If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.

These words were written on a piece of handmade art above a toilet in the bathroom of a condominium belonging to the grandparents of a friend of mine. The toilet was a low flush toilet which was uncommon in 1990. I had already learned that the grandparents recycled almost everything. With a little prodding I was able to learn that the grandparents despised waste. They had grown up learning the principle of thrift when they were younger. To them, like everyone who appreciates thrift, being wasteful was not a way to live. To some degree, they were also environmentalists. Thrift and environmentalism have some common core beliefs.

I quickly learned that my friend’s grandparents were not suffering financially despite the fact the grandfather had never been a high income earner. He and his wife simply practiced what they learned as kids. Avoiding being wasteful was one way they practiced thrift. A nice side benefit was they were able to become wealthy and live comfortably in their retirement years.

Today’s lesson comes from what I learned in that bathroom and how it impacted the lives of my friend’s grandparents. By keeping an eye out on those small areas in our lives where we tend to waste, we can have a positive impact on our wallets. Ben Franklin said it best. “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.” I’m not suggesting that we all change our flushing habits but there is a lesson to be learned here. There are many ways in which we waste in small ways. Maybe you leave lights on in your house when you are not using them. Perhaps you wash too few clothes in the washing machine. Do you take long showers? Is your programmable thermostat programmed? Spend some time this week paying attention to how you use water, electricity, and gas. Look at your bills from last year and see how you might be able to reduce the amount this year. Look for ways to save on your cable, satellite, cell and home phone services.

The savings may only amount to $15 per month. That may not seem like a big difference to you but $15 per month compounded quarterly for 30 years equates to $22,022. That is double what the average American household has saved for retirement. Don’t let those hidden pipes and wires in your walls suck away part of your retirement.

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