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September 6, 2013

Debt clouds Myrtle Beach eco-columnist’s attempts to save green, live green

LIVING GREEN for Sept. 5, 2013

My husband and I talk a lot about money. Actually, we talk more about the lack of money because as with a million other households, we have debt. The average U.S. household credit card debt stands at about $15,000 and in total, American consumers owe more than $11 trillion in debt.

We are consumers and we are all guilty of buying things for all different reasons. We buy to please, we buy to ease and we buy for really no reason at all.

The worst type of spending habits come when we stand at the checkout lines for what seems like hours and succumb to impulse buys. Yum, that chocolate-nut-crunch-gooey bar sounds tasty right now while the checkout lady figures out how to bag groceries, but I better wash it down with a bottle of Diet Coke. Perfect, I just spent another $3.12 for satisfying my temporary boredom in line and I wasn’t really all that hungry. All those little purchases add up.

Or another bad spending habit is going shopping when you are hungry and you buy food you want to eat in the next 10 minutes. Or when you want to cheer yourself up from a bad day. Sure, that new dress or pair of shoes will make you feel happy for something like 15 minutes, but what about the next time you are sad? Will you go to your closet and hug your new high heels hoping for those same happy thoughts again? Uh, no.

On one side, high spending leads to more jobs and higher incomes, but if wages and employment are slow, then families are borrowing to make ends meet. Saving green has become quite a challenge.

So to combat our debt, my husband and I have become really active in selling things online on eBay and on Facebook. We’ve become really skilled in selling and shipping, especially in knowing our audience. eBay is a good environment for selling rare, vintage and collectible items. For example, I’ve been selling my childhood Strawberry Shortcake dolls, which have been going for $8-$12 each and these are not in mint condition. But that’s more than what I would get at a yard sale.

Then, in our area, there are Facebook groups you can join to sell items, which is great for furniture, kids stuff and even clothing. I have had good experiences with the Facebook group, but sometimes it can get a little dramatic between people commenting and criticizing. You would be surprised.

Personally, I’ve never had any luck with Craigslist, but it also is an option.

Finally, there is a traditional yard sale that helps just to quickly purge a lot of junk at once and still make a little cash.

It seems that living green should also be about saving green, which doesn’t seem to happen when you are in debt. Debt is like a dark cloud hanging over your head preventing you from enjoying spending freedom. It is a constant struggle for all of us. No matter how many times you bring your lunch to work to save something, you still manage to spend money buying a soda or a coffee during the day. However, you can still work to live green and save green, by staying aware of your spending habits, especially.

Here are some ways to save money on your bills and expenses at work and at home:

•  Bring your lunch AND tasty snacks to work. Try the coffee in the office instead of buying it on the way to work every day.

•  At home, set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on your electric bill.

Switch your bulbs to CFLs and turn off lights you are not using.

•  Unplug appliances when not using them.

•  Wash clothes in cold water - 85 percent of the energy used goes to heat the water.

•  Make your own cleaning products - it’s amazing what vinegar can be used for. If you don’t know, try searching for ideas on Pinterest.

•  Plant drought-tolerant native plants that need minimal watering, such as lantanas or daylilies.

•  Skip bottled water and get a Brita filter, then use a refillable bottle throughout the day to avoid buying bottled water.

•  Try selling items on eBay and maybe, Facebook. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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