Steadfast Finances10 Ways to Prove that Frugal Living is Really Green Living in Disguise

10 Ways to Prove that Frugal Living is Really Green Living in Disguise.

Filed in Frugal Living , Green Living , Personal Finance 27 comments

I’m probably the most unlikely Green Living advocate on the planet.

I’m an advocate of offshore drilling, I voted for Bush in 2004 (bad call I know), and I drive a crossover SUV.

Yet, more and more these days, I find myself being slowly taken in by the tree hugger movement.


Because every time I do something that resembles a frugal, penny-pinching lifestyle I later find out that I’m playing right into the hands of the Green Living crowd.

Am I upset?  Hardly!  I’m quite happy to be a convert.

But – big but here – I find this new revelation somewhat shocking that the two seemingly different lifestyles fit together very well.

What I’m really trying to say is that more often than not, whether you are a Green Living advocate or you are just looking to save a few bucks by Going Frugal, you are probably traveling along the same path.  You just have different objectives.

10 Examples that Frugal Living and Green Living Go Hand in Hand

  1. Natural and Cheap Cleaning Products.  I despise a product that is marketed like a cleaning product but really more like a poison.  Take some time and read warning labels on your cleaning products that you likely rely upon everyday.  I’ll take the cheap and easy baking soda and water cleaner over toxic cleaning agents any day of the week.
  2. Eliminate Disposable Product Usage as Possible.  Anyone besides me notice the huge increase in disposable consumer products lately?  The best example would like be a product like aluminum foil, which requires some minor terraforming and of course, most people probably don’t recycle it anyway.  But the best example of late would be the Swiffer commercials which uses a paper cleaning product instead of an old fashioned mop.  Sure, they might prevent you from getting your hands in soapy water, but they also contribute to landfill waste.
  3. Start a Garden and Grow Your Own Vegetables.  I’m not saying you have to weed rows and rows of vegetables everyday, but growing a few tomatoes or fresh herbs on your deck can mean big savings over the growing season.  Fresh herbs at my grocery store go for $3 to $5 per small container, and tomatoes fluctuate from $2 to $4 per pound.  That’s probably a few hundred bucks a year. If you require further convincing, I can make several healthy dishes from my urban garden for less than $1.
  4. Flip the Off Switch on Phantom Power DrainsPhantom electricity (also called vampire power) usage is basically wasted electricity from appliances or electrical gadgets that sit idle or in standby mode.  Using a surge protector/power strip for your non-essential items (computers, TVs, cell phones, etc.) can save a significant amount of energy and reduce your electric bill at the same time.  Sounds trivial, but when you consider 50% of the power in the U.S. comes from coal fired power plants, every little bit helps.  Some people have even seen electrical bills drop by 67% using this simple cost saving tip.
  5. Adjust the Thermostat to Burn Less Fuel/Electricity.  We all love the proverbial toasty fireplace image on a chilly winter evening, but your thermostat shouldn’t be set at 75 degrees during the winter.  Ramit Seti’s 30 Day Challenge to Save $1000 shows that for every 1 degree your thermostat goes down during the winter, you save approximately 3% on your heating bill.  To lower costs even further, try flipping the rotation switch on your ceiling fan to blow the hot air down from the ceilings in the winter, and up in the summer.
  6. Carpooling and Preplanning Trips Saves Money on Gas.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate driving.  So any excuse I can use to be driven somewhere or reduce my driving time is a plus for me.  For those of us without public transportation availability will know that paying $3.50 to $5 per gallon of gas during the peak of the energy crisis killed anyone on a tight budget.  Setup a carpool for your work buddies, and plan all your errands within one trip to eliminate repeat trips.  Not to mention, you cut down on cardon dioxide emissions and traffic jams.
  7. Switch Your Entire Home to CFL Bulbs.  Sure, you would need a small upfront purchase, but that purchase will pay for itself over time.  I switched to CFL bulbs last month for only $42, and Energy Star claims that each bulb will save $30 over the bulbs lifetime, so I’m hoping to see a small financial bonus for being more energy efficient.
  8. Use Your Window Curtains to Your Advantage.  Here’s a shocker – the sun is hot and provides warmth.  If it’s cold outside, open the curtains and let the light (i.e. heat) indoors during the day, and close them at night.  Curtains are nothing but an easy way to add another layer of insulation to your windows, which are one of the major sources of heat loss for the average home.  Plus, you get the benefit of less usage for heating or air conditioning systems, which means lower electrical and heating bills.
  9. Upgrade Older Appliances to Energy Star Rated Appliances.  The upfront cost on most major home appliances is substantial, but as with any good investment, the dividends will be realized over the long term.  Having recently purchased a new home, I went all out and bought a front loading washer and dryer set.  They use less energy to operate, as well as the washer supposedly cuts water usage by 7000 gallons per year.  The savings can be substantial in water usage, the electricity to operate both washer and dryer, as well as in natural gas or heating oil if you have a non-electrical powered water heater.
  10. Use Only What You is a brilliant marketing campaign from Denver Water to relay this simplistic message in an attempt to use less water, but I think it’s part of a larger theme to be used for every aspect of our lives.  Everything that we humans don’t use, gets discarded, and that means it’s usually going to the local landfill.  I tend to think of landfills as a place we throw away billions of dollars each year, whether it’s a plastic case that held your new Best Buy gadget, or the old gadget that just got replaced by your new one, you’re essentially throwing money down a hole never to be seen again.

Got any other ideas how Green Living and Frugal Living parallel one another?  These are only a few examples, but like always, I’m sure there are more examples or MoneyHacks/FrugalHacks that have been devised.

Photo by valentins_k

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Posted by CJ   @   9 November 2008 27 comments
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Nov 9, 2008
3:53 am
#1 Poor Boomer :

It’s not easy being green if you’re poor.

Nov 9, 2008
7:01 am
#2 John :

Thanks for the tips. What do you think of programmable thermostats? I heard they can save 10%. Another green. frugal tool. Also, what I would like to see are ways to get help, even after your 10 tips, and others. For example, I heard help is provided both from the gov’t and utility companies themselves. I found this site, but does anyone else have any good sites? Thanks

Nov 9, 2008
12:07 pm
#3 Matt :

@ John

Thanks for the comment. I didn’t include programmable thermostats because most people have generally heard of them, and most every article on cutting home heating/cooling costs includes this tip fairly high on the priority list.

However, I have programmable thermostats in my home and I love them. I set mine to drop a few degrees during normal sleeping hours during winter.

You can also search for tax benefits for upgrading to energy efficient, or so called Energy Star approved upgrades, though this website.

In terms of assistance, I think the best thing to do would call your local energy provider. They would likely have the most up to date information. I know the federal government has assistance policies in place since heating oil in the northeast was thought to be astronomical this winter. Now that oil is at it’s lows, it probably won’t be so bad. I believe this site is the best way to check availability, but there could be more.

Nov 10, 2008
12:20 am
#4 David :

“It’s not easy being green if you’re poor.”

Actually, it’s very easy. You don’t need to buy the latest anything that anyone is trying to sell you – it’s all about things like being frugal with utilities by turning off lights and unplugging things, which costs nothing, and using $1 bottles of vinegar to clean your whole house. There is a misconception that going green costs money, and it’s quite the opposite.

Thanks for the mention Matt, appreciate that!

Nov 10, 2008
3:12 pm
#5 Norm :

Most window curtains provide the illusion of saving energy. To make much difference they need to be sealed around the window to stop energy losses from convective flow, and they need to have some significant resistance to energy flow.

Try this to make a major difference in heating bills: Cut a piece of rigid foam insulation (blue or pink extruded foam) in a thickness this will snuggly fit into a south facing window frame. At least an inch. Make an opening at the top and bottom, say 3″ x 12″ for a window 24″ wide and 36″ high. Cover the surface of the insulation with something that will look “nice”. Buy a turkey roasting bag at the grocery and tape/tack a 4″ x 14″ SMOOTH laying piece, cut from the roasting bag, over the bottom opening. Press the finished product into the window opening. You now have window insulation at night and the opening at the bottom will be held closed by the weight of the cold/heavy air. During the day the sun will heat the air between the insulation and window and the air will warm and tend to rise. The bottom opening will open and warm air will enter the room.

If cold air blows out of the top opening at night you have leaky windows to seal up.

You now have a solar box heater/window insulation. Use the same idea on north windows during Nov.-Feb. In a north facing kid’s bedroomIt is dark outside most the the time when the kids are home from school anyway.

Nov 10, 2008
3:25 pm
#6 Matt :

@ Norm

Thanks for contributing. Certainly sounds like an interesting idea, and adding that degree of insulation should indeed have a substantial impact.

Nov 21, 2008
3:40 pm

You hit the nail on the head, which is why the blog I started about frugal living (Suddenly Frugal) quickly morphed into a blog about green and frugal living (The Lean Green Family). Most people have a hard time believing that when you go green, you save green. I enjoy the challenge of both. FYI, these days I’ve been posting on how to have a green-and-frugal holiday season. I hope you’ll check out some of my posts. Thanks.


Nov 21, 2008
4:13 pm
#8 Matt :

@ Leah

Thanks for finding my little blog, and I will definitely follow your posts in the future as I hope you will follow mine. Perhaps we could collaborate on a few ideas in the future.

As I said, the concepts of frugal living and green living may not originate from the same reasons, but the endpoints of both concepts usually take us to the same destination.

Feb 1, 2009
10:10 am

Great post. My parents have always been frugally green and I think I’ve learned that by osmosis from them.

They are minimalists in consumption, they recycle, they keep their cars running for decades and decades, etc. Sure, they haven’t purchased many organic clothes from renewable sources, but they don’t buy a lot of clothes to begin with and make really good use of the clothes they do have (lots of repairs and adjustments with time).

Green is good, but green is not always what is being advertised as “green”. The most green living is simple living with conscious choices on consumption.

Feb 1, 2009
11:15 am
#10 Matt :

Well said Jules. I think “under-consumers” like your parents can probably go through life a little less green than most and still do better than your average person.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago about Going Carless, and my friend in the story said he had no intention of being a treehugger, yet…

He walks to work or uses public transportation.
He despises the bottled water crowd (e.g. wasting of plastic).
Reduces vampire power as much as possible.

He’s just trying to save money, so it’s kinda funny to see how frugal living and green living go hand in hand. Of course, if you drop 30k on solar panels, it doesn’t exactly workout that way. So smart consumption seems to be the best way to go for almost everyone.

Apr 28, 2009
7:48 pm
#11 Allen Iversen :

It’s true. Some of the greenest people in history (US history) were those who the Great Depression hit the hardest. A lot of it’s about living without what, ya know, you can live without.

Apr 28, 2009
8:05 pm
#12 Matt :

@ Allen

Very true. I saw a great quote a couple days ago… one of the easiest ways to go green is by being an “under-consumer”.

Dec 8, 2009
10:12 pm
#13 Tracy :

Exactly! Sorry it took me so long to run across this post, but I think green and sustainable has been sold as kind of a retro hippy movement, when in truth, most good practices attached to this philosophy are actually logical lifestyle choices for the long term. Saving money is conservative and as more and more businesses understand that the bottom line can go up as a result of sustainable choices, the conservative politicians will join the party in a big way. Before you know it they will be spinning it as their idea.

Dec 8, 2009
10:46 pm
#14 Matt SF :

That’s awesome Tracy! I never thought of it that way… I’m trying to imagine an old WASPy Republican Senator claiming Green Living was his idea! I’m one of those that hates politics, but that would be a sight to see.

And no problem being late. Better late than never.

I think the big thing, in the end, is that a reduction in consumption levels helps us all. I’m sure that isn’t what most people want to hear when it comes to making money and boosting GDP, but it’s not like the U.S. has been a manufacturing based economy for the last two decades anyway.

Mar 28, 2011
5:47 pm
#15 Green Money :

Great to see you join the green club, no matter how you decided to get here. Oh, and great tips too!

Not everything on my site is dedicated to Green in the environmental sense, but most of it is frugal, like yours.

That’s why I’ve gone with the slogan that money is green, too, so you can “go green” by saving money just as you can save money by going green.

J.C. said about 2000 years ago “He who is not against us is with us.”

Mar 28, 2011
7:02 pm
#16 Matt SF :

Thanks. Like they say… doesn’t matter how you got there, just as long as you show up.

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