If you are like me, you try to make green and eco-friendly decisions as much as possible. Economical cars, reusable cups, recycling and buying local — and let’s not forget about the big one — finances! Your finances are a great and easy way to make responsible choices for yourself and sustainable choices for the environment. Here are a few easy steps to take control of your finances and reduce your carbon footprint. Get organized Paper bills, receipts and statements can easily become an insurmountable pile that requires a lot of space, and at the end of a long day, organizing is not at the top of my to-do list. One way to start is to scan your documents and start organizing them on your computer. Create files and keep them organized. It will save filing space and all of your documents will be in one place. To dispose of your documents in a safe and secure manner, shred them after you’ve made digital copies. Many places around town offer affordable (or free) collection spots to safely shred and recycle your paper documents, and every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees. Go green The United States uses 25 percent of the world’s paper products, and that accounts for more than 750 pounds of paper per American each year. Identify which documents you are receiving in the mail and opt-in to the e-version wherever possible. Most utilities, financial institutions, credit card companies, etc. now have e-statements available. Some stores even offer to email your receipts to you, or keep track of them through rewards programs. Going paperless is also more secure and convenient, reducing the risk of identity theft from stolen mail. Take inventory of where you can reduce your paper documents and go green! Online banking and money management Now that you’re feeling organized and green, start looking into online banking options that may be available to you. Online banking is a fantastic way to stay on top of your finances. You have the ability to visualize deposits, transfers and withdrawals, plus online banking tools help you track and categorize your expenses, which may help you make better budgeting decisions. If you aren’t already using online banking, contact your financial institution to get enrolled. You may also discover budgeting tools that you may not be aware of. A great tool that your financial institution may offer is online bill payment. Save the trouble of envelopes, stamps or having to visit individual websites to pay your bills. Online bill payment allows you to set up recurring payments for convenience (we’ve all forgotten to pay a bill at least once) and individual payments. Let’s face it — plenty of us are connected to our smart phones. Apps like Mint.com allow you to combine financial accounts, investments and credit cards onto a single platform, which allows you to view the big picture of your finances conveniently. There are also apps available if you’re looking to examine specific parts of your budget to see where you stand financially. Take charge of your finances with online banking and account aggregation programs today. Buy and Invest Green Now that you’ve got a handle on your finances, make your money go further by spending it wisely and in a manner that supports your community and the environment. Make an effort to purchase locally made, long-lasting, environmentally friendly products. Being green starts at home, and lucky for me (and you!), following a few simple steps to keep my life more organized will also have a positive impact on the environment. Be sure to take advantage of numerous opportunities to be green and switch to e-statements — it’s easy and cost-effective!
April Clobes is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSU Federal Credit Union in East Lansing. She can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (517) 333-2254.