Dollars & Sense

You may never have thought of yourself as the environmentally-friendly type, but what if going green meant saving cash? Don’t worry, you don’t have to live in a sod house and compost while wearing knee-high rubber boots to impact your budget’s bottom line.

There are many simple ways to make changes, save money and help the environment at the same time say personal financial planning experts at the Oregon Society of CPAs. Small changes can add up to big savings. Here are seven ways to get started now:

Form a carpool

According to the American Automobile Association, the average American commutes to work an average of 32 miles a day. When you factor in gasoline, car maintenance, insurance, tolls and parking, the average car costs 56 cents a mile to operate (the current standard IRS mileage rate is 56 cents per mile). Using 56 cents a mile as a guideline and calculating your drive based on 50 weeks a year, you could save more than $2,000 a year by carpooling with just one other person. Even better than carpooling, consider walking or biking to work, or ask if telecommuting is an option for your job. No matter which option you choose, you’ll help reduce traffic and air pollution.

Eat at home

The typical American family spends $4,000 on meals outside the home. Instead of dropping $7 or $8 a day for lunch out, take your lunch to work or school in reusable containers. Plan meals ahead and cook dinner at home for even bigger savings. And have you ever heard of Meatless Mondays, the international movement to cut out meat one day a week? Meat can be expensive, both financially and environmentally. Cut out meat once a week and save.

Bring your own

You can fill in the blank in here. Bring your own water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Bring your own coffee cup and some coffee houses will give you a discount. Better yet, instead of stopping for designer coffee drinks, brew at home for savings. You benefit and so does the environment: less plastic and paper in the landfill and more money in your wallet.

Have a light bulb moment

Replacing existing incandescent light bulbs with the new compact fluorescent bulbs can save up to 75 percent on your annual lighting costs. Yes, the newer bulbs are more expensive, but you’ll recognize the payback after about two years because of the bulbs’ energy savings and longer life. And the easiest way to save money on lighting? Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

Wash and wear

Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine wash clothes goes to heating the water. Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy and money that your clothes dryer would use. Another savings idea is reducing the temperature on your hot water heater. Most hot water heaters are sent from the manufacturer preprogrammed to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. A setting at 120 degrees Fahrenheit is likely adequate. Lowering your water temperature 10 degrees will reduce your energy costs by 3 to 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Heat up and cool off

But just a little bit. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs. And while you’re thinking about your thermostat, consider installing a programmable one. A programmable thermostat is inexpensive to purchase, easy to install and offers a simple way to regulate the temperature in your home.

Grow your own

Organic vegetables can be expensive at the grocery store, so what if you grew your own? You don’t need acres of land and a degree in agriculture to enjoy homegrown food. A pot of tomatoes on your deck or a small raised bed in the yard can yield a bumper crop that saves you cash during the growing season. Start small and enjoy the savings at harvest time.

Dollars & Sense is a monthly column provided by the Oregon Society of CPAs

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