The first thing that comes to my mind when trying to go green is reducing the level of consumption of new goods.
Reduce, then reuse, then recycle.
Money doesn’t seem to go as far as it did even a few years ago, and raising a family while being green can be expensive if we believe all of the hype about buying more green stuff.
Over the last ten years, our family has learned to reduce our consumption, choose good green products, and live on a budget so that we can avoid unnecessary debt. It was definitely a challenge at first, as it requires a shift in thinking, a lifestyle change, but now it’s become second nature.
30 Green Ways to Stretch Your Family’s Budget:
Go green and use less fuel:
1. Plan all of your errands and make one trip in the car instead of multiple trips throughout the week. This also helps to cut your spending, because it’s easy to get just one more thing every time you go to the store.
2. Break out the bikes. Anytime we can go somewhere on our bikes or on foot, we do. A bike seat or tag-a-long or trailer makes it easy to go by bike with kids, and a baby backpack or carrier and stroller will help with the pedestrian conversion.
3. Cut back on your car insurance. If you can get by with mostly bike/walking/public transport, you may be able to just get “recreational” insurance for your vehicle. Usually there is a mileage restriction per month/year, but if you live close to work/shopping, it may work for you. The savings are quite a bit. Ask your agent.
Go green and save on clothing:
4. Plan a clothing swap with other families, and pass on the clothes your kids have outgrown. Invite
families with kids of all ages, and you may get new stuff for all of yours.
5. Free boxes are a great idea. We were recently in Telluride, Colorado, and the free box there is unbelievable. Granted, Telluride is not your average town, but I think there are many municipalities that would embrace a free box. A great project for a community organizer…
6. Thrift stores, secondhand stores, and yard sales are our first choices when looking for kid’s clothes.
7. A sewing machine can work miracles when fitting hand-me-downs and repairing favorite clothes. With a little practice, you can even sew simple clothes from recycled fabric.
Go green and save on food:
8. Plan and plant a garden, even if it’s just a windowbox garden.
9. Grow sprouts in your kitchen.
10. Shop at the Farmers Market and buy seconds.
11. Go to a pick-your-own produce farm.
12. Learn to preserve food – canning, drying, and freezing.
13. Buy only ingredients and prepare your food at home.
Go green and save on books:
14. Use your library for borrowing and reserving books. I like to use the interlibrary loan program to get books from all over the country instead of buying them.
15. Check the “discard” shelves at the library for free books. We’ve built up our kid’s library this way.
16. Yard sales are great for finding books at a bargain.
17. Many used bookstores will give credit towards books by taking the ones you no longer want.
Go green and save on household expenses:
18. Make your own cleaning products.
19. Give up paper towels by cutting up and using old towels for cleaning. Use them instead of paper napkins as well.
20. Dry your clothes on a clothesline, inside or out.
21. If you do use an electric dryer, re-route the vent hose inside your house to help heat in the winter. Don’t do this with a gas dryer!
22. Buy concentrated laundry soap in bulk. Use less and skip all of the packaging.
23. Unplug all appliances when not in use to reduce phantom loads.
24. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs.
25. In chandeliers, unscrew most of the bulbs so that you are only using one or two.
26. Give up the everyday shower habit. Take a “navy” shower by turning water off while soaping up.
27. Flush the toilet only when necessary. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
28. Turn off the TV and give up the cable. Free your mind, free your budget.
29. Use the web to find free stuff – CraigsList, FreeCycle, SwapTree.
30. Recycle as much as possible to reduce your trash output.
You can still live a quality life and spend less than you make by going green. Use the money saved to pay off debt or save for your future!
Make your budget, green your lifestyle, and stick to it!
Image: Josh Parrish on Flickr under a Creative Commons License