Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you’ll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you’re using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn’t use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it’s important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.
Measure the amount of water that’s in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here’s another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you’ve chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that’s attached to a flexible hose.

While handheld models may offer convenience, they’re typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn’t the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it’s more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you’re taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How Expensive is Too Expensive for a Trash Can?

Everyone has one chore that they simply can’t stand to do. For my roommate, it’s loading the dishwasher. She would clean the toilet, mop the floors and massage my feet 10 times over before ever willingly loading all of our dirty dishes. For me, it’s taking out the garbage.

The bag tears when I take it out of the trashcan every single time, it always smells and there never fails to be some unknown juice leaking out, which drips all the way down our building’s hallway.

For years I simply accepted that taking out the garbage was terrible. It wasn’t until recently that I realized having a better trash can could actually alleviate some of the problems. Upon further investigation into better trash cans, I found something shocking: Some people are paying upward of $100 for their receptacles. As someone who’s only ever bought $15 bins at Target, I was immediately intrigued. Is that really worth it? And how much is just too expensive for a trash can?

Though the question is absolutely subjective – some people are content with cheap plastic trash cans, and that’s absolutely OK – I found that there are several reasons people will splurge on the more expensive ones. Here are some of the qualities that might make buying an expensive trash can worth it:

Easy Handless Opening

The most common quality of the very expensive trash cans seems to be a handless opening mechanism. While some cheaper garbage bins have foot pedals, they often don’t work well, especially after years of use.

The pricier options include those with motion-activated lids, and ones with more high-tech foot pedals that offer soft opens and closes, which won’t bang up your walls or hands. The motion-activated ones often require batteries to continue working well, which could be an extra expense down the road.

Deodorizing

This isn’t as common a feature, but many people will pay extra money for this. Some models have a carbon deodorizer, which keeps the receptacle smelling nice no matter what garbage is in it. If this sounds like something you’d need, you’re probably already getting your wallet out to buy one.

Style

For those in small apartments, there often isn’t room for trash cans in the kitchen cabinets or hall closets, which means the garbage will be sitting out in the open. For this reason, people spend a little more on the ones that look much nicer. The most popular trash cans tend to be silver and black with sleek lines.

Quality Material

Going along with style, many people splurge for trash cans made of quality material – most often stainless steel. Some of the most expensive trash cans from simplehuman and iTouchless are made from stainless steel that’s fingerprint-proof so that the can always looks pretty. Plus, stainless steel is sturdier and much more durable in the long run than plastic, and it won’t absorb odors.

Easy Trash Bag Removal

This is a big selling point for those who find the bag tears every time it’s removed from the trashcan. Many expensive designs keep the trash bag intact with various methods.

One $140 simplehuman trashcan has an inner liner with an area to pull through any excess bag to keep it from getting snagged in the lid’s hinges. Plus the liner itself can be removed and carried to the garbage room, so you don’t have to lug around an awkward bag.

After my research, I made my own personal conclusion: I don’t think I would ever pay more than $50 for a garbage can, but a little bit of a splurge, say one that’s between $30 and $40, might be worth it to make my most detested chore a little bit easier.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Mint Success: Transitioning from College Kid to Young Professional

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart

“Mint is so crucial to my personal finance I honestly have no idea where I would be without it.” That’s what Austin, TX photography consultant Lawrence Peart says when reflecting about his transition from college student to young pro, financially speaking. His experience so far shows that it is possible to graduate from college without debt, and to adjust to the higher cost of living as a young professional, while also saving money for your future.

But Peart stands out from the crowd. We looked at Minters’ numbers to see how college students and recent graduates use their money or handle debt, and found that there’s a big shift in many categories from ages 18 to 25 – incomes increase, spending categories fluctuate, and debt repayment – well, you know how that goes. Student loan payback time for many!

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College Grads Make More Money…

Depending on the field that graduates enter, incomes can be across the board, but a majority of our Mint users in that age range earn between $25K and $50K annually.

Student ChartGraduate Chart

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…and Spend More Money!

The newfound earnings may seem like a lot of money to a recent grad but, when faced with the sticker shock of life outside school, the typical Mint user experiences an accompanying increase in spending on rent, entertainment, and education related expenses – mostly student loan repayment. That bill averages about $300 per month.

Most grads continue to use credit cards after graduation. In fact, their card charges increase from $1,200 to $1,900 on average. But most of them don’t pay finance charges, which means these savvy Mint users are the ones who pay their balances by the end of the month. This explains why Mint’s young users have an average credit score of 690, considerably higher than the national average of 630 for the same age group*.

Good work, Minters! But while you’re paying off your college debt and adjusting to life on the outside, don’t forget to save for your future. Only 2% of college students have significant long-term savings, and that number only goes up to 7% among college graduates 25 and under. It might seem daunting to set aside those crucial dollars, but that money will grow over time and make your older self thank your younger self.

Moving Forward

Peart is in that 7% – he follows the mantra “Save, invest early and often, reap the benefits later.” With a goal to live debt-free and retire in his 20’s (he just turned 26), Lawrence uses Mint to budget and find extra money to sock away for the future. While his income falls in the same range as the majority of recently graduated Mint users, his experience both during school and in the few years since graduation defies many of the statistics, so naturally we asked him all about it.

What kind of shift in spending did you experience between college and post-college life?

I think it might surprise most people to hear that I spend far less money now than I did in college. Once you start earning an actual income and developing a clearer sense of your relationship to money it becomes much easier to save, and feels more rewarding to do so. While in school I never had much cash, so in a way it had less value and I spent it more freely. You expect to be broke in college, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and unless you’re careful that can then extend past your college years into your working life. I even had a little saying for it: the closer I am to zero, the less I have to lose.

The average college graduate spends about $300 per month on student loan repayment. What’s your bill?

$0. My experience paying for college was a mixture of some good fortune, a little bit of privilege, and tons of hard work. I chose a public school in a reasonably cheap city, I received decent grants, I applied for every scholarship available to me every semester (and made sure I had the grades to qualify) and for all but my sophomore year I worked at least part-time to have a source of income. I graduated broke, sure, and maybe missed out on some fun things here and there, but at least I didn’t owe anything.

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What was the most shocking financial realization you experienced once you left college?

That you can save quite a bit of money not doing the stuff everyone seems to think you have to be doing. If you don’t buy fancy clothes, go out for drinks every day, feel the need to keep up with the newest phone every 6 months etc., all of that extra cash starts to add up.

What are your thoughts about retirement savings, and what do you practice?

I half-seriously tell myself that I want to retire in my 20’s. I don’t mean “retire” in the way most people would think of retirement, I always want to be creating and applying myself to something, but I’d like to have the ability to not work for long periods of time. To be able to wake up one day in the near future and say “I am comfortable not working the rest of the month, time do something creative” and not feel guilty about it. That’s the goal.

I set up a Roth IRA almost immediately upon getting sustained income and contribute the full amount each year into basic low-cost index funds. I admire my parents in a lot of ways and don’t question their decisions and what life events influenced them, but while they are both doing fine in retirement age they are doing so without any long-term retirement account holdings. It might be hard to imagine 40 years down the line, but the math regarding investing when you’re young is compelling.

How does Mint help you stay on track?

I worked for about nine months before I came across Mint, and even though I thought I was being good with my money, you truly have no idea until you see it categorized and laid out in front of you. Those little purchases each day, the subscriptions, the monthly payments, it all adds up fast. You might think you’re saving money, but you’re not. It really does take hard work. Mint makes it easy, and I’ll tell everyone who listens: it’s even made paying bills fun. The first week of each new month is like Christmas. I get paid, I pay off my recurring expenses and then allocate how much I want to save that month before organizing more flexible costs like groceries, entertainment, etc. I follow one maxim above all else: you don’t save what is left after spending, you spend what is left after saving.

You can be like Lawrence

Does the idea of watching the savings pile up get you excited? Try setting up a goal with your Mint account and making that progress bar move!Don't save what you don't spend - spend what you don't save
We would like to hear your story! Contact us at Editor_Mint@intuit.com with “Mint User Story” in the subject.

Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based writer who is pretty jealous of Lawrence’s early progress. It took her many years to pay off her student loans. She celebrated by finally framing her diploma.

*Source: https://www.creditkarma.com/trends/age
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Source: mint.intuit.com