Birthday parties realities

It seems that when school starts, birthday party season does also around here. My daughter has already received multiple party invitations, which I view with mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m thrilled that she’ll enjoy a few hours of diversion with her little friends. We had no parties at all during the summer. On the other hand, I don’t like how most birthday parties are planned and executed with such a ‘disposable’ mentality. The amount of waste generated by a typical birthday party disturbs me because I feel it sends the wrong message to our kids.

It all starts with the gifts. Most parents don't want to spend big dollars on high-quality items for a kid they barely know, so it is mostly anything can get wrapped in costly non-recyclable paper and handed over.  No offense, but some of these gifts are cheap, Chinese-made plastic toys that often break within hours of opening. Eventually they get pitched in the garbage, since recycling won’t take them, or stored pointlessly because it feels so wrong to throw away a brand-new present. At the end of the gift-opening ritual is a flurry of non-recyclable packaging, mountains of torn tissue paper, shredded wrapping paper, and crushed bags, not to mention the cardboard and plastic packaging that all the toys come in, pile up high.

Although they are fun, birthday parties are a lot of work for parents, so I understand the desire to simplify, but I can’t help feeling horribly guilty whenever I slide a dirty non-recyclable Styrofoam plate piled with food scraps, a crumpled paper napkin, plastic cutlery, cup balancing on top -- into a garbage bag that’s been set out for this purpose. Sometimes there’s even a thin plastic tablecloth that, presumably, saves the host from having to wipe the table.

And then, the waste follows us home in the form of loot bags. There is candy that I must confiscate, since my son would eat it all, and our jovial post-party mood is usually destroyed by a tantrum at that point. There are also cute little toys from the dollar store, but they fall apart so quickly that my son is heartbroken. For weeks after, I find bits and pieces of non-functioning plastic motorcycles and action figurines that end up in the garbage.

Hey, but please, don’t get me wrong; I think it’s very important to celebrate birthday parties and I hope for my child’s sake that the invitations keep coming. But since when did it become necessary to consume so much in order to celebrate something so basic?

Here some tips to less waste:
1. Use real dishes and wash them to avoid waste.
2. Avoid paper invitations and invite over the phone or by e-mail.
3. Parents could tell birthday party guests not to bring gifts at all.

4. Guests could pool money to buy a single high quality gift that is really going to be used.

There are so many lessons we can teach our children with example if we want them to be conscious of their footprint on this planet. That’s probably the best long-term birthday gift we could give them anyways.

7 Eco-friendly Moving Tips

Perfect time to move!, so you found a new place and you have to start planning.  I will show you some ideas that will make your life so much easier, the moving less expensive and green!

1. So first get rid of the Clutter:
It’s all exciting until you realize how much crap you have. Isn’t it?

Get rid of “but are too valuable to just give away” things, start selling on eBay, Etsy, or Craigslist at least 6 weeks before moving.
It’s an easy way to make you feel like you aren’t procrastinating, and you might be able to make enough money back to pay for the entire move itself.
But it takes time for things to sell on Etsy and eBay so you’ll want to plan accordingly.
Arrange for a charity organization to come pick up the items you don’t want at least a week or two before moving. It’ll save you the trouble of having to take it there yourself.
Along with food and alcohol, give your friends who help you move first dibs on anything you originally planned to sell or donate.
It’s just an extra perk, since you won’t be paying them.

2. Save on packaging
Wrap your breakables in cloth.
I am not saying you should go buy cloths. To save on bubble wrap. Wrap dishes, glasses, precious nic-nacs in clothing or towels. And you will be one stone: you’re packing your clothes and kitchenware at the same time.
For extra padding, pack your glasses and stemware in clean socks.

3. Cut down on boxes
Keep drawers intact by covering them with Press’n Seal.
Dresser drawers are like their own moving boxes — this will keep you from having to unpack and re-fold their contents. It’ll also make moving the actual dresser much more manageable. And you will save in boxes!
I already talked about the dresser drawers, you can also save on boxes by making all of your baskets, laundry bins, hampers, and suitcases work for you.
As in your supermarket for beer and banana boxes.
They are sturdy and the best for books because they have handles on the sides.

If you can, show up to your new home before the move and pre-clean.
Specially the bathroom and kitchen. Use vinegar to disinfect, pView this image ›
put up a new shower curtain liner and stock some new bath towels and toilet paper, as well.

5. Save time
Keep used sandwich bags handy.
You will use them for holding any small parts of things you have to take apart, like curtain rods or mounted flat-screen TVs. View this image ›
Tape the sandwich bags to the back of the item they correspond to.

6. Save spaceView this image ›

Vacuum seal your out-of-season clothing.
A space saver not only for moving purposes but for life! These bags noView this image ›t only will they take up less space and be a breeze to pack, but they can go directly into storage in the new home.
Make your last grocery trip two weeks prior to moving.
The more food you end up using before moving, the less you’ll have to move, the less to pack and the less to throw out.

7. Pack smart
Pack the items you will need first in clear plastic bins.
This bins are reusable, so you will be able to store your Christmas or winter stuff there once the Moving is finishes.  But for moving purposes, use it as a first box to open. This includes things like a box cutter, paper towels, trash bags, eating utensils, select cookware, power strips, phone chargers, toilet paper, tools, etc. The clear bin allows you to see inside; it also separates itself from the myriad of cardboard boxes.

Pack an overnight bag containing all the essentials.
You will for sure arrive tired. You’ll want your essentials within easy access, including a change of clothes if you’re going back to work the next day as well as all your toiletries. It’s also a great way to transport a laptop, tablet, and keys which could run the risk of getting stolen during a move.

Enjoy your move and your new home

5 tips to start saving for retirement

There are a few simple actions to start saving for your retirement. It isn’t as difficult as I first thought!

1. Start from this very moment The earlier you start, the better, but even if you are over 40 and you haven’t done anything to this point, don’t worry, there is still time to turn things around. Forget about the past, there is no time like the present. Remember that every bit you contribute to your retirement helps by lowering the amount you pay in taxes for the year and, of course, increasing your retirement savings.

2. Dream as realistic as possibleYou might like to travel the world and have a big house on a beach. But you may have to decide to downsize your home and travel once a year. You might even need to work part-time. It may not be a Hollywood retirement, but try to keep exciting, easy and enjoyable. Take the time to think about what you really need and want versus what others say you do.

3. Live the presentYou still want to enjoy today, but you can do some tiny little changes. First determine what you can afford to save each month. If the answer is “nothing”, it may be time to think outside your bank account. Maybe you can avoid spending in certain things.

4. Reduce your current debt. 
Focus on lowering your debt first, such as paying down your mortgage or other loans. Then, as those payments get smaller, you can use the ‘leftovers’ to increase your retirement contributions.

5. Automate regular contributionsThat way you won’t forget. It’s amazingly easy to learn to live on less and chances are you soon won’t miss what you don’t see.

6. Get help. An advisor can also help you adjust your plan as your needs change over the years to help ensure you stay on track.

Easy, right? start now!