As wife to Cheapest Man on the Planet (yep, official title there) I know a thing or two about saving money through green means, which is the topic of next week's Green Mom's Carnival hosted at Condo Blues.
My husband doesn't go for things like "going green" if it comes with a high price tag. Don't get me wrong, he loves the earth, but he also loves living a simple life where he doesn't have to work two jobs to afford living green. So tell him it will save him money though and he is ALL.OVER.IT!
Give it up.
One of the first things we did to live more sustainably was to give up a lot of the wasteful convenience items we used. We traded our paper towels for wash cloths and paper napkins for cloth and stopped using dryer sheets in our laundry. These might not be things that will change the world, but they're good first steps and a good way to save a little money.
To save a bundle, I gave up shopping as a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon or just because a store was having a sale and started to differentiate between want and need. The things that I need (or really reeeeeally want) I look for second hand.
Clean it up.
I make my own laundry soap (recipe here) at a cost of about $0.10 per load. Not a phenomenal savings, but a savings over many traditional brands and "green" brands nonetheless. The ingredients are natural, biodegradable and come in recyclable paper or cardboard boxes. No plastic containers to be manufactured or downcycled. No chemicals going into the ground water.
I use vinegar & water as my all-purpose cleaner (kitchen, bathroom, windows, you name it). One large jug of vinegar runs $2.57 and lasts me about 6 months. I save at least $4 per month on a regular store-bought spray cleaner...plus all those other things I used to use: tile cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner, stuff for the tub and stuff for windows.
Make it From Scratch.
From cupcakes to clothing to gifts I'm slightly surprised, yet happy to say, that I've started a love affair with making things myself. I've never really liked cooking, or been good at it, but suddenly I'm actually enjoying making things from scratch - soups, spaghetti sauce, baked goods...sometimes I surprise myself.
Tonight my little girl attended her first birthday party (Tinkerbell themed!). I made the birthday girl a sweet little Tinkerbell outfit, complete with crown, for a total cost of about $5. And it was *really* darn cute!
Drive it home.
We downsized to a smaller car which was used by the person who had to drive the farthest each day. I took public transportation some days and, finally, I started working from home. Less money spent on gas and car repairs, less CO2, more time at home with family.
To be honest, there are very few steps we've taken along this path to a sustainable lifestyle that have cost us more than our old ways. I may spend a few extra dollars here and there on organic foods, but I spend less on groceries overall by making more food from scratch.
I could go on and on about all the changes we've made that save us money. In fact, I was able to leave my full time position to work part time and be home with the kids. We're not living the high life, but we do get by on a teacher's salary and a part time pittance.
The biggest validation of our lifestyle came a few weeks ago though, when I got a call from my son's preschool. My heart sank immediately expecting to hear "Fletcher broke his arm." or something equally horrific. Instead, they were calling to offer us a free, confidential Thanksgiving basket as well as help with Christmas dinner and gifts. They said that they offer this to a select few families each year who might need some extra help.
I think my response was something like, "Uhhhhhhh..... Us?" since we actually head up an effort each year to collect Thanksgiving baskets for families in need.
After hanging up, my wheels started turning. You see, our annual income qualifies us to pay a reduced rate for our son's preschool, which we gladly accept. (I never look a gift horse in the mouth...whatever a gift horse is.) Evidently that would normally mean that we are a family in need.
Ah-ha! I almost called her back to say "Wait! We're not poor -- we live this way on purpose!" Instead I use the story to remind myself how far we've come.