As tax week comes to a close, we've all got our money on our minds, so it's the perfect time to consider how the cash we've put so much energy into earning will work to preserve our planet. Here are four tips to help you green your finances.
1. Mutual Funds: You have to sock cash away for retirement, so why not reap returns ethically by putting faith in the burgeoning green economy and placing your money in what's becoming one of the biggest growth sectors in recent history? Green mutual funds, like those offered by Winslow and Calvert, invest in corporations -- like clean-energy companies or organizations that operate in environmentally responsible ways -- that are committed to creating a sustainable world.
2. Real Estate: No one knows quite when the housing market will bottom out, but many speculate that it'll be soon. If you're scanning the market for a real-estate investment, keep the environment in mind when making your purchase. One way to do that is to work with a Realtor who incorporates green practices into their business. Some agents, for example, put a percentage of their commissions toward greening the homes they sell, offset the carbon they emit, and partner with green designers and builders. Other ways to stay green while becoming a homeowner include refraining from buying a brand-new property and selecting a house with green features like solar panels and water catchments.
3. Charity: Each April 14 legions of tax-payers scramble to find as many tax write-offs as possible, an effort that becomes more difficult if they haven't donated to philanthropic causes. Giving money to 501(c)(3) organizations is an excellent way to reduce what you'll owe the IRS. Most charities' goals are noble but if your biggest concern is the environment, consider channeling your funds to groups, such as the Sierra Club Foundation, whose purpose it is to preserve the planet.
4. Going Paperless: Dealing with money and financial issues can create a mountain of paperwork, but it doesn't have to: You can make a conscious decision to make your financial life paper-free. It'll take a bit of effort on the front end but over the long term, the paper savings can be substantial. There's so much you can safely do online, including banking, paying bills, giving to charity, and filing taxes. By doing so, you'll save not only paper, but also the cost of postage stamps, checks, and gas for driving to the post office and bank. Find out whether your employer or clients offer Direct Deposit, and say "no" to receipts whenever you don't need them. And of course, recycle any paper waste that remains.
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