Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Being Green-ish, Part 2

And then there are the bags . . .

"Paper or plastic?" You've heard this question before. I know it! This question had been asked of me every time I went to the grocery store. And what do you do with that collection of bags you get every week? Mine magically ended up in a very neat and orderly stack (once they'd been shoved in the corner of my closet).

But not anymore! In 2007, San Francisco banned grocery stores and large pharmacies from using plastic bags. I've never been asked if I want paper or plastic in SF, I just get paper.

The goal of this being that people would eventually start bringing their own bags or at least re-using the bags they already have and decrease the waste.

I don't think this is working since there is now talk of charging a fee for paper bags! It's only a small fee, something like 5 cents. But even nickles add up! Remember when stores used to give you a credit if you brought in your own bag? Now that was incentive! Doesn't positive reinforcement work better than punishment?

I do try to bring my own bags with me whenever I shop, but inevitably there are times when I forget them or I don't bring enough of them (or I buy to much . . . ).

So, now I have this . . .

And lets not forget that the smaller markets and retail stores in the city are still allowed to use plastic bags. So, I'm really no better off! To the city's dismay (and mine) I still end up needing an organizational system for all these bags!

137 Miles

Being Green-ish, Part 1

I was in the second grade when I learned about recycling (from what I remember). My friend who lived in town had a green bin outside their door where they put their plastics, aluminum and paper. We didn't have one because we lived in the country. I felt a little left-out to be honest and maybe a little jealous of my friend who had this special green bin.

We had our own way of recycling at home. Food scraps went to the animals or in the garden (depending on what it was . . . corn husks went to the sheep, etc.), pop cans were crushed and put in a large garbage bag, plastics were put in another garbage bag and newspapers went in a pile. When our containers overflowed, we drove to the recycling center. To our dismay, this usually filled our entire vehicle (perhaps we waited too long!) Back then, we'd even make money on our recycled pop cans! Oh the good-ol-days. (We also had a "burn-pile" but we won't go into that!)

When we moved to San Francisco, I found that recycling and being environmentally friendly are much more serious matters than I previously knew. It's no longer an individual choice if one wants to show a concern for the environment. It's a political matter. There are laws.

I was very confused by the three garbage bins (blue, green, and black) when we first moved to California. Thankfully we were staying with a couple who could shed insight into this new culture we would soon be a part of.

The blue one is for recycling--everything that you can recycle goes in the blue bin; it doesn't even have to be separated. Later I found out there were several exeptions and this blue bin isn't as easy as it seems . . .  like plastic bags--they have to be taken somewhere else.

The green one is for wet foods, basically compost. Most homes now have a little bucket where you put food scraps seperate from your normal trash. It seems a little strange to compost when you don't have a yard, but I am getting used to this.

And finally, the black one is for everything else. It's amazing how little actually needs to go in here when you recycle and compost. Which I guess is the whole point. And if the whole city is doing this (since it's now the law!) the amount of waste our city makes should be only a fraction of what it was.

I wonder how many people in San Francisco would actually go to the trouble of separating their trash this way if it wasn't a law. I didn't do it before we moved here; I doubt I would have taken up composting as a hobby. Will this type of lifestyle or a political movement like this spread throughout the nation? Would it be so bad if it did?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We Did It!

We're debt free! (I'm shouting this at the top of my lungs right now!)

The Debt Snowball worked! If you're familiar with Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover program you know what I'm talking about. He has 7 baby steps that will help anyone get out of debt and live with financial peace. Getting out of debt is only step 2 in his program, but its definitely worth celebrating!

I don't know the statistic for individual debt in America, but you know it's high! I would encourage all of you to checkout his website and his books at and for specifics on the baby steps I've already mentioned go to:

Here's our story:

Before Chris and I met, we had each accumulated debt but were trying to be wise and work it off as quickly as we could. This meant usually paying more than the minimum payments on our loans. Thankfully neither of us had credit card debt.

When we started dating, Chris had some choices to make on how he would handle his finances and, thankfully, he was very strategic and prudent in his planning. Not only did he begin planning our dates in his monthly budget and stay on top of his monthly loan payments, he also started saving up for a ring! I also started watching my spending more carefully and started a savings account to set aside money for our wedding. If I remember correctly, we didn't discuss this together at all. (We just knew it was meant to be!)

About a month after Chris proposed, we were blessed by my employer with two discounted tickets to Dave Ramsey's Live event in Colorado Springs. This was an all-day seminar that left me totally excited to get out of debt with my husband-to-be. We had both been exposed to Dave Ramsey before through relatives and friends and Chris was already following what he had learned much more diligently than I was. But for me, this was a huge turning point and motivator!

Our families helped out a lot with our wedding. Without them, we could not have fed you or danced with you. (Thank you moms and dads!) And because of their generosity, I could actually pay off my college loan a month before we got married! Hooray! I was totally not prepared for the excitement that would bring. Paying off debt is actually FUN! When I got close enough to write one last big check I couldn't wait!

It was actually a lot harder to combine our finances than I had originally anticipated, and the final transition wouldn't happen for a few months after our wedding. Nevertheless, we kept chipping away at our debt one payment at a time. Then in September, I was notified that I was being laid-off and shortly after that we moved to California. During this rough time we still were able to make minimum payments on our debt. (Thank you Lord!) And in the midst of being unemployed and staying with gracious couples we were able to pay off my car! Yahoo!! Another exhilarating experience that brought me to my knees in praise of the Lord's faithful provision.

Then, all we had left is Chris's education loan. In all honesty, this one looked impossible to take care of quickly, especially after we saw how much it costs to live in San Francisco! But we were amazingly able to make higher payments on it after we moved into the city and both found work. And now after a year and a half of marriage, we're debt free!

The trick: Debt-snow ball. Seriously. It's a pretty simple concept too. Basically, you write down all your debt (the source and the amount left to pay). Then you put them in order of the least amount to the greatest. Pay off the first one on the list while making minimum payments to the others. Once that first one is payed off, apply the amount you had been paying on that one each month to the next one on the list. Then when that second one is payed off, you apply the amount you were paying on that one (along with the amount you were paying on the first) to the third one on the list and so forth. Like a snow ball it grows and gains speed as you go down the list. For a more info go to

What does being out of debt mean? Well, for starters, we don't owe anybody anything; we're not slaves to the lender anymore! Secondly, we can begin saving for our future and invest for retirement. We've been set free from the past and given a hope for the future. Its absolutely exhilarating!

Current mile marker: 95