Save Money, Save the Planet with Green Holiday

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Going green can make the most of holidays and wallets, Bills.com CEO suggests.

Green is the color of the holiday season -- from decorated trees, to ribbons and bows, to the bills changing hands at retail cash registers. And this year, going environmentally green is all the rage.

Free online consumer portal Bills.com (http://www.bills.com) specializes in helping Americans make the most of their money by saving on bills, reducing debt and budgeting wisely. This Christmas, Bills.com co-founder and co-CEO Brad Stroh explains how consumers can make this holiday season green all over by combining no-waste or earth-friendly gift ideas with saving big bucks on holiday bills.

1. Plan ahead. "If you are two days away from a holiday with nothing planned, human nature says you're more likely to hit the mall and load up on somewhat random gifts for your list," Stroh noted. Planning in advance makes it more likely you'll stick to a budget - and give gifts that won't wind up in a landfill.

2. Give non-material gifts. Instead of handing over a pile of gifts, give thoughtful experiences or build future value, Stroh suggested. Buy theater tickets or movie passes, make a donation to a charity in the recipient's name, or contribute to a 529 account or other savings account for a young relative.

3. Consolidate online purchases - or buy local. If gifts will be shipped, order everything from one company. You'll save time and minimize shipping costs as well as the environmental impact of shipping. Reuse boxes and packing peanuts, or give them to a local mailing shop for reuse. Even better, choose locally made products. In so doing, you will support your community, find one-of-a-kind gifts (often at great prices, especially if you frequent craft fairs and school auctions), and avoid transportation waste.

4. Think useful. Give gifts recipients can use to cut down on waste or create value in their lives. Tools can help a would-be furniture maker get started; quality reusable bags can spur a friend to make good on a commitment to use less plastic.

5. Go digital. Instead of paper holiday greetings (which cost money, add to recycling or landfill loads, and use oil resources for delivery), send electronic cards -- even free versions are available. Instead of a traditional camera with film that needs developing, use a digital model and view photos on a computer screen instead of in printed versions. If you are dedicated to film, use a reusable camera rather than disposable.

6. Wrap up wrapping. Minimize gift wrap. Whenever possible, reuse materials rather than buying new wrap. Use fabric ribbons and bows (or even gift wrap) that can be reused year after year. Instead of wrapping oversized gifts, just put a bow on the present. Re-use holiday gift bags. For gifts wrapped in paper, get creative with comics, old maps, old bus schedules, or brown paper bags colored or stamped with a personal touch.

"These ideas are just a few of the great ideas out there," Stroh said. "By considering the impact your holidays have on the environment, you can make the most of the season -- and the most of your wallet."

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at http://www.bills.com/blog. Since 2002, Bills.com has served more than 30,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $500 million in consumer debt. Bills.com is a division of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, whose co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, have been named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

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Aimee Bennett
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