Lately I’ve been talking about living green on a budget. If you need to catch up read the following first then head back here for more tips.
- Is Green Living Worth the Cost?
- Why green living is worth the cost
- False: It’s impossible to afford green living
I’ve mentioned that even on a limited budget we’ve managed to live green and how we live has a lot to do it. Not surprisingly we really try hard to make eco-friendly choices.
REAL eco-friendly living is not only about the green gear you own but the actions you take. Luckily, many of those actions save you loads of cash.This is key because organic food, natural body care and stuff like eco-friendly toys can cost more than conventional so it’s important to save money in other areas in order to be able to afford the more costly expenses.
Eco-friendly choices that save you money
Buy less stuff
Green living means living on less. Living on less costs substantially less than living on more or even than living on the norm. Some people think green living means only buying green products over conventional, but there’s more to it. For example, you may only purchase green products, but those products still require energy and resources to make – if you’ve got three energy efficient televisions, 50 pairs of ethically made shoes and a stock supply of green toys you’re really not living much greener than someone with two less efficient TVs, a closet full of non-green clothes and so on. Having less and living simply is green and saves you money for many reasons…
- You need less space to store junk. Smaller homes cost less from the get-go, require fewer resources and less energy. If you’ve got too much stuff, you will need a bigger space because you’ll need somewhere to store said stuff.
- As noted above no matter what you’re buying (with some food exceptions) it took energy and resources to manufacture. The more you buy the bigger your footprint in the long run.
- Buying less and sticking to basic necessities most of the time allows room in your budget for the more expensive but also more ethically made products you want.
- Having less stuff allows you to focus on more important stuff – like green living. The more you buy, the more money you need. The more money you need the more time you need. The more time you use up working is time taken away from your family, your ability to advocate for green issues and the time you get to spend out in nature with your kids.
I’m not saying go without; just buy less stuff overall – We have one TV to watch DVDs on, no cable, no magazine subscriptions, necessary but not excessive clothing and we rarely buy empty calorie food like soda or chips. We make choices based on needs first and wants later. Once in a while we all need something that’s pure want; for example a cool lip gloss or a video game however, organic food is a bigger deal to me than the stuff we want but don’t need. I’d rather be able to afford organic apples and bleach free dish washing soap than go out for pizza or have another pair of shoes.
Use reusable goods
When there’s a reusable option we buy it instead of a disposable option. For example, not buying disposable water bottles alone will save you $6,000+ over five years. $6,000 is a whole lot of organic produce. You can choose cloth napkins and cloth towels over paper products, reusable containers and snack baggies over plastic wrap and plastic bags, a reusable coffee filter over paper, reusable ice pop molds instead of disposable boxes of popsicles, reusable lunch box over paper bags, homemade cloth reusable baby wipes over bought and so on. There are hundreds of disposables that are 100% unnecessary.
Another distinction here is we’re not afraid to pay more for GOOD reusables. A reusable product that’s made well and made to last is a bargain compared to disposables and to shoddy reusables that you’ll need to re-buy.
Buy less packaging
Buying in bulk or buying whole fruits and veggies vs. packaged saves you money and is totally eco-friendly to boot. You do pay for packaging so choosing the less packaged item usually is cost efficient.
Make homemade non-toxic cleaners
Homemade green cleaners are cheap; literally pennies compared to store-bought and insure that your home is free of harmful chemicals. I actually do use store bought green cleaners when companies send them to me to review, but overall we’ve made our own for years and probably saved thousands.
Eat vegetarian meals and cook from scratch
We don’t eat any red meat or pork and very little poultry or fish because organic meat is expensive! We also try to avoid processed or prepackaged foods and cook a lot from scratch. Even meat eaters can learn to love meatless meals – it’ll save you cash and keep you healthy as you lower your eco-footprint.
Buy used goods or borrow stuff
Used and borrowed goods are ultimate green and save you tons of cash. In some cases a used item may not be healthier – i.e. used plastic dishes or a toy made with lead. BUT you can buy plenty of stuff used that’s perfectly fine like cloth napkins, puzzles, books and clothing. In almost all cases used is cheaper and save goods from the landfill. You can borrow a lawn mower, books from the library or borrow extra dishes for a picnic instead of buying paper plates.
This is pretty much a given and really easy. For example, recycle more and you’ll save money on the garbage bill. Turn off the lights, turn off the water a minute early, drive less and you’ll save more plus be living green.
Making homemade toys with recycled goods is cheap and green. Learning to sew instead of tossing a perfectly good shirt is a big deal – (I HATE sewing, but I’ll do it if it means I can save money and be able to afford organics). Homemade items like organic sugar scrubs are insanely cheaper than store bought versions. Check out crafty books at the library to get inspired.
When we buy green products; organic food, natural shampoo, a green toy, organic cotton, what have you, we make sure to buy a real eco-friendly, not bunk product. If I’m spending my cash on green goods, well, darn it they better freaking be green. I review stuff to an almost insane degree before I decide it’s worth or not worth the cash. You don’t need to be as freaky as me though – even having some basic skills to tell fake green from real green will benefit your budget. I’d make a list of product priorities and criteria then stick to it.
Learn to be easily amused
I’m not sure where being easily amused got such a bum wrap, but it’s so much cheaper and greener if you are easily amused, so to me it’s a positive not a negative. For example, while we do own video games the kids are seriously happier when we play an old board game with them for the millionth time. My son is totally happy to go to the park – and actually so am I.
Boredom and the need to be constantly stimulated and amused is rampant (from what I see) and costs you money. If you always need the newest DVD, video game system, big screen TV and so on your life will cost more than if you’re perfectly happy playing charades or taking a walk. Learn to love the little things. Teach your kids that amusement is not just flash and bling but time spent together. You’ll save money, have a smaller footprint and I guarantee you’ll be happier.
We try to stick to the above green rules and they help to save us money for the actual green products we want.