Easy ways to save money while living more sustainably


Photo by: Orcoo

Shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle is a process. It’s not like you wake up one morning and can make a massive reduction in your impact on this planet. We’d like to think we can, but in reality it takes time to change our habits. Trying to change everything at once can also feel like a shock, it’s not much fun and often we’ll revert to our previous way of living pretty quickly. 

Living sustainably needn’t be a drag. There are some really simple things we can all do which will also save you money, something we can all appreciate in these tough economic times. Today I’ve decided to provide a list of some of the first things we started implementing on our road to a simpler, more sustainable life. All of these changes have been really easy to implement and although they are great for the planet, they are also nice on the hip pocket.

  1. We replaced our light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They might cost more to purchase but they last for years and save money on your electricity bill. To be honest, they weren’t even that expensive to buy. We got a bulk pack from Costco and replaced the high-use bulbs in our house first. As the rest of our regular bulbs need replacing, we swapped in more CFLs.
  2. We walk to the grocery store and carry home our shopping in reusable canvas bags. It’s great for the environment and even better for our biceps. It takes a little strategic packing, but we have the clerks at the grocery store well trained now. We make a point of refusing all plastic bags and it’s been interesting to watch people’s reactions to our explanations. I must say, recently we’ve been getting less strange looks. Perhaps it’s catching on. 
  3. We buy less stuff. I have a real problem with buying more new things which just adds to to the amount of waste produced. We try to buy everything second-hand, but in many cases we just don’t buy anything. We’ve got a fantastic thrift shop nearby, but you could also try craigslist.org and freecycle.org. 
  4. I use the local library. I love to read. I inhale books and of course I have the bookshelves to prove it. These days I can find most of the books I want in the local library. I also use Paperbackswap to trade books I’ve finished with. So far I’ve found new, loving homes for about ten books I no longer needed and I have credits I can use for any other books I might want.
  5. We repair. Actually, Brendan repairs and I congratulate him on what an amazing job he’s done. He’s extremely resourceful and has saved many an item from the scrap heap. Most recently he’s given a second life to a beloved pair of shoes I’ve had for about 10 years. Not only has this saved us quite a substantial amount of money, but I get to keep using items I love and we save them from becoming landfill.
  6. We minimise our heating. On cold nights we put more clothes on and/or use a throw rug. We open all the blinds that allow sunlight in during the day and then closed everything up mid afternoon as the sun drops low. 
  7. We regularly give the car a checkup. Actually Brendan maintains the car and I congratulate him for having so many useful skills. Having dirty oil or a dirty air filter actually costs you more to run the car. A quick tune-up will see your car run more efficiently and it will emit less pollution. 
  8. We turn off the tap (faucet). It’s such an easy one. We don’t need to keep water running while cleaning our teeth or peeling potatoes. We water our very minimal lawn as little as possible and we wash the car at a car wash that recycles their water. When we lived in Australia we would always be on water restrictions. It was a normal part of life in a dry country. Now we live in California, another very dry place and we are horrified at the amount of water that is wasted. 
  9. Switch to low flow shower heads and low-flow aerators to further cut down on water use. We actually got them for free from the center for sustainable energy here in San Diego. Check with your local water company to see if they offer something similar.
  10. We utilise reusable water bottles and mugs. There is no need for a new plastic water bottle every time I want a drink. I just refill my BPA-free bottle with filtered tap water. I also carry my travel mug with me on trips to the coffee cart. My barista appreciates that I bring my own and do my bit to reduce the horrendous amounts of paper and plastic cups making their way into landfill. 
  11. We buy local and seasonal food. We eat all the fruit off our orange and apple trees. We frequent our local farmers market and do our best to identify local produce in our grocery store. Earlier this year we started a small vegetable garden in our courtyard.
  12. We eat less meat. Meat production has very large environmental impacts. Simply by replacing some of our weekly meals with meat-free dishes we reduce our impact and save a bundle at the grocery store. Lentils and beans are very inexpensive and you’d be amazed at the tasty recipes we’ve discovered on the internet.
  13. We watch less TV. When we moved to the USA from Australia we saw no point in getting cable. Personally I think cable is a lot of money to fork out every month and if I had it I’d probably feel like I needed to sit in front of it all the time to justify the expense. If there is something we really want to see, we can usually find it for free on the internet or we can get it on Netflix.

There are plenty of other simple, cost-effective things we could all be doing. What are you doing to save money while living more sustainably??


  1. Just wanted to let you know that you can make moussaka with red lentils instead of meat and lots of eggplant and it’s awesome!

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