Sustainable Living on a Budget

Sharing is caring!

It’s the end of the year, which means that some people will start considering New Year’s resolutions. Even if you are not interested in a New Year’s resolution, setting new goals is always a good thing to do. One goal to set for the new year is to live a bit slowly and sustainably.

It can be Expensive and Time Consuming

a woman in plaid blazer using her laptop
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Let’s face it.  Living sustainably and even slowly can seem expensive and time consuming. Depending on what you choose to do, it can be; however, it doesn’t always have to be that way. When I started considering sustainable living, I only came across articles that showed either the expensive side of it or the side that was too slow for my life. For example, raising chickens to have your own eggs might contribute to sustainability, but it is quite expensive and time consuming.  Buying a cow and having the meat delivered to your home can cost up to $1000 and more up front. Cloth diapers and servicing can start at $15 per diaper, which is not reasonable if you’re struggling, financially.  Canning can be costly and time consuming (even though I am looking forward to it next year). If you are having a hard time finding room in your schedule to simply use the bathroom alone, nothing seems to work. If you are on a tight budget, then the examples listed above also aren’t very friendly to the household budget.  That’s what I thought and felt years ago.

Start With One Thing

Luckily, I had a great friend to show me ways that I could start living a bit slower and sustainably without blowing my budget, and I have used her advice over the years to change my household. Often, when a family looks for things to change, they run into expensive ideas. Seeing high costs on products makes many families quit before they start. If they want to cook from home, seeing complicated recipes that have to be prepared in masses on a Saturday seems downright impossible. In addition, seeing ideas that are difficult to implement for the whole family (like cloth towels when you have used paper towels for 20 years) get rejected quickly.  So how does one live sustainably without quitting a job and homesteading full-time? Start with one budget friendly and schedule friendly change.

One Change at a Time

Looking at our lives as a whole, there is no way to actually change everything all at once. So, why try to do that? Instead, focus on one thing to improve in the household.

One Meal

If it’s cooking meals with fresh vegetables, then start with one meal per month and use frozen or canned the rest of the time. That doesn’t seem like a lot of change, but consider this:  If you make one meal per month from the freshest ingredients, you will eventually get into the habit of doing so for other meals.  One meal per month then becomes two meals per month. As you find the best ingredients for a budget friendly price, it will become less difficult to keep it going.

One Body Product

Have you ever wanted to switch out a beauty item for one with more natural and safe ingredients? Start with one. Many natural beauty products come from small businesses and it is easy to cringe when you see the price.  I mean, who wants to pay $20 for lotion or $7 for lip balm when you can get it from the grocery store for much less?  However, if that lotion or lip balm lasts longer than the store product, doesn’t irritate your skin, and supports a small business, give it a go. Often, those products last longer because of the natural ingredients that soak into your skin and don’t require a lot of use to get great results; over time, you often spend less.

One Paper Product

bowl with ripe berries on table
Photo by SHVETS production on

Have you ever wanted to try more natural based toilet tissue or paper towels?  How about those cloth paper towels again?  Cloth paper towels last longer (multiple years, depending on wash count), which means that you’re no longer buying roll after roll. However, don’t toss out your regular paper towels at once. Start with one roll of cloth paper towels and one or two rolls of regular paper towels. Get an idea of when you are most likely to use the cloth over the paper and vice versa. Imagine paying $30 for cloth paper towels and not having to replace them for the next 5+ years. That’s a win. In the end, the goal is to waste less, which can be done by halving your use of paper towels.

Napkins anyone?

This one was an easy change for my family.  Buying bulk cloth or dinner napkins and doing away with our paper napkins was incredibly easy on our lifestyle and budget (ex. $18 for 12 reusable napkins). I am on year eight of using our first bought napkins and I’ve added to our collection. The kids enjoy using them and I’m no longer factoring napkins into our monthly budget. Consider giving this a chance.

Reusable Plastic Bags

Have you tried the quart or variety size reusable bags? They are actually great to use, but do not throw your plastic freezer bags away just yet. Similar to the towels, start with one order of reusable ones and cut down on the amount of plastic bags that are bought. As the reusable bags become more familiar, add to that pack and lessen the regular plastic ones a bit more. For $10-$15, you can start with your first pack of 10-12 bags. You might not ever stop using plastic freezer bags (we have not), but you will start using them less. Every little bit helps.

Cooking Tools

When it comes to cooking, this doesn’t have to be difficult as well. Any thrift or consignment store will have crockpots, air fryers, coffee pots, and more items for inexpensive prices. Because I don’t always have time to cook during the work week (8 hour days plus two hour travel time), I need some cooking help (aside from my husband). Years ago, I started with my first crockpot, which I bought for $10 and cooked our next day’s dinner overnight. In the morning, the food would cool and I’d store it in the fridge until we were all home for dinner. When we arrived home, we just needed a side dish and dinner was served. I now have three crockpots and the latest one (shown in the picture) cost me $12. Last year, we added an Air Fryer and three years ago, we added an Insta-Pot. Being able to cook regularly for my family without being at the stove all day was exactly what I needed, and I was able to get my used items for low prices. Again, every little bit helps.

These changes will take time, but they will be worth it. Once I started with one change and I got used to it, I then added another change after another.  Many of the adjustments that I made were hits and some were incredible misses. I actually tried getting rid of paper towels once and it was an epic fail, so I restarted by adding one roll of cloth towels for every three rolls of regular paper towels. This was so much better!

Starting with one inexpensive modification in your household will make sustainability and slow living easier to live by. Eventually, as you are able to do so, you can then move into more expensive changes (or expensive upfront costs). You can then buy a year’s worth of meat directly from a farmer or grow your own vegetables.  For now, start with one simple change that won’t turn your life or your wallet inside out.

What are economical ways that help you live sustainably?

Leave a Reply