35 Ways to Save Money while also Living Sustainably

Updated: May 17, 2020

Physical waste and emissions waste!


I am on a quest to inspire as many people as I can to reduce their waste and change their way of living and people are enticed by two things: money and being lazy/not wasting time and energy (see that post here).



This post is going to be about all the ways you can save money by reducing your waste with approximate numbers. Please take this with a grain of salt as everyone has different companies, prices fluctuate every year (month or day), and many more factors.


Most people on the outside see sustainably living as expensive and aesthetically pleasing. But that is so false. Sustainable living can be easy and cheaper than you think and I am here to prove it to you.


I thought that if people could see that sustainable living can be easy and save them money then surely they would be more interested. Especially if you don’t have to change your lifestyle that much (check out beginner, intermediate, advanced, and bonus tips here on how to live sustainably without changing your life completely!).



Let’s dive right in to everyone's favorite:


Food:


1. Meal Planning: this doesn’t mean you have to put cook all your meals for the week in one day and divide them out all ready to go (that does take a lot of effort, but can save you time throughout the week), I mean to plan your meals before your go shopping. Don’t go to the store without a plan. If you go to the store and just buy random items here and there or buy too many ingredients, you will probably be wasting a lot of food that can’t be used in time or can’t even be used together in a meal. This will cause food waste and throwing away food is literally throwing away your hard earned money.


Instead, the day before or the day of your grocery shopping, spend 10 or so minutes looking up recipes and writing down the ingredients you will need for that week (or two weeks or however long you shop for). This way you will have the right amount of food and right amount of ingredients and won’t end up throwing so much away. This can save you anywhere from $20-$50+ per grocery trip.


What I do is sit down on Saturday and plan five meals for the week to cook for dinner and we eat leftovers as our lunch the next day. I write all the ingredients I need for the week and then go get the groceries on Sunday morning.


2. Cook at home more vs going out: this goes right along with meal planning. Especially if you will be getting food to go, think of how much less you will be wasting by cooking at home, not to mention the money you’ll save. The average American eats out roughly four times a week (lower than I thought, honestly), but if you make just two of these meals at home, you can save about $900-$1000 a year!


It’s also better to eat at home because you know exactly what you are eating and what ingredients are being used. You can’t see the amount of food waste that goes on at a restaurant. Of course, if you are cooking at home, don’t forget to meal plan in order to save even more waste and money!



3. Shop local: usually farmer's markets, local bakeries, and other artisans are cheaper (or even the same price) compared to brands in supermarkets. Not only this, but they are fresher and usually also have less packaging. Not to mention there is significantly less emissions being contributed to these local times.


4. Don't over-buy: if you try to avoid a certain food, you probably won't have as expensive of a grocery bill. For example, if you decide you want to avoid soda, sugar, or processed food, you will no longer be buying excess or impulse shopping when you are at the grocery store. This goes along with meal planning, only buy what you need for that week or two weeks and try not to buy things you don't need. This helps if you don't go to the store hungry!


5. Don't throw away "rotten" produce and scraps: first off, meal prepping will definitely help you when it come to reducing your food waste, but it won't eliminate it. Instead, you can find ways to repurpose this old food so you still get your money's worth and don't just have to throw it away:


- You can read more here about what to do with old bananas instead of throwing them out.

- Turn your veggie scraps or even rotten veggies into broth, recipe here

- Rotten apples can be sliced thinly and turned into apple chips

- Rotten oranges and other citrus fruits can be soaked in vinegar and turned into all purpose cleaner

- Rotten potatoes can be planted and give you new produce

- Coffee grounds can be repurposed as a plant fertilizer or a DIY face-mask


The list goes on! If you have questions or need ideas, ask! If anything, surely Google can help.



6. Change your diet: I am not a nutritionist, these are just my personal observations. But, by cutting out certain parts of your diet, you might just save money. For me, by cutting out meat and dairy (and not buying substitutes), we have saved a little bit of money.


Change your coffee & water routine:


7. Switch to a reusable water bottle and filter: the cost up front might seem like it’ll cost more than plastic water bottles, but think, you won’t have to buy another water bottle and filtration device until it is broken. As long as you take care of it, these items can last years!


Check out this infographic for more stats:




8. Switch to a reusable Keurig pod: if you are adamant about sticking with your Keurig, consider switching to a reusable pod that you can put your own coffee in. This will drastically reduce your plastic waste. Not only this, but a bag of coffee costs roughly $11.41 for 41-82 cups when Kcups cost roughly $24.95 for 24-60 cups. You get more bang for your buck and also reduce your waste.


9. Switch your regular coffee filters for a reusable one: if you already have been using a coffee pot, which is already significantly less waste than a Keurig, consider switching to a reusable coffee filter. This way, you won’t have to also purchase coffee filters all the time, but just make a one-time purchase for a reusable filter which will save money as well as reduce your waste.


10. Or, change your whole routine and use a French Press: the best option would be a French Press since this doesn’t require any filter, only coffee. You can even find them made out of glass and metal only, but the best option would be second hand. With this, the waste is minimal, and your only cost would be coffee!


11. Use reusables when you get to-go: Take if a step further, and make your coffee at home versus buying out. If you have to buy your coffee at a café and take it to go, make sure you bring your own cup!



Water and Electricity:


12. Turning off faucets: when you don’t need them, this can help save water and more amounts of coal being burnt, but it can also save you money! If you can save 1000 gallons a month, you can save roughly $140 a year on your water bill.


13. Turn off the lights: it might seem harmless to leave lights on when you don’t need them, but your energy has to come from somewhere and that is most often found in the form of burning coal, especially in the US. The less electricity you use, the less coal that has to be burned and pumped into our atmosphere. Not to mention, the lower your electricity bill will be! The average family spend about $2,200 on electricity per year, and by reducing your energy consumption, you can save up to 25% of your bill.


You can read more energy and water conservation tips here (coming soon).


Repurpose and Reuse items:


Saving resources whenever possible is a great way to easily cut back on your costs, but also reduce the amount of waste you create and emissions created. It takes machines to harvest the materials, turn them in to the product, and then ship them to the store before you even purchase items like rags, batteries, and paper. It is important to reuse items you already have and give them new life whenever possible.


14. Repurpose old towels and shirts: turn them into reusable rags in order to avoid paper towels and napkins. Repurposing old fabric will save you money and keep more products out of the landfill. And not buying new will save you a lot of money and also precious resources.



15. Use reusable batteries: next time you need to buy batteries, opt for rechargeable batteries instead. They are very simple to use and last a whole lot longer than single-use batteries. They just charge in their charging "home" until they are ready to be used again and can be found at most stores.


16. Use up the whole sheet of paper: before recycling it of course. This way you won't have to buy paper as often which saves you money and obviously more trees won't have to be cut down for more paper production.


17. Bring your reusables with you everywhere: some stores give you a discount if you bring your own bag, coffee cup, or container. It's best to always keep them items in your purse, back pack, or even just in your car, ready for the next time they might need to be used.



Let's talk about transportation:


Chances are, your vehicle still runs off gasoline or diesel fuel, both of which are extremely wasteful. But, there are ways you can cut back on your gas bill and the amount of emissions you are contributing to:


18. Don't idle your car: if you are waiting to pick up your kids from school or waiting to head into work, turn your car off. Even if for only a few moments, this can save you anywhere from $70-$650 a year!


19. Carpool: if you live near your co-workers or classmates, see if everyone wants to carpool. You will then only have to fill up your tank a fraction of the time! Just two people carpooling can save nearly $1,500! This was also one of my lazy tips.


20. Take public transportation when possible: you can see more about the benefits to taking public transportation here, so I won't go too far in depth. But, taking public transportation gets more cars off the road which reduces the amount of emissions. It is also significantly cheaper than buying gasoline and usually quicker than sitting in traffic. It can save one person roughly $9,600 a year.



21. Ride a bike or walk instead: if you live fairly close to work and the weather is nice, consider a form of transportation that will also be good exercise and keep you healthier! This number is probably close to that of public transportation.


22. Maintenance your car: make sure the tires are properly inflated and rotated, check the oil often and change it as necessary, make sure your battery and engine are running efficiently, and all the other important car maintenance. This can all save fuel as well as keep your car healthier for longer, meaning you won't have to buy cars as often.


Go paperless:

23. Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: of course this will save you money because you will no longer be purchasing these magazines and newspaper that you might not even be reading. If you still want to keep up, thankfully we are at the end of 2019 and most all news and current events are on the internet. And of course, canceling these subscriptions will prevent more trees from being cut down.


24. Get a library card: libraries are the world's best borrowing system and we should take advantage of them even in our digital age. It's important to give your eyes a break from screens and library cards are absolutely free (at least I have not seen one that costs). The same as the above tips, this will save you money since you won't be buying books and save the amount of trees being cut down.



25. Don't get receipts: this won't really save you money, but with so much of our banking being online these says, receipts are really becoming unnecessary. This is just a free way to save you from creating even more waste, so say no to receipts.


26. Opt for online billing: just like with receipts, this won't really save you money, but it is an easy and free way to reduce your waste. Most banks these days are all online and you can opt for emailed statements instead of snail-mail statements.


27. Find online textbooks for school: I have not done any comparisons of the cost of paper books versus online, but surely it is at least slightly cheaper since the companies don't have to pay for paper. If anything, the cost is the same, but you will save a lot of waste.


Shop Green:


28. Don't buy new (unless you have to): instead, buy second hand! There are plenty of options to buy second hand. Read more below! Shopping second hand is a great way to save resources, but is also a really great way to save money. Since these items are gently used, they have lost some of their face value and are almost always significantly cheaper than buying brand new. And this way, you won't be contributing to the waste cycle, but rather helping promote a circular economy. All of the below tips have the same benefits monetarily and environmentally.


29. Utilize thrift stores: Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or you local thrift store. I'm sure your town probably has one if you haven't looked yet. Or, the next town over. But, if this is too inconvenient for you, you can try...


30. Online thrift shopping: eBay, thredUP, poshmark, depop, Facebook market place and more! This is a great option if you are too busy or if it is too inconvenient for you to go to a thrift store. This is a also a great option if you want to sell some of your items and make a few bucks.



31. Trade with friends, family, or online: a new app that has become pretty big is called "Bunz." Unfortunately, it is not big in Japan, but in the US at least, Bunz has become very popular. It is an app that you use to trade with people in your area. If you don't have access to that, you can ask your friends in family if they have the item you are looking for and they don't need it anymore.


32. Try to reduce your consumption: ask yourself if you really need that item or if it is just a want. A tip you can use is to put that item in a note in your phone and if you go a week or more without thinking about that item, you probably don't need it. Or, you can even try a "no spend week" or a "no spend month" to inspire you!


33. If you need to buy new, pick a good brand: now, this isn't necessarily a way to save money, but a lot of these items cost about the same as wasteful, commercial brands, so why not shop form a better company. Whenever I do need a brand new item, I get on google and search something like "sustainably made socks" or "eco-friendly wallet" or whatever I might be needing. Some brands I really recommend are:


- Clothing: Green Spirits, see my full brand review here and Madewell, see that full review here

- Phone accessories: Pela Case, see my full review here

- Poop Bags: Pet n Pet, see my full review here

- Bags: Kula bags, Grunbag, Stasher Bag, and more

- Misc zero waste items: Zero Waste Store, Carly Bergman/Sustainable Duo

- Protein: Planet Protein



Use what you have


You don't need a lot. What I mean is, you don't need a purse to match every outfit, you don't need a pair of shoes in every color, you don't need fancy plates and silverware, etc. Truthfully, people usually don't care what you are wearing or what you are eating off of. Learn the importance of the items that you have and see how you can transform them for more uses instead of buying more and more items.


34. Give old items new life: like I mentioned above, there are plenty of ways to reuse items you already have and give them new life instead of just running to the store to buy something brand new. Here are a few ideas:


- Don't buy brand new mason jars when you go through a jar of pasta sauce each week. Just rinse these jars and now you don't need to buy new ones!

- If you're sick of your clothes, redesign them: dye them, cut them, layer them, pair them with a new outfit, etc. You might only be bored of your clothes because you keep wearing them the same way, try something new!

- Upcycle your old, out of style furniture. Try a new stain, a new paint, or even just reorganize your rooms to give your home a new look for very little cost


And the list goes on! Pinterest is full of great ideas for this type of stuff!


35. Don't buy things you don't need: or at least limit the amount of wants you buy. If you do need something, though, read the "shop green" tips for how to shop sustainably when you do need something!


Thanks for reading! I hope these tips plus my tips for lazy people really inspire you to start living sustainably. It is actually so much easier and so much cheaper than people originally think.


Let me know what tips you love and what else you might add to the list!


- Emma

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