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51 Money Saving Ideas For Eco Friendly Living

51 Money Saving Ideas For Eco Friendly Living

One of the wonderful things about being eco friendly is that it often saves you money too. It’s really not the time consuming, expensive challenge many think it is. There are lots of simple, money saving things you can do to be a little kinder to the planet.

In the Home

1. Change your lightbulbs

As your lightbulbs burn out, switch them for CFLs or even LEDs. These may cost more, but should make it up nicely in savings. CFLs and LEDs can use 25%-80% less energy than incandescent bulbs and may last 3-25 times longer.

programmable thermostat

2. Use a programmable thermostat and watch your settings

A programmable thermostat can help you save money by changing its settings on a schedule. Your house doesn’t need to be kept at the same temperature when you’re away for hours or when you’re sleeping. It saves the trouble of turning the thermostat up or down yourself throughout the day.

Also try keeping your home a little warmer in summer and cooler in winter. For my family, a slightly warmer house means the kids are a little more willing to go outside during the summer. A house that rarely runs the air conditioner isn’t as much fun to stay in as one that is kept cooler. I like that little benefit too. My air conditioner doesn’t turn on until 84 degrees, which is comfortable when you’re used to it and use fans.

3. Shield windows that let in a lot of heat

If you know which windows let in too much summer heat, block them during the day. This can be as simple (and ugly) as putting large pieces of cardboard in the window. A mylar film can also help – the cheap way is to cut up a mylar emergency blanket. If you want things to look better, consider insulating window coverings.

4. Use fans instead of air conditioners

As I said above, I use my air conditioner very little. Ceiling fans, stand fans, box fans, whatever you have available, it’s cheaper to use than your air conditioner, and it’s amazing how much cooler air feels when it’s moving around the room.

ceiling fan

5. Dress warmer in winter

Rather than heat the entire house in winter, dress a little warmer. It’s much cheaper to put on that sweater you already own than to pay for the energy to run the heater.

6. Check your furnace and air conditioner filters

The filters for your furnace and air conditioner gather dust as they’re used – that’s kind of the point. But over time the dust makes them less efficient and make your units work harder. Consider whether you want a filter than can be cleaned and put back in rather than disposable filters – the reusable ones cost more upfront but will save you money over time.

7. Check your weatherstripping

Weatherstripping around your doors and windows works best when it’s in good condition. It will make heating or cooling your home more efficient by limiting how much air escapes from your home.

8. Use the dishwasher

Generally speaking, the dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand. Modern dishwasher detergents even work better if you don’t do an excessive amount of rinsing, as they react with the food particles left on there. Don’t leave chunks of food, of course.

9. Wash clothes in cold water

Most modern detergents don’t need warm water to work – cold is just fine for them. Sometimes hot water is worse for stains, as it can set them rather than remove them. Save warm or hot water washes for when they’re needed, such as for family members with allergies who need to be sure that dust mites don’t survive in the laundry.


10. Line dry your clothes in warm weather

If the weather is warm enough line dry your clothes when possible. If the weather is really hot, this can be about as fast as using your dryer, but doesn’t cost anything beyond the costs of the clothesline and clothespins.

Some homeowner’s associations don’t allow clotheslines, which is really a pity. Yes, clothes out drying are unattractive, but they shouldn’t be out all the time. Oh, and put your underwear and such in the middle row, between other things you’re drying, if you don’t want the neighbors to see them.

11. Install low flow faucets aerators

Low flow faucets aerators will help you use less water for many purposes. It won’t make a difference if you’re filling up a pot, but will help when you’re washing your hands.

12. Install low flow showerheads

If you don’t already have a low flow showerhead, you probably use more water than you need during your shower. If you want to go even a little better, choose one that allows you to decrease or increase the water flow during your shower – mine has an extra control that allows the water to be turned way down when I don’t need a lot, such as when lathering up.

13. Install low flow toilets

Low flow toilets can use quite a bit less water than conventional toilets. Most do a good job handling solid wastes. If you’re concerned, or want to try saving still more water, look into a dual flush toilet, which uses still less water for liquid waste, but has a high volume flush that is still efficient for solids.

14. Fix water leaks

Water leaks don’t seem like much more than a minor annoyance, but they can waste gallons of water a day. Most are easy to fix on your own – just make sure you turn off the water first. There are plenty of videos and instructions online to help you do the work… or call the plumber if that’s too much outside your comfort zone.

15. Charge your devices on a power strip

Many people have a regular place where they charge their cell phones, tablets and laptops. If you put the chargers on a power strip, you can turn it off when you aren’t charging anything, which saves electricity. You might not unplug your chargers between uses, but the chargers still use electricity even without the device plugged in. Using a power strip takes care of that phantom load, provided you turn it off when you’re done charging.

16. Turn off computers overnight

It’s not too uncommon to leave your computer on overnight, but turning it off can save money. At the very least, make sure that your power settings save as much energy as possible once you’ve left it alone for 10-15 minutes.

17. Pay bills online and go to paperless billing

Paying bills online is easy and cheaper than buying stamps to mail your payments in. Many companies even let you schedule your payments to go in automatically, so you don’t have to think about them so long as you have enough money to pay in your account.

18. Rent tools you rarely need

If you need a tool for a project and aren’t likely to need it again for some time, look into renting it rather than buying one new. Home Depot rents a wide range of tools for various projects, for example. You could also try borrowing from a neighbor so long as you’re sure to return it promptly and in good condition.

19. Make your water heater more efficient

Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. That’s hot enough for most purposes. You can also buy an insulating blanket for your water heater so that it doesn’t have to heat the water as often. Remember you can turn the water heater down when you go on vacation – not like you need hot water when you aren’t home.

20. Make your own cleaning supplies

Many cleaners are cheap and easy to make at home. MY favorite ingredient to use is vinegar. Watered down and put in a squirt bottle, it replaces many other cleaners. Baking soda is good when you need an abrasive, and there’s a helpful reaction if you spray vinegar on top of it. Best of all, such ingredients are much safer around kids and pets.

21. Replace old appliances with Energy Star models

As the time comes to replace your old appliances, make sure you choose Energy Star models to replace them. This rating is available for many appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, TVs, computers and more.


22. Eat out less

From bringing lunch to school or work to just eating more meals at home, eating out less can save a lot of money. It’s also a good way to know what’s going into your food. There’s also less food waste when you eat out less.

chayote squash soup

23. Cook from scratch

There are times when using prepared foods in your kitchen is a real help. However, these foods are usually less healthy, cost more and have more packaging to throw into the trash than foods you make from scratch. Meals you make yourself usually taste better too.

24. Eat less meat

Meat is usually one of the most expensive ingredients in meals. Meat production creates a lot of greenhouse gases, so eating less of it is good for the environment as well as your wallet. It takes time to learn how to cook more meatless meals, but there are plenty of resources out there:

25. Eat your leftovers

Most Americans waste a lot of food, especially when it comes to leftovers. You can pack up leftovers for easy lunches, or even freeze meals that reheat well so you don’t have to eat the same thing over again right away.

26. Use a pressure cooker

A pressure cooker can be used to greatly decrease cook times, up to 70%. That means they use less energy to cook your meals. You can cook roasts, chicken, soup, chili, desserts and more. I like to pressure cook artichokes.

27. Quit using paper towels

Paper towels are convenient yet wasteful. Cloth towels are generally better at cleaning up spills and cheaper to use.

28. Don’t use disposable dishes

Do your best to avoid using disposable dishes. While this is difficult when you go on a picnic or have a lot of guests over, it’s not impossible.

29. Use cloth napkins

Rather than use paper napkins, make the switch to cloth. They cost more initially, but will save money in the long run. Keep a nice set for company, and don’t stress too much about stains on the ones you use daily. Cloth napkins don’t add that much to your laundry – mine would be a very small load if washed alone, but they aren’t. They get washed with other things.

30. Use reusable drink bottles

From your daily coffee to drinking water, providing your own reusable container is better than getting something that has to be thrown out. Some coffee shops will give you a small discount if you provide your own cup.

I adore my stainless steel water bottle. Not only will it last just about forever, but I can go anywhere and carry it, rather than look for a drinking fountain or buy bottled water. Mine is insulated, so even if I leave it in the car for a time on a hot day, my water is still cool.

31. Plan your meals

Another source of food waste is forgetting to use ingredients you’ve already bought. Plan your meals before you hit the grocery store, not after, so that you have the ingredients you want when you want them. It’s so wasteful to think you’re going to use that broccoli in a meal, only to realize that it went bad before you got to it. Much better to buy it, knowing what day you’ll use it and what you’ll use it with.

32. Buy in bulk when reasonable

If it’s reasonable, buy things in bulk. Obviously, if it’s something that will go bad before you can use it, bulk is a bad idea. It’s also bad if you don’t have storage for it. But when storage and spoilage aren’t a problem, bulk saves money and product packaging as a general rule. It also means you don’t have to buy that item at the store as often.

For You & Your Family


33. Borrow books from the library

Borrowing books from the library is a great way to keep up on your reading without spending a fortune. Many even allow you to borrow ebooks on your Kindle or other device. Some also rent movies on DVD.

34. Check out resale and thrift stores before buying new

Resale and thrift stores can have great finds at great prices for clothes and other items. It may take some time to find the right shops for your tastes, but that can be part of the fun.

35. Make your own skin care products

Many store bought skin care products aren’t as kind to your skin as they should be, and may contain chemicals that do more harm than good. It’s easy to make certain kinds of skin care products in your own home, and they’re often wonderful for your skin.

36. Make your own shampoo

Homemade shampoo is easy to make. Some go as simple as using baking soda to wash their hair and use an apple cider vinegar rinse. It works well for some people, but others say it can be damaging. There are recipes for pH balanced homemade shampoos out there as well.

Outdoors/In the Garden

37. Plant trees

Trees in your yard can help save money by shading your home in summer. Plant them where they’ll help keep the worst of the sun away during the summer. Trees also make the house look better, and if you plant fruit trees you even get some fresh food out of the deal. That said, fruit trees may not grow tall enough to be great shade trees. Still, there’s nothing like fresh picked fruit from your own tree.

38. Grow your own vegetables

I admit it, our luck at this one has been horrible lately – chalk it up to poor soil and a cinderblock fence that tends to overheat the plants in our garden area. But when it works, you get delicious vegetables you’ve grown yourself, and it can save you money.

The key here is to not overspend on setting up your garden. Don’t spend a fortune setting things up, especially if you’re a beginner. Start simple and build it up over time.

Tomatoes are generally easy to grow, as are some salad greens. We’ve had some luck with some volunteer strawberries which appeared in our garden a few years ago – seriously, we didn’t plant them, but they grow really well for us.

39. Compost

Composting is especially good if you’re already growing your own garden. You end up with wonderful fertilizer for your garden, all from things you were throwing out anyhow. Be aware of what you put in – meats and such may attract rodents, but yard waste and uncooked vegetable scraps are generally okay. You can also compost cardboard and many other things. provide links

If you don’t have a garden, many communities now have yard waste or composting bins. They may be very limited or very generous in what they accept – check first.

40. Xeriscape and use native plants

Xeriscaping can cut down your outdoor watering costs tremendously. Changing your landscaping can have significant initial costs but can pay back when you rarely have to water. If you live in an area where droughts are a problem, check with your city or water district for incentives to xeriscape. Incentives can take a nice chunk out of the expense.


41. Mulch

Using mulch around your plants cuts down on weeds and cuts down on how much water they need by trapping moisture in the soil.

42. Get a rain barrel

A rain barrel can help keep the cost of watering your yard down. This can be great if you’re in a drought prone area. It’s not a lot of water unless you get really serious about your rain barrels – 50 or so gallons go quickly, but it’s a help. Please check the laws in your area – you aren’t allowed to capture rainwater in some areas.

43. Mow your lawn with a reel mower

Using a reel mower rather than an electric one or gas powered one can save a lot of money, and current reel mowers aren’t that hard to use. They’re also much quieter than powered mowers.


44. Carpool

Carpooling to and from work is best if you have coworkers who live nearby and are on the same schedule. It isn’t for everyone. However, when it works you get to split the gas bill, have a little company on the way to work, and pollute less. When you can make carpooling work, it’s a really great deal all around.

45. Bike to work

This only works if your work is close enough and if you can handle being a little sweaty after your ride. Still, it can be a good money saver plus you won’t need to spend so much time in the gym.

46. Use public transportation

If you live in a region with good public transportation, this is one of the best ways to get to work and possibly to run errands. Take a look at the options in your area and decide if it will work for you.

47. Choose a more fuel efficient car when you replace your current one

When the time comes that you need to replace your current vehicle, be sure that fuel efficiency is one of the factors you consider. Over the life of the car, this can be a huge savings and it will pollute less.

48. Drive sensibly

If you keep to the speed limit, and don’t accelerate or brake aggressively, you will probably save on gas. Some cars now tell you what your average mileage is, which can be a great motivator to do better.

49. Check your tires

If your tires are properly inflated, you will get better gas mileage in your car. Check your tire pressure monthly.

Getting Rid of Stuff

50. Recycle your old electronics for money

Old electronics don’t belong in the trash. There are companies that will recycle them properly, and some will even pay you. It’s easy to find places that will take in your old cell phone – other electronics may be more difficult.

Amazon Trade-In
Cash For Electronic Scrap USA
Mail in Mobile

There are many other places you can recycle or resell your old electronics – just make sure that you have securely deleted your old personal information before you send old phones, tablets, computers and such in.

51. Have a yard sale

When you have things to get rid of, have a yard sale so that others can use the things you don’t want anymore. Call up a thrift store for things that don’t sell or if yard sales just aren’t your thing.

How to Be Green

How to be green

Being green seems like a big deal to many people… too hard, requires giving up too much, just in general an awful thing. It doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of things you can do to be green, big and small. Just how far you commit is up to you. Here are some ideas that may help you learn how to be green.

Rethink Your Food

Not every eco friendly family goes vegan or even vegetarian. You can improve your food in other ways if that’s what you’d like. There are healthier and more eco friendly ways to buy meat than buying factory farmed meats, for example. You can also pay attention to the sources of your produce, going for organic at least on some of your foods, if not elsewhere.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is cut way back on processed foods. Eat more foods that you’ve cooked yourself, so you can avoid high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and so forth. They’ll generally be better for you, especially if you cut back on sugary foods.

Simplify the Easy Stuff

A big part of being green is simplifying. Cut back on the stuff you buy, and you’re doing better by the environment.

You don’t have to simplify everything. Look at what you can do easily first, and what will work for you. Not everyone can take mass transit of whatever sort to work, for example. Your family may need two vehicles. Don’t feel bad that you can’t cut back in some areas. Look at where you can.

Lightbulbs, for example. CFLs are more efficient than traditional lightbulbs, and will save you money in the long run. You could also switch from paper napkins and towels to cloth. The difference in laundry is pretty small, in my experience, but the difference in waste is clear.

Buy a Houseplant

Houseplants are wonderful for your indoor air quality, plus they look nice. Pick something that grows well indoors and find a place where you’ll remember to take care of it. I love my orchids.

Plant a Garden

Vegetable garden, flower garden, doesn’t matter. Vegetable gardens are wonderful because you have control over the pesticides and fertilizers you expose them to. Flower gardens can be great for the bees in your area. I particularly like wildflowers for that.

Rethink Your Lawn

A big, green lawn is appealing to most people, but it’s also hugely wasteful in many ways. Lawns use up a lot of water, and have to be mowed regularly. For most people, mowing involves either gas or electricity, but you can consider a simple push reel mower. You can also reconsider the fertilizers and weed control you use on your lawn. Runoff from lawns can be an issue downstream.

But a lawn isn’t your only option for an attractive yard. You can xeriscape, often quite attractively. You can replace parts or all of your lawn with other plants that require less care. You can add a tree to your yard, which can increase the shade in your yard so it may need less water, and if it’s close enough to your house, may help keep it cooler in summer too.


If you can spare the space, composting is a wonderful way to limit the food waste you throw in the trash. From the traditional compost bin to bokashi composting, there are options to go in many different spaces and situations. Best of all, compost goes wonderfully with your garden.

Rethink Your Cleaning Supplies

There are all kinds of chemicals you may be using to clean your home. Many of them can be changed for more eco friendly options. You can buy green cleaners at the store (beware of greenwashing – not all are what they seem!) or learn to use simple ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda for different cleaning jobs.

Look For Secondhand Items

There are all kinds of ways to find secondhand items. Thrift stores, garage sales, family, Freecycle, Craigslist… the list goes on. Some of it will be in great condition still, and you’ll save money. The selection can be rather random, of course.

Family is great if you have kids of the right age. My sisters and I have handed down clothes from child to child for years, and I can’t begin to figure out how much that has saved us.

Do It Your Way

None of these are absolute musts to live a greener lifestyle. You may find other changes easier to make than these. Just keep the general concepts of making your life simpler and using fewer resources when you can in mind, and that’s a start.

Thinking Over a Green Summer

I’m watching my husband and oldest daughter in the garden today. They’re planting some aloe vera we bought the other day. I have fond memories of aloe vera from my childhood, as my skin has always sunburned easily. My kids tan like their father, but aloe is still good to have around. We also have some swallows nesting on our house for the first time ever. I’ve heard that can be messy, but they’ve picked pretty good spots so far as I’m concerned (not near any doors), and will hopefully help control our hornet problem.

It’s a good start to the summer.

We have a lot of plans this summer. Camping in Yosemite is the big one and I can hardly wait for my kids to see it. Yosemite is very special to my husband, and it has been far too many years since he has been there.

I’m preparing the kids for all the hiking by taking regular family walks. Now that school is out, I want to take regular walks in the morning to the local park, about a mile each way, and mostly uphill on the way there. Given summer temps around here, these have to be in the morning. I don’t want to do a lot of walking in 100+ degrees F weather, and that’s what we get pretty often here during the summer. I bought some Blue Lizard sunscreen to help ward off sunburn.

That will also be a part of their tradeoff for TV/computer time. They have to play outside to earn time sitting in front of a screen.

I’m working on Mylar covers for some of my windows. Now Mylar is rather ugly, so I’ve added some white tissue paper on the parts visible from outside, so the homeowner’s association won’t give me any trouble if anyone notices. It’s mostly back windows anyhow, but with the white facing out, it’s not that different in appearance from the white backing of some of my curtains. Or so I hope. I can really tell which windows I’ve done, and even with the tissue paper, the Mylar seems to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the heat out. From the inside, of course, the curtains hide it.

How to Make the Basics of Going Green Into a Huge Sacrifice

One thing that annoys me is how some people act as though going green is a huuuuuge sacrifice. They pay attention to the bigger steps some people choose to take and declare that the environmental movement as a whole wants that for everyone, or that environmentalists want people to live in caves, that sort of thing. With just a little more effort, you can be cranky about even the smallest eco-friendly steps you can take, and make them sound like a major sacrifice.

Declare That Energy Efficient Homes Are Too Expensive

Whether you own a home already or are looking at one, decide that going energy efficient is way too expensive. Just look at the cost of all the appliances.

Pay no attention to the simple things that will save a lot of energy over time, such as insulating your hot water heater, weatherstripping doors and windows or buying a programmable thermostat. They’re all too much trouble. Pay no attention to the savings you can get for doing each of these things.

Certainly don’t consider buying energy efficient appliances when you actually need one. Efficiency doesn’t have to be a consideration, does it?

Don’t Worry About Personal Care Product Safety

Ugh. Someone wants you to research the safety of the stuff you use to take care of yourself? Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, moisturizer and all that? That’s way more trouble than it’s worth. You probably expect me to make it all at home myself, right?

Dismiss the mild toxicity of some of the ingredients. It hasn’t bothered you yet, so why should it matter? Certainly don’t bother to consider the safer products that are right there on the store shelf too.  Can’t be as good as what you’re used to using.

Skip the Reusable Bags

Bringing your own bad to the store is just way too much trouble. You might even have a few, but actually bring them? Too much trouble and way too embarrassing. Besides, you like saving up those plastic bags for when you need them and just throwing out the excess.

Never Combine Errands

You’ve got a lot to do, but there’s no need to be efficient about it just because it’s better for the environment. You can just ignore the benefits to your own day.

Don’t Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

You don’t really need to worry about gas mileage or wearing out your tires sooner than necessary, do you? You can just fill up as needed, and replace the tires when the wear is too much. No big deal, right?

Keep Drinking That Bottled Water

Tap water? Carrying a reusable water bottle? That’s just not for you. Besides, you love the taste of your preferred brand. Cost isn’t a factor, waste isn’t a factor. It’s just too inconvenient to head for the tap every time you need a drink of water or to refill your bottle. Far better to get a supply at the store and just crack open a new one.

Skip the Recycling Bin

It doesn’t matter if your area wants all recyclables in one bin or sorted by type. It’s way too much trouble to think before you throw it in the trash. Just throw it all away. Not like you benefit personally anyhow.

Keep Using Those Harsh Chemicals to Clean Your Home

It doesn’t matter that you have to use gloves when you’re cleaning your house or that you have to keep your cleaning supplies well away from children. They’re powerful and make cleaning a lot easier. You’re not worried about what they put into the air of your home or that they make your eyes water if you forget to open the window. Besides, you don’t really trust that simple things like vinegar and baking soda can really do the job. They probably take too much time and effort to use anyhow.

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic in the above. These are things I’ve done, and not one is all that hard, certainly not harder than skipping them, and most I like better.

Have You Talked to Your Family About Being Green Lately?

If you’ve been working at being green for a while in your home, you probably figure your family is used to the idea. But have you talked about it? How does everyone feel about it? Are there more changes people would be willing to make?

It’s easy to slip into a comfort zone with any activity. We all do it. Having a family talk about how things are working out is good for making sure that resentments aren’t building and to come up with new ideas.

What Are the Problems?

Raising a green family isn’t easy and it’s not always fun for all participants. What is acceptable at one point may be turning into a burden as your kids get older, for example. Talking about how things are working gives everyone a chance to express their feelings, even if you don’t make changes.

What Are the Solutions?

Discuss what your family is willing to do to go green. Who is responsible for various activities? Why are you doing all of this anyhow?

Each family will have their own areas that are easier and harder to deal with. For some, growing an organic garden will be a pleasure, even when it comes to dealing with the compost pile. For others, it will be a chore, and possibly better replaced by joining a co-op or finding other organic or local food sources.

Go through the list of easy and hard eco friendly activities. When something is challenging, talk about how you can meet that challenge or simplify it.

Give everyone a chance to talk. If one of the kids is on the quiet side, encourage him or her to speak up. Not only is it good practice, it will help to ensure that they feel their concerns have been heard. I can tell you from experience that just because a quiet child doesn’t speak up readily doesn’t mean he or she lacks an opinion or isn’t resentful that things don’t go their way. It’s just incredibly hard for some people to speak up for themselves.

You can write down your solutions to help everyone remember what you’ve agreed to. Some things you will be able to schedule so that everyone will know when particular jobs need to be done. Other things will just be a part of the routine.

Talk Regularly

You don’t need to talk about these things daily, but do talk regularly. How often depends on what works for your family. Just remember to talk about it.