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When my husband and I started out on our life together, we were not exactly rolling in money. As a grad student, my husband was paid a pitiful salary to spend 80 plus hours a week in the lab. I didn’t earn much more at my own job, either. But, thankfully, we didn’t have a lot of needs, either. We paid the bills, fed ourselves, and and tried to stay out of debt.
When he graduated and we had kids, we still didn’t have much money. Despite this, we determinedly put $50 a month into a savings account, no matter what. We had no cell phones, no newspaper subscriptions, and I clipped a lot of coupons. But we still figured out how to buy organic milk every week.
Saving money isn’t always easy, especially if you are trying to go green at the same time. However, I thought I would share a few money saving tips that may help you put away a few pennies while still reducing your carbon footprint.
How to Save Money and Go Green
Learning how to save money is not always fun but it is very important if you are going to every be financially independent. When you are concerned about your carbon footprint, saving money gets even harder.
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Organic products are not cheap. If we don’t pinch pennies, there would be no splurging on all natural soap and organic bananas! If you want to learn how to save money so that you can afford more natural and organic products, here are a few tips to get you started on your road to financial security:
Trim your Expenses:
In my house, organic food and natural household products are not considered luxuries…they are more like necessities! However, clothes, eating out, and entertainment are areas where I am happy to cut back on spending. You will need to track your own spending for a few months (more on that in a minute!) to figure out where you money is actually going. Then decide what you are not willing to cut back on.
How to Save Money on Food
There are so many ways to save money on food that are also great for the environment!
- Cook from scratch. You pay for convenience and it comes with alot of packaging! Stick to fresh foods or bulk foods with little packaging. Meat trays and many vegetable bags are recyclable if your company takes 1-7 plastics. Start making your child’s cookies, granola bars, and birthday cakes from scratch instead of heading to the store for them.
- Grow your own. Organic Gardening saves you money, it just takes time and effort on your part. Make your own compost, start plants from seed (I don’t have luck with this myself), and share rental of equipment with other gardeners (like rototillers for example).
- Check out your local co-ops or CSAs. This often reduces expenses for you because farmers know they have a reliable buyer for their products and can charge less. Check out www.localharvest.org for one near you.
- Bring your own lunch. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and a waste free lunch system and pack it yourself. Cloth napkins and reusable containers make it easy to reduce trash out put and save money.
- Start using coupons! I seriously cannot stress this enough. When you are trying to figure out how to save money, organic food coupons can save you a fortune. Call the phone number on the side of the package and ask for coupons. Check out the brand websites and follow them on social media. And remember, groceries can be found lots of places besides the grocery store. Watch for sales at Target, Walmart, and other retail locations. Check out Mojosavings.com for information about the Target Coupon Policy and Walmart Coupon Policy. You may be able to combine store and manufacturer coupons to save even more money.
Go Green and Save Money on Clothes:
- Shop consignment, thrift stores, Goodwill, etc. You would be amazed at how many great bargains you find and some of the clothes are NICE! I find stuff with tags still on, stuff from French boutiques, etc. Reducing costs to you and reusing clothes that are perfectly good!
- Learn to sew (me…can’t do it!) or find someone else who can!
- Save what you have. The less you wash something, the less water you waste and the longer your clothing lasts. Jeans really CAN be worn more than once. Of course, if you went out running in a t-shirt and you are soaked in sweat, that is another story! Wash in cold water to save money on utilities as well as wear and tear on fabric.
- Skip the dry cleaning! Dry cleaning is terrible for the environment unless you are one of the lucky few to have a green dry cleaner. All those chemicals and plastic bags…BLAH! Don’t buy dry clean only stuff! Hang a clothesline and save on electric costs.
Reduce Utility Bills:
Want to know how to save money and go green in a big way? Cut those utility expenses!
- Reduce water consumption. Great for the environment to cut down shower time, only run the dishwasher when full, and only wash full loads of laundry. Your bill will drop as well!
- Turn off the lights. Easy enough…leave a room and turn off the lights. Now, can you teach that to my kids? Also, unplug things when not in use or invest in a ‘green’ power strip that shuts off the source when the appliance is turned off.
- Consider green home improvement projects with long term savings benefits. Insulate your home, replace old windows with energy efficient models, add shade producing trees to your yard to reduce cooling costs. Reducing your utility bills will reduce your carbon footprint and save you a ton of money.
Create a budget:
It’s important to know where you money is going if you want to trim expenses like in step one! Save every receipt and every credit card statement. Start plugging in the numbers. There are a number of software programs out there to help you plan a household budget. Learn how to save money by looking at your daily cash flow. You can’t begin saving if you don’t know where you are actually spending your money. Here are the basic steps for creating a budget:
- Know what your net income is. The first step in creating a budget is to identify the amount of money you have coming in. Look at your pay stubs and figure out how much you bring home after taxes.
- Track your spending. Use simple budget software or even an Excel spread sheet to create categories and track spending.
- Set goals. Once you know how much you are spending, decide how much you need to SAVE and rework a few numbers. (see more on this below)
- Adjust your habits if necessary. Now that you know how much money you need to save, adjust your daily spending to allow it to happen. See the section on how to trim expenses above for tips!
- Keep checking in. A household budget is a fluid thing. Check back regularly to see how you are doing on your spending.
If you are drowning in credit card debt the first thing you need to do is get your head above water. Consolidate your credit card balances onto one card and negotiate a lower interest payment with that card. Then, cut up all those other cards! And do not be sucked into those store credit card offers. If you are not going to pay off your balances every single month it is not worth the 10% off coupon they are offering you.
Consider leaving the credit card at home when you shop and bring only the amount of cash you actually feel you will need. It is too easy to overspend when you have a credit card on you to pay the bills.
Set a savings goal:
While learning how to save money TODAY is important, you also need to look to the future when you are planning your finances. Everyone should have both short term and long term financial goals.
Short term goals may be to save enough money for a green home improvement project. We put new energy efficient windows on the house and that was not a cheap process! Long term goals may be to save money for your child’s college education or for your retirement fund. Don’t get so lost in the day to day aspect of managing your finances that you neglect to plan ahead. Many employers offer matching 401K plans and if you are not investing in it, you are throwing away free money!
Research your investment options:
Everyone should have some sort of savings and that money will grow faster if you do not just let it sit in a savings account that earns almost no interest. Do your research before you invest, however! Some investment options are higher risk than others and just because your return on investment is greater, doesn’t mean it is a good choice for your family’s nest egg. Every penny that you stop wasting on credit card interest and restaurant meals can be put towards living a greener lifestyle!
Do you have any other tips on how to save money so you can go green?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire and has worked in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging and freelance writing to share this knowledge with others. Learn more about her HERE.