Switching to an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t mean forgoing all luxuries, rather, that you are mindful of the choices you make and how those choices impacts the planet. In the process, you are no longer lured by convenience (which usually comes with a higher cost) and you become more conscious and intentional with your time and your money.
When you begin to live more simply and sustainably, it’s only natural that you start to save money. Frugality is a core component of sustainable living. So here’s how I save over $7,000 a year by making eco-friendly lifestyle choices:
1. Growing herbs, fruit and veggies
A bunch of parsley costs roughly $3 at the supermarket. Multiply that amount with other fresh herbs such as coriander, rosemary, thyme and basil and that adds up to $10 or more spent each week just on herbs alone. Let’s not forget that much of it goes unused and goes to waste and then there’s also the plastic that it’s usually wrapped in.
Save cash and flex that green thumb and grow your own fresh herbs. If you don’t have a yard, you can grow herbs on your kitchen counter or window sill.
Since starting my own veggie garden and growing produce such as bok choy, pumpkin, silverbeet, chilli and eggplant, I’ve saved heaps on weekly grocery spend. We also have a variety of fruit trees and don’t need to buy mangoes, mandarins, lemons or limes.
Remember that you can also make your produce last longer by regrowing from scraps. Just plant the ends directly into soil or pop in a glass or bowl of water and it will regrow – so long as the root or end is in tact and hasn’t been sitting in a supermarket freezer for too long it should reshoot.
Weekly savings: $15-20
Yearly savings: $780-1040
2. Not buying meat
To be able to afford meat is a privilege because in my opinion, meat is expensive and I can only imagine the high cost of ‘ethically-sourced’ meat raised on green pastures. And its high cost makes sense considering all the resources needed to raise and ‘process’ the animal: water, feed or the size of land for pasture, transportation, infrastructure, refrigeration, electricity and human labour.
As an on-and-off-again vegetarian for a decade and having committed to a vegan lifestyle over the last three years, I’ve saved a lot of money (and many animal lives) because of my compassionate eating choices.
Related Post: Why I Will Never Be A Perfect Vegan
Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, you can still save lots of money by forgoing meat most days as plants should be your main source of nutrition anyway. Leave out the bacon when you’re having a cooked breakfast. Most pastas don’t need mince meat, sausage or chicken to taste delicious. And you can easily enjoy a sandwich without the roast beef or ham.
When eating out, you’ll also notice that the veggie options are often cheaper than meat-based ones, an indication of just how pricey meat can be.
Weekly savings: $30-40
Yearly savings: $1560-2080
3. DIY hair and beauty
When I had an acne break out years ago (my first and last, doctor told me it was stress/hormones related), I was not keen on buying prescription topical creams and got to work finding a natural solution. And you know what worked? Not wearing makeup to let my skin breathe, getting lots of sleep and a DIY toner I made (by combining apple cider vinegar and water) which I applied to my face each night and drank as a detox. I haven’t bought toner again since and that was more than six years ago now.
Since then I’ve swapped out other beauty products for the homemade variety. I no longer purchase face masks and instead use aloe vera (I grow lots of aloe vera plants).
I no longer purchase makeup remover as coconut oil does the trick just as well. It’s also very good as a deep conditioner for hair.
The acne experience was also the catalyst for my reducing the amount of makeup and nail polish I wear (prior to making the switch, I was getting a manicure every fortnight!) and now I’ve got to the point that I no longer wear makeup or nail polish most days–only wearing it on special occasions or for photo shoots. Now I’m lucky if I can use up all my eco-friendly makeup and nail polish before its expiration date!
Weekly savings: $15-20
Yearly savings: $780-1040
4. Borrowing books
I have a love of the written language and am an avid book reader – averaging at least one book every week. I used to buy LOTS of new books and magazines (I had a few magazine subscriptions). This was one of my weekly indulgences prior to starting my sustainable lifestyle journey. But now that I’ve embraced a simpler, sustainable and clutter-free life, I no longer have the space to house so many books and magazines, and I just don’t have the time to re-sell them once I’ve finished reading them.
Now the only books and magazines sitting on my shelves are ones that I love and have lots of use for (such as reference books, gardening guides and cook books) and everything else I borrow from the library. And if there’s a book I really want to read that my local library doesn’t have, I ask friends and family if I can borrow theirs or I buy a second-hand copy for a fraction of the price.
Weekly savings: $20
Yearly savings: $1040
5. Using a menstrual cup
I’ve been using menstrual cups for going on eight years (started my sustainable menstruation journey with the DivaCup and now I alternate with the Ruby Cup); that’s a lot of disposable tampon waste I’ve saved. Considering that I was using on average about 24 tampons in a monthly cycle and spending roughly $7 a pack each month I’ve saved a small fortunate over that time.
Weekly savings: $1.75
Yearly savings: $84
6. Ditching paper towels
I haven’t bought paper towels for over a decade because they’re wasteful, simple as that. Just use a cotton tea towel for wiping spills as they can be washed and reused. You don’t even need to buy tea towels new. You can go to any thrift or charity store and purchase second-hand ones for bargain prices.
Related Post: 20 Items That Should Be On Your Zero Waste List
Some families will go through a roll of paper towels each week and considering that a two-pack of paper towels costs roughly $5, that’s a lot of money being spent over the year on something so disposable!
Switch to a reusable washable tea towel, pocket the cash and minimise your impact on mother nature.
Weekly savings: $2.50
Yearly savings: $130
7. Growing my own flowers
Before making the switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle, another of my weekly indulgences was purchasing fresh cut flowers from the local florist, usually wrapped in some sort of plastic and paper packaging. I loved coming home to a bouquet and purchasing a fresh one each week.
Now if I want a beautiful display of flowers in my home, I just pick beautiful plants and flowers that grow naturally and abundantly on our property and arrange in a vase (we’ve got beautiful weeds here) or I grow a variety of flowers myself from seed. It takes patience, but that’s the beauty of eco-friendly living: the joy is in the process, in the journey, and not just the result.
At the moment I am growing beautiful hot pink celosias and calendula in my garden, and there are gorgeous irises and lilies spread about the property, and yesterday I sowed some strawflower and sweet pea seeds. Also some of my plants are in various stages of flowering such as my Monstera plant (pictured below) which displays a beautiful white flower before baring its fruit.
Weekly savings: $10
Yearly savings: $520
8. Buying second-hand
Once upon a time I used to go clothes and home decor shopping (mostly thrift) at least once a fortnight spending on average about $80-$100, but since my embrace of the slow and minimalist life, I very rarely go shopping these days and that’s because I realised that I have most everything I need (and I just didn’t like dealing with the clutter). I also don’t have a proper closet yet so I usually just wear what’s already in my wardrobe and am cautious of adding anything else to it unless I absolutely need it or love it.
If there’s a wardrobe or household item I do need, I shop second-hand first (except undies and socks, ewwwww to wearing second hand undies lol!). I scour thrift stores, charity stores or trawl eBay because I save a tonne of money buying things in preloved condition.
For instance, the last pair of second-hand jeans I purchased online were Nudie jeans, a sustainable label where denim jeans can set you back about $240. I bought it for $25 including postage. There was also this straw basket I spotted in a local store months ago that retailed for $45 and I found a used one at a charity shop that was in great condition for only $3. A few wins for my bank account – and for the planet.
Note: I am also lucky to inherit hand me downs from my niece who wears the same size and has impeccable taste in fashion.
Weekly savings: $40-50
Yearly savings: $2080-2600
9. Refilling drink bottles with water instead of buying
Instead of buying bottled drinks to quench my thirst, I take my reusable water bottle and refill it with water. Whether I’m at the airport, at the library or in a park, I refill my water bottle, say no to single-use plastic and I save money too.
Weekly savings: $4-8
Yearly savings: $208-416
10. Working from home
Thanks to this business, I now work from home and thus save a lot of money on fuel and car servicing. I used to spend a minimum of $40 a week on petrol driving to and from work each day, and now I can make $40 worth of fuel last a fortnight, at a minimum.
Weekly savings: $20-$30
Yearly savings: $1040-1560
Of course there are many more ways I save money since I live off-the-grid and don’t have any electricity or water utility bills, but I didn’t include those because buying solar panels and several 20,000 litre rainwater tanks requires a huge outlay upfront and the point of this piece is to inspire you to make green lifestyle changes in your own small ways to save dollars – until you have enough to invest in those green options!
Now over to you. If you’re living consciously and frugally, what other things do you do to save money?
- 22 Steps Closer to Zero Waste Living: Disposable Items to Stop Buying Right Now
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- Daily Sustainable Habits: 7 Ways You Can Reduce Your Waste
- Bringing Frugality Back: Why Living Frugally is More Sustainable
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