Tag Archives: shopping

How Can You Stop Making Impulse Purchases?

Lots of us enjoy shopping. All the shiny new pretties are tempting. The problem is that most times we don’t need those impulse items. All those extra purchases aren’t doing the environment any favors, not to mention personal finances and the general clutter that builds in our homes. How can you stop making impulse purchases?

How Can You Stop Making Impulse Purchases?Wait

Deciding to wait on impulse purchases cuts down on most of them. Give yourself some time away from that tempting item before you buy it. It helps. Out of sight, out of mind for one thing, but also you can often think past the “ooh, neat!” factor and figure out if you really need the item. Most times you really don’t.

Do You Want It or Need It?

Really think about whether you want or need the item. We all get some things we want more than we need, but it’s best to keep that under control. Odds are good that there’s something you need more.

What Are Your Alternatives?

That impulse item may not be the best buy for your needs even if you come to realize you need it. If you’re going to buy, make sure you’re really buying the right item.

Stay Within Your Budget

Don’t let impulse items mess up your budget. If they aren’t in your budget, don’t buy. Make sure you’re getting a good deal, both in price and quality. Cheap junk is always cheap junk, no matter how cheap it is.

Think Long Term

In the long run, is this a purchase you will enjoy? This is a thought that can stop many impulse purchases if you give it enough time to take hold.

It’s especially true with clothes. Just think how fast trendy clothes go out of style. It makes far more sense to buy clothes that will look good for years, not just several months.

Think Green

Consider whether you’re making an environmentally friendly purchase, and if not, if there are alternatives which would do better in that sense. Think about how the product was made. Think about where waste from your purchase will go, from the packaging to the item itself when it wears out.

10 Popular Green Products

One of the most popular ways to go green is by shopping green. It’s perhaps not always done right, as people buy more than they need, but it’s usually better than ignoring the environmental impact of products altogether.

Some kinds of products are more popular than others, of course. Today I want to take a look at some of the more popular green product types, what I think of them, and share individual examples.

Eco Friendly Electronics

Eco Friendly Electronics

Electronics are a huge part of modern living for most people, so finding more environmentally friendly options is a big deal. Look for Energy Star ratings and EPEAT registration. Be aware that EPEAT registration doesn’t cover all kinds of electronics, but you can look at the information the manufacturer provides to decide what’s green enough for you. Familiar brands such as Dell, HP and Apple have EPEAT-registered products. EPEAT at this time appears to be mostly for computer products.

Apple MacBook Pro
I’m quite fond of my MacBook Pro, and it’s one of Apple’s products on EPEAT, with a Gold certification.  It’s a good laptop, and I love the mobility, as before I had only owned desktop computers. It has made working from my home much easier.

Samsung UN32EH4003 32-Inch LED HDTV
This is a popular example of an Energy Star television. Nice size, well reviewed by users. It sounds like a good replacement for when an older television needs replacing. Not something that happens much in my family, as there’s one TV in the living room and another, rarely used one in the master bedroom

Organic Food

Chia Seeds

Not everyone agrees about the benefits of organic food, but then it depends on the benefit you’re looking for. Many organizations that compare conventional and organic produce focus on nutrition, but may neglect pesticide and other residues. Organic fruits and vegetables may cost more than conventional produce, but you can get some good deals at farmers markets or through a CSA. It should end up being more local that was too. Just check to be sure you’re definitely getting organic produce.

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have become very popular as a superfood. I find that soaked chia seeds go well in smoothies and yogurt, plus they can be added to other recipes. The antioxidants in chia seeds are said to be more stable than those in flax seeds, and they’re also high in omega-3 acids, protein and fiber.

Cacao Powder or Nibs
Perfect for chocolate lovers, cacao powder and nibs give you a healthier way to add a chocolate flavor to a variety of treats. It doesn’t taste like chocolate on its own, however; it’s rather bitter. The nibs have cocoa butter in them, but the powder doesn’t, so be aware that there is a difference between them. I like the nibs, but not by themselves. They add an amazing chocolate taste to smoothies. On their own, cacao nibs are very much an acquired taste, but a healthy one if you can manage it.

Baby Supplies

There’s no way around it – babies need a LOT of stuff. My favorite way to deal with a lot of it is handmedowns, and those can cover quite a bit of the clothing and toy needs for the first while. Sometimes even years of supplies, depending on how good a system you have going with family or friends. My youngest daughter, for example, very rarely gets new clothes because she has such an absurd amount of handmedowns, and she’s nearly 4 years old.

For babies, safety is absolutely a concern, which is a part of why people like eco friendly items. It’s one way to avoid potentially harmful chemicals.

Cloth Diapers
I got into cloth diapers with my youngest; couldn’t convince my husband that we could make it wish sooner, and ended up wishing we had done cloth diapers all along. Saved a lot of money with them. We used Bum Genius, but there are a lot of good brands out there. Don’t forget the cloth wipes.

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping (sometimes at the wrong times for new parents!), and so you may care quite a bit about what they’re sleeping on. From the mattress to the sheets, think about your eco friendly options, such as whether the materials used will tend to offgas. Look for Certi-PUR-US certification for mattresses.


Kids of all ages want toys. The trouble is how quickly the things pile up over time. Add in how often toys are plastic, and it’s not often you can call children’s toys green.

I’ll readily admit to being imperfect in most areas, but especially with toys. My kids do have some handmedown and used toys, including an old Capsela set they enjoy, and a whole lot of LEGOs, most of which were my husband’s from when he was growing up. One thing I will say for those is that once in a while you can take advantage of things lasting just about forever.

Bamboo Toys
Bamboo is very popular right now for toys. More environmentally friendly than wood according to many, it makes some pretty nice toys. There are some nice looking bamboo toy cars and bamboo games available.

Plan Toys
Plan Toys offers a wonderful range of toys that are meant to be more environmentally friendly. They’re also fun. They have a good range of toys, including some very nice dollhouses. There’s even a little vegetable garden for the dollhouse.

Reusable Replaces Disposable

I have a few reusable items that are very much favorites. It’s nice being able to keep one thing rather than throwing many out. The trick here is to pick good quality – I’ve had reusable items that just didn’t last well enough for the difference in cost.

Reusable Bottles
My absolute favorite. I have a reusable bottle that I use every day for my water. So does my husband. My kids take reusable bottles to school rather than juice boxes or water bottles. We have saved a lot of money this was.

My husband has a large Klean Kanteen he really likes. The one problem is that it doesn’t fit in the car’s cupholders, but it’s otherwise a great bottle.

I much prefer stainless steel reusable bottles to plastics or polycarbonates. I’ve had polycarbonate and plastic bottles break on me, but so far no one has managed to break one of the stainless steel ones. Dent, yes, but not severely enough to matter.

Rechargeable Batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be challenging for some uses, but for others they’re wonderful. We have a nice charger that can take pretty much any size, and a stash of batteries.

If the toy or other item is going to sit a lot without being used, rechargeable batteries may as well be taken out. In my experience, they don’t hold a charge for months on end for items that aren’t being used. It’s very frustrating for kids to try to play with a toy they haven’t noticed in some time, only to find out that they have to wait for the batteries to charge. Pulling the batteries on less-used toys doesn’t make them any more ready to go, but it does mean you can use the batteries for more than one thing, and you might be able to move them from toy to toy as interests demand.

Are You Wasting Reusable Bags?

eusable shopping bags are a great idea in theory. You buy a bag, and bring it back every time you go shopping, no more need for paper or plastic bags.

The only problem is that many people don’t do it like that. They keep getting new reusable bags because they forget the old. The rate of reuse is so low that some grocery stores no longer offer a small discount for bringing your own bags because too few people do it.

I’ll admit the discounts are a nice thing when you can get them, but they shouldn’t be your only reason for bringing your own bags.

It’s easy to forget to bring your reusable bags to the store, if they aren’t right there when you head out. Most of us need it to be really convenient to remember the bags or it’s just not going to happen. Some people keep them by the door, others in the car, still others buy reusable bags that can be folded up small enough to fit into a purse.

Reusable bag quality matters too. You can get cheap ones many places, but some of those only last a few uses. They really aren’t as beneficial as better quality reusable bags that last far longer. My canvas bag, for example, puts up with quite a bit of abuse. I also have some old jeans that need to be made into shopping bags – far better than buying more reusable bags. Now I just need to make the time to get the job done.

If you’re developing a stack of reusable bags because you keep buying new ones when you forget, you need to build a new habit. Too many reusable bags are not good for the environment. Excess bags are a waste, especially if they’re just some sort of thicker plastic rather than fabric.

If you find yourself with a lot of extra reusable bags, a good start is to find people to give them to. Family members and friends who might use them are a pretty good place to start. They can make a nice sort of gift wrap, depending on style. Not quite as nice if they have store logos on them, but if you know people who won’t mind, not a bad gift either.

The main thing to remember is that any activity you do with the intent of being environmentally friendly only has a chance of actually being so if you do it correctly. Do it wrong and it becomes a feel good gesture that doesn’t actually accomplish anything and may even have more of negative effect than what you were trying to avoid.

How Do You Limit Your Environmental Impact at Christmas?

If there’s one problem with Christmastime, it’s the consumer feeding frenzy that happens every year. So much waste, and it’s hard to not get into it at least a little bit. Most families have a lot of Christmas traditions that are difficult to change and too much fun to easily opt out of.

How can you adapt your habits at Christmastime to limit the impact you put on the environment?

1. Talk it over with family.

Have a discussion with your family about changes you’d like to make and why. Try to make handmade, reused and Fair Trade gifts more acceptable.

My kids are getting a stack of books from our local $1 bookstore this year. They’re all used books, but in good condition. For about the price of one or two new books for each, they’re getting a bunch of books. I call that a good deal.

Trees and seeds are good gifts for those who enjoy gardening. Find out what they’d like to grow and which varieties grow well in their area. A good fruit tree is a gift that will keep on giving for years.

2. Limit spending on gifts.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can set a price limit and still all shop for the same people, or you can draw names and pool the total value given in gifts per person.

Between my sisters and I, we have an agreement on how much each of us contributes toward gifts. It’s approximate, as no money actually changes hands. Instead, names are drawn and gift values assigned to each name. Each person shops for the people they drew.

This cuts down a lot on shopping time and on the buying of obnoxious knickknacks. You can find out what the person actually wants, and it might be in the budget.

3. Reuse gift bags.

This one drives some people nuts, but it’s why I don’t like to use wrapping paper. Gift bags are very reusable if you treat them well. I keep quite a stash of them for whenever I need to give a gift.

Alternatively, use a reusable shopping bag as a gift bag. Make it a part of the gift.

4. Go easy on the lights.

Holiday light displays are beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. We’re planning a walk around our neighborhood soon to see all the holiday lights on display – my youngest just about plasters herself to the windows at night when she notices all the pretty lights outside right now.

The only problem with holiday light displays is how much energy they use. It adds a lot to your power bill, and most power generation isn’t exactly clean. Then light strands break down over time and have to be replaced. That part isn’t so pretty.

If you’re going to have holiday lights, go for LED whenever you can. They use less power, and they’ve been improving over the past few years. You should also put your lights on a time, both outside and on your Christmas tree inside, so that they don’t stay on all night long. They don’t really need to look so pretty when no one is going to see them, right?

5. Think your travel through.

The holiday season is a time to visit and enjoy being with family. If you live away from your extended family, it’s common to take a trip and go visit.

Kind of a pity about the pollution created.

Choosing the most effective and environmentally friendly form of transportation is a balancing act. A big part is how far you have to go. If you’re only a couple hours away, a car may be your one option. If you’re cross country, you may not be able to afford the time a car or train takes to cover that distance.

There are options to traveling. You can talk on the phone, of course. If both sides have a webcam, you can talk that way. Not as much fun as being together in person, but it’s kinder to the environment and the budget.

6. Think about the food.

Holiday food, oh, the holiday food! It’s no wonder many people gain weight over the holidays. There’s too much good food available this time of year at the various parties and other events you may attend.

For your own health, overeating is a bad idea, although the occasional indulgence isn’t that terrible for your health at all.

When you’re preparing food, think about where it comes from. You may not be able to get much fresh, local produce this time of year, depending on where you live, unless it was grown in a greenhouse. You can try to get organic produce. You can get free range turkey or other meats that have been treated better than the usual factory farmed stuff.

Sweet treats are the big challenge. Look for bakeries that use healthier ingredients and avoid HFCS you can buy Fair Trade candies, or you can make desserts and other treats yourself. Balancing deliciously decadent with environmentally sensitive takes some extra work, but it’s not a bad challenge if you’re up for it.

7. Think about your tree.

We have an artificial tree. Not as pretty as a real tree, but we’ve had it for a number of years now and intend to keep on using it for many more. My mother has had the same artificial tree as far back as I can remember, and it’s still going strong.

If you go artificial, that’s the thing to remember, to commit to keeping it a long time. Don’t just throw it out because you want a real tree from then on. Find someone who does want it if you’re done with it.

If you go for a real tree, make sure it was sustainably farmed. A good tree farm replants every year. Don’t flock your real tree, as that makes it unrecycleable.  Do make sure that your real tree gets recycled in whatever way is available in your local area. Many communities have places where you can drop off your real trees at the end of the season.

8. Remember your reason for the season.

Whatever holiday you’re celebrating, whatever the reason, keep it in mind as you prepare for it. There’s no religion anywhere that demands the consumer frenzy that has become so common at this time of year.

Do you have any special ways you limit your family’s impact at this time of year?

Buy Christmas Gifts That Encourage Kids to do More Outdoor Activities

Here it is, the start of the holiday shopping season, or at least the start I’m willing to admit to. I’m trying to ignore all those businesses that had Christmas stuff out back before Halloween, or the ones that tried to move Black Friday a week early.

At this time of year, kids are clamoring for all kinds of gifts. The hottest toys are discussed, and most kids want far more than they could ever play with. It can be pretty crazy.

With all the toys many children already have, I like to suggest thinking about what it is you’d like them to be doing, as well as what they like to do. Any gifts you do give you will want appreciated, after all.

My own favorite gift for my kids to get right now is anything that encourages them to be more active. They’re pretty active already, and I’d like it to stay that way as long as possible. Better for their health and certainly a better way for them to appreciate the world around them.

The really great part about outdoor activities is that whatever equipment they require is not likely to include a lot of small pieces to be left all over the house. Sports equipment and the like left around the yard, sure, but not all over the house.

Here are some ideas to get you going on shopping for outdoor toys and equipment for your own kids.


The right wheeled equipment depends on age. Younger kids will need more stable equipment than older kids, and any kid will need a bit of time to get used to unfamiliar equipment. But it’s all fun.

Consider a bike, tricycle, scooter, roller skates, skateboard, and any of their cousins. These help kids to be more active and learn to balance well. Don’t forget appropriate safety equipment and discussions.

Team Sports

Whether you enroll your kids in a team sport or just play at home with family and friends, team sports help your child be more physically fit and active while learning how to play on a team. Just how good the lesson is will depend on the particular team, since some overly emphasize winning and giving the top players most of the game time.

Your child probably has a favorite sport, and it’s best to stick with that when getting your child into a team sport. You can push for other sports, but if you’re going for more active, you want your child to enjoy what they’re doing. Physical activity should not be dreaded.

Swing Set

How can any young child resist a good swing set? It’s hard for many adults! Figure out the space you have and a reasonable budget, and get things moving.

There are of course many other ways to get kids active outdoors. What are the favorites in your family?