I’ve been saving money for a long time. Ever since I realized the magic of compound interest and how much saving now can improve my financial future, it’s been like someone flipped a switch in my head.
However, to be quite honest, it took me a little longer to get on the environmental train. Sure, I made sure to recycle and I would never have dropped trash on the floor. But it wasn’t until I saw an interview with someone explaining the science of climate change midway through the past decade that I realized how dire things are.
And as the saying goes, change starts at home. So my first step was to look around my own life to see what steps I could take in our household to make that little bit of difference.
It didn’t take long for something to become clear. Many of the same habits you can adopt to save money are also the exact same things you can do to help the environment.
So whether you want to make some changes in your own life to protect your wallet or protect the planet, they’re both good reasons with some really incredible results for both sides of the equation.
Check out some of the things I’ve implemented in my own life to achieve both goals to see which you can incorporate into your own daily habits.
1. Buy a reusable water bottle
If you want to make one immediate change, make it this one. Americans currently buy 50 billion bottles of water annually, which is equivalent to using 13 plastic bottles per month in the US.
On that basis, a reusable water bottle saves you an average of 156 plastic bottles per year. That’s a lot of plastic… and a lot of money that you will suddenly save instead of using it to buy those 156 drinks.
2. DIY eco-friendly cleaners
Many dishwashing and laundry detergents contain synthetic ingredients that are harmful to aquatic life, not to mention that most are contained in plastic. So try using inexpensive ingredients to make your own aromatic cleansers instead.
Bicarb soda and vinegar can clean an amazing amount of things very effectively and are also much cheaper than commercial cleaning products. And by making effective cleaners from pantry ingredients, you’ll save money and help the environment.
3. Install a programmable thermostat
Replacing your old thermostat with a programmable one is an easy and cost-effective way to save money on your heating and cooling bills. You can set a programmable thermostat to change the temperature in your home based on the time of day, whether you’re home, and other factors.
Many programmable thermostats also allow you to preheat or cool your home with an app instead of running the air conditioner all day.
4. Eat less meat
The agricultural industry is one of the largest sources of emissions, but it is also true that we must eat. However, did you know that the production of meat causes twice as much pollution worldwide as the production of plant foods?
Based on this, a very simple yet effective change your household can make is to eat less meat. Many people do this by having a meatless Monday, but you can certainly extend this to other days of the week. Rice, pasta, beans, potatoes and frozen vegetables are much cheaper than meat, especially if you buy them in bulk and store them for a long time.
(Likewise, consuming less dairy is also a good idea for both your budget and the environment!)
5. Cut the tap
Do you brush your teeth with running water? It wastes precious resources and your money – and really isn’t necessary at all.
Instead, wet your toothbrush, turn off the tap, apply toothpaste, and brush for two minutes twice a day before turning the water back on to rinse. It may not seem like much, but it can add up quite a bit over the course of a lifetime.
6. No more paper towels
While you may be used to reaching for paper towels to spill or to accompany every meal, using these disposable paper products really isn’t necessary anymore.
A good alternative is to use “utility towels” to clean up spills and to have cloth napkins on hand for meals. This makes cleaning messes around the house (or around your mouth) much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
7. Reduce Food Waste
The National Resources Defense Council estimates that up to 40% of American food is thrown away. It is safe to say that this is not only a huge waste of money but also resources.
At the same time, food is often one of the top three expenses in most household budgets, so food waste can be a huge financial burden for anyone trying to live on a tight budget. To avoid food waste in your own home, a simple strategy can be to create weekly menu plans. This way you shop smarter in the supermarket, you only buy what you need and you have much less food waste (and financially!)
8. Recycle Used Items
Making new clothes, furniture and other products consumes much of the disposable income of many Americans — while more than 11 million tons of textiles go to landfill each year.
So instead of just buying new items, head to your local thrift store to find used items and save resources like energy and raw materials. You can also look into the use of websites for both purchasing new and discarding existing clothing. Seeing how to sell on Poshmark is a great example of this.
9. Disconnect Switches
Even when your appliances and appliances are turned off, electricity continues to flow to them. That’s right! This is actually known as “vampire energy” and is estimated to account for 10% of household energy consumption.
This is why unplugging appliances when not in use saves energy, helping to reduce CO2 emissions, not to mention your energy costs.
So, after breakfast, unplug the power cord and unplug it while you are working or sleeping. A power strip can make this process more accessible with one plug, but it doesn’t get much more manageable if you save money and the environment.
Keep in mind that in some cases the Wi-Fi router must remain plugged in, such as a home security system or programmable thermostat.
10. Use everyday objects to give new uses
Aside from frugality, you can reuse and reuse items already in your home. For example, you can reuse glass jars as storage containers for tea bags and other items.
You can even combine this with any of the other suggestions on this list. That is, if you have a nearby store where you can buy dried goods in bulk, such as beans and rice, use those glass jars as a way to store these items in the long run. Not only are they cheaper, but they can look great sitting on a shelf in your kitchen.
11. Buy sustainable items
It may be a little more expensive initially, but where possible it is often better to spend a little extra money to ensure you get a product that will last. This may surprise anyone looking to embrace frugal living, but making this choice will save you money and prevent more waste from ending up in landfills.
For example, while fast fashion can be tempting due to its low cost and the fact that pieces are often very similar to many in-fashion items, it comes with huge environmental costs. If you can, try to spend a little more on more classic, more durable pieces, to avoid the fast fashion carousel.
12. Insulate your doors and windows
A costly environmental and financial mistake is to allow heat to escape in the winter and cool air to escape in the summer. Fortunately, this is easy to correct.
Weatherstripping doors and windows is a way to help the environment while saving money on energy bills. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Energy claims that sealing an older home can save you up to 20% in heating and cooling costs. Not a bad saving for little effort!
13. Get That Garden Going
A large backyard tomato, pepper, and cucumber garden can save you hundreds of dollars annually. But even if you don’t have the space for a full vegetable garden, try starting with an herb garden with window boxes for easy access to basil for salads and cilantro for guacamole.
Growing your own herbs is definitely good for the environment and your wallet – not to mention your meals, because fresh herbs can make such a difference!
14. Use LED Bulbs
Another quick fix is to replace dimmable bulbs with LEDs. While it’s true that LED bulbs cost more upfront than incandescent bulbs, they also last much longer and use up to 80% less electricity.
Notably, doing this can save you up to $20 per bulb. To see the impact of this on your own household budget, use this energy savings calculator to calculate your personal return on investment from switching to LED bulbs.
15. Quit Smoking
Smoking is not only expensive, but it also pollutes waterways, soil and wildlife. There is also the fact that discarded still-burning cigarettes can cause property damage.
However, the true financial costs of smoking can be calculated using simple economics. The lifetime financial costs of smoking are estimated to be between $1.6 and $3.1 million for each smoker, including product costs and high health care costs. I don’t know about you, but I have some better ideas of how I could use $3 million than breathing it in.
16. Change Your Transportation Methods
Carpooling, biking, walking or using public transportation are excellent ways to save money on gas. The more you avoid driving, the cheaper it is to own a car. It also reduces your ecological footprint.
In the case of cycling and walking, these can also be good for your health. Living longer is not only a pretty reasonable goal to have, it’s good for your wallet too, as it will likely result in lower health costs over your lifetime.
There is no doubt that saving money and preparing yourself for a solid financial future is definitely something we should all do. But doing what we can for the environment is also more important than ever.
So if you can do both at the same time, that’s the definition of a win-win!
Which of these have you implemented in your own life? And do you have any other ideas for actions that will help both your wallet and the environment?
Anna is the founder of the personal finance site LogicalDollar, where she shares the advice that helped her turn $60,000 in debt into a thriving investment portfolio to help others move on to financial freedom.
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