In the modern consumer society, more goods and foods are produced every minute than ever before. This holds a high note of promise for quality of living, but the reality is, people in many areas—the United States in particular—are hardly using all of what is available. Oh, they buy it. They just end up tossing much of what could be serviceable into landfills. If this trend continues, our kids need to learn an important finance, economics, and environmental lesson: how to be more economical at home.
Turning Off Appliances
In the modern home, it’s not unusual for people to be running washers, electric stoves, televisions, computers, and lights simultaneously, not to mention charging phones and other mobile devices—2011 data from the U.S. Energy Information Association shows that monthly power bills ranged anywhere from $80.12 (Maine) to $202.72 (Hawaii), with power usage ranging from 521 KWh (Maine) to 1,348 KWh (Louisiana). Various factors contribute to power usage and rates, such as having access to energy efficient appliances, but even those in ideal circumstances are pushing the $100 mark for what they spend per month. An easy way to get kids in the habit of using less power is to teach them little sayings such as “I see an unused light, and that’s not right!” and “What do I hear? An appliance is on, oh dear!” When you catch them leaving things on, say the sayings and have them turn the items off. When they complete the task, give a small reward, such as a sticker. They can earn a set amount of rewards for a larger one.
Many of the items people use around the home can be recycled for other purposes. For instance, you can use small old jam jars to hold bulk spices, or old bed sheets can be turned into painting smocks. Encourage your child to recycle not only by letting them keep money from deposits and recycling center drop offs, but also by reading recycling-oriented books, tracking how much “waste” you recycle each month, having a craft day with recycled items, helping with recycling drives and even composting.
Food costs are constantly increasing and remain one of the largest monthly expenses for any family. January 2013 figures from the USDA show that a thrifty food plan for a family of four (2 kids between 2 and 5) averages $554.90 per month, while a liberal plan is $1080.30. This might seem high, but as reported by the National Resources Defense Council, experts estimate that Americans toss as much as a quarter of the food they buy. If the NRDC data is accurate, that means that a typical family could save about $139 to $270 a month if they just didn’t buy what they eventually throw away. Help your child be aware of food waste by having them ask for doggie bags when you go out, helping you form a weekly shopping list, encouraging them to cook with you, and enforcing a rule of small portions with unlimited helpings. Another trick is to concentrate on meals that, once cooked, can be easily frozen. This way, if you make too much, you can toss leftovers in the freezer to eat whenever you’re ready instead of putting it in the garbage because you and the kids are sick of eating it.