Week 16 – dollars and cents

We often get asked whether it is working out to be financially advantageous living in a way that avoids landfill rubbish. It is a difficult question to answer as we don’t have a baseline from which to compare. We were living in Canada for a year prior to starting the challenge, where we found the cost of living to be significantly lower than NZ, and the year prior to that had a number of different household situations such as living alone, with flatmates and with borders at various times. However, despite this we do feel that we are probably saving money.

Initially I felt that our new lifestyle was going to cause us to hemorrhage money as we started looking for alternatives for packaged products. For example, we found a metal toothpaste tube, which can be taken to the scrap metal dealer, but it costs $7 for about half the quantity of your generic $3 plastic tube. However, as the challenge has gone on we’re finding alternatives to the alternatives, we now make our own toothpaste out of baking soda and salt, which is resulting in fiscal savings. A lot of the alternatives require an initial more expensive outlay which is well re-couped over the lifetime of the product, an obvious example being recyclable batteries. We bought Eneloop recyclable batteries because they are like disposable batteries in that they come ready charged but can also be recharged over 1000 times through their lifespan (www.eneloop.co.nz). Similarly, we bought a bulk 20 litre container of laundry detergent from B_E_E as it came in a recyclable container and it is looking like it will last us at least 18 months. These sort of outlays initially hit hard but when costed out over the lifetime will result in savings. Interestingly our food bill has not changed in total although the receivers of our money have. Although we are not buying items like biscuits and muesli bars we are spending more on butter and other baking items so it seems to be swings and roundabouts. Just this week we were introduced to a website called Simple Saving (www.simplesavings.co.nz) which has thousands of tips on how to save money, many of which also seem to save packaging and landfill waste – another example of how simply reducing packaging ends up having other positive spin off effects.