How Living Consciously Saves Me Money

Cost is most frequently cited as the number one barrier to living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. So, I thought I would share with you a few of the ways that living more consciously has helped me save money.

  1. Vinegar & Baking Soda: Both of these items are CHEAP. You can find white vinegar in a glass bottle at Walmart for $0.07 per ounce. Dharma + Dwell also sells bulk organic white vinegar for $0.12 per ounce. Vinegar is an all natural, non-toxic product made with acetic acid. I use vinegar to clean almost everything in my home. There are three items I do not clean with vinegar - hardwood, granite countertops and carpet. I typically use vinegar to clean things like the toilet, kitchen sink, refrigerator bathroom sinks, shower, and bathtub. For budget cleaning, I recommend paring with baking soda. You can find baking soda for $0.05 per ounce at Walmart in a cardboard box (win!) or on Dharma + Dwell $0.08 per ounce. When cleaning, I spray down the surface with vinegar first and then sprinkle baking soda over top. I let these two items sit for a period of time (depending on the stain, build up, etc.). I then spray the surface down again with vinegar and scrub!

  2. Reusable Facial Rounds: I used to wash my face with Simple wipes. They sell for about $0.08 per disposable wipe (25 count per package). I would use these at night and sometimes during the morning. Sometimes I would try and save one by only using a portion of it, shoving it back into the package and using it again the next day. Even so, let’s say that I purchased this 2-pack of 25 count wipes at least 5 times a year for a total of 250 wipes (that is probably being generous). That is about $60/year on disposable wipes. Not only was I wasting money, but I was also creating more waste. I switched to reusable organic facial rounds for $14 ($2.00/round). I have seven rounds and they are fairly large in size. I use them morning and night and typically rinse with cold water after using so I don’t go through them frequently (meaning, you could probably get by with 5 or less and keep them in a good rotation). You might be wondering why I didn’t just use a wash cloth - which is actually the most sustainable thing you could do if you have them. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t own a single wash cloth and using a towel morning and night was so clunky. When I first transitioned away from the disposable wipes, I tried using a hand towel and it was too large to rinse and dry after each use (it would just hold so much more water). I then tried to make my own from an old t-shirt, which could have worked if I knew how to sew better. The material was also too thin, maybe I am just being too picky about my facial cloths over here!

  3. Reusable Cups: I do not drink hot items often, so I didn’t really have a use for a thermos style reusable cup. Although, I did get one free from work and so when I need it, I have it. Anyways, if you are most frequently drinking iced tea, iced coffee, smoothies, kombucha, etc. You can use an upcycled jar. We drink out of cleaned and rinsed out coconut oil and pasta jars, or really any jar that our food comes packaged in! Sometimes I wish I had realized this when I first bought my house because I wouldn’t have purchased any glassware. Why purchase it it when you can reuse what you just purchased from the store?

  4. Reusable Silverware: I made the mistake of buying bamboo utensils when I first started learning about a zero or low-waste lifestyle. I ended up taking them to work and so I do get use out of them but I could have EASILY wrapped up the utensils I already have in a napkin. I received a utensil holder from Cloud Rinjani as a part of another purchase and while it isn’t absolutely necessary, it is nice to ensure that my utensils don’t slide out and around into my bag. If you upcycle a jar or find a mason jar tall enough, you can also tuck your utensils in there for storage while not in use.

  5. Skip Fast Fashion & Shop Secondhand: First, it has officially been over 1 year since I have shopped any fast fashion brands - think H&M, Target, Madewell (yay!). In the last year, I have purchased 5 new articles of clothing (two sweaters, one top, two pairs of paints). In addition to these new items, I have purchased a secondhand top (Route), sweater (Thompson Dry Goods) and overalls (The Green Shag Market). Totaling 7 articles of clothing. Most recently, I purchased a vintage Dooney & Bourke bag from Treasure Aisles - green and tan leather, gold hardware, and only $10! The last time I bought a leather purse, it was over $200 and it was the result of a Michael Kors fad. So, besides the obvious cost savings on things I didn’t really need (like the MK purse), there were countless times I would stop in Target to get a few things and come out spending $100+ on cheap clothes. Now, I don’t remember exactly how much I spent on all of these items but I have a good guesstimate that it was less than $350. The average American spends ~$2,000 on clothing annually. Now, I DO want to be really clear that when I do purchase items new, I am looking for quality pieces made ethically, responsibly and sustainably which means that they do tend to cost more than the typical $27.99 sweater from Target. I supposed I could add one more item to this section, get comfortable wearing the same clothes REPEATEDLY! Not to get too far off topic here, but I used to stress SO much in the morning as I got ready for work. I would fly through my closet trying to find what to wear. Things got a lot more simple when I became comfortable wearing a handful of tops and bottoms that I knew I liked and felt good in.

  6. Reusable Napkins & Towels: We used to go through the paper towels like no other. I mentioned not having wash cloths earlier, well we also had very few kitchen towels (maybe 4). We used paper towels for drying our hands, drying dishes, cleaning up spills, cleaning the countertops, cleaning in general, etc. The average households spends $182 on paper towels annually, and I am sure we were right in line. We now use reusable towels and napkins for all of those things! Our reusables are a mix of thrifted napkins/towels from Goodwill and unpaper towels from Dharma + Dwell (we probably have 5 or so - costing $3.00 per towels). While I only occasionally do this (and it depends on what I am cleaning), you can also use old t-shirts for cleaning!

  7. Reusable Swiffer Pads: We have hardwood and tile floors so we used to purchase the Swiffer Wet Mop Pads ($7.99 for 24). If you mop your floors at least once a week, you are likely spending ~$16.00 per year. We now use a set of reusable Swiffer pads ($18.00 for 3). So, for $2.00 more you have a multi-year solution! An even more sustainable option would be to cut an old t-shirts or blankets you have into 9x11 rectangles. All you have to do is tuck each corner into the slits on the Swiffer. If you don’t have any material laying around at home, you can also head to Goodwill (or any thrift store) and pick up some second hand fabric (just be sure you select something that is water absorbing).

  8. Menstrual Cup: I can’t quite remember when I made the switch to a menstrual cup, but I do know that it is life changing! I currently use the Dot Menstrual Cup ($34 and comes with a cute carrier). When I first transitioned I tried another brand from Target for around $30 (so similar price point). However, it was extremely uncomfortable. I felt like it was always misplaced and pressed on my bladder making me feel like I always needed to go to the restroom. At first, I stuck with it assuming it must just be part of the gig. I started doing some research and it turns out, I wasn’t alone! Despite all looking fairly similar, menstrual cups do fit and feel differently dependent upon the brand. Not only does my Dot feel better, with every purchase they also donate a cup to a girl in need. Previously, I would purchase tampons (~$7.00 per pack). Guessing that I probably bought a box every other month (if not more), a conservative guess would be that I spent around $42.00 annually. The shelf life of a menstrual cup varies by the brand but also depending on how well you take care of it. The Dot claims to last 10 years, although I have only had mine for 6 months (but so far so good!).

  9. Thrifting: I mentioned shopping secondhand earlier for clothing, but honestly, it is RARE that I buy anything new. I shop Facebook Marketplace and thrift stores around St. Louis (Treasure Aisle, The Green Shag Market, Warson Woods Antique Gallery, Creve Coeur Antique Mall, Goodwill). Recent finds include a mid century modern wooden clock, brass mirrors, brass planter.

  10. Grow Your Own Herbs & Preserve Them: We make margherita pizza in this house at least once a week which means we are always buying basil. We seem to only find the basil that is packaged in one of those plastic containers - the type that is too thin to be recycled my most companies. We found this to be the case with chives and dill, too. These little plastic containers typically range from $3.00-4.00. So, we recently started a little garden bed in the backyard. The dill and chives are growing great! Our basil was a little slow to start (and I accidentally killed 3 of the 4 plants trying to grow them indoors), so we actually picked up a giant pot of basil at the Soulard Farmer’s Market for $10. The dill and basil both propagate easily. So, total we spent less than $20 on these herbs but they will last several months (more if we can keep them in good health indoors). We can also dry the herbs for the winter or chop them and put them in the freezer.

  11. Safety Razor: I meant to create a list of just 10 items and then realized how I forgot one of my all time favorites, my safety razor! Much like tampons, I hated when my disposable razors would go dull. It always seemed like it happened mid-shower when I needed them the most or half-way through shaving one leg. I most frequently would buy a pack of four razors from Target for $2.99. I have no idea how frequently I went through these things, but I do know that they would deteriorate so fast. Sometime last year I purchased an Albatross Safety Razor. I would say this swap is right up there with the Dot Cup in terms of how much I love it. The razor comes in two sizes - short ($25) and long ($40) and with a pack of 10 blades. Since it is made of metal it can last YEARS when properly taken care of.

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