It’s a popular myth, or misunderstanding rather, that a sustainable lifestyle is expensive and only for the privileged.
But when you really think about it, there are a lot of sustainable changes that save you money in the long run.
And most of them are simple switches that you don’t even need to think much about.
So, without further ado, here are some thorough ideas to help you make sustainable changes that save you money.
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In the kitchen
Being vegan is the most sustainable food choice you could make, with the animal agriculture industry emitting 18% of our greenhouse gasses and all.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Store-bought or restaurant vegan food and baked goods are only expensive because of their specialty connotations. So, their prices get inflated.
A vegan diet in itself is extremely frugal if you stick to the basics and make the fancy stuff yourself. It’s a lot healthier for you anyway.
Meat is also really expensive, and so is cheese. If you cut those costs and you make your own meat substitutes, you can afford almond milk and still save.
You can cut a lot of food costs if you just know where and how to buy. Going to bulk and zero-waste shops for your non-perishables can save you packaging costs and cut down on plastic pollution at the same time.
You don’t need to buy the aesthetically pleasing mason jars to store your food in either. Keep the glass jars that your jams come in and use that. Whatever you have handy.
Your local farmers market can also give you a wider variety of fresh, organic produce at way lower prices than the shops. A boost for your health, the environment and the local economy.
Minimise food waste
When you waste food you’re basically flushing money down the drain. You could be saving a lot of money just by being more efficient with your food.
Also, food waste is a huge consumer problem. So managing your food waste helps you be more sustainable.
The first place to start is by buying less food. A lot of food goes to waste because you don’t get around to eating it before it goes bad.
An easy way to make sure you only buy what you need is to set up a meal plan. It can be for the whole week or 3-4 days in advance. Write down what you’ll need for each meal and only buy those ingredients.
If you have anything left over you can incorporate it into your next meal or freeze it for another time. Perhaps to make your own sauce.
And freeze your leftovers if you don’t like eating the same meals close to each other. Just don’t forget you have things in the freezer. It helps to clean out your fridge and pantry once a week so you don’t forget what you have.
You can also set up a system for yourself where you prioritize the foods that will go bad soon and eat them first.
Ditch the single-use products in your kitchen and switch to washable, reusable ones. I’m talking about paper towels, napkins and plastic bags.
Even if they’re cheap, they cost you more in the long run than reusables. If you don’t want to buy reusables or you can’t right now, make your own.
Old towels for unpaper towels, a table cloth you don’t use much for cloth napkins and a wicker basket you got with your flowers once as a produce basket. This stuff is cool now. And it will cost you nothing.
Something you might have to buy new, though, is a pot scrubber to replace your dish sponge. You know, those cool bristle ones with the wood handle that last a lifetime. Unless you’re super crafty with wood work.
Something you can do to ditch the plastic water bottles, which are actually really expensive when you add it up, is to install a water purifier in your sink. They’re quite affordable and a lot better than plastic.
Get efficient with your energy
If you don’t have a dishwasher yet, start saving for one. It might require a large initial investment but once you have it you’ll be saving a lot on water expenses.
New dishwashers use a lot less water than a half-filled sink and less electricity than you think. It also dries your dishes so you don’t have to buy dish towels.
I’m pretty sure you can get biodegradable soap pods for them to make it extra sustainable. Just make sure to fully load it to maximise the efficiency.
As for your fridge, a quick solution is to frequently clean the coils so your fridge works at its best. But if your fridge is a little dated or you’re looking for a new one, search for one that is energy star qualified.
In your garden
If you have a garden, you have a chance to take it to maximum potential. A garden is something that can either cost you money or save you money.
Tending to your lawn is using more resources than you might realize, so perhaps it’s time to rethink having one. You can use your lawn space to curate a beautiful collection of native and edible plants.
That way your garden is naturally using the water that’s available in your area without needing a lot of maintenance. And it gives you a chance to incorporate new foods in your diet for free.
You can also start composting your food and garden waste to reuse as fertilizer and keep out of the landfill. Either in a compost bin or in an area in your garden.
If you want to save even more on your water bill, you can collect rainwater in a simple rain barrel or install a whole system if that’s in your capacity.
But if you live in an apartment or just don’t have garden space, you can always have a mini compost bin in your kitchen for your food scraps and a windowsill herb garden for the herbs you use the most in your meals.
For maximum use of your apartment or porch space, you can get a garden tower and grow a lot of food in a tiny area. You can either buy one or DIY it if you’re handy with tools. Either way, it’s a good investment.
In the bathroom
Your bathroom is quite an easy place to make sustainable changes that cost the same or less than your normal products.
Sustainable skincare products are an investment that I happily make. Most good brands cost the same or slightly more than commercial brands.
But the difference is that you need fewer products to have amazing skin with sustainable brands because they are made to support your skin. Unlike commercial brands who cause problems to make you buy more products.
So, in the end, you’ll save on your purchases because they also last longer.
And if you’re looking for a good place to find sustainable beauty products, The Detox Market has some of the best sustainable beauty brands. Their prices range from totally affordable to some more investment products.
You can also get solid products, like soaps, shampoo bars, lotions and deodorants to minimise packaging waste.
You could always make your own beauty products with DIY recipes but I find that they aren’t as effective because a lot of those components need to be refined in order to benefit your skin.
A bamboo toothbrush costs about the same as a normal toothbrush. And you can use it to label your veggie garden when you’re done with it. That way you get the most use out of it.
You can get your toothpaste in powder form in a glass jar, further eliminating plastic from your bathroom. It doesn’t cost that much more and it lasts longer if you use it well.
As for dental floss, I tried to find a DIY method online but it seems the easiest is just to buy sustainable floss. It is more expensive but if you use smaller pieces you can make it last a really long time.
Disposable razors, cotton rounds and menstrual products are expensive in their own right. And you pay for them every month or second month.
Getting reusables might seem like a big expense, but because it’s a once-off purchase you will gain your money back after a few months.
A safety razor not only reduces plastic, it lasts forever, it’s just as effective and the razor blades stay sharper for longer. It is a bit of a learning curve to work with it, though.
There are plenty of reusable cotton rounds to choose from, you can even make your own. And if you don’t wear makeup you can get yourself a spray-on toner to eliminate cotton rounds altogether.
As for menstrual products, here is a guide to help you decide which reusable alternative will work best for you.
I’m going to include toilet paper here. Even though it’s not reusable, you can get toilet paper made from recycled paper. We use a lot of toilet paper so getting the recycled kind can save you a pretty penny and reduce waste.
If you use the bathroom, you use water. The aim here is to get your water usage down and minimise the water wasted. It makes a big difference in your water bill when you use water wisely.
You can do this by installing a low flow showerhead and spending less time in the shower. The showerheads cost the same as a nice dinner for one and aren’t difficult to install.
It’s an effortless switch with benefits from day one. Faucet aerators cost even less and you just screw them on the tip of your faucet. They can reduce your water flow rate by more than half.
Another place to save is the toilet. If your bathroom doesn’t have a low flow toilet there are easy ways to modify your commode to use less water per flush. Here is an article with instructions if you want to try it.
Or, put a brick in your toilet tank if you want a free solution.
In your closet
Sustainable fashion is impossibly expensive. And even though there are affordable brands out there, they’re few and far between.
But you do have options to make sure your wardrobe is on point, sustainable and easy on your wallet.
Because the fashion industry generates more than 90 million tons of waste each year, the most sustainable choice you can make is to just stop buying more.
And if you do need a wardrobe update, first see how you can make your existing clothes look fresher by mixing outfits, layering or upcycling them.
There’s also the option to rent clothes for events, and to borrow and swop with your friends and family.
If you want something more permanent you can buy it secondhand. If that’s not your style then you can save up for a sustainable piece or look for a quality piece that works with your wardrobe.
This way you curb your usual spending on clothes, which frees up more funds for you to make quality purchases. These purchases will last you a really long time, ultimately saving you money.
If you happen to need hangers, opt for wood ones. They don’t differ that much in price from plastic ones, so they’re an affordable choice.
But if you already have plastic hangers you don’t have to get rid of them. They’re quite durable so it saves you some expense. You can replace them with wood ones if they break.
As for your shoes, you can get any rack from a vintage shop and convert it into a shoe rack. No plastic storage containers needed.
Your laundry and cleaning
You can get biodegradable cleaning and laundry soaps from a zero waste shop if there is one in your area.
Or you can buy them in bulk from eco-friendly shops online. They cost about the same or less than normal detergents.
If you find yourself looking for a mop (because you’ve broken your 5th one this year), consider splurging on a sturdier, sustainably-made mop. Here’s a guide if you need one.
It will last you a really long time so it’s not a wasted investment.
To get the most out of your washing machine, always do full loads. This way you minimise the amount of times you put your washing machine to work and you save water.
And if you want to save more energy, only do cold washes. It preserves your clothes better too.
Switch to an energy-efficient washing machine if yours is really dated. But if you’re energy rating is above a C your washer is still good to go. It might seem a bit expensive but all these little changes add up to big savings.
You can also ditch your tumble dryer and air dry your laundry to save even more energy. The less energy you use the less you’ll have to pay for it.
Out and about
Did you know that some coffee shops give you a discount when you bring your own coffee mug?
But if you don’t want to walk around with one or you just don’t have one, you can always sit down at a coffee shop for 10 minutes and use one of their mugs.
And if you have your own water bottle, you won’t have to buy overpriced water in a plastic bottle when you’re out most of the day.
You can get yourself a metal straw for incase you need one, but it’s not a necessity purchase. Just ask for no straw, it’s easier to drink a smoothie than you think.
If you like stocking up on tissues and wet wipes, consider getting a few handkerchiefs instead. You can even make them yourself. It cuts back your waste and saves you the expense.
Coordinating your trips
If you live in an area where you need a car to get around, plan your trips in a way that you do everything you need to do in one trip. That way you don’t have to drive up and down unnecessarily.
Not only does it cut down the carbon emissions from your car, your fuel lasts longer and it saves you time.
Your shopping habits
You can save a lot of money just by being mindful of what you buy. The little purchases we forget about add up in the long run. And they take a lot of resources to make, just to end up not being used.
So, before you buy something, assess whether you need it and how much you’re going to use it. That way you don’t use resources unnecessarily and free up some extra savings.
And if you really do need something, check what you have at home that you can use, or buy it secondhand if you can.
If you can’t, search for a durable product that’s quality-made. That way it will last you a really time and you won’t need to constantly replace it.
Energy efficiency in your house
If you still have those old yellow lights where you live, switching them out for LEDs will significantly reduce your electricity usage. It ultimately costs less to replace them than not to.
To reduce your electricity use even more, use as much natural light during the day as possible.
If you tend to rely on heating and cooling appliances a lot, consider getting your house insulated and installing weather-stripping.
It will help regulate the temperature in your house and cut down the running time of your appliances.
Your appliances are still using energy when they’re plugged in, even when they’re off. So, make sure your appliances are plugged out when you’re not using them.
Another great way to save on the little things is to get rechargeable batteries. It keeps them out of the landfill and it’s a lot cheaper too.
You can save a lot of money, resources and waste if you opt to get your bills digitally.
In fact, there are a lot of things you might be getting on paper that you can switch over to digital. So, pay attention to your daily habits, especially at work, and see where you can do things more digitally.
There are a lot of other money-saving changes you could make to live more sustainably, but I think these cover most of the areas where you can make easy swops.
If you need more help on your sustainable living journey, here is my guide on actually living a sustainable lifestyle as a normal person.
Let me know in the comments which of these changes you’ll be implementing and if there are any that I’ve missed.
Cheers for now,
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