Just as driving a hybrid vehicle means less time spent filling up and using less water means shorter showers, greening your finances doesn't just help save the environment -- it saves you time.
In celebration of Earth Day this week, here are four tips to bring your finances up to par with the rest of your environmentally-conscious efforts. With just a little bit of planning you can reduce your "carbon footprint," save time managing your money, and even protect against identity theft.
After all, who doesn't want to see more green in their world as well as their wallet?
Tip #1 -- Burn less gas to access your cash
By maintaining constant awareness of the cash you have on hand, you can consolidate your errands to include stops at the ATM or bank branch as part of your daily routine -- not just when you realize you have no cash to tip the pizza guy. Furthermore, keep in mind that retailers and grocery stores often allow cash back on debit purchases (many up to $100, and some even more). All of this means fewer trips to a bank branch and more gas -- and time -- saved each month.
Also, try locating an ATM that's closer to your home or work. Often, consumers don't visit the closest ATM geographically -- they visit the closest one that's in-network (and most likely won't charge fees to access cash). What many don't realize is that, at some banks, you can avoid ATM fees altogether. Some banks, such as Ally Bank, don't charge ATM fees (and will even reimburse the ATM fees other banks charge nationwide).
Tip #2 -- Minimize paper records via online banking
Online and wireless transfers are usually faster and safer than mailing a check, more convenient than money orders, and don't require any paperwork. Ask your employer if your paychecks can be directly deposited to your account, or alternatively, find out if your bank offers electronic check deposit via a mobile phone to save the use of deposit envelopes (and a trip to the bank altogether).
And there's an added benefit to managing your finances in a silo: identity protection. Every time you make a hard-copy record of any personal financial information, it raises the chance that strangers - or even worse, identity thieves - will gain access to that information. Keeping your finances behind digital lock and key helps reduce the likelihood that fraudsters will obtain and exploit your personal financial information.
Tip #3 -- Use a direct mobile payment provider
Services such as Popmoney allow for the simple, secure transfer of funds to family and friends via mobile devices. What's more, Popmoney and similar services are offered for free at some financial services institutions. Electronic funds transfers means less of a need for paper checks and fewer trips to the ATM for cash. Once everything is verified on the back-end, transferring money is as straightforward as sending a text message.
Tip #4 -- Make eco-friendly investments
Through your investment portfolio, you can personally direct your investments to specific companies or industries that advance your eco-conscious goals.
Environmentally-conscious investing is a growing trend. According to the latest report from the US SIF Foundation, sustainable and responsible investments have risen more than 55 percent since 2003. If you haven't already, talk to your financial advisor about how environmentally responsible investing can net you positive returns while simultaneously building a more sustainable future.