Sustainability

My lifestyle overhaul will revolve around the acronym SHIP (Sustainable, Health-Promoting, Interest-Free, and Permanent).  Many of this blog’s posts will focus on the principles contained within the SHIP approach.

We’ll begin with Sustainable – reducing the amount spent every month on things whose benefits are temporary.  Examples of this include:

  • Heating
  • Electricity
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Entertainment
  • Food
  • Rent

I need some of these things to sustain life, such as heating and food, but even with these, there are many ways in which we can reduce their drain on our monthly finances.

Staying Warm and Out of the Weather

I spend about $400 per month to keep my house warm.  It’s 4600 square feet – far more than my wife and the three children that live at home really need, so we’re downsizing to a home that’s less than half its size.  We’ll have to get rid of a lot of accumulated stuff that we don’t need, but I think it will feel great when we’re done.

We’re going through a bankruptcy, so in the short term, we’ll have to rent.  I’ll work to get into my own home as soon as possible, because renting feels like flushing money down the toilet, with no long-term gain.

However, this time around, we’re not getting a huge mortgage.  Instead, we’ll build one step at a time, paying as we go.  I have a somewhat unusual plan to make this happen that I won’t go into now, but let’s just say that my goal is to never pay another dime in mortgage interest if there’s any way around it.

As long as I must rent, I hope to find a rental that has a wood-burning stove, since I’m moving to an area with plenty of forest nearby.  If I can’t reduce my heating bill by burning wood, I can at least lower the thermostat in the winter.  Besides, cuddling with the missus is my favorite kind of warmth.

The home I plan to build will make use of passive solar heating to reduce the amount I spend to keep my family warm.

Electricity

Maybe I’m the only one who can’t seem to get their teens to turn off the television when they’re done watching it, but it’s a bit frustrating.  Walking around the whole house each night to turn off lights and appliances can save good money on your electric bill.  Until I can figure out how to get the kids to buy into the idea of conservation, I guess I’ll just have to police the house each night.

Solar panels have become more efficient in recent years, so when I buy my next home, I’ll purchase some as another way to reduce my electric bill.

Food

I plan to plant a garden and I’d like to raise a couple of cows so I can produce much of my own food.  As long as I’m in a rental, the cows are probably out of the question, but I can grow some of my own vegetables, even if it’s just in containers that I can take with me when I buy my own home.

In the meantime, I’ll economize.  First, I’m cutting down on waste.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least a third of the perishable food we buy gets thrown away.  We buy too much bread and it molds.  Vegetables and meat don’t keep long, either.

To reduce waste, we’ll plan meals well ahead of time, so we shop for just the things we need for the meals we planned.  When we buy extra, it will be non-perishable food with a long shelf life.

Frozen foods?  Don’t get me started on how much money has gone to waste when past freezers broke down or when a child tripped over the cord powering the freezer, causing all the food in it to spoil.  We’re going to keep the amount of food that we keep in the freezer to a minimum to prevent these losses.  Besides, fresh meats and vegetables almost always taste better and are better for your body than frozen.

Entertainment

Our cable television and internet bill weighed in at over $300 per month.  We called our cable provider and said that we would keep our current internet service (which I need for my work at home job), but we were getting rid of cable altogether if they couldn’t come up with a really great deal.  We axed three of our five premium services and lost scores of channels that we didn’t watch anyway.  We dropped our bill to $110.  It’s still not cheap, but putting an extra $200 each month in our pockets feels great.

Next Steps

For me, the biggest challenge may be to get the rest of my family to really buy in on how aggressively I’m going after our budget, but they’re coming around.  As they see how many more fun things we can do as a family and the permanent things we’re able to buy by shedding wasteful expenditures that bleed our budget dry each month, I think they’ll be happy that we made some short-term sacrifices to make things better over the long haul.

Besides, when I feel like I’m making progress, I’m not such a grumpy bear, which they should appreciate.  See?  Everybody wins.

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