Friday, March 12, 2010

When a tightwad gets trashy

I was invited to a meeting I really should not have been invited to this week. Someone thought I should be there, and I thought they were probably right, but then of course I’m sitting there and they’re talking about a system I don’t even have access to let alone power over, and going into painful detail about something that is, to me, a whole lot of “blah blah blah” and it just sort of kept going and going and going and then, well…

…I sort of started daydreaming.

Which is a lot less rude than standing up and yelling, “I’M SO OUTTA HERE!” and storming out of the room in a fit of pique because the meeting was not actually All About You, yes?

Yeah. That was my theory, anyway.

So I’m sitting there, daydreaming about Things, and then I found myself contemplating trash.

Specifically, the fact that the cost of curbside pickup keeps nudging upward every so often. Since I get my bill online, I don’t get the little flyer alerting me to this, either. And since it is buried in a combined bill for water / sewage / trash / anything else the city can think of, well, I might not notice that it went up another five bucks a month for a while.

Now, a thousand years ago when we first signed up, it was, like, $11 a month.

I checked this month’s bill and it has gone up to $29.45.

Which on the one hand, if you really think about it, is a small price to pay to be able to just throw your troublesome items into totes and have them magically vanish from your curb every Wednesday morning.

::poof!:: The Trash Fairy has granted your wish, and all the incriminating evidence about your lifestyle has sent to another dimension far, far away…

But of course, this is me thinking about it…which naturally means that I’m griping to myself about the lack of competition and how unfair it is that I don’t really have a way to trim that cost.

I mean, it’s not like you can live without curbside pickup, gracious knows…

Y’all can see where this line of thought went next, right?

Here’s what suddenly occurred to me.

We have three totes provided by the garbage pickup people: A small green trash-as-such tote, a large brown yard waste tote, and a large blue recycling tote. They pick up the trash once a week, and the other two every other week.

The recycling tote is always stuffed full to overflowing. The yard waste used to be a hit or miss thing, but these days it’s almost 100% miss because I am all about the compost. (Because I saw the price tag on a bag of the stuff. Amazingly, I suddenly got religion on turning all of our green waste into brown gold.)

The trash tote is seldom more than maybe half full. Sometimes even less. This is what happens when you combine “not buying it in the first place” with “buying in bulk” – a lot less packaging, and what packaging there is generally is recyclable / reusable. (And when you’re cheap fiscally prudent, you’ll recycle something until it wears out and then find another use for it anyway because it’s still perfectly good.)

Now once upon a long, long time ago, we had a little issue with our trash pickup. They didn’t want to do it anymore at the price they were getting, and the city didn’t want to pay the price they were asking.

The trash began piling up…until finally we decided to take it to the dump ourselves.

A month’s worth of trash didn’t even half fill the short bed pickup truck we borrowed to get the job done. It was maybe a third of the bed. And we weren’t doing anything special to reduce the output, either.

A full sized pickup truck load at the dump costs $10.

Now, I’m thinkin’ that if we were to have a full sized pickup truck, assuming that we remain steady at that, eh, about-a-third-of-a-bed rate of trash production, we’d be looking at going to the dump once a quarter, at a cost of $10.

Forty bucks a year, instead of $353.40. Plus, right now I give away some money in the recycling tote. Sure, I turn in my CRV cans and anything else with a deposit on it, but I don’t bother with things like plastic milk jugs and other random-but-paid-for things where the money I get is more or less negligible.

A milk jug gets me something like half of a cent. But look, in an average year, we’ll go through over 400 of them, right? Which is two whole bucks! So, now I’m down to $38 dollars for garbage disposal, right? And I’m already having to go to the big recycling center once a month or so to get my deposits back, so it’s not like I have to make an “extra” trip or anything.

…I figure I could easily recoup the entire $40 annual cost at the dump through extra-avid cash recycling…

They also take for free plenty of stuff they don’t pay for, like cardboard and plastic grocery bags – so, they don’t have to be included in the dump trip.

There is, of course, one small problem with this whole theory: We don’t own a pickup truck.

Oh. And there is also the itty-bitty, teeny-weeny issue around it being a 12-layer Crazy Cake with Mango-Peanut Frosting. Mmmmm, nutty goodness…

Which, by the way, my husband would be more than willing to overlook if it meant he got himself a big old truck yessir, because a man just needs to have a truck, y’all…a BIG truck, with banged up sides and a bed that clearly says, “HEY! I ain’t no pretty-boy truck, I work for a livin’!”

I swear, he actually starts to salivate whenever he thinks about getting himself a big’ol’truck. And if I proposed a scenario under which he got one? It would be two thumbs way up!

Even if it meant his crazy wife was stockpiling bags of trash along the back fence and then demanding that he get out there and deal with it when her back-of-napkin figures indicate that we’ve probably got about a bed-load out there now. (Bonus points if I’m wrong and it isn’t a full load, so I say, “No, no, take it all out, we’ve got another two weeks of room in there at least – no sense wasting a trip…”) (Aren’t you sorry you’re not married to me? Seriously. Think of all the fun you’re missing!) (That poor man, I swear he actually flinches and grows pale whenever I chirp up with, “Hey, here’s an amusing thought…”)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I’m actually thinking about doing. Mostly because if I did, I’d have to rethink where to put the chickens when they eventually arrive because not a bit coincidentally, the area where I’d put their shelter is the same area where I could potentially stockpile a truckload of trash without someone calling the police.

And if they have to move, the compost probably has to move too. Because that would be the other place where I could put living critters that go ‘cluck cluck cluck’ a lot and possibly generate some smells from time to time where the neighbors wouldn’t be diving onto their phones screaming for help because ohmygah, that crazy hippie-granola-earth-mother-how-the-heck-many-children-does-she-HAVE-over-there-anyway-and-what-IS-that-hanging-off-the-clothesline?! chick next door is trying to gas us to death! With chickens!!!!!

(Don’t you wish you were my neighbor? Denizens, clotheslines, fleece drying on every surface, a rainbow of yarn drying on clotheslines all over the yard, strange [cough-cough] landscaping choices, chickens, compost, me out in the backyard yelling, “OH FLUBBER-BLECKIN GOD-BLESSED CORN FLAKES AND TUNA PATTIES, I JUST FOUND ANOTHER CUTWORM!!!!!” at the top of my lungs on an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon…suburban living at its finest, right there…)

And if that moves, well, something is going to have to go out in the front of the Den, which at the moment looks more or less as though, you know, normal people live here.

And, as you all know by now, I am all about keeping up appearances…

(Says the woman who has forgotten makeup the last six days in a row, can’t remember to wash her face at night, and is wearing dye-splattered jeans, green socks with a gray sweater and ratty shoes that could probably use a good buffing but feh, who cares, I’m just going to be out trumping around in the mud in less than an hour anyway, once I finish cleaning off my home office desk…)

(…yeah…it was a work from home day, how could you tell…?)


Anonymous said...

You have no Home Owner's Association to deal with? You are a blessed woman.

Steph B said...

Leaving all the other stuff aside - what IS it with men and trucks? My sweet husband would give a vital organ to have him a big ol' truck to play with whenever he wants. Boys and their toys.

Monday's Child said...

LOL - I loved it!

Though I couldn't help but noticing that our trash service is GREEN for yard waste and BROWN for regular trash. That's definitely one of those things that could trip me up if I'm visiting a friend up there (I'm in SoCal)...

Anonymous said...

While I’m sure you would think of this on your own, may I point out that your monthly cost calculation does not include the cost of the big ol’ truck? Even if you don’t take into account the capitol expense of buying the thing, they are pricey to run. (I’m assuming you are going to buy ‘significantly pre-owned’ as the car dealers like to say, cause I’m been reading your blog long enough to guess just how you would react to the sticker price on a new one.) Insurance, maintenance and just plain gas for the trips to the dump are probably going to eat up most, if not all and then some, of that $26 per month savings.

For full disclosure I should add that trucks are a pet peeve of mine. Part of my job is debt counseling, and I see way too many clients who arrive with payments over $600, plus another $300 in insurance and monthly costs, because they ‘need’ a truck and after careful questioning find that they ‘need’ the truck because two or three times a year they haul something that wouldn’t fit in the back of my economy car.

U-haul, baby. Twenty bucks if you belong to one of the gazillon groups that they give discounts to and you don’t have to find a place to park it when you aren’t using it.

Another Joan said...

What JoyLee said: do you have a car-share available? Daughter uses one and has had the Joy of Truck just often enough to deal with the craving. If not car-share, rental works big time! Still doesn't deal with the storage issue though...

Louiz said...

Mmm, we have a car club service round here which does vans and trucks too...

And, I wouldn't mind if you were my neighbour. You would probably not mind the strangeness we're likely to get up to too. Shame we're on different continents!

Kathryn said...

Interesting musing...but.

Not only do you underestimate the cost of the gas to drive the stuff out to the dump...just stop and think for minute if everyone else in your town was storing garbage for a month at a time, and then trying to drive to dump on Saturday morning. The traffic! (The SMELL!)

But when one or more of you start opting out...(say, your DH thinks it's a good excuse to get a truck), then you erode the efficiency of sending 'round those big old haulers to pick stuff up. I haven't crunched numbers, but I suspect that garbage pick up, like some other things, are more efficiently done as a truck w/ one driver to do the whole neighborhood has got be better than each of you driving your own trash out of town (or even 10 different competing companies each sending their own noisy truck down your street to pick up one or two loads.)

(Disclosure: We have city trash pick up and I'm OK with the charge. Stuff disappears each and every Thursday AM. They have a great recycling program, and if we don't want to compost, they sell the compost back to us at a very reasonable price.)

pharmerboy said...

You are one of my money heroes. I've followed your stuff on the Fool, and now here, for years. You rock!

Not every idea needs full implementation. Please think long and hard about the feasibility of this one.

Do you really want to invest what precious extra time you own (which is NONE, best I can tell) in garbage storage/hauling?

Or are you just envisioning the knitting time during transit?

Just say this is one of those things that you can rely on others to do for you more efficiently than you can do for yourself.

You rock!

PS my verification word is nontle

Mother of Chaos said...

Heh...guys, there's no way I'd actually do this. The storage issues alone would be BEYOND crazy, and we don't have any need for a truck yet - the time will probably come when we DO need to haul crates and fencing and goats and stuff hither and yon on a regular basis, but right now we only "need" a truck three or four times a year.

...but when we do get one, it will probably be wicked old and cheap...after all, we're going to work the thing to death, it doesn't need to be new and shiny and perfect.

Besides, the dump is only a few miles from our house - great for the gas consumption to get there, but ROTTEN for the knitting time!! 8^D