There’s a nice little consequence of living a budget-friendly life: without even noticing it, you’ll realise that your actions are allowing you to both save money and be environmentally friendly.
It makes sense when you think about it. After all, it’s been said that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average US citizen, four Earths would be needed to sustain them. That figure rises to more than five Earths if you’re from Kuwait.
At the same time, living within your means often involves cutting back on certain things.
As such, it’s logical that successfully managing your finances also involves managing your environmental footprint.
Read on to find out how you can save the environment while saving your money!
And hopefully it will inspire you to work even harder at sticking to your budget if you know the planet is thanking you for it!
Check out these related articles:
- The One Principle That Will Guarantee Your Financial Future
- 12 Effortless Ways For You To Make Money While Shopping
- The Only Tip You Need To Reach Financial Freedom As Soon As Possible
- The Definitive Guide To Getting Out Of Debt
- How To Think Like A Future Millionaire
1. Make a meal plan and a grocery list
It’s been shown time and time again that there are a few things that can make your grocery bill skyrocket.
The first is going to the supermarket when you’re hungry. So, yes, I’m fully advocating snacking to save money.
The second major cause is not being entirely sure of what you need and just grabbing what you think may be required.
And the third, related to the above, is your frequency of shopping. That is, the more often that you go to the supermarket – say, if you don’t have a list and forget to get something – the more likely you are to over-spend. After all, no one really just goes in to buy one thing only.
Points 2 and 3 can easily be solved by making sure that you don’t step into a supermarket without a list of the exact groceries that you need.
On a related point, having a meal plan each week is an excellent way to ensure that your shopping list has just enough of what you need – no more, no less.
Not only does this stop you from buying extra things, whether that be from grabbing too much or going to the supermarket too frequently. It also means that you use up all of the food that you have at home.
Ever been at the supermarket and wondered if you have enough apples for all of the kids’ lunch boxes that week, so you buy some more “just in case”?
If you have a list, you’ll know that you have enough already and so you’ll avoid doubling up. This will save you the money it would cost to buy the extra apples – but, importantly from an environmental perspective, it will also minimise your food waste when they go off because you bought too many.
Food waste is a massive problem in the US, both from a financial and an environmental point of view. Consider the following (source):
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010.
That’s a lot of food. And a LOT of money.
So do your bit and make a shopping list before you hit the supermarket each week.
Your wallet and the planet will thank you!
2. Drink water from the tap
(All information in this section is from this this source)
Did you know that making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. Note that this doesn’t include transportation costs for getting the bottles to stores.
Were you also aware that the energy used to bottle this water is enough to power 190,000 homes?
It would be hard to argue that anything about that is environmentally friendly.
“Ah, but what about recycling?”, I hear you ask.
Well, last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38 of them. In addition, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the US’ recycling rate for plastic is only 23%, meaning that 38 billion water bottles are wasted each year.
This is equivalent to more than $1 billion worth of plastic waste annually.
“But I like the taste better and can’t drink tap water!” you exclaim.
Firstly, are you sure?
In the United States, 24% of bottled water sold is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13% of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11% of the market). Both brands are simply bottled, purified municipal water.
However, if you really can’t convince yourself to like the taste as is, why not try a water pitcher with a filter?
After all, if you have the recommended eight glasses of water each day, this will cost you about $0.49 per year if you have tap water.
The same amount of bottled water is around $1,400 annually.
We’ve talked before about how focussing on big wins is the way to reach financial freedom. Well, this is an absolutely massive win.
One water pitcher filter can effectively replace as much as 300 standard 16.9-ounce bottles. To put it another way, one pitcher filters about 240 gallons of water a year for around $0.19 per day.
The same amount of water from bottled water would require 1,818 16.9-ounce bottles per year, equivalent to $4.98 per day (or $1,817.17 annually) assuming that a water bottle costs $1.
Think of the money and plastic waste you could be saving!
“But I get thirsty when I’m out and about!”, you argue.
It’s true that hydration is important, especially if you’re at work or running around doing errands.
So do what I do and carry a reusable water bottle with you. At less than $10, you can simply refill it and go rather than continually buying single-serve bottles.
It may not need to be said, but all of this also applies if you drink soda.
I was a Diet Coke addict for a large portion of my life but have successfully weaned myself off it. Not only am I helping my health, but I’m helping my bank balance and my planet as well.
3. Only live in as much house as you need
In the FAQs On Getting Out Of Debt ASAP, we mention two things to keep in mind when taking out a mortgage:
You more than likely don’t need as much as they’re offering you. Only borrow what you absolutely need and not a cent more.
Remember that the bigger the mortgage, the more expenses you’ll have. I don’t only mean interest repayments, although they are the height of financial pain. But if you get a bigger mortgage and, consequently, a bigger house, you’ll have bigger expenses. Utilities (more space to heat/cool), higher land taxes, furniture (you have to fill all of those extra rooms), more maintenance etc.
If you don’t need to, why would you want to pay for more heating or cooling? And do you really want to buy extra furniture to fill all of that extra space?
All that energy to maintain the right temperature in your home is doing no favours to Earth – and no favours to your bank account.
Similarly, it costs both money and resources to make that extra furniture, not to mention the additional waste when your Ikea table is eventually thrown away.
Alternatively, having a smaller home significantly reduces your environmental footprint.
It can also significantly reduce your mortgage, meaning that you’ll be speeding your way towards financial freedom before you know it!
4. Consider your daily habits
There are little things that we do every day without even thinking. But if we stopped and thought of the implications, both financial and environmental, we may see that a few small adjustments could have massive benefits.
For example, consider turning down the heater a couple of degrees and putting on a sweater while inside.
Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth.
Avoid long showers. In particular, you don’t need to wash your hair every day, so train your follicles to last longer between washes.
Switch off the lights when you’re not in the room.
Turn off the TV if it’s only on as “background noise”.
Even better, teach the other members of your household to do the same. If everyone develops the same habits, it stops being considered a chore and starts being normal.
Not only can you save hundreds of dollars doing this, you can help save the planet too!
For more ideas, check out these 10 Proven Ways to Save Electricity at Home.
5. Reconsider your modes of transportation
It was mentioned earlier in this article but it’s worth repeating: focus on the big wins to increase your wealth.
And being able to sell your car(s) is certainly an example of a big win.
Cars suck your time, your money and your health. All that sitting getting stressed in traffic helps no one, least of all you.
I’m not arguing against their convenience. But it is absolutely in your best interest to not have one.
If you must have one, make it the cheapest, most reliable one you can find.
(Keep in mind that having a better car won’t make you look like a millionaire. After all, according to this article, Warren Buffett drives a $45,000 Cadillac DTS and Mark Zuckerberg has a $30,000 Acura TSX.)
But if you can work it out so that you live close enough to work that you can commute using public transport, riding a bike or simply walking, then you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars in car maintenance and gas.
If this also means that you can get rid of one – or all – of your cars, say hello to several thousand additional dollars each year!
Unsurprisingly, this is also the much greener option.
I personally take a bus to work as I don’t own a car. That half an hour or so is a great opportunity to work on this blog or read a book, neither of which I would be able to do if I was behind the wheel.
And, as a bonus, I’m several thousand dollars better off!
6. Use a clothesline or drying rack for your laundry
I’ve lived in areas that are extremely humid as well as others that regularly get below freezing.
In both cases, I have never used an electric dryer.
They are massive wastes of energy and ruin your clothes much faster than day-to-day wear does. The electricity alone to run one a few times per week costs several hundred dollars.
Not to mention the environmental impact of all of that wasted energy.
Instead, I either use an outside clothesline or an indoor drying rack (I’m currently using this one).
There is no noticeable difference in how my clothes feel. I certainly feel the difference in my bank account though.
I’m sure the Earth feels the difference too!
7. Consider your coffee habits
First things first: I’m not advocating that you give up coffee.
After all, I’ve written The Secret to Maximising Your Savings (Without Sacrificing Your Latte Habit)!
But making coffee at home or using the machine at your workplace is not only much cheaper, but far more environmentally friendly.
In the UK, just 1% of the 2.5 billion coffee cups that are disposed of each year are recycled.
While – spoiler alert – the article to which I’ve linked above does promote cutting back on how many coffees you buy at cafes, if you absolutely must get a takeaway coffee, consider purchasing a reusable coffee cup.
They’re super well-priced, especially when you consider their positive environmental impact.
In addition, many cafes offer a small discount to customers who bring their own cup.
If your cafe of choice currently doesn’t do that, consider asking the manager if they would implement such a policy, especially if you’re a regular customer.
As someone who managed a cafe during university, I assure you that many cafe owners will consider it, especially if it makes the difference between retaining and losing a loyal customer.
8. Take your lunch to work
It’s very well established that bringing your lunch from home each day saves you thousands of dollars each year compared to buying takeaway lunches.
But did you ever consider the effect that all of those takeaway meals have on the environment?
For example, your sandwich will probably be served in a plastic container.
You may receive some plastic cutlery – wrapped, of course, in more plastic.
Want to upsize for a small additional cost? Oh, why not – just don’t think about the point raised above about food wastage.
Did you want to make that into a meal with a drink? It doesn’t cost much more, although perhaps it’s best not to consider the environmental cost of one more plastic Coke bottle.
As an aside, it’s also been shown to be much healthier to bring your own lunch, as you can control both the ingredients and the portions.
So if something is good for your health, your wealth and your planet, perhaps it’s an option that warrants consideration.
9. Buy second hand
A large portion of household waste comes from discarding unwanted items, such as clothes and furniture.
It’s inevitable that tastes change and I’m not advocating that you keep your sofa set forever like your great aunt.
But the fact that tastes do change is something that you can take advantage of to the benefit of your wallet and the Earth.
So before going on a shopping binge on ASOS or heading down to your local Ikea for another Scandinavian spectacular, check out the local second hand shops near you for some used gems.
Alternatively, of course, you have eBay, the world’s biggest secondhand store right at your fingertips.
Many of the items, both in-store and online, are in incredible condition at even more incredible prices.
In addition, you are contributing to a reduction in waste – both wasted energy to make the items and wasted resources when they are discarded. Gold star for you!
10. Use natural cleaning items (which are just as effective)
Did you know that the most versatile cleaning product you can own is white vinegar? And that it costs $3.28 for one gallon?
I use it to mop my tiled floors. To clean the toilet. As fabric softener (particularly given that the real deal is a complete scam). For getting stains out of rugs. As window cleaner.
The stuff is amazingly effective and amazingly cheap. Even better, it’s completely natural, so no washing any nasties down the drain.
11. Get rid of your gym membership
On this site, we are not fans of gym memberships.
Not only are they expensive, they’re completely unnecessary when so many free options are available that are just as effective – and far more flexible.
(To refresh your memory, check out these 5 Ways To Smash Your Fitness Goals – For Free!)
But did you know that going to the gym is bad for the environment too?
After all, you may be driving there (strike 1) and you might even buy a takeaway “health smoothie” in a non-recyclable cup (strike 2…).
More importantly, the money you’ve paid as part of your membership is going to ensuring that the gym keeps every single light on in the place and blasts the air conditioning at Arctic temperatures to keep you cool while you sweat.
(Strike 3, you’re out!)
The alternative is exercising outside (no lights or cooling required) or at your/a friend’s home (maximum two lights required).
And if you’re outside, it’s even better as you’ll get to appreciate all of the results of your efforts to save the planet – while also saving you money.
None of the items in this list are particularly difficult to do. But the benefits are absolutely clear.
So as you’re jogging through the park and something catches your eye because you think that bird just winked at you in thanks? It most probably did.
Or, you know, it’s a bird. But whatever.