Une femme isn't one for New Year's Resolutions, formal or informal. My thinking is, if you want to make a change or set out to achieve a goal, there's no need to wait until a particular date on the calendar to Just Do It. Still, this time of year seems ripe for reflection and renewal, and some thoughts I've been noodling around recently were brought into clearer focus when reading what some other bloggers had to say about their own directions in 2011.
Frugal Scholar asked recently, Will Frugality Be on the Wane in the New Year? She pondered whether the last two years of economic meltdown had permanently influenced people's financial and spending habits, or if the change was a temporary reaction to uncertainty. While le monsieur and I have been fortunate during this economic malaise in that we've both retained our jobs, current conditions have certainly been a wake up call for us. I've always made the maximum allowed contribution to my 401K, but last year I also doubled my monthly contributions to our "liquid" savings account and will continue at that higher level.
Her question also got me thinking about other ways I've adjusted my spending and consumption in recent months. While I will never be a contender in any Tightwad Olympics, I have become more conscious about reducing waste and wasteful spending. I was raised hearing the saying, "waste not, want not" rather frequently, at least from my Dad and Grandmother (Mom was another story) and the lesson did take hold to a certain degree.
I've come to believe that living wastefully is toxic, not just for our finances and environment, but for our spirits as well. Living wastefully often leads to not valuing or appreciating what we have, and getting caught up in that never ending spiral of Want. Everyone has their own criteria of what constitutes "wasteful." For some people, that might mean having or buying beyond only what we absolutely need. I'm not that extreme. I'll define it this way: waste is that which doesn't add to the quality of one's life.
It doesn't have to be painful or require Herculean effort to cut back on waste. And I believe these small efforts will help get one into the mindset of avoiding waste in bigger areas. Here are a few of the small ways I've been trying to reduce waste in my life.
- Brewing. I still buy the good coffee (Peet's) but as I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, in the mornings I now only brew a cup at a time, using a single-cup cone filter. I'd found that when I made even a small pot in the morning, I was often throwing half of it out. (I still have my Nespresso machine for espressos/cappuchinos, and save oodles by making at home rather than visiting the baristas at Peet's or Starbucks.)
- Decluttering. Not only might I find something I forgot I had and can actually use, but I think the presence of clutter desensitizes us to the kind of "plaque build up" of how much stuff we actually have and how little of it we actually use or need. There's nothing like a cleared out space to help realign our senses to what is enough, and to better analyze what we use and value.
- Consolidate. Do you have four half-used bottles of hand cream scattered around the house? Put them together into one or two, and keep in the same place all the time. It's easier to keep track of how much of something we have and use when I always know where to find it. Use up the one that's open completely before opening or buying another. If you get samples or "gift with purchase" containers of skin care products, put aside only as much as you need for your next trip, and use the rest. I recently realized I have enough Clarins travel-sized products to last a month or two, meaning I can hold off replenishing my usual products by that long.
- Core wardrobe. Doing the Express Lane Challenge back in Oct/Nov really helped me realize the value of a core wardrobe, and that I don't need to have as many pieces in rotation as I'd previously imagined. It's also helped me to stop buying the same type of pieces over and over.
- Discriminate. If you only like the eau de parfum version of your favorite fragrance, don't buy the eau de toilette version just to save a few bucks. You won't enjoy it as much, and it will probably sit on the shelf, unused.
- Wine vaccuum stoppers. These extend the drinking life of an opened bottle of wine.
How do you define "waste?" Are there ways in which you've reduced waste in your life, or do you have ideas you plan to try? Any challenges you've encountered in doing so?
In Part 2, some style ruminations for 2011.