Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Economically Efficient Ways of Buying Soda

While I cannot claim that soda is at all a green or healthy lifestyle choice, I'll be the first to admit my addiction to it and I won't quitting anytime soon. Now that we're being realistic, I've been thinking about the most efficient way to purchase soda. As you know, soda can be bought in many forms, from 12 ounce cans to 2 liter bottles, to a 24 pack of cans. But which way gives you the most bang for your buck?

Obviously, going generic would be an easy way to make buying soda more efficient, which usually is half the price of name-brand soda. In this case, I will examine what happens when we look at name-brand soda since it will be the most expensive and generally carry the same price across the board. Generic sodas can range in price, so be sure to check out what your grocery store offers.

If we look at the name-brand, 24 pack of soda, with no sale price, this usually goes for about $7.99, not including tax. When we break that down, that comes down to about 33 cents per 12 ounces of soda (which is the general form of measurement I will be using here as a standard). A 12 pack of can soda will typically come about the same price or even more, since it usually is priced at $4.50. At $4.50 its about 37 cents a can. If we look at the 2 liter bottle of soda, at the name-brand price, its usually $1.29, again with no sale price. Translated into ounces, 2 liters is equal to approximately 67.6 ounces. This is equal to about 5 and a half cans of soda, which then levels out to about 23 cents per 12 ounces of soda! We save approximately 10 cents per 12 ounces of soda when we buy 2 liter bottles of soda.

(I am not aware of the price of the 6 pack bottles of soda, just because I usually can't drink that much at a time, but I have left my equation for calculating these numbers at the bottom for you. Next time I go I will check out the price and add it here as well.) After checking at my local grocery store, for a 6 pack of 20 ounce bottles goes for about $4.29. At this rate, you are paying 42 cents per 12 ounces of soda. Again, this assuming there is not a sale, and this is a price of a name-brand soda.

Our other ways of buying soda, like 20 ounce bottles up by the check out counter, are clearly over-priced and used as a type of impulse buy for you. These are also priced at about $1.29 a bottle. At that rate, you are spending 77 cents per 12 ounces of soda! Thats a huge difference, so next time you are waiting in line at the store, look away from those displays, because their purpose is to rip you off and satisfy your need for whatever you like to drink.

Pepsi and Coke have also been selling these "half-cans" of soda, which I hope you can already predict these are a rip off as well. Aluminum is an expensive material right now, so you will be paying for it. If you cannot drink a whole can of soda at once, again, consider the wallet-friendly 2 liter bottles of soda. You only have to pour as much as you can drink.

In addition to saving on buying 2 liter bottles, watch for sales! This week my grocery store had a sale for 88 cents on name brand soda. That brings me down to 16 cents per can of soda, or basically half the price of canned soda! Again, with generic soda, you're likely to see similar savings, so if you can bear with it, give generic soda a chance, and consider just buying name-brand soda when its on sale.

Now, if you are drinking SO much soda, it might be possible to profit back from such, by turning your aluminum cans in for some pocket change. In our area, a large 20 gallon garbage bag of non-crushed cans gave us about $1.50 back, so its up to you whether this is something to pursue. However, I would encourage you to recycle these containers, plastic or aluminum, to keep our Earth clean. You can also make a lot of cool things out of 2 liter bottles, and there is a list of awesome ideas here. I remember when I was in 3rd grade we made miniature green houses out of them, and watched a plant grow a little bit everyday in our bottle. I use one now to work with my dog's water dish (like a water cooler works) so I dont have to fill his dish as often. In addition, since using 2 liter bottles requires you to use your own glasses, this can also be a more eco-friendly way to serving (assuming you are not using disposable cups). Since you wash and reuse these glasses, you are not filling our landfills further.

To use this equation in figuring out what you are paying per can of soda at your grocery store, I used to following:
(With 12 or 24 packs of soda:) Price divided by number of cans.
(With 2 liters of soda:) Number of total ounces divided by 12, then the price divided by the number you got from the first part of the equation.

Damn those math teachers in school, I really am using math in real life!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Frugal Green Girl buys a house!

Well, over the past couple of months, my husband and I had been in limbo about to continue renting or to consider buying a home. Both can have advantages and disadvantages. Not really acting on our thoughts about buying, we happened to stumble on our dream starter home, with a pretty dreamy price. After discussing things with our potential seller, we applied for and received pre-approval on a loan. And after negotiating happened over a day, we settled on an offer. Right now we are amidst of a home inspection and final loan approval this week. While I know all of you are not looking to buy a home right now, I plan on featuring a couple of posts on the home-buying process since there are many opportunities to afford homes at reasonable costs - especially in the buyer's market that exists right now.

While being a graduate student does not supply a great income to our dual income, we found we were still able to afford a reasonably low down payment with an FHA loan. FHA loans are loans that are insured by the government (specifically the Federal Housing Administration), that are provided to lenders to let people, who may typically not be eligible for a loan due to a small down payment or low income, afford a home. These are very common with first-time home buyers who generally cannot afford a hefty 20% down payment, and FHA loans allow down payments at 5% or even less. These types of loans are also good for people with credit problems or bankruptcies, and provide a great way to rebuild credit. In addition, much of the down payment can be gifts from relatives (which some lenders may not traditionally allow). However, these loans are not just for first-time home buyers or people with bad credit - anyone can qualify and there are no income limits. More information on the potential benefits of FHA loans are available in home buying books, on numerous websites, and specifically the FHA's website.

While this sounds like a good deal, there obviously can be catches to something that seems to good to be true. In many ways, FHA loans can be more expensive than a traditional loan, because of the fact of the low down payment and the insurance you have to pay for supplying such a small down payment, so be sure to do your homework before considering FHA loans as an option for you.

More to come on first time home buying for sure, as this is proving to be quite a journey and learning experience in the world of personal finance. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

From your fellow readers

Hello everyone,

This week, especially due to mid-term exams before spring break, I would love to take this opportunity to turn this post to you guys, the readers!

Jamie, a fellow reader, told me about TerraCab, a new business that has recently launched that provides fleets of emission-free pedicabs. Plus, they are sponsored by other companies so they are absolutely FREE to riders. These cabs will start becoming available on Earth Day, April 22nd, in Seattle, Washington, but they do plan to expand nationally. The vehicle works via petal-power by a trained driver, which contains a rechargable battery to work the headlights and signal lights, and to assist on hills. Plus, the companies that also sponsor these vehicles give free coupons to riders. So a free ride, and an emission-free vehicle to get where you need to be, where do I sign up? For more information, check out their website (http://www.terracab.com) or call 1-877-7FREERIDE. Hopefully they will be expanding nationally very soon!

Naomi, another fellow reader, told me about Beatmyprice.com, a new price comparison website that will search the web to make sure consumers are getting the very best deal. This site works a little differently from most in that the more you search, the more the website will continue to grow! Be sure to keep an eye out for coupons as well to save even more, which can be found at RetailMeNot.com.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to mention Frugal Focus, of which this blog is a feature of. Not only will you see posts from my blog on here, but you can also find posts from blogs very similar to mine, especially with ways to save money. Its a great chance to see more ideas in one spot, explore the other great blogs out there, and as always, hearing what Frugal Green Girl has to say this week!

Just as I posted reader submitted ideas here today, I always want to hear of the new things you have discovered in your frugal/green quests as well. If you have a good idea, feel free to email me at frugalgreengirl@gmail.com.

Also, just as an FYI, I will likely not post until mid-week next week- a very cruel professor decided to make our essay mid-term due in the middle of our spring break week. :(

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Energy Saving Search

The power of our computers can be a huge, energy-consuming matter. While I love my computer dearly for all it helps me with in life, its not always a friend to the environment. There are lots of great computers out there that allow for an "energy saving mode", or carry the energy star compliancy sticker. So what if a new computer is not in your future right now or you don't have an energy saving computer? Well, believe it or not there are even more ways to save energy than just buying an energy star compliant computer, or turning on the energy-saving mode on your computer.

The colors used on your display screen can be an energy waster by the brightness of the color used. For example, Google is a prime example of a absolute white screen, that takes more energy to produce than, say, black. While I know not all of us can have the advantage of choosing a black over a white backdrop, its something to think about when putting a picture on your desktop, or keeping some windows down on the scroll bar, rather than keeping them up on your screen if you aren't using them.

Treehugger.com also wrote an article regarding this phenomenon:

"Take a look at Google, for instance, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let's assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that's about $75,000/year, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes."

Also, many people have created "black" versions of Google's popular search engine:
While I know it seems using these search engines may be only a small drop in the bucket, every little bit helps! If we all adopt this strategy, it will begin to add up. You'll also save slightly on your electric bills for conserving energy, so its a win for our environment and your pocketbook!