Connecting Financial Independence with Environmentalism

Yesterday was Earth Day. Every day is Earth Day.

A part of the path to FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) involves consuming less and this really resonates with me. It’s not being frugal to save money, but it’s being frugal to really think about what you need versus want while considering the true value of each purchase. I haven’t been too great at this lately, but all big purchases get scrutinized for their value.

I’ve written about the every day things we do without – cable, subscriptions, expensive cell phone bills, eating out, etc. – and the big ticket items we’re doing without – kitchen remodel and pretty much any large home remodel that applies to this old house. Obviously none of these things are necessary, so these aren’t tough decisions. We have debt and spending money on anything else seems foolish.

And I can be foolish. This laptop I’m using is physically breaking down with missing parts, dents and dings, and running very slow at times. Couple that with a very persistent, soon to be birthday boy asking for a gaming laptop. And we’re getting one. What’s the value in that? Our family laptop will die and now we have one that the kids won’t complain about. There’s a lot of value in that.

But, I digress. Back to the planet.

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Listening to NPR’s Living Green segment yesterday got me thinking there’s more we, as a family, can do. Computers aside, I think we’re pretty good with our environmentally-friendly and frugal and then, sometimes we’re not.

  • Paper products: We use cotton napkins, but we always have a roll of paper towels. Keeping cotton napkins, cloths and rags handy will help reduce that waste.
  • Compost: We don’t. We did in Seattle but in our Philly ‘burb, it’s available, but cost prohibitive. We have room in our yard to do something about this. I’ve composted yard waste, but I’d like to get a vessel so we can compost food waste, too.
  • Food: I’ve been trying to cut out meat during the week, but sometimes the convenience of cooking what we know wins. We can make a more concerted effort on this.
  • Water: We do wash a lot and we don’t have an efficient machine. We adjust the water levels, but it’ll be interesting to see if we save any water by running full loads only.
  • Clothes: I need to find a second hand store I like!
  • Stuff: We have too much! It drives me nuts. I need to purge and minimize. I feel like I’m always doing this, but I’m not making progress. I will start with one room at a time, working from the top (bedrooms) to bottom (basement).
  • Plastic: Stop buying the ziploc bags and use reusable containers and bees wax wraps.

I’m going to see if my library has All You Need is Less – this book was mentioned in the radio show.

I think the food and clothes will yield the biggest cost savings, but it’s not about the cost, it’s about the planet and, in turn, our health.

How we saved over $800 per year by changing wireless plans

I had no idea. There are wireless plans available that use the same network as the major carriers, but under different names and for a fraction of the cost. It’s like the generic, store brands of wireless plans. Of course, I learned about this on an ChooseFI podcast then learned more through the ChooseFI Facebook group. (I’m a shameless ChooseFI cheerleader.) Since the Facebook group isn’t public, here’s another resource for information about cheap wireless plan options available.

I compared the costs of several of the discount carriers and chose to go with MintSIM because it was one of the cheapest that fit my usage. (Side note: They have great branding with simple, easy-to-understand information and instructions.) I have my own iPhone, but when I got the SIM card, I couldn’t activate it. I didn’t realize that my phone was locked and I had to wait another 30 days to unlock it. It was locked because I had recently changed jobs and the liability of the phone went from my employer to me. Despite my best effort to understand the fine print and not be locked into a contract, I failed to realize that the change resulted in my phone being locked for 60 days.

It was all downhill from there.

Their customer service hours are basically the hours I (and most of the workforce) work and I simply don’t have an hour in my workday to do this. They do have after-hours support, but not for what I needed: SIM reactivation. And when you call, you don’t get MintSIM directly. Anyhow, the agents I did speak with were great and I was able to get the same one twice (per my request) which is amazing. They just couldn’t reactivate my SIM. Each time, they said it was good and I should try again in 24 hours, but no. It didn’t work. After three calls over three weeks and no success, I asked for my money back. That was the only good part of my experience with them. I got my money back no problem.

I am now on Total Wireless (who uses the Verizon network) and love it. I haven’t had a need to call support, so I can’t compare that service, but it was easy to purchase and activate. It’s $35 per month for one line with unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data. I used a promo code and got $10 off my first month. I was using 12GB a month when I had unlimited data, so I wasn’t sure how I would survive on a data diet. I have 13 days remaining in my first month and haven’t used even half my 5GB data yet. It was easy: I turned off cellular data for everything and then turned it back on per app, as needed. And when I can, I always connect to wireless.

Some day, I’d love to go with Project FI, but the iPhone is (not yet) compatible.

By the end of January, DH will make the switch from Verizon to Total Wireless. A shared plan of our two lines is $60 per month, savings us over $800 per year after we both switch.