5 Ways Your Garden Can Save You Money

Planting, growing and maintaining your own garden is a blissful, rewarding experience that you can enjoy every day. The great thing about plants is that they come in every size. So, whether you have a window sill, balcony or sprawling plot of grass, you can utilize it to its full potential with the right plants.

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To the uninformed, a garden may seem like more of a money drain than a money saver. But it’s easily possible to save significant amounts of money in the long run, especially if you eat fruit and vegetables as often as you should.

With this in mind, here’s how you can save, or even make money with your own garden.

Raise Some Chickens

Purchasing some hens from your local farm will cost you close to nothing. All you’ll need is a reasonable size coop, some feed, water and a bit of time, and before you know it, you’ll be picking up free eggs 2-5 times per day, leaving you with more than enough to eat and even some to sell if you fancy the idea.

Fruit And Vegetables

This no-brainer will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year in shopping costs. Figure out what you consume most, find a place to plant it, and watch your receipts grow shorter. The savings are astronomical and your contribution to the environment by decreasing demand for store-bought fruit and vegetables will be appreciated by future generations.

If you’re concerned about how your garden looks aesthetically, it’s not difficult to make even the least attractive veggies look great. Surround your plantations with some landscaping stones and pick up a few water features or even a gnome to stand guard.

Make Your Own Compost

Why buy compost when you can simply make it yourself while also adding less pollution to landfills? Fruit and vegetable peelings, cardboard, wool, egg shells, coffee filters, spoiled rice and coconut milk are all great ingredients that your plants will love.

Collect Rainwater

Shave digits off your water bill by collecting freely available rainwater. You don’t need to invest in a huge rainwater tank and gutter system to get started. A few buckets are all you’ll need, especially if you’re only using the water to hydrate your garden. Once again, not only are you saving money, but you’re helping the environment as well.

Start An Apiary

In case you just had a heart attack, an apiary is a colony of bees – not apes. Getting your own hive, equipment, and bees will require some investment, but the long-term benefits are significant. Pure, well-made honey is an extremely valuable resource and a single hive can produce well over twenty jars annually.

With bees becoming increasingly endangered, they need all the help they can get from caring owners.

Conclusion

One of the greatest things you can do as a human being is helping save the environment. With your own garden, you’ll be doing exactly that while also saving yourself significant amounts of money every year on food, water, and transport costs.

 

Are Electric Cars Cheaper?

The popularity of electric cars are on the rise. With the main reason being to help the environment, some people make the switch to electric cars from gas powered cars because of the cost savings. People are under the assumption that the savings in gas and also the tax benefits can save them money. One factor that is often overlooked is the cost of insuring an electric car. I decided to look into this matter to see if there really is cost savings when switching to an electric vehicle. Is the insurance for electric cars cheaper?

Insurance Premiums

In my research, it is a given that insurance premiums for electric cars are higher than gas cars. Some insurance companies can have higher premiums for an electric car as compared to their gas counterpart. Car insurance quotes for the electric cars were 21% higher, on average, than quotes for the gas cars. This is quite the difference. So the only question is why is this so? The simple answer is the cost of the car itself. It is a common fact that premiums go up for riskier drivers. With electric cars it does not make a driver risker in the insurance company’s eyes, but it does raise the red flag of liability. Electric cars are expensive. They are expensive to buy, and the parts that make up the cars are expensive to replace as well. Insurance companies see electric car drivers as liabilities because if they were to damage their car, they have to put up the big bucks to fix it. This in fact makes them less desirable than a cheaper made gas car. Therefor the driver is forced to bear the cost of that liability in their premiums. With that being said, Electric and hybrid cars often require less servicing than their gas cousins. But, when something goes wrong or if you get into an accident, the repair costs are higher because you need specialty mechanics to fix things such as damage to batteries or to electric control panels. Despite this, analysts say that these costly repairs occur less frequently than they do with gas vehicles.Electric car work needs to be done by a trained electric car mechanic which is not as common as the regular gas powered car mechanic. This is another hurdle for electric car drivers.

Shop Around

Even though it is a given that your premium may be higher, it is important to shop around. Look at different insurance companies to see who can give you the best deal out there in the electric car world. Different companies offer different coverage for different prices so it pays to do your research.

There are pros and cons to insuring a hybrid or electric vehicle, but when it comes to lowering your carbon footprint, it’s priceless.

5 Benefits of Using Reusable Bags to Promote Your Business

Reusable bags have taken the grocery business by storm right now, and for a variety of reasons. People are more environmentally conscious nowadays, and they’re asking the same from the companies they do business with. This is why there is such a huge trend towards eco friendliness, and you can’t afford to fall behind. Here are some of the benefits of using reusable bags to promote your business.

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Effective Promotion Tool

Branded reusable bags work for promotion on so many levels. First of all, they are a prime tool in increasing your brand’s recognition and building brand awareness. Not only that, but every time someone decides to use one of your bags for any reason, they will be reminded of your brand. Your bag will work as a sort of portable billboard that will advertise your brand wherever your clients go. And not only that, it will work as a sort of endorsement; your friends and family will see this bag as a personal vote for the brand, and might form a more positive image of that brand as a result.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Since you’ll be using sustainable materials, you will be reducing your carbon footprint on the planet. Many reusable bags come from recycled materials, such as old bottles for instance, reducing our reliance on natural resources. And once the bag has served its purpose, it can be easily recycled and repurposed, or even composted in some cases.

Show Your Commitment to Going Green

Using reusable bags shows to your clients that you are actually willing to walk the walk and really do your part in protecting the environment. While this may work on a superficial level, you also have to follow through with actual measures if you want to be consistent. But this alone will do a lot to improve your image among your environmentally conscious clientele.

Allows You to Stretch Your Marketing Dollar

One of the great things about reusable bags is that they are a fairly cost-effective marketing tool. You could buy reusable bags wholesale and have them printed with your company’s logo for pennies. Not to mention that you’ll often charge clients for the bags themselves. So in a clever way, your clients will be paying to advertise your business on your behalf.

They Have Various Uses

Reusable bags are by far the star of the promotional item world. As a matter of fact, they are some of the most sought-after items at trade shows and people will literally make lines for them in some cases. So much so that they’ve become genuine items now, with Ikea’s iconic aqua reusable bag which has become sort of a pop culture cult. Because of their usefulness, people tend to hold on to them for many years, allowing your brand to gain even more visibility over time.

 

Recycled reusable bags have tons of benefits every business owner should consider. They’re cheap, convenient and are one of the most powerful and understated marketing methods you can use to build awareness for your brand.

Saving the Environment While Driving When You Can’t Afford a Hybrid

While you might love the idea of cutting back on the number of emissions your car churns out into the atmosphere, you might not be able to afford a hybrid vehicle. While you may not have any problem covering a hybrid with quality Austin insurance, it could be the monthly car payments that give you fits. Thankfully, there are other ways to do your part to save the environment without going broke as a hybrid vehicle owner.

Remove Your Junk

Before you head out again, clean out everything that you don’t need from the trunk, backseat and passenger seat. All that extra weight is negatively impacting your overall gas mileage, which sends you back to the pump faster. There’s also the fact that your engine is working harder to handle the stress of the extra weight, which certainly isn’t doing the air any favors.

Take It Easy When Stopping and Starting

There’s no need to gun the engine as soon as the light turns green. Not only does jackrabbiting chew up your gas and release more emissions, it can also lead to accidents should you collide with drivers trying to make lights just a second after they turn red. Easing to a gradual stop rather than stomping on the brakes is better on your brakes as well as your engine. This means you should make sure you’re going the posted speed limit and pay attention to cars and traffic lights ahead of you so you have time to respond accordingly.

Keep Your Car Tuned Up

Be sure to take your car in for regular oil and air filter changes. It’s understandable to want to put off an oil change for a while, but doing so can cost you more in the long run by eating away at your fuel efficiency and belching harmful fumes into the air. The same applies to tune-ups, which allow your engine to operate more efficiently and let you get as many miles as possible out of your vehicle. Something else about regular tune-ups even when your car seems to be running fine is that mechanics can let you know if there are any minor issues with your car that should be addressed in the near future, giving you time to start saving up for those needed repairs rather than learn of them when they’re more expensive.

Pay Attention to Your Tires

Proper tire pressure is essential not only to how your car maneuvers on the road, but also how much gas it burns. You want your tires to have the optimum amount of contact with the road so there’s just the right amount of friction and resistance to get you where you need to go without your engine or tires having to work harder than necessary. In the colder months of the year, you might have to over-inflate your tires to compensate for the cold air sapping air from your tires. In any case, a tire-pressure gauge or a professional mechanic’s help is essential for making sure your tires have the right amount of pressure.

Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Your Car Off

When you’re stuck in heavy traffic that moves slower than chilled molasses in the winter, go ahead and shut your engine off. Traffic jams can seem more like you’re in a parking lot and less like you’re driving on a road, so you might as well shut the engine off like you would in a parking lot. Imagine the reduction in emissions if every vehicle on the road was turned off during traffic jams. Do your part to start a positive trend all while saving gas.

Know that driving a hybrid only does so much if you don’t practice the basics of being an environmentally-conscious driver. How you drive is much more important than what you drive.

 

Other Home Improvements for a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient House

In the previous article, we discussed solar panels and how you can use them to turn your house into a sustainable, self-sufficient property. The prices of solar panels and supporting hardware are becoming more affordable by the day, which is why it is even more appealing to invest in a good solar panel system for your house.

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Solar panels aren’t the only upgrade to add in order to make your property more energy efficient and sustainable. There are other great home improvements to consider, and we are going to look into them in this article.

LED Lights

LED lights are among the best things to pick up if you want to boost your house’s energy efficiency. They consume much less power than conventional bulbs and investing in them will immediately lower your energy bills. LED bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than CFLs and neon lights. The cost of LED lights is also much more affordable than it used to.

This is a home improvement that practically pays for itself. You may have to pay for the LED lights yourself at the beginning, but you can expect to save a lot on your electricity bill that the savings will cover the purchase in just a few months.

Energy Efficient Windows

The cost of heating and cooling the interior of your house is usually the major part of your energy bills. Changing the interior temperature to the right level is even more expensive when you have cracked windows and bad insulation.

Investing in energy efficient windows is the first step towards solving that problem. Once you get the windows installed, you will find cooling or heating your house to be a lot easier and much more affordable. You can also add additional window treatments to boost energy efficiency even further.

Insulation Upgrades

Upgrading your home’s insulation is the next thing to do. Aside from wall insulation, it is also important to look into ducts, especially if you use central heating and cooling. According to the EPA, a fifth of the air forced through ducts in residential properties leaks. This results in poor energy efficiency.

Similar to the previous home upgrades we discussed, insulation for pipes and ducts is much improved and very affordable these days. Skipping this step would be a mistake, especially if the goal is to make your house more energy efficient in the long run.

A Smarter Home

Last but certainly not least, consider turning your property into a smart home. Nationwide, the smart home trend is not very popular yet, but those living in Portland or Los Angeles apartments can already enjoy the perks of a high-tech living experience. Use a programmable thermostat and install a smart home hub such as Google Home to further improve energy efficiency. These smart devices can be remotely controlled and programmed for maximum efficiency.

With a smart thermostat installed, for instance, you can have the interior of the house kept at a comfortable temperature just 30 minutes before you arrive home after work instead of all day long. Imagine the amount of money you can save from this feature alone.

Paired with solar panels and clean energy, these home improvement options are even more valuable. The next time you want to upgrade your property, consider the improvements we covered in this article to get started.

Building a Green Building: Key Principles

These days, a lot of people are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of having an energy efficient home and this is why they employ the services of a reputable energy consulting firm to help them design a home that is sustainable and eco-friendly.

What is an Energy Efficient Home?

An energy efficient home often has features such as wind power, geothermal heating and solar panels. But green living is not solely based on the use of renewable energy. It’s also about designing the house in such a way that energy becomes more efficiently utilized; a home that is well insulated and properly positioned to rely mostly on passive cooling and heating

With this kind of home, you will use minimal energy to light, heat and your household appliances. A house with majority of its windows are facing south (passive solar) can lessen their heating requirements by up to 25% without spending anything.

But it’s also important to design the home properly so that during summer, you can avoid overheating. Your building should be well insulated and properly sealed so that cool air won’t escape due to leak or moisture.

Go for a Reasonably Sized Home

Naturally, the smaller the house, the more efficient it is. It also means you’ll need lesser materials to build it, less space to cool and less space to heat. If you’re a small family then you don’t need to build a big house. We recommend an average of 700 square feet per person.

Make Your Home Flexible

Design your home in such a way that it accommodates any future changes with little disruption. Your household size will change over time so you should also make your home flexible. You can lower environmental and financial costs brought about by a major renovation if you anticipate possible changes while you’re still at the design stage.

Use Reclaimed Materials

You can re-use existing building materials and doing so makes you part of the green building movement. Green building begins at the design phase so by incorporating used materials, you are doing your part to help the environment and at the same time, save money on construction costs.

Design Your Green Home

Regardless of whether you design your dream home yourself or you are going to hire a professional to do it for you, the important thing is that you keep in mind the principles of green living. If you have a designer for your home, make sure you pick one who shares your vision or at the very least, understands what you want.

There’s also the option of buying a pre-drawn plan which may be cheaper however, it can be difficult to find a plan for a green home. If you have the time and the inclination, you can draw up your own plan. It’s fun and rewarding, and you’ll learn a lot from this project too. Just make sure you understand the building regulations in your locality so you don’t end up breaking any rules.

What is More Sustainable than Living Off your Dividends

When I question whether something is sustainable I think of whether “it” can be responsibly maintained.  The goal of creating a dividend income stream should be to eventually use just the dividends letting the principal continue to grow.  It is analogous to living off the fruits of a tree rather than cutting down the tree itself, dividend payments can eventually provide an income stream that is sustainable since you don’t have to erode the principal.

This post was inspired by an interesting post the other day from a great dividend sites Sure Dividend that explored the idea of dividends paying stocks like a tree,

You start with something small – an actual seed, or a bit of hard-earned money.

Before you plant your seed or invest your money, you have to find the right place to put your tree seed or your money. Throwing a seed onto a rock will not do, nor will investing in a business on its last legs.

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Over time, your sapling becomes a tree. It now is producing seeds of its own. Your dividend stock’s payments have grown over time. In both cases, the cycle begins anew.

The tree’s seeds beget more trees. The dividend stock’s dividend payments are reinvested into other high quality dividend growth stocks.

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Once your first tree produces other trees, eventually you will have a forest of trees – let’s say they are fruit bearing trees.

You can now happily live off the sustenance your fruit trees provide.

Dividend stocks are the same way. Over time, your dividend income will grow. You will be able to live on the dividend payments of your dividend stocks.

Your Goal Should be to Live off the Dividends and Leave the Principal

Every time you eat into principal you are affecting your future income.  If you have a $500,000 portfolio yielding 4% ($20,000), but you sell another $20,000 of principal you are looking at $480,000 if that were to yield that same 4% (ignoring the growth of the underlying assets) you are looking $19,200 the following year.  Again, this is compounded when you still need that same $40,000 (now it is $19,200 of dividends and $20,800 of principal0.  In addition to the natural erosion of principal the problem compounds itself if it is a down year.

I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to a large enough portfolio where I can solely live off the dividends, but it’ll be a nice part of the income investments I’d like to create over the next few decades.