Being frugal is about saving money, but that’s not all it is. Conserving resources, avoiding unnecessary waste, and keeping a watchful eye on the future are the core principles of the frugally-minded, but these tenets apply equally well to the environmentalist too. Penny-pinching and being green intersect in wonderful, perhaps serendipitous, ways. Here are 50 tricks that will save money and the planet:
1. Opt for Real Food
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, legumes, nuts, and seeds is certainly better for you health-wise, and you’ll save a heap of money by eschewing refined, processed, pre-packaged foods. The more processed a food is, the more energy it takes to produce and all that packaging – plastic, cardboard, aluminum – generates a lot of unnecessary waste.
2. Cook from Scratch
In 2015, for the first time ever, Americans spent more dining out than they did at the grocery store. The average family spends about $3,000 per year eating outside the home, and often the food is exceedingly high in calories and utterly low in nutrition. Preparing more meals at home fosters a connection with the foods you consume, and unlike restaurant meals that appear like magic before you, cooking from scratch forces you to think about the ingredients you use, how they were raised, where they came from, and how wholesome they are.
3. Stop Wasting Food
Costing the average family of four between $1,365 to $2,275 each year, squandered food literally translates to wasted money. And organics that are left to languish in the landfill directly contributes to climate change. Doing your part to reduce food waste means more money in your pocket and less methane seeping into the atmosphere.
4. Compost Food & Yard Waste
Organic waste that ends up in the landfill releases an abundance of methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that traps heat 23 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. Composting your food scraps and yard trimmings circumvents this needless pollution while providing you with a free source of life-making humus.
5. Eat Less Meat
At more than 200 pounds per person every year, meat consumption in America continues to rise, and along with it, the price of meat. Between 2005 and 2015, meat prices have climbed steadily – mostly due to demand, disease, and drought. Raising livestock gobbles up a disproportionate share of the earth’s resources – water, energy, land, and harvested feed – and generates 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, not to mention animal agriculture’s contribution to land pollution, contaminated waterways, loss of biodiversity, and deforestation. Going meat-free just one day a week is equal to driving 1,000 miles less per year!
6. Shop Locally
Not only is produce that is sourced from farmers markets healthier, way more flavorful, and packed with nutrients, it is often much cheaper than the supermarket. By buying from local farmers who grow their crops organically, you’ll significantly lower your carbon footprint, re-establish a connection with where your food comes from, and help fuel the local economy.
7. Eat Seasonally
Along with eating locally, purchasing produce when it is in season benefits your health, your taste buds, and your bottom line. While it’s less expensive to buy seasonal fruits and veggies, it also means produce has fewer miles to travel before it arrives on your plate. See this interactive chart for a simple rundown of what fruits and vegetables are in season and when.
8. Use LED Lights
Cheap but horribly inefficient, incandescents last only 1,200 hours, cost more to operate, and a single bulb generates around 150 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. While swapping out your bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) is a better choice, light emitting diodes (LEDs) are truly the best option. Unlike CFLs, LEDs are free of heavy metals and will last five times longer, up to 20 years.
9. Plant a Tree
Between lowering energy costs, creating a source of free food, increasing property values, and boosting physical and mental health, planting a tree is a proactive, earth-friendly thing to do that helps purify the air, filter chemicals out of the water, provide shelter for wildlife, and offset greenhouse gas emissions.
10. Wash Clothing in Cold Water
About 90% of the energy used by the washing machine goes to heating the water. Using the hot or warm water cycle doesn’t necessarily mean your clothes will come out cleaner – in fact, certain stains like blood and sweat will set when washed in hot water. Washing in cold water cleans just fine, you’ll save about $60 per year in energy costs, your clothes will last longer, and you’ll save the earth from an added 350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
11. Use the Clothesline
With zero emissions and no energy use, clotheslines or drying racks are the most environmentally-friendly way to dry your clothes – and it’s free. And as a bonus, clothing left to dry on the line smells amazingly fresh!
12. Collect Rainwater
As more and more states experience water shortages, the time to conserve water and stop draining non-renewable groundwater is now! As much as 40% of a household’s potable water is used for landscape irrigation – guzzling up about 1,300 gallons of tap water during the growing season – but rainwater harvesting can help ease some of the stress we place on the watershed. As a resource that freely falls from above, rainwater is a boon for plants since it holds no chemicals (unlike treated water) and will help wash away salts that have accumulated in soil. Building a rain barrel will lower your water bills, reduce flooding, and prevent polluted storm waters from flowing into streams and oceans.
13. Downsize Your Home
The size of homes in America keep on getting bigger and bigger, but the larger the house the more resources and energy it takes to maintain. Smaller homes require less heating, cooling, and electricity, which will surely be reflected in your utility bills, and of course it will use far less fossil fuels to keep it up and running.
14. Grow Your Own Food
Possibly one of the greatest ways to make a positive impact on your health, the environment, and your bank account is to start gardening. Growing a supply of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your own backyard doesn’t get more local or fresh or organic. Once you’ve set it up, you will be rewarded with a source of free food that hasn’t been tainted with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, or any of the other ecologically destructive practices that are so widespread in industrial farming.
15. Recycle Electronic Waste
The never-ending pursuit of gadgets and devices that are newer and better has generated the very modern problem of electronic waste. In 2009, 2.37 million tons of e-waste was disposed of in the US, but only 25% was properly recycled. And there’s good reason not to toss out your smartphones, LED televisions, and laptops out with the trash – they contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, which leach out into the soil when left at the dump. You can dispose of e-waste responsibly and make a little pocket change for yourself by seeking out recyclers in your area (Earth911 is an excellent resource) who will strip your tech of precious metals to be reused in other ways.
16. Shop Secondhand
Between Craigslist, eBay, and thrift shops, there are lots of places to look for deep discounts on pre-loved furniture, clothing, appliances, and electronics. By lowering your consumer footprint, you’ll be doing a lot of good for planet earth.
You can find plenty of gems sitting out on the curb, free for the taking. Be sure to keep an eye out on the streets for discarded books, furnishings, and home décor items that are still in great shape. Check Craigslist, Freecycle, and other sites regularly for “free” listings and curb alerts.
18. Sell Your Junk
Whether the item is treasure or trash is really a matter of perspective. Make some money and keep your stuff out of the landfill by hosting a yard sale or using online classifieds and auctions to give your items a good second home.
19. Green Transportation
Get into the habit of using self-powered transportation – that is, walking, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or scooting – to get from point A to point B instead of hopping in the car. Not only will you be doing your part to improve air quality, it’s great for your health and it’s free. For long distances when you must use a vehicle, take public transit or rideshare your way to the destination.
20. Green Cleaning
The overwhelming majority of cleaning products can be replaced with two very simple ingredients: vinegar and baking soda. Dirt cheap and earth friendly, these substances are robust cleansers, totally biodegradable, and won’t pollute our rivers and streams when they get flushed down the drain. Get started with these green cleaning recipes.
21. Make it Low-Flow
Install low-flow fixtures on your faucets, showerheads, and toilets to conserve water. Tip: Place a brick in your toilet tank to displace water and reduce each flush by half a gallon.
22. Perform a Home Energy Audit
Here’s how to do it.
23. Use Reusables
Instead of disposable single-use products, use fabric shopping bags, glass containers, travel mugs, BPA-free water bottles, cloth napkins, “unpaper” towels, rechargeable batteries, reusable coffee filters or k-cups – the list goes on and on.
24. Use Renewables
Switching to renewable power sources – solar, wind, hydro, biofuels – frees you from a lifetime of utility bills while generating clean energy. Even if you can’t afford to make the switch right now, you can do small things like install solar lights outside and use passive solar to heat your home for free.
25. Consider Investing in Green Funds
Win-win: make money and save the planet.
26. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Set it up to automatically turn down the heat or air conditioning when you are asleep or away from home. Tip: Keep your thermostat a few degrees lower during winter and higher in summer; you won’t notice the difference and every 2?F adjustment will reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds per year.
27. Xeriscape Your Yard
While the ultimate goal is to conserve water, xeriscaping – or dry landscaping – offers many other benefits: it’s low-maintenance, it doesn’t require fertilizers or pesticides, and it reduces waste and pollution.
28. Plug up Energy Leaks
Even when powered down, appliances and electronics continue to use energy on standby which is costly all-round. Unplug these devices entirely when they are not being used or use power bars or smart strips instead.
29. Borrow or Rent Tools & Equipment
On average, a power tool is used for a total of 12 minutes over the course of its entire lifetime. Why buy it when you can borrow from a friend or a tool lending library for free.
30. Turn Down Your Water Heater
Lowering the temperature of your water heater could save you more than $400 per year and reduce your energy consumption. Tip: Improve efficiency by installing a water heater blanket and insulating your pipes.
31. Use the Library
Another way to consume less and share collective resources, libraries are a free gateway to books, music, films, musical instruments, plant seeds, sports equipment, video games, artwork, and even therapy dogs.
Transforming junk into something awesome is super rewarding! Upcycle That is a wonderful place to go for ideas and tutorials.
33. Make Repairs
Too many times, broken items end up in the trash heap when they could have been easily repaired. Mending, maintaining, restoring, and fixing your wares will extend their lifespan and you’ll learn a slew of handy skills in the process.
34. Go Paperless
In the digital age, it should be easy to live a mostly paper-free lifestyle but Americans are still the highest consumers of paper products, using an average of 700 pounds per person, per year. The environmental devastation caused by paper production is astounding, so think twice the next time you reach out for a fresh sheet of paper. Here are 30 tips to help reduce your paper use.
35. Buy High-Quality, Durable Goods
Cheap, poorly-made items will break, forcing you to buy them again and again. When you shop, shell out a few more bucks for quality goods that will last. Do your research, watch video demos, and read user reviews to ascertain whether the product was made with durability in mind. Over the long run, it will be less costly for you, and manufacturing a product once uses far less resources and energy than it does to make an inferior product repeatedly.
Recycling helps conserve resources by converting waste into reusable products, saving the earth from the pollution caused by extracting and processing new raw materials. But recycling doesn’t wipe the slate clean (it takes energy to process recyclates) and it certainly doesn’t take us off the hook for the tremendous amount of natural resources we consume. What we really ought to be doing more of is precycling – thinking ahead about waste and making informed decisions about whether or not to bring the product into the home.
37. Ditch the Gas-Powered Equipment
Gas-powered lawnmowers, grass trimmers, leaf blowers, and snow blowers generate a surprising amount of emissions. For example, running a gas lawnmower for one hour creates the equivalent in air pollution as four hours of driving in your car! Consider switching to a push mower for smaller lawns, and electric or battery powered machines for larger jobs.
38. Install a Greywater System
Instead of letting it go down the drain, use your household’s ample supply of waste water for landscape irrigation. Here’s how to do it.
39. Do Full Loads
When doing laundry or the dishes, always wait until it’s a full load before running the washing machine and dishwasher. Full loads save water and energy.
40. Be Fuel Efficient
Until gas-powered cars become a thing of the past, we can change our driving behaviors to save gas in the meantime. Aggressive driving, speeding, idling, rapid acceleration, and spastic braking are sure fuel wasters. Keeping the tires properly inflated, removing the junk from the trunk, and utilizing cruise control are some of the ways we can reduce our fuel consumption.
41. Go on a Spending Fast
As a way to reevaluate your spending habits and reduce consumerism, try a 30-day spending fast challenge. You may be surprised by how much of our buying choices are informed not by need, but by ego, impulsiveness, and entitlement.
42. Wants Versus Needs
This is frugality 101: knowing the difference between wants and needs. Before you buy it, ask yourself: “Do I really need this or do I just want it?”
43. Do it Yourself
Embracing the DIY mentality means saving some money by not outsourcing your projects to someone else. Learning the most elementary of life skills – sewing, cooking, painting, minor repairs, auto maintenance, gardening – also opens the door for many opportunities to recycle and reuse. If you’re building a chicken coop, for instance, why not make it using reclaimed materials?
44. Batch Errands
Run errands more efficiently by making a list and getting it all done in a single trip once a week.
45. Don’t Turn up the Heat
You don’t need to crank up the thermostat during the coldest days of winter. Use these 27 tips to keep warm.
46. Stay Cool without the AC
There are natural ways to keep cool in summer, no air conditioner needed!
47. Cook with Pressure
Cooking food 70% faster than baking, grilling, and frying, pressure cookers are incredibly energy efficient and use 50% to 75% less electricity than ordinary cooking methods.
48. Buy Washable Fabrics
Not only is having your things professionally cleaned a recurring expense, but dry cleaning chemicals are toxic to our health and hazardous to the environment.
49. Get Some Houseplants
There’s really no need to use an electric air purifier when you can adorn your home with beautiful air-purifying houseplants.