Monday, August 3, 2009

An Unfrugal Mistake, or How I Paid $127.50 to Have Four Bags of Trash Taken Away

My husband and I had a dilemma about a month ago and we weren't sure how to resolve it. We live in a town with no townwide trash pickup. You either have to pay a company of your choosing to pick up your trash, or you can purchase a dump permit and bring all your trash and recycleables to the dump yourself.

Since we have lived in our house, we (and when I say "we," I mean "he") have been bringing our trash to the dump ourselves. It isn't that bad. We can recycle all kinds of paper, plastic containers except styrofoam, metal, and glass. I have bins in a kitchen closet to keep rinsed-out containers and stacks of paper to be recycled. The only things that we actually throw away are things like plastic outer wrapping, weird containers that we can't figure out how to recycle, and gross things like tissues and meat containers. We throw all our food scraps in a compost pile. So we fill a trash bag *maybe* once a week.

(Our town had decided to institute a "pay as you throw" program where you'd have to pay $2 per bag of trash you threw out. We thought that was a great idea, because we'd end up paying maybe $100 a year to get rid of our trash. However, plenty of other people protested and so they went back to the old system.)

So what's the problem? Well,we found out my husband would be deploying overseas with the military at some point during the winter. He thought that it would be a good idea to hire a trash pickup company so that I wouldn't have to worry about dealing with the trash when I was running the household by myself. In theory, this seemed like a good plan. During the school year, when I'm working, I get very stressed when my to-do list starts to get too long. Keeping things as simple as possible seemed like a good idea. Plus, the trash is kind of gross, and I didn't want to put it in my nice pretty car, and we were planning on taking my husband's truck off the road while he was away. So, we reasoned that the cost of the trash pickup was balanced out by not having to pay insurance on the truck.

Since the dump permit was supposed to renew on July 1st, my husband called to start trash pickup now. The cost difference is significant. Trash pickup costs $75 per two month billing cycle, plus a $15 fuel surcharge, so it's basically $45 a month or $540 a year. (We did not know about the fuel surcharge until we actually got our bill.) The dump permit costs $178 a year, or $14.83 per month.

Once we had signed up, it was a couple of weeks before the trash company gave us our special giant barrel- it's nice and huge and sturdy and squirrelproof, and has wheels. It looked awfully silly to put our lone bag of trash inside this giant receptacle, but whatever.

Meanwhile, our piles of recycleable materials were starting to overwhelm us. We started bagging it and piling it in the basement, and it soon took over half of the unfinished portion of our basement. When my husband had initially called the trash company, they told him that there would also be recycling pickup, and they would be sending him information about what day the recycling truck would be here and what they would pick up and things like that.

I don't think the recycling truck would be planning on picking up 17 bags of #2 plastic containers.

We got no recycling information. I started to get frantic. My husband called the trash company several times, but the phone rang and rang and no one answered. The website for the company was no help; it didn't even list the right phone number for the company. It drove me crazy that we were paying $45 a month for a truck to take away a single bag of trash each week. It would take me 10 minutes to go drop that off at the dump. The hourly wage for that would be something like $60 an hour. And I couldn't open my kitchen closet without an avalanche of tin cans and Yoplait containers raining down on me.

I was really, really starting to regret our decision. We received a bill the other day which informed us that if we cancel the service now, we are responsible for the current billing cycle- so we just got charged $90 for the next two months, until the end of October. I calculated what the cost would be for our yearly trash service if we cancelled now and got a dump permit. It would be $25.40/month, or $305.50 per year. Even though we just wasted a whole bunch of money, it would still be worth it to cancel.

So yesterday, I went online and signed up for the dump permit. I ran out in the yard to show my husband the receipt. "See?! The agony is over! We can get rid of our recycle stuff again!" He was as thrilled as I was.

This morning, he said to me, "Wow, so we really have a dump permit? I can actually go to the dump? Hooray!" But he still expressed concern that it would be hard for me to take the trash when I was alone. "Oh come on," I said. "70-year-old ladies take their own trash to the dump in their little Toyota Camrys. Surely I can handle it."

Later on, my husband came in from the backyard while I was checking my email. "Hey, it's a good thing you cancelled the trash pickup. It won't matter anyway.

"My deployment was cancelled, so I'll be able to take the trash myself. I'm not going anywhere."

I never thought I would get so emotional about stinkin' trash. I get a whole year of life with my husband back. God is really good to us.

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