Stimulate this! Great ideas for using your economic stimulus package
As soon as I heard about Bush's Economic Stimulus plan, I started in with the subversion. I'd use my stimulus check to buy things, but entirely not the things Bush and big retail corporations wanted me to. My debit card wouldn't be swiped at Target or Sears or Olive Garden; with the whopping $2,100 my family will get (we have three children) I wouldn't buy a single gallon of premium unleaded gas, nor sink a nickel into video poker machines (I'm scandalized and saddened that's where Oregon's kicker went). No. I'd buy things that would work gently against big government and big big oil.
I made a promise to myself that I would spend my economic stimulus money on things that would save me from spending future fossil fuels, future money and future greenhouse gases. I decided I would invest my stimulus package into my little urban homestead's soil, air, and food stores. I'd get off the grid, just a bit, I'd use it to live lighter. I made a list of ideas and (helped by a substantial tax rebate) I've already started in on it. Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Where will your stimulus package go?
- A family bike. I bought this Electra Townie + Xtracycle + Bobike seat from Clever Cycles for about $1500; you could do it a lot cheaper ($450-$600) if you had a base bike to use (you could even use an old Schwinn). I'm waiting for another Bobike seat for Truman. I can transport all three boys on it! There are lots more thoughts about family biking here.
- A couple of garden boxes, fertilizer, compost, seeds and starts. It seems as if I'm not the only one thinking about this! Lots of your great vegetable gardening advice here.
- A membership in a CSA. You'll get organic produce all season long, you'll help a local farming family, you'll be good to the earth, and you'll save money. Maybe you'll even teach your children how great artichokes are. A few recommendations of Portland-area CSAs are here; here's a comprehensive list. You'll pay between $200 and $800 depending on the length of season, size of box, farm, and options.
- Fruit trees or bushes. I just went out and splurged on a bunch of blueberry bushes, some currants, two fig trees, and a couple of grape plants. I'm planning on getting a couple of cherry trees once my stimulus package comes through. Huckleberries are native plants, too! Livingscape Nursery is a great place to get fruit bushes and small trees; check out Portland Nursery for large trees. $15-60 per plant; I've budgeted about $200 and expect to be producing a few hundred dollars worth of fruit a year in four or five years.
- Insulated windows; roof insulation; etc. Your house will be worth more; you'll save on energy costs; you'll be happier!
- A chest freezer. Preserve food from that CSA, buy a half a cow, you-pick produce in season or the fruits (and vegetables) from your aforementioned garden. Freezers range in price from $200 to $800 or so; any recommendations?
- Chickens and supplies for a coop. You can start with $100 or so of chicks, food, and supplies; or spend a lot more for a ritzy coop. Either way, you'll have fresh eggs, garden fertilizer, funny pets, and a new respect for farmers. I wrote about getting chickens here; if you need more info, email me or check out the PDXBackyardChix Yahoo! group.
- Purge the plastic. Buy Sigg bottles or Kleen Canteens; reusable tote bags (or buy a sewing machine and make some out of thrifted materials!); glass baby bottles; stainless steel lunch containers; glass jars and storage containers from IKEA; wooden toys; ceramic storage bins for flour.
- Canning equipment. Ball jars (or the equivalent) are pretty cheap, but a nice big canning pot isn't so much. Invest; take a class at Preserve; or buy a book (I liked Blue Ribbon Preserves, though canning is still a future skill, not an acquired one). I plan to (hopefully!) organize a couple of learn-to-can parties this summer, so stay tuned or email me.
- Smart financial choices. Pay extra on your mortgage or save for a down payment on a house; save for college; put it in an IRA; pay off a credit card and then cut it up (or cut it up first and then pay it off ;).