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Think Green

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Eco-friendly money management ideas

Protecting the world's resources for generations to come is a motivating force for many eco-conscious men and women. People go to great lengths to reduce, reuse and recycle in an effort to save the planet. But such efforts also save money, making attempts to go green financially advantageous.

Cutting down on paper waste is one of the easiest ways to save money and benefit the planet. From bank statements to bills to advertisements from retailers, many people find their mailboxes are inundated with mailings they pay little or no attention to. The following are a handful of ways to reduce paper waste and possibly even save some money at the same time.

* Opt for online bill pay. Most financial institutions now have online bill payment software available at no cost to customers. Banks or credit unions can automatically send funds to your various creditors, and these businesses no longer need to send you a paper bill in the mail. Information regarding bank accounts and retail and utility accounts can now be delivered electronically, eliminating the need for paper statements. In addition, some companies offer discounts to customers who pay their bills online or choose e-statements instead of paper statements. Paying bills online also ensures the payments arrive on time, helping consumers avoid penalties on late payments.

* Shop or conduct research online.  Shopping online can reduce fuel consumption, save money and reduce the time you spend going from store to store looking for the perfect item. Even if you prefer to do your shopping in-store, when planning your shopping trip peruse an online catalog instead of signing up for paper mailings.

* Use credit cards. Online shoppers rely on debit or credit cards to make purchases, which cuts down on the use of personal checks. Cutting down on check usage means reducing the number of checks that have to be printed, which reduces paper and chemical ink consumption. Checks often need to be mailed, which means consumers must use envelopes and pay postage fees. But credit card payments can be made over the telephone or through secured websites, making online credit card transactions an easy and eco-friendly options.

* Create digital records. Choosing e-statements and receipts enables you to create a digital file of important data. This information can be stored on an external hard drive or a computer and accessed when necessary. Digital files reduce paper clutter and take up less space. Plus, digital records stored on your computer are less likely than paper receipts to go missing.

Small changes to handling finances can result in significant environmental and financial benefits.