20 Things You Can Do Today To Live A Greener, More Frugal Life

by Katy on December 18, 2017 · 66 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!


  1. Use your library.

  2. Eat the food you’ve bought, and eat then your leftovers.

  3. Shop from your closet instead of buying new clothes.

  4. Give gifts that you already own, like a couple of great books or an admired knick-knack.

  5. Go for a walk outside instead of on a treadmill.

  6. Cook from scratch.

  7. Send your kids into the backyard instead of taking them to a movie or arcade.

  8. Repair items instead of replacing them.

  9. Turn the thermostat down in your house and add an extra layer.

  10. Plant a vegetable garden. It’s amazing what you can grow in even a small space. (We grow all our own lettuce for the summer in a single wheelbarrow.)

  11. Make your own cleaning products, or better yet, clean with water.

  12. When a friend wants to get together, go for a walk instead of eating out.

  13. Choose a simple close-to-home vacation instead of a can-only-get-there-by-flying elaborate trip.

  14. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Always. And then make sure they give you that three cent per-bag refund.

  15. Minimize your garbage output, then go to a less frequent pickup service.

  16. Drive less, and then contact your insurance agent to get a discount.

  17. Hang-dry your laundry.

  18. Decline invitations to those Tupperware, Party-lite, Pampered Chef etc. parties.

  19. Buy used whenever possible. Better yet, join The Compact.

  20. Refuse to use credit cards for anything that’s not an emergency.

Did I miss something? Please add your list in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy Hairston December 18, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Borrow or rent. rather than buy items you’ll only use on occasion (power tools, evening ware, carpet cleaner)


A. Marie December 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm

I offer this one hesitantly, since I know it will not be popular (and may even be condemned by many). But here it is:

If (and only if) your gut reaction to the idea of having children is the same as mine has been my entire life–a resounding “no”–then don’t have them. You’ll save the planet and your own soul considerable wear and tear. (I’m now 62 years old and haven’t regretted my decision for a nanosecond.)


Jennifer December 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Lol, I have three children and must admit they do cause my soul wear and tear. I also weirdly enjoy my chaos so it’s definitely a personal choice. No judgement here. I saw Kelly Ripa talking about how much better and younger her friends look that don’t have kids, so you may be on to something there.

Katy, you listed all the good ones. I like to wear my casual clothes several times before washing. Except, my scrubs which would be gross.


Karen December 18, 2017 at 2:19 pm

I’m with you, A. Marie. I wish more people would really consider whether having children is a good decision in terms of would-be parents’ expectations, attitudes and finances. We need better parents, not more of them. I work with adolescents and see the fallout of poor parenting every day. I love my own 2, but parenting is sometimes terrifically hard and…yes, distinctly unfrugal!


Tonya Parham December 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

I’m 45, never wanted kids and and glad I never had any. I love my life as it is and thank you for listing this one!


WilliamB December 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm

“If you don’t want kids, don’t have them.” Yup. You’d think this was a no-brainer but sadly, it seems it isn’t.


Miss Lani Make Do December 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

I completely agree, A. Marie. Thank you for telling me to trust my gut, instead of the people around me who say I’ll get to ‘a certain age’ and then ‘the instinct will kick in’.


tonya parham December 20, 2017 at 7:55 am

When I was 31, I worked in an office and a lady asked me, “How many children do you have?” When I said no and the conversation turned around to me saying, “I don’t want children” she said, “Well, God gave you a uterus, you should use it!” To which I replied, “God gave me an appendix and I’m not using that either!” She looked at me, rather offended, and never spoke to me again. I didn’t lament the loss one bit.


CarolineRSA December 19, 2017 at 12:32 am

I love this. I have one son, and DH and I feel our family is complete. People tell us he’s lonely and would do better with a sibling; as though a human child is something to be given to another, like an easter egg or a treat.


ouvickie December 19, 2017 at 11:24 am

Same here, Caroline, I only had one child and I’ve never regretted it. I respect people’s choice not to have children and I loathe when I hear people pressuring them or putting them down for that decision. I work with young people who’ve made the full range of choices – some have several children, one young couple chose to only have one and a few others have chosen the “no children” lifestyle.
Other people should have no say in personal choices, but I will admit to voicing my opinion to people who have multiple children, then choose to abuse, neglect or expect others to pay their way.


Ave December 20, 2017 at 2:24 pm

I am an only child and loved it. Looking back, I can’t ever remember feeling like I missed out because I did not have a sibling. In fact, I remember coming home from friend’s house and being happy to have the peace and quiet.

Having two children of my own, I have gotten an up close taste of life with a sibling. I love both dearly but I do not feel like I missed much. My childhood was just different and much quieter.

Dealing with my elderly parents on my own can be challenging. However, one of my cousins, who is the primary caregiver of my aunt, and I provide each other with moral support.

I don’t understand why people feel that they should pressure other people into having children. Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs and I can not imagine trying to parent if you did not really want to do it. It is hard enough to make the sacrifices in terms of career, etc. when I love being a parent, I can’t imagine how miserable it would be if I chose to have kids because it was expected of me.


Lorraine December 20, 2017 at 11:45 am

I agree. No judgment from me. If you want them, have them – but please be responsible. Peace be with you.


Bee December 18, 2017 at 1:14 pm

* If possible, buy food that is grown or raised locally and/or responsibly. (Sadly not always cheaper).

* Reclaim fabric, wood and raw materials. Upcycle, Recycle, Reimagine, and Remake.


Christine Joiner December 18, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Bee, what is “upcycle”? I’ve heard the phrase before but don’t know what it means. Maybe I have already been upcycling and didn’t know it! lol


CatherinefromFrance December 19, 2017 at 2:27 am

Hello Christine .The explication is Recycle by the top.I just found the exact meaning of “UPCYCLE” on Wikipedia but this is in french and this is too difficult for me to translate !!! Maybe you can find it on Wikipedia in english .Kind regards.


Christine Joiner December 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Thank you Catherine!


Carol in CT December 19, 2017 at 3:50 am

Upcycle means reusing/repurposing something for another purpose. Sheets turned into curtains or a quilt backing, coffee can plastic lid as a table protector under a potted plant, fabric from a broken umbrella used to patch a Winter coat, snow pants. You get the idea.


Christine Joiner December 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Thank you Carol. It makes sense. And yes, I have been doing it all along!


Carol in CT December 19, 2017 at 3:48 am

I’d add: Eat seasonally, avoid imported produce. I’ve done this all of my life. A native New Englander, our gardens, farmer’s markets, farm stands are long gone, since Oct. That said, I home preserve what surplus I am able to, then turn to commercially canned/frozen produce and rely heavily on cold storage choices: cabbage, potatoes, onions. Scallions grow in pots in a sunny window, we are enjoying the advent of this year’s citrus crop.


Tracy December 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Thank you for (re)posting this — I was just hankering something new and sparkly to wear on Christmas Eve and the “shop your closet” admonition was just what I needed!


Roberta December 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

I have seen the “don’t use your credit card” admonition before, but I’ve never understood the reasoning. The way I see it, it’s the difference of one tiny piece of paper. Is there something else going on?


Lisa December 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

interest. It is about living within your means whenever possible, and not buying things on credit.


Kathy S December 18, 2017 at 3:18 pm

I guess if you’re not careful it’s easier to mindlessly spend with a credit card than it is if you use cash. And if you get in too deep you have fees and possibly late charges. So this one’s aimed more at frugality than being green. At least that’s my take.


Linda Gertig December 18, 2017 at 5:53 pm

When you use your credit card, you don’t feel the “pain of the pile of dollars in your wallet growing smaller, so it is a lot easier for most people to spend more. That is one of the reasons that the merchants are willing to pay the credit card companies about 2% in fees on each transaction. The credit card companies make money when you use the card, even if you pay no interest.


Kathy Worden December 18, 2017 at 5:59 pm

It is about control. evaluation of wantsvs. needs & the practice of waiting for needs, then paying cash. We are not using our $ when using credit. We become slaves to leanding institution by using their funds. We are not in control, they are.


Mand01 December 19, 2017 at 2:21 am

Also – I’m reading a book called “Plastic: A Toxic Live Story.” Credit cards do not biodegrade and most Americans have between one and four of them. Every time they expire they are discarded and remain on the planet forever. Gift cards are an even worse problem, especially this time of year.
I’ve decided after reading this that I will only give e-gift cards or cash. No more wasteful plastic, except iTunes, which are (supposedly) biodegradable.


Carol in CT December 19, 2017 at 3:51 am

I’d add: Only use the CC if you can pay it off in full once the bill arrives.


Roberta December 19, 2017 at 7:06 am

Thank you! I was looking at the green aspect for most of these, and forgot about the frugal aspect. I do use my credit card a lot, for the points, but we pay it off every month, so I wasn’t seeing the impact. Mando1, I agree with the impact of gift cards, and I rarely give those any more, although sometimes it seems the only option for some recipients.


karen December 18, 2017 at 2:34 pm

I never get a pedicure, manicure, dye my hair or use the dry cleaners. I carry plastic baggies so when at a hotel I take home the bar of soap I have started using and finish it up. Also the same with the shampoo. I use cloth hankies. Burn my yard waste (sticks) and dig the ashes in my soil—good for plants. Catch rain water and use that for watering plants. And take a plastic container (took from my mom’s house after she died) which has 3 separate parts and take home uneaten food from the restaurant. And then I make sure I eat the leftovers.


Lindsey December 18, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Karen–I was thrilled to read that someone else takes home their partially used hotel soap and shampoo (I don’t use conditioner). I have felt odd for doing that. And I have a plastic container in my backpack for leftovers at restaurant meals; at potlucks I have a bucket that I ask folks to put food in instead of throwing it out. I have found that most people are happy not to add to the garbage; my husband’s singing group goes out for pizza once a month and they have been trained to give any uneaten pizza remains to my husband, who always has a plastic bag in his pocket to pick up dog poop that is clean and can be used for food remains. The remains go to my neighbor’s chickens, although I give pizza crusts to my dog. Happy to meet another weirdo who brings home hotel soap!


WilliamB December 18, 2017 at 8:22 pm

I do this, too. I even have a ziplock labeled “soap” in my travel toiletries. This way I use the same bag each time, don’t have to use a new one or even wash the old one.


karen December 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Actually Lindsey I think we are the normal ones. Trying to save the world one piece of soap at a time.

But on further reflection, I have never told anyone I do this. So maybe I am conflicted.

Oh well, all I know is thank goodness for this group.


Lynda December 19, 2017 at 3:21 am

Soap and shampoo saving weirdo reporting for duty 🙂


MommaL December 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

I think its only wierd if you don’t know who originally used the soap!

ouvickie December 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Another soap/shampoo/conditioner saver here. I pay for it as part of the room fee, so it’s mine. I actually use the conditioner and shampoos to shave my legs – no nicks!

Teresa December 18, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Wash your car at home.


WilliamB December 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Wash your car?


Lynda December 19, 2017 at 3:25 am

A good move to wash the underside where you’ve travelled roads that are gritted and salted, I don’t know how much that happens in the US. (PS I don’t drive, just pick up useful info)


susanna d December 19, 2017 at 7:09 am

Living in an area that gets anywhere from 60 to 100 inches of snow per year, vehicles pick up and incredible amount of salt and sand up here. We wash our vehicles regularly to get rid of the crud, and it really does help protect the body and underbody from rust and damage. We had our last truck for 26 years before replacing it and unlike a lot of newer-model trucks around here, the body of the truck wasn’t falling off in big chunks.

Keeping your vehicles running as long as possible is very frugal. In our case, t us a lot of money by not buying new/newer vehicles over that 26 year period. Despite its advanced age, our old truck became someone else’s vehicle and is apparently still going strong in its 27th year. We got rid of it simply because of the desire/need for a 4 wheel drive vehicle here – all the snow meant there were places that our old truck had difficulty with and sometimes, one of those places was our driveway.


WilliamB December 19, 2017 at 11:30 am

Well, if we’re being serious about car washing: how do you wash the underside of your own car, without a way to elevate the car? I can imagine trying to wash the underside but I don’t think the hose would get into all the nooks and crannies.


Jenny December 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm

In the freezing cold weather we have to unhook our hoses, so not sure how we would wash our cars’ undersides (sounds funny!) in the winter…


susanna d December 19, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I see the second sentence in the second paragraph of my post above makes little to no sense. I was in a rush this morning; it should “In our case it saved us a lot of money”. I have no idea where the rest of that sentence went except that it may have existed only in my brain.

We have a 4WD pickup truck with a really high clearance, so we can access some of the underside pretty well with a wand-type watering sprinkler thingie attached to the hose. Not a technical term, I know; but the thing I’m describing is a long wand that I bought for the garden years and years ago, with different spray pressure settings. We do take the truck to the local car wash on several occasions in winter to get a really good underbody flush. In spring, summer and fall we wash our own cars, despite the fact that I’m absolutely fascinated by the multi-color solution applied by the local car wash place.


Vickey December 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm

When I first moved here to Severe Winter Weather Land from sunny SoCal, I wondered aloud at the long lines at the car wash on nice winter days. Using the car wash a few times a year to prolong the vehicle’s life is more frugal and resource-friendly than, say, everyone owning their own power washer.

WilliamB December 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Funny – I do many of the things on this list so I can enjoy the hell out of my can-only-get-there-by-flying elaborate trips!


Adriana December 19, 2017 at 12:42 am

I love the idea of repairing items instead of buying new!
I definitely think being attached to things isn’t exactly healthy, but throwing stuff out and replacing it with new items isn’t healthy for the budget either.


Mand01 December 19, 2017 at 2:25 am

It’s a good list. We are on a little family holiday right now. So far our outings have included checking out the local library (free), swimming in the pool and lake (free), and visiting the two thrift shops (spent $13). We did go out for dinner once but it was terrible and we won’t go there again. We drove, paid our accommodation in cash, and are reading library books for entertainment.


Elizabeth December 19, 2017 at 3:29 am

When my family makes something new or finds a new purpose for something we almost threw away, it feels almost magical to me. Children are the best at this in my opinion. Ex: I have to trim off material from almost every pair of pants for my kids(curse of short legs) and they always hoard the scraps and turn them into something, like headbands, wristbands, necklaces for stuffed animals, etc. They are a blessing and they teach me something new almost everyday:)


Diane December 19, 2017 at 5:17 am

I live an ultra frugal life, spending only on basic needs. Fortunately, I live in a location I love. Sometimes I miss being part of the larger world since my radius is so small, but very thankful to have what I have.

Today my mission is to resize some too large T shirts, finish a baby quilt made from fabric and batting I had on hand, make a nutritious dinner from what is in my fridge, watch a movie online free from my library’s streaming service and read a novel also from the library.

Living large on little!


janine December 19, 2017 at 5:22 am

Check out the Transition Town movement in your community. Green and frugal energy saving ideas and actions, gardening workshops, possibilities of carpooling to activities etc.


nancy from mass December 19, 2017 at 5:47 am

Shocked that no one mentioned hanging out your laundry!

for AnneMarie and Caroline RSA: i have 2 siblings that do not have children. There’s nothing wrong with that, it was their choice and i don’t think anyone has ever questioned why they were married and didn’t have kids. As a parent of 1, it would be nice if my son had a sibling but he has plenty of cousins to lean on.

I also bake anything I can. Muffins, quickbreads, bread, etc. home made cake is always better than store bought (although my best cake still can’t beat the frosted angel cake from a bakery in the city i grew up in…or their donuts – which were my great-uncles’ recipe).


Bethany December 20, 2017 at 12:05 pm

The air quality is usually so poor, I only hang laundry inside where the air is filtered except for the rare rug or such.


nancy from mass December 19, 2017 at 6:01 am

One more thing I thought of! When we were kids, we would carefully open any Christmas or Birthday gift so we could keep and re-use the wrap the next year. Some gift wrap was used for years before having to throw away! I sometimes cringe at how much giftwrap is tossed year after year (and do save some when i can).


Susie's Daughter December 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

Many years ago now, my mom “Susie” started making Christmas bags out of holiday themed fabric. These have been SO great for so many reasons. I have never been a good wrapper so this saves the extra piece of wrapping paper I have to cut off when the seams won’t come together, etc. It saves time. They look pretty. The little ones recognize “their” bags from year to year and it cuts out wrapping paper waste almost entirely. (We all still receive some gifts from others in paper.) She – frugalista that she is – bought the fabric on sale, with a coupon and probably a gift card…


Bee December 19, 2017 at 1:24 pm

I recycle gift bags,ribbon, and gift wrap, This year I was able to use what was on hand.


Amanda S. December 21, 2017 at 6:39 am

I like to purchase nice quality gift bags that have been deeply discounted after the holidays. My entire family reuses them. Many have 5 or 6 sticker labels that have been stacked on top of each other over the years. It is fun to recognize them year after year.


susanna d December 19, 2017 at 7:26 am

I totally agree with driving less – combining trips is a huge help toward that goal. I’d like to add that when you do drive, the way you drive can greatly affect the amount of gasoline you use. A huge gas saver (and therefore, money saver) is watching your speed. We’ve watched the difference in miles per gallon of gasoline used when we drive at different speeds and it’s absolutely amazing how much worse the mpg gets as your speed increases. We’ve been able to get well in excess of the “best” fuel efficiency listed on the stickers of both vehicles, and we’re not driving at tortoise speeds, either – we just don’t exceed the speed limit, period. Depending on traffic (excepting some prime tourist visit times, traffic jams are basically unheard of here) we may go a bit slower than the posted speed, but not a whole lot. Even that slight reduction can make a big difference though.


AlmaK December 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

The most efficient speed in any vehicle is the lowest speed in the highest gear, generally around 40 mph.


MommaL December 19, 2017 at 10:19 am

Improvise! Don’t worry about perfect anything: use what you have to get a decent, but not maybe perfect result. Most won’t care.
Also, make friends with frugal people. A community of frugality helps one another, and doesn’t encourage wasteful spending. They also don’t judge.


Linda December 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Appreciated your “perfect,imperfect” comment. A great reminder for me!


Cindy December 20, 2017 at 4:11 am

My motto has long been “good enough is good enough”.


ouvickie December 19, 2017 at 11:05 am

If you have kids, buying passes to the places you frequent are much cheaper. I buy my daughter a Family Zoo Pass and the funds from that go toward supporting our Zoo and Botanical gardens.
Those type of gifts are fun and don’t create more garbage for the landfill. When my in-laws golfed, we bought them Golf Passes in the region they lived in and visited often.
And now that prices for National Park Passes have gone up, if you have family members that frequent the parks, buy them a pass as a gift.

Instead of having a New Year’s party with party favors that just get trashed, have a pot luck with friends and family. Bring recyclable/reusable containers for food and drinks and play fun games.

As for Christmas, I only send cards to a few family members, who are older and don’t have Facebook accounts and such. The stash of holiday cards I have are from boxes I picked up at Goodwill, or have had for years. For my online family & friends, I post a Facebook message on their page and status message on my account that wishes everyone a happy holiday.
I bought Christmas wrapping on sale after the holidays about 5 years ago and I’m still using it, because we’ve cut down on the gifts we buy – I buy a few for each of my grandkids and my daughter, but only things they’ve told me they want or need. I send a few of my favorite used books to my in-laws – they read them, then pass them on by putting them in the shared library at their Retirement Community.
Much less waste.


susanna d December 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm

My son and daughter-in-law requested a family zoo pass for their Christmas present this year. The kids love to go to the zoo, and being able to go more times than they usually do will give them lots of great memories. The whole family – and 2 guests – will be able to enjoy free admission (and free parking for one car) whenever they choose to go. Plus, a portion of the cost is tax deductible so it’s a savings for us as the gift givers – at least, while we’re still able to itemize. And I agree – it’s great to support local places and attractions!


Sweta December 19, 2017 at 11:20 am

Does anyone have a frugal way to buy new glasses/contact lenses? I have my old glasses so I will probably just get new lenses put in. Where should I do this? Also where should I order my contacts? I wear dailies and won’t need a whole lot. Thanks!


ouvickie December 19, 2017 at 11:31 am

Sweta – my daughter buys her contacts at this online site:

If you’re going to have new lenses put in frames, you’ll need to call around and see if there’s an optical shop that will do that for you. I bought my glasses online, but they won’t just put lenses in existing frames.


Kelly December 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm

As my children entered their twenties I realized that I didn’t need to buy filer junk for Christmas. My one daughter is getting her car registration, a book she needs for school and a pair of work out pants. My other daughter is getting a tool box and knife set(both requested) and a set of curtain rods(a need).

More important we are spending time together. Really thats all that matters is time and love


Martina January 12, 2018 at 3:58 am

Trinity College library in Dublin in your picture? It’s lovely there!

I enjoy your blog, keep up the good work!


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