can tell you this, we haven’t replaced a lightbulb in four years and when I bought them on the boxes it said they would last 23 years.


So without a doubt switching out the light bulbs will more than pay for itself. That was really our first good move.


Cindy

So here's another great example and one that I was very guilty of . . . was the Glad or the Ziploc bags and plastic baggies of course. These are pretty much a staple in everyone's household and it's easy to use them and then just throw them away when you're done. That's the whole purpose of them and why they're making them . . . for convenience.


David

Yeah because if you keep using them that means you keep buying them.


Cindy

Exactly! So what we did was perform an analysis dating back eight years.


David

And this is when we had our kids in full swing . . .


Cindy

Right and we were packing school lunches everyday so that was where the convenience of that came in. So first let's talk about how many Ziplock bags Americans buy. The average use is 500 bags per person.


So we looked into this and from an analysis that we did at Costco, you can buy a box of 580 bags for $14 or 2.4 cents per bag. We have three kids and we were packing lunches, so three kids at the three bags per day for five days a week equals 45 bags per week. So that's 580 bags / 40 bags which equals roughly 13 weeks and the school year averages 39 weeks so that's a total cost of $42.


David

So what we did was switch over to silicone bags because they're durable, non-toxic, they can handle high heat and they can be cleaned in a dishwasher; in addition to having a very long shelf life.


Cindy

For example we went on Amazon and ordered a 22-pack of the 4-gallon reusable storage bags, nine sandwich lunch bags, and nine small kids snack bags and all of that cost $21. So we bought two of those which equals $42 which is the same amount for the actual Ziploc bags per year.


David

So the difference here is that we got 18 lunch and 18 snack bags and all we had to do was put them in the dishwasher, but the whole point is that we had enough bags to cover all the kids for the week. So in this regard we're breaking even and to go deeper into the analysis I ran some numbers and we said for our last eight years together with kids eating lunches that we would save a total of $336 and if you break that down further it’s $3.50 a month.


So we’re not breaking down the compound interest just yet, but keep in mind that we're helping out the environment at the same time.


Cindy

And that $3.50 goes back into the pot, but I know what you're going to say out there . . . what about lunches that are in the paper bag that we stick the snacks and the sandwiches in? Well the kids use it once and just throw it away and then you start over the next day. However, we bought them cool lunch boxes like the soft pack type with the ice pack inside to keep stuff cool; and honestly at first they were like “I’m not bringing that to school. People are making fun of me.”


However, at the end of the day they learned about being environmentally conscious. We let them pick out whatever lunchbox they wanted and I kind of felt like we started a movement because their friends would all comment . . . first of all, we packed cool lunches and we'd make sure that they didn’t eat the same thing everyday although, they might argue with that, but all I know is that we saved a lot of money that way.


David

Very cool. So we have a couple more things to go through here for examples. One of my favorites here is the lighter; not that everybody uses a lighter but we like candles and probably light three of them each night. So what we used were those long candle lighters so that we could get into them without burning our fingers and so that we could reach the wick.


So then I started thinking well, why do we keep throwing lighters away into the ground and so we went to the Internet and found an arc lighter and this thing works just like a spark plug does and that's where you can see the electric pulse and then all you have to do is stick it into the candle and you're done. I think that's one of my favorite things that we bought.


Cindy

It's cool; we’ve actually given them out as gifts and people love it because it's a cool novelty and you're lighting your candles with electricity but the end bends so that you can get into the bigger and smaller candles much easier.


David

So I performed an analysis and the arc later we bought was $14 and a long stem lighter was just about the same price at $14. So that would be a four pack that would last just about a year. So the cool thing is that arc lighter has 50,000 lights in it and the Bic lighter from looking at the Internet, gets 1,195 lights a year.


So I'm breaking down the math and the cool thing is that the arc lighter will last 42 years and on the inverse this means we would purchase 168 of Bic-type lighters over time. So again these lighters are not going into the ground and we save money . . . and you know that we always break things down by month overtime, so basically we’d save $1.16 a month.


Cindy

All right . . . but in the end we promise there's a purpose here. At Christmas-time when we were giving these away, people came back and said this thing is a really cool thing.


David

Once people get on board they realize . . . “I have a cool product. I have something that's different from what I am used to but it still satisfies the need.” Then they realize the convenience factor down the road and you simply charge it with a USB cord. So how convenient is that?


Cindy

So the last one we want to talk about is something that's in everyone's house . . . and this is something that I didn't conform to right away either which were razor blades because I was the big “buy the plastic ones and just throw them away.” FYI most razor blades only last for about 5-10 shaves.


So assuming someone shaves five days a week for 48 weeks factoring in holidays and vacations, during this time span one would use 24 blades per year. So the cool thing is that we went to the Dollar Shave Club and for 24 razors it cost us $51. Now you can go to Amazon which is what you did; you bought 24 razors that fit Dollar Shave Club razors and that was for $33. So here we saved $18 and what was that other thing?


David

I went even further and found this product called the Razor Pit. I think I saw it on TV. It’s just a razor blade caddy made out of rubber, however; you rub the razor on the caddy and it cleans the blades and I'm now finding that I might use maybe six blades per year.


Cindy

Oh yeah it was great because you were so excited about that and you came home and you're like I’m getting everyone one of these for Christmas.


If you remember we went to visit Chase about a year later at college and it was so cute because you went in his bathroom and what was sitting on the counter?


David

The Razor Pit!


Cindy

Chase said that he loved it. So he totally was subscribing to it.


David

So to reset here, it's obvious that we're not saving a ton of money in the examples that we’ve provided; I'm going to say maybe $25, but let's face it, humans are expensive so keep in mind that we spend thousands of dollars a year to live as humans.


Do you recall a couple podcasts ago where we said how much does it cost to raise a child through age 17?


Cindy

Roughly $282,0000 from birth to age 17.


David

So if you pay for college, factor that in.


Cindy

Exactly, the main point outside of this environmentally is that we feel like we've really done a good job of changing our lifestyle . . . when you start looking at the myriad of things that you spend money throughout the whole year, this truly adds up over time and that's our whole point . . . finding cool things; finding a solution and saving money. It’s fun!


David

If you just walked into your kitchen pantry and opened it up, it's easy to see how many times a year that you repurchase things over and over again. Bags of chips, spaghetti, fruit . . . but that's just food and then when you start thinking about all of the other things in life to make it happen it could be thousands of dollars and thousands of products and things really begin to add up over time.


Cindy

Okay let’s play a little game here. Let’s think of all the things in our house that we’ve saved money on buying eco-friendly products.


David

Okay so here’s the first one. I was thinking of microwave popcorn. So we decided to make popcorn more naturally using an air popper and now when I eat popcorn at somebody else's house at work or something, I feel like there's some kind of glaze in the roof of my mouth . . . you know how it is when you get away from something and go back to later; many times you're not sure why you even liked it.


Cindy

The other thing that I'm thinking about that you hate is that I use plastic wrap plastic wrap.


David

Right! So we went to beeswax and when we received the product, it came with silicone covers which was great because it can cover all different sizes of bowls and it is easy to clean by throwing them in the dishwasher.


David

Now what do you waste the most that I can't stand?


Cindy

Paper towels


David

Cindy will grab a lot of them like there's like blood to clean up on the floor. I’m like there’s six of these bunched up here!


Cindy

I know that's kind of like toilet paper to me, but we’ll talk about that later. I was so resistant and then you came home one day and you bought bamboo paper towels. They’re cool because you can throw them in the wash and you can use them over and over. Bamboo is the best textile; so I do love my bamboo paper towels.


David

So here's another one. I bought an olive oil dispenser made of glass and steel so that's great for cooking.


Cindy

And I love the stainless steel apple slicer you bought.


David

Also, we now buy natural logs instead of cords of wood which is cheaper and better for the environment


Cindy

How about steel straws? That was a big one. All right, my next favorite discovery was bamboo plates and they are totally 100% compostable so you don't have to feel bad about throwing them away.


David

If you're having a bigger occasion or a lot of people over, these work great in favor of paper plates; you're not going to save money on those but it's a good feeling when you don't want to use real plates when company is coming over.


Another one that we found are compostable Keurig coffee pods. So these are pods that make your coffee but you can use them in the Keurig machine. They're not actually from Keurig; however, you can throw them in the ground because they are biodegradable. Another cool thing is . . . I bought a stainless steel mesh basket and I just throw my loose leaf tea in there so now I don’t have to worry about the pods. I also have no more tea bags to waste.


Cindy

Yeah, I get those coffee pods on Amazon by San Francisco Bay. I love that product.


David

So the last thing on our list are cloth napkins. We use those to wipe our faces and then we put them in the wash and then we're good to go. It's kind of like eating at a decent restaurant and the good part is that you don't waste the paper napkins.


David

Okay so we can go on all day with our examples, but I did a cursory look around the house before I sat down here and it's amazing that I realize how many things that we bought without even knowing it. For example, we have stainless steel wastebaskets and we got the juicer that bought me for Father's Day. That’s 100% recycled aluminum . . . and our scale is made of glass and metal.


So as I take a look around here, I realize that we've done a pretty good job. I think one important factor that we need to talk about is that we said you may save $5 a month here and $10 there, but the whole point of a budget is to find more ways to put more money in your pocket for the same result that you were getting before; and we talked about the thousands of dollars that you may spend in a year with a myriad of products that you may purchase and then when you start putting this ideal into practice things begin to add up.


Cindy

I totally agree because you're not having to buy these items over and over again. You know I was kind of resistant when we met and over time I’ve just loved the opportunity of buying these items and it's exciting. I mean the whole goal for us is being conscious about the way we spend and the environmental impact because that's important to us.


Finding solutions that make our life easier and the whole objective which we talk about every week is how do you save money? I get so excited about this and it's almost kind of like that FIRE movement seeker mentality where you know it's the extreme savings, but I think it's not so much the extreme cutting back because we're not cutting back. Some of the stuff over the short term is a little bit more expensive, but you don't have to buy it over and over again.


David

It’s not really frugality. FIRE movement says frugality. This really is paying more upfront in some cases for these products and in some cases not; however, you're getting longer term use out of them so in the long run yes, you will spend less money. So it's kind of like a fire movement hybrid.


Cindy

Yeah I love it. I mean it truly is something that we’ve adopted, including our kids and it's paying off.


David

But here's the thing . . . we didn't do this to save money; we did this to help the environment and then when you came on board to the ideal that I was pitching, you started to realize how this feels pretty good and then every little thing that you do helps the environment; and when you achieve that - you simply feel good. Plus, you can also save money at the same time and in many cases you’ll get better quality products than you were getting before.


Cindy

And that's the one thing when I educate people on this subject. I have people that stand in front of me and say I can't save money . . . I can't save another dollar and I always say yes you can! I promise that you can and again this is just a lifestyle change.


So we've adopted this concept and I show people that and then they get excited. So I'll just say it's just a little bit of a movement in our world.


David

See if you're on a tight budget you don't have the money per se, start with one product at a time; you don't have to do it all in one fell swoop. Just take your time. Pick it off one-by-one; add to it; add to the pile and you’ll see more disposable income adding up.


So I thought about this and I haven't really tracked it but taking a cursory review of this over the last eight years, I’m going to say that we saved about $1,000 a month; and I know some of you might be saying that is not right. That's a lot of money but it adds up over time and we don't have to keep repurchasing products. That's the whole point. So the little things add up. I can also see you over there on your computer and I assume you're going to talk about compound interest?


Cindy

You do know that I love compound interest. This is a great example. If you're telling us that we saved $1,000 a month and $12,000 a year, over eight years at an average of 7% interest, that calculation is $133,454. That’s fantastic! Who doesn't want to save?


David

I don't know? The whole point is that it's doable but it's discipline. It takes work, but life is work. This is a great way to show everyone that there is money to be made just by not spending.


Okay so that was a lot of information so I think it's time that we do the recap.


#1 -Cindy

I think it goes without saying that buying quality products that help the environment can also save you money; however, you have to put in the time and you need to do your research.


#2 - David

If money is tight or you are working on a small budget just start slowly. Pick off one item at a time because when you save that money then that snowball effect starts and then you can apply that money to the next purchase and eventually things start adding up.


#3 - Cindy

Once you start putting this exercise in motion, the little items begin to add up and you can save yourself hundreds to even hundreds of dollars each month.


#4 - David

By saving this new found money you can pay bills off or invest it and it will also add up over time; and as we know we love the value of our compound growth.


#5 - Cindy

So here’s the hidden part: by not having to buy products over and over again this means that you are creating more leisure time for yourself! Bonus!


#6 - David

When you buy products to help the environment it simply makes you feel better. So when you buy the first product and you see success with it then you are going to buy the second one and then the snowball effect keeps hitting. Then you're going to spread the word because you like more money in your pocket and you're doing your part to help the world.


Episode Link

https://www.somethingonmymind.net/podcast/episode/4d5468c6/33-how-long-term-sustainable-products-can-reduce-your-budget-while-helping-the-environment