In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d write something about recycling.

I live in Olathe, KS.  My city has a curbside recycling program that works really well for us.  We’ve actually found that we recycled so much of our trash that we had to have the city give us a bigger bin.

The bin they supply is a big, square trash can on wheels.  It is the type designed to be picked up by the arm on the automated trash trucks.  They pick up the recycling every other week on our normal trash day.  It’s great because we treat it just like a trash bin except that only recyclables go in it.  We don’t have to sort anything and they accept most types of plastics, aluminum and tin cans, and paper products.

We do find ourselves with recyclables that aren’t accepted at curbside.  Glass, for one, has to be dropped off at local collection points.  Plastic grocery sacks have to be recycled at the grocery store.  Fortunately, it’s not too inconvenient to do this since I run errands at least once a week and can easily incorporate this into my schedule while I’m out.

The city also collects yard waste separately from trash.  They chop the branches into mulch and compost the rest.  They use the mulch and compost in the city parks and it’s free to any citizen that wants to come pick some up.

They also have an electronics and battery recycling program.  For a fee, you can drop off electronics, televisions, car batteries, etc. and they’ll be processed and recycled.

Then there’s the hazardous waste program, which isn’t really a recycling program exactly.  They offer unused paint and chemicals for free to any citizen who wants them and will properly dispose of anything else.

The only problem I see with recycling is that now I fee guilty when I can’t recycle waste that’s made of recyclable materials.  For example, anytime I’m out to lunch and have a plastic drink bottle, fork, or plate that needs to be thrown away after the meal, I find myself annoyed at the restaurant that they don’t have a recycling bin available.  Also, anytime I have to throw away a broken plastic toy, storage bin, metal rod, or a small appliance I feel guilty because I didn’t recycle it.  But our city just doesn’t have programs to recycle every single type of recyclable our household produces.  So, I’m still stuck throwing things that are technically recyclable in the garbage.

I bet in a hundred or two hundred years people will be mining today’s landfills for recyclable and reusable materials.  So, when I do throw away recyclables, I suppose I’m contributing to a resource future generations will be able to tap into.

Paying Cash Instead of Plastic Makes you spend less? Not for me.

I keep seeing articles advising people to pay cash for things rather than credit cards because most people spend less when that way. It annoys me a little, because it assumes everyone uses cards the same way.

For me and my family, we definitely spend less when we’re paying by plastic rather than cash.

First, let me explain how we use our cards. We pay off our balance every month. That way we don’t need to worry about interest rates. I like having the option to make a minimum payment and let the balance ride if I need to. However, we haven’t needed to do that for years.

Second, I track everything we spend with our cards. Our credit card companies categorize all our spending for us pretty well and I use Quicken to categorize it even better. I save receipts and go through them occasionally to figure out exactly what we bought and feed that into Quicken as well. So, everything we spend with plastic will eventually have to be accounted for and justified.

Third, we get a 5% discount at Target when paying with our Target card and we get a Cashback Bonus from Discover, which I roll back into paying off the accounts. This makes for a very slight discount over everything we purchase with plastic rather than cash.

Fourth, we have two people using our checking account. If we each draw money out of the ATM or use our check cards and it’s a few days before we balance the checkbook, we may risk overdrawing the account accidentally. We do have overdraft protection, but that’s a $20 or $30 fee each time we use it. You don’t have run that risk with a credit card.

Fifth, I don’t track what I spend as well when paying cash. I don’t keep receipts when I pay with cash. All I track is how much comes out of the ATM. I know when I purchase with cash I won’t have to account for where the money went, so I don’t pay too much attention to it and tend to spend more.

I understand that this is not how everyone, or even most people, handle their accounts. For many people they do spend more when using credit cards. However, this is not the case for everyone. I know it isn’t for me. It annoys me when financial experts present financial tips like this as if it is a one-size-fits-all solution. For some people, they’ll spend less when they pay by cash. For others, they spend less with plastic. It just depends on your individual spending and accounting habits.