Going Green On A Budget: Finding Money To Be Eco-Friendly

by heather

When asked, most people will tell you that they really do want to live a greener, more eco-friendly life. But sometimes, going green costs money.

Things like organic produce, fair trade coffee, and cfl bulbs cost more up front, and for people on a tight budget finding that extra cash can be difficult, if not impossible. And while many of our “green” choices will save us money in the long run, we still need to come up with ways to find the money to get started.

So, how do we do it?

We balance.

For instance, if we decide to spend more on cfl bulbs, we need to cut back on something else to make up for it, right?


Balancing our budget like this is an easy way to start taking small steps to live a greener life.

So, I’m offering up three easy ways to go green, and some realistic solutions on how you might pay for the added expense. It won’t cost a fortune. In fact, hopefully it won’t cost anything.

Go Green Strategy #1: Buy Fair Trade Coffee

Buying fair trade coffee helps the earth in a number of ways.

First of all, it helps coffee farmers because it gives them a wage they can actually live on. And, fair trade means that the coffee wasn’t harvested using exploited workers or child labor.

It also helps the environment by supporting sustainable farming practices. The land, the wildlife, and the local community are all better off when fair trade is involved.

Here’s how to get started…

Going Green: Fair Trade coffee costs an average of $10-12 per pound, versus $7-$9 per pound of Folgers.

How to Save: Cut out one latte per week at your local coffee shop and you’ve more than made up the difference.

Go Green Strategy #2: Switch to CFL Bulbs

This going green strategy is definitely going to save you money in the long run. CFL bulbs consume 75% less energy than regular bulbs, and last 10 times longer. Fast Company Magazine figures that each CFL bulb will pay for itself in five months.

But, they do cost more up front. CFL bulbs cost around $3 apiece, versus $1 to $1.50 for a regular bulb.

Here’s how to get started…

Going Green: As your regular bulbs burn out, replace them with CFL bulbs.

How to Save: Check with your local energy provider: many companies offer coupons or rebates to offset the costs of transitioning to CFL bulbs. One quick search online yielded savings for people living in Hawaii, Ohio, Texas, and Oregon. And that was only 2 pages into Google. Type on “cfl coupon” to see if your provider offers rebates or tax credits.

You can also save big by purchasing your cfl bulbs in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club. That’s where I got mine, and I saved a bundle.

Go Green Strategy #3: Get A Programmable Thermostat

According to Energy Star, a programmable thermostat saves the average family $180 per year. I love mine, and can’t imagine not having one. They’re so easy! The temperature goes down to 60 degrees at night, and up to 64 degrees during the day. I don’t have to do a thing. And, my heating bills are much lower than they used to be.

The up front cost of a programmable thermostat is $45-$75, depending on how fancy you go.

Going Green: Replace your regular thermostat with a programmable thermostat.

How To Save: I’ve got a few ideas for this one.

1. Find coupons- Energy Star has a page that searches for coupons or rebates on energy-efficient products. Click here to go right to the search page. You can also Google “programmable thermostat coupon” and see if anything comes up across the web.

2. Eat out one less dinner this month. Savings? $20-$30.

3. Skip the bottled water for two weeks. If you’re paying the premium (like $2 a bottle at the gas station) this can add up pretty quickly.

4. Sell something on Craigslist.


Yep, these going green strategies don’t take any balancing at all. They’re free, and will even save you money.

1. Fix That Leak

Better Homes and Gardens says that household water consumption has increased 200% since 1950, even though our population has increased 90%. That’s a lot of water we’re using, but we can trim it down by fixing our leaks. How much can we save?

Well, a dripping faucet can waste 74 gallons every day. And a leaky toilet can waste 200.

If you’ve got a leak, tighten it up. Simple as that.

2. Give Up Papertowels

Think it’s impossible? It isn’t, I promise. I’m trying to do this in my own home right now, and I was struggling until I found this awesome tip from Myscha at WiseBread.com. Her conundrum was the same as the one I currently face; every time I “need” a papertowel, I can never find a rag to use instead. Her solution is simple.

She took one of those hanging sleeves (that normally store plastic grocery bags for reuse) and hung it where her paper towels used to be. Then, she cut up a bunch of old t-shirts that were destined for Goodwill and put them in the hanging sleeve. Now when she “needs” a paper towel she has plenty on hand. After she’s used it, it’s tossed in the wash. Genius! Thanks for the great tip, Msycha.

3. Stretch Your Products Further

I do this all the time at home. Basically, I add water to almost everything to make it go just a bit further. And, I’ve never noticed a decrease in quality in the products I use.

I add water to dish soap, honey, hand soap, face soap, and juice. It’s a super easy way to make your dollar go a bit further.

4. Skip the Ziplocks

Those plastic baggies are not only bad for the environment, but they’re also getting more expensive. Solution? Stop using them! Instead, use reusable Gladware.

5. Buy Used, Buy Used, Buy Used

Need furniture? Check Craigslist. You can buy anything right now, at rock bottom prices. Need a new outfit? Salvation Army, thrift stores, and consignment shops are great places to look. Want that new blockbuster novel? Find it used on Half.com.

There’s something exhilarating about finding great things that no one else wants anymore. I’m an avid Salvation Army shopper, and I must tell you that the thrill of the hunt is partly what draws me there. I have found wonderful things there: interesting paintings, cozy sweaters, fabulous jeans. All of them are treasures. To me, that is. And finding them is great fun.

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