Category Archives: Saving Money

Razors, Shaving, and Pollution

History of shaving in America

People have shaved for thousands of years, initially using items such as rock, shell and other similar sharpened crude devices. These were eventually replaced by upgraded versions until eventually the straight razor, the electric razor and the disposable safety razor were invented. The current iteration of disposable safety razors with replaceable blades began with Gillette in 1901 when they created the idea was that a smaller more compact blade was cheaper to produce and thus it could then be disposable. There were likely safety and economic benefits from this change. At some point the head was made to easily detach form the handle allowing for cheaper disposal. In addition during the World War there was fear that soldiers needed to be prepared to wear gas masks. This resulted in disposable razors being issued to service men who were ordered to shave daily. This resulted in a steep rise in the popularity of shaving and ingrained the practice into a whole generation of people. Some data on statistics can be found at:http://www.statisticbrain.com/shaving-statistics/.

In order to remain on task I will not be talking about the monetary cost of shaving in much detail but if you shave you know that it costs money…sometimes quite a bit of money. Shaving cream for instance can cost $5 – $70 per bottle and blades (especially disposable blades) can be quite expensive. Electric razors are expensive and a good old straight razor can cost more than a high end electric razor and requires a lot of maintenance and it can cut you.

The current information on shaving

Based on the data linked above I calculated that women on average waste 2 hours and 10 minutes a month shaving and 1,402 hours of their lives shaving. At a $10 per hour (a dismal salary to live on in the United States) a woman could spend this time to earn an extra $14,000 and they pay $10,000 for this lost salary, this is a total economic impact of $24,000 in the red to the household budget (assuming only one woman in the house) over the life of the woman. Regarding men I couldn’t find cost or time information but 1.3 billion men using a razor to shave and 75% of men shaving daily is a lot of time and money that could be better used.

Environmental Concerns

So I guess I’m a little less concerned about how other people spend their money and their time…If the time and monetary costs of shaving provide you with a benefit as an individual then I won’t begrudge you on those aspects. I am a firm believer that individuals should be allowed to do what they wish and spend their money how they wish provided it doesn’t harm other people. Unfortunately, I think shaving falls into this category of harming other people from an environmental perspective especially when looking at the electric and disposable razor markets. These two kinds of razors are manufactured from metal and plastic both of these processes require energy input and likely this energy input comes from some form of fossil fuel burning. This produces carbon dioxide emissions which may in the near future be detrimental to our health as a species and the health of other species on the planet.

An additional concern is that at the end of the life of these products is likely the landfill and if we are lucky recycling centers. In the landfill these plastics might remain for very long periods of time and while a disposable razor may not be that large the cumulative effect of 1.3 billion men shaving daily creates a fairly sizable impact on the waste system. If we are lucky and the plastics and metals from these products makes it to a recycle center or other proper disposal facility then at least the biohazard (blood that may remain on the blade) is removed and the plastic and sharp metals are removed from the waste stream. This is the preferable end for these devices but even recycling of the plastics and metals is energy intensive (frequently this energy creates carbon emissions) and is still not great for the environment.

Proposal

I would like to propose that all men and women cease the practice of shaving (except with straight razors). The preferred option would actually be for men to wear beards and for women to have hairy legs and armpits. We are designed to have hair it provides many functions and to create a false image of beauty by encouraging as a society the unnatural practice of shaving as the societal norm is not only unnatural and a skewed reality but it is also harming the environment for generations to come (and the present generations), and financially costing households money which could be spent on other things (such as improving clean water and safe food access to others). Finally it wastes time that could be spent enjoying life, enjoying time with your family, earning more money or making a difference in society and the world. The act of shaving is robbing us dry and we continue to promote it to the extent that even today many businesses has policies which deter unshaven looks.

Harming the Environment and Wasting Tax Dollars!

Yesterday, I went hiking with my three boys (8, 5, 1). Since we had the youngest with us we took the Bob stroller and hit it off into the trails around then local highschool. This is the same area where we found Moss Man last fall. I had thought about writing a post about Moss Man but perhaps I’ll just share the video.

No, we didn’t make said Moss Man and we don’t know who did. We just walked through the woods and found him.

 

Anyways, Moss Man is on the shorter loop (a mile to a mile and a half) which is the route we usually take (the kids do better on shorter hikes). Yesterday I let the boys pick which route we would take and they picked the long loop (about 3-5 miles).  These loops are around the highschool for the Town of Signal Mountain. The trails are located on what’s called Shackleford Ridge and they link in to the Cumberland trail system which links into the Appalachian trail. So, a few wrong turns and you’re on your way from Tennessee to Canada (after 6 months of living on the trail…).

The cool thing about these particular loops that we hike on (at least if you have kids) is that they go around the highschool, middle school, elementary school and the associated sports facilities (4 soccer fields, 3 baseball fields, and two football fields) plus the student and staff parking.  This is great if you’re hiking with kids and may possibly need to find a shortcut back to civilization if a child gets exhausted and wants to call it quits.

Surprise, surprise, the 5 year old for exhausted and on this particular hike we were on the opposite end on the trail system. We found a quick exit to the road and then cut across the baseball fields, through the student parking then the staff parking. Finally, we had to go around the school building itself. There are two ways to go the short way (through grass) or the long way (on the road around the school).

You guessed it we took the grass by this time it is about 5:30 PM and school has been out for about 2 hours. The grass is beautifully landscaped and we turned a corner and low and behold there is a ground level window….wide open. My first thought, probably from 10 years in law enforcement, was wow that’s not very secure…instantly I thought of people climbing in the window and either vandalizing the place or stealing whatever they could grab.

Now, I’ve mentioned in other posts that I have recently completed a M.S. in Environmental Science and as a result my kids and I frequently talk about environmental topics. My oldest son’s first thought (and my second thought) was wow that’s wasting a lot of electricity. This lights appeared to be off in the classroom and the window wide open. We looked around the building a bit more and located two additional windows (these on the second floor). That were also connected to apparently empty classrooms and wide open.

The bottom line is that teachers should be role models for ideal behavior for kids. They should be concerned about safe practices that secure the building and they should do environmentally sound in classroom practices. I hope this was just an isolated incident at my local school and not a national environmental plague and an unnexessary waste of tax dollars. We hike frequently at this location so I plan to pay more careful attention in the future. Hopefully this was an isolated incident but if not I will likely we writing a letter to the board of education. I did not manage to get photos of this event but I will try to remember to next time (if there is a next time).

Online Car Auto Calculator MPG Savings

This calculator will calculate the monetary savings in gasoline when purchasing a more fuel effecient vehicle. I am using this strategy to purchase a more effecient car essentially free. The idea is that I currently drive a gas hog and I am waiting until car/vehicle/automobile gasoline effeciency (MPG) and their purchase prices and gasoline costs create a favorable position where I can purchase and fuel a new car for the price of fueling my old car. To do so I focus on “No Interest for 60 month!” deals. Then plug in the info into the calculator. A savings greater than the cost of the car over the length of the loan = a win. When gas was $4.00 a gallon I was very close to achieving this. Also as the purchase cost of hybrid and electric vehicles decreases and their effeciency increases I get closer to this happening. The default numbers compare my Ford Crown Victoria to a Toyota Prius Base model 2015

Well enough talking here is the online auto savings calculator:

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”57″]

Cost Per Item Calculator

Have you ever been to the store shopping and you saw an item on the shelf and there are many different brands packages sizes and quantities? Which one is really the best deal? Well this calculator will help you easily compare the actual cost per unit of similar items when shopping at: the grocery store, the hardware store, the office supply store, the pet store or any other store. Read below the calculator for directions.

[CP_CALCULATED_FIELDS id=”56″]

Here is what you need.

  1. A common unit that both items have. This can be ounces (oz), pounds (lbs), milliliters (ml), grams (g), kilograms (kg), quantity (how many total), sheets (like printer paper or toilet paper), feet e(ft), meters (m), inches (in), centimeters (cm) or any other length (such as when buys rope, extension cords, wire, fence, boards, length of Christmas light cords, groceries), really this will work for comparing price on anything with a common unit (often the common unit can be derived, maybe later I will make those calculators) and finding the real bargains .
  2. A price on each item to be compared. This can be dollars, cents, pounds, francs, Eurodollars, rupees, yen, bitcoins, video game currency, or any other form or currency. Just make sure both items are using the same currency.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Name the item (optional).
  2. Put the unit (quantity, length etc..) in the correct box for each item.
  3. Put the total purchase price for the item into the correct box.
  4. I have included enough spaces to compare up to five items at once.

Hopefully this calculator will save you some money or at least help you make an informed purchase decision.

You can even figure out the price with coupons simply use the total quantity from the coupon purchase and the total price with the coupon applied to quickly calculate the price per unit.

Drive-Through Windows – Solution A Day

Background – Fast Food Dinner

Car sitting in the drive through.
A local krystals drive through.

A few weeks I drove through a McDonald’s restaurant and I went to the speaker and ordered my food. I then went to window one to pay and then to window two. while waiting at the windows.

The Problem – The Drive-Through Windows were left open

window left open
The Krystal’s window can be seen left open.

While at the windows for the drive through I observed that the customer service attendant kept leaving the window open. In fact it was open for more than 50% of the time that my car was at the window. I admit that I have not done a comprehensive study about how frequently drive through windows are left open. However, I have 30 years of experience as a consumer and can recall many occasions where this practice was par for the course. The main problem is that for a good portion of the year restaurants (or rather their owners) are spending money to keep their establishment climate controlled. Leaving the window open unnecessarily adds to the amount of energy used for climate control. In many cases this energy is in the form of electricity. Frequently this electricity is created by burning fossil fuels. Waste like this can significantly add to the total carbon emissions entering the atmosphere. These carbon emissions then add to global warming. Consider that there are more than 200,000 drive-through establishments in the U.S. alone. This is a huge total effect.

I like to promote protecting the environment while simultaneously benefiting people and protecting your pocketbook. This wasteful energy is a direct burden everyone involved. If a business needs to spend an extra $2000 a year on electricity because of this window then they must increase the cost of whatever product they are selling in order to make a profit. The increase in cost is passed on to the consumer who ends up paying for the wasted energy. Remaining competitive in an industry such as fast food absolutely requires keeping costs in check. Fixing the window problem will help with this goal.

The Solution – Close the Window

Perhaps the easiest and cheapest solution is for business owners and managers would be to create and enforce operating procedures to ensure that floor level employees close the window. This is every bit as bad as the 2008 discovery that starbucks was wasting 6 million gallons of water daily in the U.K. by leaving their tap on. A more expensive (but possibly more effective) approach would be to install windows that automatically shut. For the business owner either of these solutions will reduce the bottom line and increase profits. The reduces costs will increase competitive edge either with better paid staff, cheaper prices, or increased profits.

Conclusion – Shut the Window

Shutting the window will save money for everyone. It will also improve the atmosphere for generations to come. If you are an employee who works at a drive through window please remember this the next time you clock-in. I want to stress that many of the environmental problems I talk about are not limited to one company. Rather I mention larger companies because they are present everywhere. In other words while McDonalds and Krystal’s leave their windows open so do many other unnamed companies and Starbucks isn’t the only company who has problems recycling hot beverage cups and saving water they just represent a large portion of their markets.

Toothbrushing and Saving Water – A Solution A Day

Background – Human Behavior and Saving Money

Everyday people take various actions throughout their daily routine. Many of these actions start out as choices and turn into a routine. We as a species are creatures of habit. Thus it should come as no surprise that some of these habits can be improved. An example is smoking is a bad habit. Brushing our teeth on the other hand is a good habit. Even good habits can be improved. Today we shall focus on brushing our teeth and how to save water. My family uses Philips Sonicare Toothbrush, brand toothbrushes they are electric rechargeable and effectively clean your teeth. The ones in the photo are the ones we purchased several years ago.

Lots of tooth brushing is good
Tooth Brushes in my house.

The Problem – Water Wasted While Brushing our Teeth

Hopefully you brush your teeth the recommended three minutes twice a day. When you do brush your teeth what do you do? A typical tooth brushing process might be:

  1. Person walks in
  2. Turns on the water
  3. Rinses off the tooth brush
  4. Puts toothpaste on the brush
  5. Brushes for 3 minutes
  6. Rinses off the tooth brush
  7. Rinses out mouth
  8. Turns off the water

While it is difficult to determine exactly how much time the faucet spends running on the average tooth brushing or the average water used (this will vary with length of faucet on and flow rate of the faucet). We can improve the process to save some freshwater, and a small amount of money.

Faucet left with water running
Water left on during teeth brushing

The Solution – Turn the Water Off when not in Use

At my home 100 gallons of water costs 13.77 cents which is not a crazy amount. In fact it is quite cheap compared to say San Diego where they have a tiered system and the cheapest tier 100 gallons costs 48.66 cents and the most expensive tier is $1.0949 for 100 gallons. Let’s make some basic assumptions:

  1. My water rate (which I suspect is on the lower end of the U.S.A.). Compared to the expensive tier for San Diego.
  2. A family of four who all brush their teeth for six minutes per day (two three-minute sessions each person). This amounts to a total of 24 minutes of tooth brushing and the before and after times.
  3. The faucet is only on for a negligible amount of unnecessary time before and after the tooth brushing.
  4. The faucet it either completely on or completely off.
  5. The average flow rate in a residential bathroom is two gallons.
  6. All bathrooms have the same water pressure.

We will change our process to (I’ve bolded the additional steps):

  1. Person walks in
  2. Turns on the water
  3. Rinses off the tooth brush
  4. Turns off water
  5. Puts toothpaste on the brush
  6. Brushes for 3 minutes
  7. Turns on water
  8. Rinses off the tooth brush
  9. Rinses out mouth
  10. Turns off the water

Math:

4 (people) * 6 (minutes per day) = 24 minutes

24 minutes * 2 gallons (per minute) = 48 gallons per day

48 gallons (per day) * 365 (days per year) = 17,520 gallons per year

That’s 17,520 gallons per year of water that does down the drain during the three minutes where you are brushing your teeth and not using the water.

17520/100 = 175.20 (hundred gallon charges per year).

Below I multiply the charge by the water rates from above to determine the annual cost.

Dollars wasted at my price per year: $24.132

Dollars wasted at San Diego low price tier per year: $85.2578

Dollars wasted at San Diego high price tier per year: $191.83

Just for fun if the entire American population did this it (assuming all Americans brush teeth)  would save:

Dollars wasted at my price per year: $1,893,762,467.00

Dollars wasted at San Diego low price tier per year: $6,690,602,246.00

Dollars wasted at San Diego high price tier per year: $15,053,855,053.00

Gallons Saved: 1,374,880,000,000

Conclusion

Well most people paying my water rate are probably not terribly inconvenienced by the extra $2 of water each month from this habit. Someone in San Diego might be happy to save $7-15 per month on their water bill. The real important thing here is that today more than ever and as the populations increases, fresh water is very important to conserve especially when we could be using 3.77 billion fewer gallons of water per day (just from turning off the water when we brush our teeth. Let me put this into perspective the flow rate of the Mississippi river (The largest river in the U.S.A.) is only 7.76 billion gallons per day (about twice what we would waste as a country if everyone left the water running while brushing their teeth).

Low Rolling Resistance Tires

Background – Low Rolling Resistance Tires

This is another personal adventure so strap on your seat belts and enjoy the ride. Let me begin by saying that while I am an advocate for environmental stewardship, I haven’t always been. When I turned 18 and graduated highschool I got a car. I spent a long time deciding what features were important to me personally when it came to a car. Like many 18 year old males a big engine with lots of power was obviously going to be on that list. I also wanted something with lots of interior space and that rode comfortably (not that sporty bouncy suspension). In the end I was driving what I now refer to as ‘The Boat’ because it drives like a boat.

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My 1997 model Ford Crown Victoria, luxury edition, is now 17 years old with 253,000 (80,000 when I got the car) miles and almost eligible for an antique auto tag. I’ll be honest I still love the car but it gets pretty pitiful miles per gallon of fuel (it feels like 10 mpg, but I measured it at 15). When I was 18 I complained about driving to Atlanta, GA because it was about 100 miles and ‘was expensive’ to buy gasoline ($1.09 a gollon). Today and triple the gas price later and I am wondering why I didn’t drive more places.

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Today prices fluctuate between $3.00 and $4.00 a gallon and being a poor, and environmental, person I am much more concerned with fuel effeciency. Now the other piece of the puzzle is that I have for about a decade now been the poster child for brand loyalty when it comes to my Michelin tires. Let’s just say there is no better tire in the world than a Michelin.

There are lots of important factors that go into a tire and a tire should receive the credit it deserves. When you are driving a car the only part of the car that has contact with the road surface (hopefully!) is the set of tires. A poorly designed tire will not grip the road as well as a well designed tire. A quiet tire is also important if you do not with to hear them humming as you roll down the road. How they perform in wet/cold/hot and other extremes is also important. Finally, how they feel when driving is important. Both my cars have Michelin tires and have for a decade and will continue to for the foreseeable future (unless the brand goes sour).

One day I was at a local retailer buying new Michelin Tires and they had a new product out ‘Green X’ which are low rolling resistance tires. These tires have their tread cut in specific ways and are made out of modified compounds which create the ‘Low Rolling Resistance’ property. What a consumer needs to know is that low rolling resistance reduces the resistance the tire receives from the surface when rolling. This is similar but different from friction and traction. Friction occurs when two objects slide against each other like sandpaper on wood. If you are interested in learning more about rolling resistance please click here to be taken to the Wikipedia article on the topic.

The Problem – Green X tires

The problem today is fairly simple: Are Michelin Green X (their low rolling resistance line) worth buying compared to another tire?

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The Solution – A bit more complicated

It has been a while since I looked at this (16 tires to be specific). Last time I looked at this my first concern was that these tires wouldn’t grip the road as well and might cause me to have an accident. After some research I determined that this was not the case and I purchased the tires. My personal experience driving them for over 100k miles and driving Michelin without the Green X technology for over 100k miles are that from my own personal experience I cannot tell the difference between the two when driving (traction, ride comfort, sound).

With that established Michelin tires (which cost more) have another awesome feature. They last forever, I have purchased Michelin tires which are rated for 100,000 miles of treadlife. For comparison of different tires there are a few pieces of information necessary to determine how to get the best bang for your buck.

  1. The cost of the tires being compared (make sure you compare the same size of tire as this can have a big impact on cost and not necessarily in a logical way).
  2. How many miles each tire is expected to travel.
  3. The cost of gasoline.
  4. The improvement in fuel effeciency from the Low Rolling Resistance Property (this variable is different from one manufacturer to another depending on the actual technologies used on their tire/tires)
  5. The base fuel effeciency of your car (if you don’t know this visit fueleconomy.gov for info on US automobiles).
  6. The number of tires on the vehicle.

According to information published by the United States Department of Energy’s – Alternative Fuels Data Center the average improvement from using a low rolling resistance tire is approximately 3%. Since individual manufacturer data (and individual tire data) is difficult to acquire the 3% value will be applied for calculations. The calculation are conducted in an excel spreadsheet. For my car I went to Tirerack.com and located the most popular (all-season) non low rolling resistance tire for my crown Victoria AltiMAX RT43 (T-Speed Rated) at $84 per tire rated for 75,000 miles. Then I did the same query but for low rolling resistance tires. The result was a Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus, a 70,000 mile tire at $111.00. Then, I added the tires I actually have on my car the Michelin Defenders a 90,000 mile tire costing $129.00. Finally, I added the best seller overall the Fuzion Touring (H- or V- Speed Rated), complete with 40,000 mile warranty for $67.00 per wheel.

tire comparison of low rolling resistance tires
Image of the excel spread sheet showing the savings

As can be seen over the life of the tires the Pirelli save $447.18 (purchase price of $444) and my Michelin tires saved $574.95 (purchase price of $516). In essence Pirelli is paying me $3.18 to drive their tires for 70,000 miles and Michelin is paying me $58.95 to drive their tires for 90,000 miles. I estimated that I drive 30 miles per day which is about 10,950 which allows the Michelin tires to save me about $80 in fuel per year. The average American according to the U.S. Department of Transportation drives 13,476 miles per year or 36.92 miles per day. Using the U.S. average mileage yields: $Fuzion = 3045.98, AltiMAX = $3016.06, Pirelle = $2955.08 and the Michelin $2946,87. Buying the more expensive Michelin Defender instead of the best selling Fuzion results in a total savings of almost $100 per year.

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Conclusion:

Like in previous articles it pays to do the math it turns out the low rolling resistance tires actually tended to save more money over the life of the tire than the purchase cost. Getting paid for using a tire that rides comfortably, grips the road like Velcro and doesn’t make noise is something that I can live with. A tire I liked better than the defender made by Michelin was the HydroEdge (at least here where we get 50 inches of rain a year) but they merged it with another tire to create the defender.

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The article tomorrow will focus on your behavior in the bathroom! Check us out at A Solution A Day.

Click Here for a link to the spread sheet, you may edit the highlighted fields.