No More Renting! A Q&A with a First-Time Home-Owner

I might be 26, but I’m pretty sure I’m not a real adult. I think to achieve adulthood status you might need to know how to cook something other than grilled cheese for dinner. And you probably can’t do your laundry at your parents house. Or watch Pretty Little Liars . . .

My friend Meg is also 26, but I’m fairly confident that she is a real adult. I have evidence to prove it. In the last couple of months she has done these three majorly impressive things:

1. She graduated from med school. So she’s a doctor. A real, medical doctor.

2. She got married. In a beautiful ceremony on the water. No eloping to Vegas here.

3. She bought her first home.

To say I am proud of her is an understatement. You go, girl! Doing any one of these things on their own would be an achievement but Meg is a rock star of the adult world and did all three in like six weeks. Almost two years ago, Meg and her then fiance were just starting to think about getting their own place. So to help her out, I wrote three posts about first-time home buying (you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Flash forward to today – Meg and her now husband are now the proud owners of their very own home and I have decided to swoop in to take all the credit. Just kidding. But I did bribe Meg with free brunch so that I could ask her some questions about her experience buying her first place. She had some super smart advice to share with other twenty-somethings considering purchasing a home of their own.

She owns this home. Can you feel the excitement?!

She owns this home. Can you feel the excitement?!

Q. Did any tips from my blog posts help you during the home-buying process?

A. The answer to this, surprisingly, is yes! Maybe I have this adult thing down after all. There were two key things Meg learned from my blog that were really helpful to her: what earnest money is and that she should get a home inspection. Earnest Money is basically money you pledge to put down on a home to show the seller that you’re interested. Meg said it can be the difference between getting a place or not because the larger your earnest deposit, the more serious they know you are about the purchase. Meg also used my tip of getting a home inspection before they bought. It only cost them $325, but they found out about $1,500 of upgrades that need to be done to the fireplace. The home inspector was a neutral third-party who advised Meg on potential issues with the home that they could use when negotiating the purchase.

Q. What were you looking for in your first home? What were your must-haves? Did you and your husband agree on what you were looking for in a new place?

A. It is important to note early on in this blog that Meg is an incredibly organized individual. So it did not surprise me to hear that Meg and her husband started their home-buying process by making three lists: a “Must Have” list, a “Would Like to Have” list, and a “Couldn’t Care Less” list. Their Must-Haves included: location, 2 bedrooms, off-street parking, a tucked-away space for a litterbox, and a good kitchen (they cook a lot, because they are adults). They agreed that these were the 5 most important things to them and that they wouldn’t seriously consider anywhere that didn’t check all of those items off their list. Their Would-Like-to-Haves were things that they might consider paying extra for or things that they would be excited to have in addition to their Must-Haves. If a potential home had outdoor space, a second bathroom, or a dining room, those things might make them pick that place over another viable option. Then the “Couldn’t Care Less” list was stuff they agreed wouldn’t influence their decision at all, like crown-molding or stainless steel appliances. Getting on the same page before they even started looking at listings made the search process a lot smoother. Even if you’re a single-purchaser, give yourself some solid guidelines for what you want to help you differentiate a potential home from just another listing.

Q. Did you use a realtor?

A. Yes! And you should too! Meg and her husband specifically looked for a realtor who was their age, which they would recommend to any other first-timers. She said it helped to have someone who they could easily relate to, who had a similar work/ living situation, and who was at the same phase in his life. And even though Meg did a lot of research on her own looking for potential places online, she said it was super helpful to have a professional also helping with the search.

Q. How was financing with a small, local FI different from working with a mega-bank?

A. Because of the convenience factor, Meg has had her checking account at a mega-bank that shall remain nameless since college. She’s moved around a lot from undergrad to med school to residency, so it seemed like her best option. But when it came time to finance her first home, she went with a small, local financial institution. The biggest reason for the switch? The personal service. She was able to build a relationship with her mortgage officer that she wouldn’t get at a bigger bank. She had one person working on her mortgage from start to finish, she had his office and cell number, and she knew any time she had a question he was just a phone call away. If she had financed her home at the big bank she had been using, she would have called a mortgage hotline with her questions, would have talked to a different rep every time she called, and probably would have waited on hold a lot. Meg had such a good experience banking small that she switched all of her accounts over from the mega-bank. Yay for local banking!

Q. What was the best advice you got?

A. This advice came from me! And probably everyone else she talked to because it’s super important. Once you get pre-approved for a mortgage, leave your credit alone. Don’t apply for any other loans, credit cards, etc. Your pre-approval is an estimate of what your mortgage rate be and how much you can spend that’s based on your credit when it was created. If you do anything to change your credit, your pre-approval can change too. You don’t want to find your dream place only to find out that you are no longer able to finance it.

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about the home-buying process?

A. Meg definitely knew what she was getting into before she bought a home. She spent over a year researching and prepping before she even started looking. But even for someone as well researched as her, she was surprised at how different the cost of things in Maine were from what generic articles online suggested they might be. This is because the cost of everything, from housing to materials to labor, all varies depending on where you live. You might read online that it will cost about $1,000 to fix that leaky shower head, but your shower has unique parts or faulty plumbing so it ends up costing you $3,000. On the flip side, she was prepared to pay as much as $1,500 for a home inspection that only ended up costing her $325. Be aware that even the best planned budget can get thrown off a little during this process, so give yourself a little leeway if you can.

Q. What advice do you have for other twenty-somethings looking to buy their first home?

A. Do your homework. You can’t be too prepared (believe Meg, because she tried). The first step to this whole process should be doing research. Look into everything, from what you’ll need to do to finance the home to what the housing market is like in your area. There’s a ton of online resources out there, as well as professionals like mortgage officers and realtors who can help you along the way. Doing research beforehand helps you set realistic expectations for what kind of home you can afford, how long the process will take, and what you will need to do.

It took them a year or so of prep and several months of searching, but Meg and her husband just recently purchased a condo in the West End of Portland. It meets all of their Must-Have requirements and it even has a fireplace. #fancy. Looks like all of their hard work has finally paid off. Congrats!

Always Read the Fine Print*

*No seriously. Read it! It’s important.

fine-print

The other day I got this postcard in the mail from a financial institution that shall remain anonymous. Like any good American consumer, I read the “$500 cash back” and thought, “Ooooo I want $500! Forget the credit union that pays my salary, I could refi there and get some cash!” Because seriously, who doesn’t want $500? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

You might have noticed that asterisk at the end of this enticing statement, however. If you flip this postcard over, that little star directs you to some information that might make that $500 a lot less exciting. The fine print to this advertisement let me know that if I bought or refinanced a car through this financial institution, I would get 1% cash back on the amount financed at a branch or via their online channel, not to exceed $500. What? In simpler terms, in order to get $500 I would have to buy a $50,000 car. If I were to refinance my vehicle I have now, I would only get $120. Whoomp whoomp.

Plus, the disclaimer goes on to say that if I were to finance my car through an indirect lender, I am only eligible for 0.5% cashback up to $250. So if the dealership helped me complete the financing process through this credit union or bank, I definitely can’t get the $500.

Don’t get me wrong, this still might be a great deal. I wouldn’t say no to $120. And potentially, the interest rate on this auto loan might be lower than the one I’m getting now. So it could save me money to look into refinancing with this financial institution. BUT, it is important to always read the disclaimer information. It might be in small, hard to find, and probably will be full of legal-ese, but it would be a let down to go to a branch thinking you’ll walk away with $500 cash and come out with a lot less.

Advertisements are designed to make what they’re selling as appealing as possible. The headlines, like this one, are designed to get your attention and make you buy the product. But reading the whole ad, including that disclaimer, will give you a better picture of what you’re really buying. It might make you say, “Nah this auto loan isn’t for me” or it could just give you enough info to say, “That still sounds good! I’ll do it!” So always take a look at that fine print.

I can’t finish this blog without also mentioning that if you also got this flier in the mail and are now getting an auto loan through this wonderful financial institution, you should use that cash back money towards your first payment! You spent $50,000. Don’t make it $50,500. Instead of cash you can use on pizza or clothes, think of that cash back as a $500 discount on your car.*

*Unless you use the $500 to buy me front row seats to One Direction. Then that would be money well-spent.

The Real World is Expensive: Advice for Recent Grads

Last weekend one of my best friends graduated from the University of New Hampshire. This made me feel both incredibly proud and incredibly old. Over the past four years she has been my connection to my alma mater. I am occasionally able to pretend to be a college student thanks to her, which I think makes my obsession with boy bands somewhat more acceptable. But she graduated and so I am now forced to accept my life as an aging fangirl. **Sigh**

Since I am officially old now, I thought I should pass on some wisdom about life post-graduation. Just call me Dumbledore. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you too are a recent grad and are entering the real world for the first time:

1. Keep your post-grad plans financially realistic. Graduation can be a confusingly competitive time. On the one hand you’re all, “WOOHOO! I graduated! I’m so smart!” But on the other it’s super intimidating to have to compete with everyone else’s answer to, “What’s next?” When I was graduating I remember thinking that everyone’s plans sounded much cooler than mine. People were moving to NYC or backpacking around Europe or going to grad school. And I was moving back to my parent’s house in Maine. Whoomp, whoomp. Glamorous post-grad plans sound great to all the inquiring adults, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best plans. The majority of recent graduates are attempting financial independence for the first time after college. The real world is an expensive place and the older you get, the less acceptable it is to ask your parents for money. So make plans that fit your budget. Live within your paycheck. You should look forward to life after college, but just remember that it’s probably going to be more Girls than Sex and the City.  

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

My freshman year roommate and I at our graduation. Bang game strong.

2. It’s Okay If It’s Not Your Forever Job. I was an English Literature Major in college. There was a lot of Jane Austen and feminist rants (which I loved), but not a lot of career planning. When people asked me what my plans after college were I would say, “I’ll read! They pay you for that, right?” and then laugh awkwardly until the other person felt uncomfortable enough to change the subject. I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated. And in the first few years post-graduation I bumped around from job-to-job a little bit. But ultimately I think I might be the better for it. I’ve had experience in a lot of different fields, doing a lot of different tasks. I’ve learned a ton. Did I ever think during college that I would get a job as a Marketing Coordinator? No way. Will I stay at my current job until I retire? My boss says yes, but realistically I probably won’t. I might move on in a few years, but for right now I’m having fun with the job I have and I know I am acquiring skills that will help me do a different job in the future. Most people don’t do the same job their entire lives. So if you don’t land your dream position right after graduation, don’t sweat it. You have your whole life ahead of you to find it.

3. Brace Yourself – Student Loan Payments Are Coming. In sixth months, to be exact, when the grace period ends and you have to start paying them back. You could try going off the grid to avoid them, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have Netflix or take-out there. All kidding aside, I was a little overwhelmed when I realized for the first time exactly how much my monthly student loan payment would be. If I remember correctly I actually cried. At the time I was working as a bank teller. One month’s payment exactly equaled my two-week paycheck. I literally had to work for 80 hours to make one payment. That’s insane. But if you’re smart and you plan ahead, that payment won’t take you by surprise. Maybe you’ll even save some money in that 6 month grace period to help make your payments. Have a plan for how you’re going to handle that payment so it doesn’t throw you for a loop.

4. You is kind. You is smart. You is important. But seriously, you’re doing great. Don’t sweat it. I remember stressing a lot the summer after graduation. I didn’t have the job I wanted. I missed being with my friends 24/7. I was living in the boonies sharing a car with my mom. It was a weird time. And I remember not feeling like my normal, confident, sarcastic, quirky self. Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you. You’re smart, you graduated from college, and you’ll figure out where you want to go from here. Things are going to change, but doesn’t mean they’re going to get worse. It’s just going to be different. Know that whatever happens, you’ve got this!

If all this sage advice fails you, it’s totally okay to put on your PJs, listen to T Swift, and cry. Even adults with real people jobs need to let it out some times. Congratulations to all of the recent grads out there! You guys are going to kill it in the real world! Good luck!

Food Pantry Donation Tips

Ending Hunger

All year round, my credit union collects donations for our local food pantry. Employees have to bring in a donation in order to wear jeans on Friday, members often drop things off to add to our collection, and we frequently do fundraisers like bake sales or 50/50 raffles to help raise money. Because we work so closely with our food pantry, we get a lot of questions about what things they need, what stuff is okay to donate, and what stuff is not. So here are a few simple guidelines to follow when you are making a donation to your local food pantry:

Keep it simple. Consider donating things that are easy to open and easy to prepare. The living situation of some food pantry clients can be unstable, which means they might not always have access to stuff like an oven, a microwave, or even a can opener. Foods that require little to no preparation are therefore super valuable to these clients; consider donating things you’d pack in a school lunch like granola or protein bars, goldfish, peanut butter, etc. Similarly avoid food that requires a lot of extra ingredients to be cooked properly. For example a cake mix that you just need to add water to is better than a cake mix that calls for milk, eggs, and butter, because the recipient might not have access to those extra food items. If the recipient can’t open the packaging or can’t cook it, your donation is thoughtful but not very practical.

Keep portions small and items in their original packaging. Our credit union buys a lot of our supplies in bulk at BJ’s so we often pick up items for the food pantry while we’re there. It’s great because you can get a lot of food for a good price, but what’s not always so great is the portion sizes. A gallon jar of peanut butter for $11.99 is an awesome deal, but it only feeds one food pantry client because it can’t be portioned out to multiple people. Four 12 oz. jars of peanut butter would be better because they can feed four people instead of one. However, let’s say you’re donating a 12 pack of granola bars. Keep all 12 bars in the box they come in when you donate it. Don’t open the box and separate them out. Depending on the need, the food pantry can decide whether to give the whole box to one client or give the bars individually to multiple clients.

Ask what’s needed. The volunteers at the food pantry know exactly what things their clients need most. If you’re not sure what to donate, just ask them! They’ll have plenty of ideas. They might also request non-food items that can’t be purchased with food stamps like paper towels, toilet paper, tampons/pads, soap, or deodorant. I also never would have guessed that the food pantry wanted all of my old plastic shopping bags, but when I asked one of our food pantry friends what she needed they were on the top of her list! Clients use them for shopping, so instead of being annoyed by the 300 plastic bags I gave them, they were grateful.

Don’t donate anything that has expired. A lot of food pantry donations come from people cleaning out their own pantries, which is awesome. Instead of throwing stuff out, why not give it to someone who would eat it? But it’s important to check the expiration date before you donate these items. I know I don’t want to eat crackers that went bad in 2007, so chances are food pantry clients don’t either. Plus you don’t want anyone to get sick from eating food that has gone bad.

Consider donating cash. Often times non-profit organizations can get better deals on food than you can shopping as an individual, so making a cash donation to your food pantry can be very valuable to them. If you’d like to help out your food pantry but aren’t sure what to give, inquire about how you can make a cash donation. It’s less work for you and potentially more food for them.

I hope these tips help make your donation decisions a little easier. Food pantries are so crucial to making sure no one in our community goes hungry. Our local food pantry serves over 100 households every month – that’s a lot of food! However you can help, big or small, $1 or $100, your food pantry will appreciate your contribution.

Overheard at the Financial Fitness Fair

Today I helped out at a Financial Fitness Fair at a local high school. What is a Financial Fitness Fair, you might be asking? Well, it’s basically a more realistic version of the game LIFE for high school students. Usually it’s juniors and/or seniors who participate. They start with the idea that we are time-traveling to the future when they’re 22. The students are assigned a job with an entry-level salary and then are set with the task of creating a monthly budget based on that salary. The fair has nine different booths the kids have to visit that cover different expenses like food, transportation, and student loans. It’s a valuable learning experience for the students and I believe the general consensus is that it is much better than going to class.

My friend Paige hanging out at the Clothing Booth.

My friend Paige hanging out at the Clothing Booth.

To give you an idea of what the Financial Fitness Fair is like, hear are five things I overheard today while volunteering:

1. “Why didn’t we have this when I was in high school?” At every Financial Fitness I go to, I hear this from the adult volunteers and teachers. I’ve said it myself like a million times. Before I started working at a credit union, I knew nothing about money besides how to spend it. We learn so much in school, but often times practical skills like how to budget, how to save, or how much college really costs unfortunately get left out. A study done by Learnvest and Chase Blueprint showed that 52% of teenagers want to learn more about money, so the Financial Fitness Fair is a great opportunity for them to gain some of that knowledge. Although we only have an hour of their time, the fair gives the students some basic financial skills that they can build on as they get older.

2. “Dude, I got totally wrecked on student loans though. $50,000 – that’s an outrageous number! Like no one actually has that much in student loans.” I heard a kid say this today after his buddy gave him a hard time about ending up in the red when he finished his monthly budget. And although I agree with him that $50,000 in debt is an outrageous number, it’s sadly not an unrealistic one. The average student loan debt for a four-year degree in the U.S. is $29,000. And if you’re a doctor, like this kid said he wanted to be, that number goes up to $166,750. So his estimated student loan debt was actually kind of low. Too often kids go off to college without really thinking about how much it costs and definitely with no idea of what their monthly student loan payments will be once they graduate. It was interesting to see kids start to understand how much a student loan payment could really affect their future lifestyle.

3. “I don’t need clothes, I’ll just go to work naked.” I volunteer at the clothing booth, where the kids have to figure out a monthly clothing budget for their work wardrobe. At least once at every fair a kid makes this same joke about how they will just save money by going to work naked. High school humor at its finest. I also once had a boy ask me which store I recommended he shop at. “Not like budget-wise,” he said, “but from a fashion standpoint.” This is why clothing is the most entertaining booth.

4. “It’s all about choices, Brian!” I heard a kid say this to his friend today in his best dad-voice. He might have been being sarcastic, but this is actually a really great point. Being successful at the Financial Fitness Fair is really all about making good decisions with your money. When you’re still in high school your parents pay for everything so it’s easy to imagine that you’ll have a ton of money when you’re an adult. It’s fun to go through the fair buying the most expensive clothes, purchasing a Ferrari, and eating out every night. But in the real world, very few people have the budget for such a luxurious lifestyle. At the fair you see kids making compromises in some areas in order to make room for an expense in another, like living with a roommate so they can buy a nicer car. We all have to make those choices in real life, so it’s cool to see them start to think that way now.

5. “This is super helpful. I’m like actually going to save this budget sheet so I can use it when I graduate.”  A student said this to her friend when she was walking away from our booth today and I was like, “You go girl!” It always surprises me how engaged the students are in the fair. You volunteer expecting a certain amount of teenage apathy, but workplace nudity jokes aside, most kids tend to be pretty interested in the activity. It gives you hope that they’ll leave with some valuable information that they can apply in their real lives once they graduate.

If you want to see more about the Financial Fitness Fairs put on at high schools across the state by Maine’s credit unions, you can check out this cool video.

22 Inexpensive Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! I am notoriously an indoor person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the environment. Despite my vampire tendencies I am all about going green, because it saves energy AND money. So in honor of Earth day, here are 22 inexpensive ways to help the environment.

earth day

1. Turn off your computer. Sleep mode uses a lot of energy, because even though you’re not using it your computer it’s still on. At the end of the day at work or when you’re done using your computer at home, shut it all the way down.

2. Use both sides of the paper. Every year American businesses throw away 21 million tons of paper. That’s about 175 pounds per person. You can cut your paper waste in half by setting your printer default to double-sided. Or once your done with one side of the paper, use the other side as scrap paper to scratch notes on.

3. Get a power strip. Plug all of your electronics into it and then turn it off before you go to work or before bed.

4. No more snail mail. Switch all the bills you can to electronic statements to save paper. You can also see if your credit union or bank as online bill pay, which would allow you to make all of you payments securely online. It’s fast, easy, and a lot less hassle than paper.

5. Reuse gift bags and wrapping paper. When you get a gift, don’t throw the wrapping away! It’s expensive and can usually be reused a few more times. I’m pretty sure my mom hasn’t bought Christmas wrapping in about 8 years.  She even leaves the name tags on bags and just puts stuff for that person in a bag from the year before. She has it down to a science.

6. Get reusable grocery bags. This is actually the simple solution to my plastic bag problem from my last blog. Plastic bags are terrible to store and terrible for the environment. Invest in a few reusable ones to keep in your car so they’re always handy when you go shopping.

7. Use matches, not lighters. Lighters are made of plastic and are filled with butane fuel, both of which are petroleum products. Using matches instead saves a lot of precious fuel. Also cardboard matches are usually made from recycled material. Or you could just avoid lighting anything on fire in general . . . safety first, kids.

8. Use E-Tickets. You can get e-tickets now for a lot of movie theaters and concerts. Plus using e-boarding passes when you fly saves time, paper, and money. It take $10 to process a paper ticket when you fly, but only $1 for e-tickets.

9. Get a reusable water bottle. Plastic water bottles can be handy, but they’re terrible for the environment. There’s also a misconception that bottled water is safer than tap water. But actually, tap water has almost the same requirements for purity to bottled water in the United States, so fill up a reusable bottle at the tap and bring it with you wherever your day might take you. You’ll save money, resources, and probably be more hydrated.

10. Work from home. If your company gives you the option to work from home, take them up on it! You’ll save on gas money. Plus you can wear your pajamas all day. :)

11. Carpool. We all have busy schedules so it can seem cumbersome to share a car. But when you can, ride with a friend. It will help you save on gas. Plus road trips are more fun with a buddy.

12. Get the junk out of your trunk. Carrying extra stuff in your car decreases your fuel efficiency. Empty that trunk out once in a while to lighten your load.

13. Use cruise control. I always forget that my car has cruise control, but I paid extra for it so I might as well use it. On long trips, using cruise control can get you p to 15% better mileage.

14. Go vegetarian once a week. I love bacon too much to be a vegetarian full-time, but at least once a week I try to have a meat-free menu. It takes a lot of resources to raise livestock and manufacture meat. For example, it requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. That’s a lot of water! Plus meat tends to be more expensive than vegetables or grains. One meat-free meal a week will help the environment, your wallet, and your diet.

15. Reuse items for crafts. I. LOVE. TO. CRAFT. It’s a great way to make gifts or decorate your home in a personal, fun way. Plus it can often save you money. I have an awesome blanket that my friend’s mom made me out of old swimming t-shirts. My dining room at my apartment is entirely decorated by old wine bottles. And I made awesome valentine’s this year using magazine clippings. Before you throw something out, get a little creative and see if there’s a way you can reuse it.

16. Take the stairs. Not only will you save electricity, but you’ll get a work out at the same time. Plus in the event of a fire or zombie apocalypse, you’ll know where the stairwell is.

17. Take a shower, not a bath. This tip actually makes me sad because I love baths. Especially bubble baths. I tend to read in them and then fall asleep. But my love of baths aside, they do use more water than showers. Take short showers during the week and then maybe treat yourself to a luxurious bath on Sunday.

18. Avoid dry-clean only clothes. Dry cleaning is expensive. And it uses a lot of chemicals. And you generally have to drive there to drop-off and pick up your stuff. All things that are bad for the environment. My sister, a noted fabric expert, recommends googling the material your clothing item is made out of to see if it really needs dry cleaning or if you can hand wash and air dry. Hint: if it comes from Forever 21, the fabric is not quality enough to need dry-cleaning. :)

19. Only do laundry when you have a full load of clothes. The average washing machine uses about 30-40 gallons of water per cycle. The less you do laundry, the more water you save. Sounds like the perfect excuse to wait until you’re down to your last pair of underwear to do laundry to me!

20. Donate. Before you throw anything out, think about donating it instead. Is it still in good enough shape that someone else could use it? If so, check out places like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other second hand stores that take donations. It’s not just clothes they want, it’s also stuff like books, DVDs, toys, electronics, and so much more.

21. Borrow. Don’t buy that new book, borrow it from the library. Don’t purchase a new dress for that upcoming wedding, raid your roommates closet. Avoid buying if you don’t have to. And when you can, purchase second hand.

22. Plant seed. Plant a flower. Plant a rose. You can plant anyone of those. Keep planting to find out which one grows . . . Sorry, I had a Hanson moment there. But really, doing a little gardening is great for the environment. Plant some flowers, a bush, or a tree in your yard. They’ll look pretty and make our air a little fresher.

I got a lot of info for this post here. It’s a great article and you should check it out for more ways to go green.

Life Hack: Save Space, Fold Bags!

Bags s

To say that my apartment has a lot of plastic bags would be the understatement of the century. The picture above is only about 1/3 of the bags that are jam-packed into a small cupboard in my kitchen. My roommates and I tend to go grocery shopping, crumple the bags up, shove them in the cupboard, and pray that to door closes. We use some of them as liners for trash cans and one every few months I donate a bunch to the local food pantry, but for the most part they just take up storage space in our kitchen.

NOT ANY MORE! I recently discovered what can only be called “Plastic Bag Origami” on Pinterest. It seemed like an easy way for our bags to take up less space, but you can never trust something you see on Pinterest until you do it yourself. So I set out to see if I could turn our cupboard from something you might see on an episode of “Hoarders” into a functional cabinet. Here’s step-by-step instructions on how to fold your plastic bags:

Bags 1

1. Smooth out bag so it lays flat. FYI – this step can be time consuming if, like me, you previously crumpled a ton of plastic bags into a small space.

Bags 2

2. Fold the bag in half.

Bags 3

3. Then fold it in half a second time so you have one long rectangle.

Bags 4

4. From the bottom end of the bag (aka the end that’s not the handles) fold the bag into triangles.

Bags 5

5. Keep folding bag in triangles until just the end of the handles are sticking out.

Bags 7

6. Tuck handles into flap of triangle so you have one, neat football that you can use your fingers to kick at your roommate. Just kidding! Now your plastic bags are easy to store or carry and they take up WAY less space than before.

Bags 9

This is all 94 plastic bags I started with all neatly folded. It doesn’t even look like 94 bags. It’s crazy how much space this saves!

Bags B&A

The before and after shot is so visually pleasing. I couldn’t even get all the bags in the first photo without standing on my chair. Now look at them.

It was brought to my attention while I was sitting at my desk folding all 94 of these, that you can roll your plastic bags so they look like this.

Bags 10

This might work well, too. I even saw people on Pinterest putting rolls of bags in old Colorox wipe dispensers so they were easy to carry and , which is a neat idea. I personally had a much harder time keeping the roll neat while I was rolling it. Plus it kept coming unrolled while it sat on my desk. Also you cannot play finger football with a roll of bags.

You might be asking yourself, is it really worth the time and effort it probably took to fold all of these just to save a little space? And the answer is . . . no, it’s not if you fold 94 of them all at the same time like I did. But the folding honestly only took 15 or so seconds per bag. So if you did a week’s worth of grocery bags (say 4 or 5), it wouldn’t take long at all and therefore might be worth it. Plus I really like folding things so yea. Give it a try!