A lot of us make excuses for the things we know deep down we should do but just don’t prioritize. Go to the gym today? Nope, too tired! Learn a new skill? Sorry, no time! Go green? Way too expensive!
Look, we may not be able to get you off the couch and to the gym, but we can bust the myth that going green will cost you a fortune. In reality, making a few swaps to help save the planet can save you a ton of money. Here are some easy tips for how to be more eco-friendly on a budget.
14 Ways to Be Eco-Friendly on a Budget
1. Ditch bottled water.
Did you know that Americans spent more than $36 million on bottled water in 2020?1 Think about that—we’re spending millions on a resource that God gave us for free. That’s crazy! Good marketers have us all believing that bottled water is magic, but in most cases, it’s no cleaner or safer than tap water. In fact, the government is usually more of a stickler with its tests and regulations on public drinking water than it is on bottled water.2 So even though it’s just as safe to drink tap water as bottled water, it can be up to 3,500 times more harmful to the environment if you choose to drink bottled.3
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But if drinking tap water isn’t an option for you—because of where of where you live or your taste preference—invest in a good water filter and keep filling up that reusable water bottle.
2. Adjust the blinds.
Lucky for your wallet, being eco-friendly and lowering your energy bill go hand in hand! When the weather’s hot, shut your blinds and shades to keep the house cool. Sure, you might feel like a vampire sitting in the dark, but your house will feel a lot cooler. And when the temperatures outside drop, do the exact opposite—open the blinds and let that warm sunshine work its heating magic for free!
3. Schedule your thermostat.
Similar to the last tip, set a schedule for your thermostat to keep your energy use—and utility bills—low. If your thermostat doesn’t have a fancy schedule setting, just set a reminder on your phone to adjust it. Sometimes, turning your air or heat on for just a couple hours a day is enough to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.
4. Turn things off.
Don’t leave the TV on for your couch pillows to enjoy. It may not seem like a big deal, but getting into the habit of turning off electronics and lights can make a huge difference on your bills and the environment. Bonus tip: Unplug appliances that you don’t use often—like a blender or a toaster—to save even more energy.
5. Switch your lightbulbs.
You can’t sit in the dark all the time, so when you do need the lights on, choose energy-saving bulbs. Yes, these lightbulbs will cost you extra up front, but they’ll save you some big bucks over time. Swapping five of your most-used standard light bulbs with Energy Star bulbs can save you $45 a year.4 An extra $45 in your wallet just for changing a few lightbulbs? That’s a no-brainer.
6. Buy reusable bags.
Bringing your own bag to the store is an easy way to reduce waste and, in some cases, save you money (some stores are now charging a few cents per bag). But think beyond grocery bags. How much money do you shell out on single-use snack, sandwich and freezer bags? Reusable food storage bags might be a bigger investment up front (although, you can find them for under $20 on Amazon!), but they’ll save you money in the long run and help keep plastic out of the landfills.
7. Invest in rechargeable batteries.
Just like storage bags, rechargeable batteries are more expensive on the front end. But—if used properly—they can be reused hundreds to sometimes thousands of times, saving you a lot of money on batteries in the long run. Not to mention, regular batteries are full of chemicals that are super harmful to the environment if not recycled properly. Check with your local electronics store or county to see if they have battery recycling programs.
8. Use cold water.
This might be groundbreaking news to some of you, but cold water will wash your clothes just as well as hot water. Switching your washing machine temperature to cold is a simple way to save on your water bill and help save the environment. It also won’t hurt to cool down the temperature of your shower. And speaking of showers . . .
9. Take shorter showers.
Yeah, we can hear the groans already. For many of us, nothing beats a nice, long shower. But hear us out—quick showers will save you time and money! And it’s an easy way to be eco-friendly on a budget. That’s a win-win-win in our eyes.
10. Run the washing machine and dishwasher only when they’re full.
We’ve all been there—the utensils are dirty, and even though the dishwasher isn’t full yet, you run it because heaven forbid you grab a sponge and clean off some forks in the meantime. But running the dishwasher when it’s not full only means you’ll be running it more often—and wasting a ton of water. The same goes for running the washing machine just because you ran out of socks. Try to resist the urge to start a wash cycle unless it’s full. And while we’re talking laundry . . .
11. Hang-dry your laundry.
Choosing to hang-dry your clothes instead of running the dryer is a simple and cheap way to go green. And it will also help you keep those utility bills down (we know, we’re starting to sound like a broken record here).
12. Go paperless.
The only time you want a full mailbox is on a special occasion—like birthdays and holidays. Otherwise, your mailbox is probably full of bills, bank statements, junk mail and credit card offers (aka more junk mail). The good news is that it’s super easy to go paperless!
If you head to your bank or utility provider’s website, you should be able to go to your settings and click a little checkbox option to go paperless. If you’re not sure how to find it, give them a call. Most companies will gladly help you opt out of paper statements because it saves them time and money too.
What about that pesky junk mail you never subscribed to? Enter your information on OptOutPrescreen.com. They promise to keep you free of junk mail for five years—or forever if you send them a form in the mail.
While this tip doesn’t have a money-saving benefit for you, it’s a completely free way to help save the planet and save you the headache of sorting mail—and that’s priceless.
13. Eat less meat.
Hey, meat lovers, don’t roll your eyes at this one, okay? We’re not telling you to become a vegetarian. But eating less meat is a simple way to be eco-friendly. And let’s be honest—meat is probably one of the more expensive items on your shopping list, so eating less of it will save you some money on groceries too. Something as simple as adding meatless Mondays to the menu can make a big difference in your budget and the environment. And while we’re on the topic of eating . . .
14. Eat your leftovers.
A lot of people turn up their nose when they hear leftovers. If that’s you, prepare to have your mind changed! First, let’s look at some pretty sickening statistics: In 2020, Americans threw away about 80 billion (yes, billion!) pounds of food and wasted about $1,600 per family on produce.5 Talk about a big blow to your budget and the environment!
Doubling your recipes is one of the best ways to get more bang—or food—for your buck. And if the idea of eating the same thing twice in one week sounds gross to you, stick it in the freezer and pop it back out in a few weeks when you don’t feel like cooking. That’s another triple-win tip that’ll saving you time and money while also reducing waste. Woo-hoo!
So there you have it—some new eco-friendly habits that can help your budget and the environment. Remember that you’ll probably have to adjust your budget for some of these more expensive swaps—like Energy Star lightbulbs and reusable batteries. But as you keep tracking, you’ll see how much money these green alternatives can save you over time.
Looking for an eco-friendly way to stay on top of your spending? Check out our free budgeting app, EveryDollar! It makes it easy to tell your money where to go—and keep track of your expenses throughout the month. Plus, it's way more convenient (and sustainable) than the traditional paper budget.