Save Those Presidents

04/17/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Presidents' Day sales are so retro. Get with it, and save presidents in the 21st century fashion.

The Presidents' Day holiday was officially established in 1885 to honor George Washington, the apocryphal cherry-tree chopper, Revolutionary general, and first U.S. president whose visage graces the ever-iconic U.S. one dollar bill.

But over time, along with the eroding value of the one-dollar bill, the holiday's focus on Washington has faded. First, it morphed into a dual celebration of Washington and our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, our revered leader who led us out of the Civil War and helped end slavery.

Now, it's a day supposedly set aside to honor all of our country's leaders, past and present, big and small.

But let's get real. What do you see more of? Great moments in presidential history or Presidents' Day Sales ads?

So, in part to underline presidential history and in part to put a conservative (i.e., conservationist) spin on this increasingly consumer-oriented holiday, here are some ideas to keep more of those, pardon the expression, "dead presidents" in your pocket.


save a buck a year by unplugging your radio when it's not in use


PUT A BRICK IN YOUR TOILET. Save about a dollar and a half with a brick. Yes, a brick. If you don't want to shell out cash for a low-flow toilet, put a brick in your tank to trick the john into thinking it's full. It's only about an extra buck fifty in your wallet by year's end, since U.S. water costs are fairly low, but you'll save about 1,000 gallons of H20 per year.

UNPLUG YOUR RADIO. You can also save a dollar and change a year just by unplugging your radio when it's not in use.

unplug your LCD monitor


UNPLUG YOUR MONITOR. Vampires are all the rage these days, but vampire power -- the clever term for energy that's sucked out of unused appliances that are simply sitting idle in a socket -- is outrageous and enraging when you consider you're wasting money and energy for absolutely nothing. Save an easy $2 and change a year by unplugging your LCD monitor when you're not staring into the little screen.
keep tires inflated


KEEPING YOUR TIRES INFLATED saves you about $5 for every 63 gallons of gas you buy.

turn off unused lights


TURN OFF LIGHTS. Save about $15 over the course of a year by turning off the lights when you leave a room.

avoid over-drying clothes


AVOID OVER-DRYING CLOTHES. If you use a clothes dryer, try not to over-dry your clothes; a dryer operating just 15 minutes more than it needs to can cost up to $34/year. (Course, line-drying can save an even bigger bundle.)

put computers to sleep


OPTIMIZE YOUR COMPUTER'S POWER MANAGEMENT TOOLS. To sleep perchance to save about $50 a year -- through good, smart computer power management. Turning your computer off or setting it to sleep automatically when not in use can keep about a Ulysses S. Grant in your pocket.

unplug your plasma TV


UNPLUG YOUR TV. If you've got one of those nice, big plasma TVs, unplugging it when it's not in use can save you more than one Ben Franklin per year (okay, not a president, but he is on the hundred dollar bill).

Save about $180/year with a programmable thermostat.

Or save around four Ben Franklins annually by choosing energy-efficient appliances [pdf].

 eat less meat and save hundreds


TWEAK YOUR DIET. Eat less meat and you pack in savings, possibly more than a William McKinley, if those bills were still in circulation (which they're not).

Or maybe earn $500 by submitting a video into and winning our Green in 3 contest.

save a buck a year by unplugging your radio when it's not in use


OPT FOR HOME-BREWED COFFEE; CHOOSE TAP WATER. Make your own coffee. If you spend about $2.50 daily on your get-up-and-go latte from your fave café, you can save a lot of paper and a lot of bucks (almost the equivalent of a Grover Cleveland) if you just opt for your home brew instead.

Water, too, is a potential boon if you're a bottled-water drinker who starts opting for tap. It's a change that could save you anywhere from $500-$3,000 a year.

save a buck a year by unplugging your radio when it's not in use


TRY CAR-SHARING. If you're an urban-dweller, consider a car-sharing service (such as ZipCar or Hertz Connect) instead of owning a vehicle. The change could save you more than an (out-of-print) James Madison.

PURCHASE A USED VEHICLE. Or, if you live someplace where owning a car is a must, consider buying a used one -- according to, first year costs for a used car are $5,000 cheaper than those for a brand spanking new one.

 save a buck a year by unplugging your radio when it's not in use


INVEST IN RENEWABLES. Salmon P. Chase, not a president but a Supreme Court justice as well as Lincoln's treasury secretary, does grace the out-of-circulation $10,000 bill. To save this much money, you're probably going to have to shell something out. In North Carolina, for instance, you can get up to $10,500 in tax credits for investing in renewable energy, such as solar, thermal, and wind.

Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to find out what federal, state and local incentives are available in your area.

 save a buck a year by unplugging your radio when it's not in use


YOUR SOLUTION(S) HERE. Maybe you watched the Super Bowl a week ago and caught the amusing "Green Police" car ad. In it consumers making poor environmental choices are hauled away.

While lots of people I've talked to found the spot a hoot, some smart people could be laughing all the way to the bank by making lots of little changes on the environment front that add up to big cost savings.

Saving a Woodrow Wilson bill is no small task, but I bet it could be done.

If you've got an idea of how, send it to me at the address below and I'll send you a GreenGrok pen (while quantities last), adding yet another green savings (the pen is green) to your budget.

Mail your entries to: 


Nicholas School of the Environment

Duke University

Box 90328

Durham, NC 27708

Originally posted at