As you might have read on our about page, we recently graduated from university. Since we are trying to save money to buy a van to convert into our home on wheels, we decided it was time to make some changes in our spending habits.
We knew it would be clever to combine saving money by decreasing our expenses whilst living a more healthy and sustainable life.
Hopefully, the tips we share below will inspire you to make some positive changes yourself. Even ticking off just one subject on this list is a step in the right direction!
Are there any tips you’d add to our list? Leave your sustainable money saving tips in the comments below!
1. Plan your weekly meals
You might already plan your weekly meals before heading to the supermarket. There are a few things that we do to grocery shopping more efficient and affordable.
To us, it feels like common sense to check our fridge and pantry to see which items we still have at home, before going to the supermarket. We try to plan meals around these items, and carefully write down everything else we need to prepare our food for approximately 4 to 5 days.
Planning our meals in advance helps us save time during the week, as we never have to pop to the store to buy that one ingredient we’re missing for a meal we’re craving. This also limits the temptation to buy something else that catches our eye in the store. If we crave a specific meal, we simply remember them and plan them in our next shopping trip.
This keeps our pantry free from unused items. But more importantly: it helps us save money!
Additionally, it’s clever to cook the exact amount of food you need, and not a tiny bit more. This way you won’t throw out part of your meal after each dinner. You will help battle food waste and while doing so, save money on ingredients!
We make food in 2 or 4 portions, that are sized perfectly for the two of us. If we decide to prepare food for an additional lunch or dinner, we plate the meals for that day whilst still in the kitchen. We leave the rest to cool down instead of placing it on the dining table in front of us. This will ensure that that we are not tempted to refill our plates and eat too much.
Extra tip: Never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, as this will limit the temptation to buy unnecessary – unhealthy – items.
2. Visit the local market
Twice a week, we visit the local market in the center of town before we go to the supermarket. Here, we buy all fruit and veg that we need for the days coming up. Anything they don’t have in stock, we buy at the grocery store.
Products sold on the market are much cheaper than the ones we can find at conventional supermarkets, and they are not wrapped in plastic.
Farmers tend to get more money for their crop if they are sold at markets rather than grocery stores, so it’s a win-win situation. It also gives us an opportunity to connect with the local community.
On the items shown in the pictures we saved a total of €12,22 just by going on a walk with Mojo and visiting the local market. We walk around our city anyways, so why wouldn’t we pick up part of our groceries while doing so?
If we would have gone to the supermarket, Mojo wouldn’t have been able to tag along (and help us by carrying some apples in her Hurtta backpack).
Extra tip: Plan recipes with fruit and veg that are in season – these are often cheaper, nationally grown (so it didn’t involve transportation halfway around the globe), and not grown in greenhouses (which saves energy).
3. Limit car use
To some of you, getting rid of your car is not an option, and others might not own a car at all. After some minor fixes our Volkswagen made it through the annual MOT earlier this month. Sadly, there were some other complications that would cost at least €1100 to fix. For us, that was the final straw…
“ Sometimes you just need a little push…’’
We chose to take some pictures and put it up for sale that same day, and the car was gone within 48 hours. It was sold for €1100.
Obviously, this is no easy decision to make. It was something we had been wondering about for a longer period of time. But the ease of having a car, to go to a forest nearby to go hiking for example, to visit your family living far away, to explore a beautiful city, or even to go to the grocery store, always made it difficult to finally decide to sell our car. Sometimes you just need a little push to go through with what you actually should have already done a while ago.
Naturally, there are some negative sides to selling your car, for us however, the benefits are well worth it in the end. Our monthly costs consisted of €40 for the insurance, €34.33 tax, and about €60 on gasoline. On a yearly basis, this adds up to a whopping €1600. In this we didn’t even include maintenance costs, which can really surprise you from time to time, or long trips such as holidays or work related travel.
Not owning a car forces us to travel more by bike or by foot. Luckily, we live in quite a small city, making it very doable to do all daily tasks without a car. Not only is this more environmentally friendly – we get more exercise and Mojo gets to join us more often!
We are of course also very lucky to live in a country in which pretty much every place can be reached by use of public transport. Additionally, our country is designed around a large number of cyclists. Cycling is very safe over here with cycling-paths just about everywhere. We understand that this is not the case for everyone.
In the end, you just have to ask yourself: Is owning a car really necessary? Do the downsides outweigh the benefits? Is it possible for me to life without a car?
For us, selling the car was a great outcome. It allows us to save more money, get more exercise, and we personally prefer to live a more sustainable life.
4. Drink (more) water
For a while now, we’ve both been focusing on living healthier. This included limiting the consumption of processed beverages. Once a month or so, we still buy a bottle of Coca Cola Zero or some Belgium beers, but other than that we mainly drink water.
Drinking water is a much cheaper option, and it doesn’t have to be as boring as one might think. We add ice cubes, freshly squeezed citrus fruits, mint, berries, and et cetera.
Occasionally Marijke likes to drink loose leaf teas – her favourite brand is the Bluebird Tea Company – and from time to time we use this tea to create homemade ice teas.
We solely drink tap water, because we like to limit the amount of packaged products we buy, and because it is very cheap. But even if that’s not an option where you live, bottled water is often much more affordable than soda.
Extra tip: If you choose to buy bottled water, go for larger sized bottles. This limits the amount of plastic waste, and often it’s cheaper too.
5. Sell old items
Though you might no longer like your old summer dress, or those books you had to buy for a course three years ago, someone else might have been looking for that particular item for a long time.
Why wouldn’t you sell the stuff that’s been gathering dust for months, when you could brighten someone’s day and make some simple cash whilst doing so?
Over the past two weeks, we sold most of the books we used at university and so far we’ve made €255. It’s more than we initially thought we’d make, and it cleared nearly two bookshelves!
Extra tip: If there’s an item you’re looking for, you might find that someone is selling it second hand, for half the original price. The other day we picked up 7 kg of raw meat for Mojo for free, from someone who didn’t have enough freezer space!
6. Prepare your own food
Although restaurant food is often quite tasteful, and definitely an easy option, homemade food is much more affordable and can be just as delicious, whilst being much healthier!
Though you might not be the world’s best chef, a delicious meal can be so easy to make! Especially these days with YouTube and amazing blogs. We for example love to watch and make recipes from The Happy Pear. They make great vegan and vegetarian recipies on their youtube page and sell amazing cook books.
We both love to make our own food, be it breakfast lunch or dinner. We even make our own energy bars and other snack bits.
Besides being expensive, you are unaware of the ingredients of food bought in at fast food chains or restaurants. The oranges that made the fresh Jus d’Orange might not have been organic and hence covered in pesticides, chicken could have come from broilers. When you’re the one that does the grocery shopping and the cooking, you can hand pick every ingredient you use.
7. Go camping
Though the breakfast buffet might be delicious, and the luxurious room comfortable and homely, a hotel holiday can be quite expensive. Instead of booking a hotel room or apartment, spend your holidays in a tent!
Go hiking instead of shopping in a city, and enjoy the nature instead of laying next to the swimming pool. We went to London during Christmas of 2016 for a week to see the city and visit friends and relatives, and though we had the best time, we realized that cities just aren’t our thing. We’d rather spend our days hiking, and sleeping on an air mattress listening to the rain trickling on our fabric roof, connecting with nature. This limits our expenses to a great extent.
Extra tip: If camping really isn’t your style, or you have to go on a short trip for other reasons without wanting to plan and pack additional necessities, try out AirBnb. It can be a relatively inexpensive alternative to staying in a hotel and often offers a full home with cooking possibilities, a fridge, and even a guide at times!
8. Work out from home
Working out is something that everybody should do on a regular basis. A gym membership can however be very expensive. In some cases this is a reason for people not to work out at all.
During our studies, we were both lucky to get a student membership through Wageningen University. For €80 a year we could do just about every sport you can imagine, we even had unlimited access to the swimming pool and fitness centre, which is normally quite expensive.
Now that we have both graduated, we have to pay the normal fee, which is much higher. Swimming for example, would cost around €50 each month. We now thus opt to exercise from home to save money, which additionally helps divide our time more efficiently, as we get to take Mojo with us more often.
Usually we took Mojo on two relatively long walks each day (45 minutes minimum), but now we can replace one of these walks by taking Mojo with us for a run. Besides jogging, we get most of our exercise from long hikes, bike rides, and playing fetch and frisbee with Mojo, and every other day or so, Marijke training routines found on YouTube.
9. Eat less meat
Though Mojo is fed a prey model raw diet that consists of meat, bone and organ, we are vegetarians. This probably sounds very contradictory to most. That is why we’ve explained our reasons to do so in a other blog post which you can find here.
We have been vegetarians for approximately 18 months now, but prior to that we already strongly limited our dairy and meat consumption. We gradually excluded more items from our diets and realized eating less meat forced us to be more creative in the kitchen. Since we both love cooking so much, it actually made that hobby more fun than it was already, and it lets us experiment with more herbs and spices and alternative ingredients (like tofu, which neither of us had eaten prior to becoming vegetarians).
To answer a question we often get: yes, we do miss meat sometimes! For Marijke, it’s salmon (which is very expensive), for Jordy it’s mainly fast food meats (not nutritious and very unhealthy). But when we join some friends in a restaurant and see that they leave half a steak on their plates because they’re full just reminds us of why we are vegetarians in the first place.
You don’t have to switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you can plan in a meat-free day or two every week. That can already definitely limit your expense and your negative influence on the environment.
Extra tip: Try out veggie meat replacements, some are quite tasty! Here in the Netherlands, products from Vivera are often quite tasty, even our non-vegetarian relatives like them.
10. Use less cleaning products
Conventional cleaning products, though considered necessary, are bad for the environment as they mainly consist of harsh chemicals.
During the past year, we have finished all bottles of chemical cleaning products that were already in use, and we gifted others we had in storage to a friend that is on a very tight budget. We gradually started using natural and cruelty free alternatives to shampoo, shower gel, dish soap, laundry detergent, and so on. We’ve explained our experience with natural cleaning products more in depth here.
This got us thinking about the amount of product wasted by using more than necessary. We used to use quite large amounts of some of these products, but a little really goes a long way. For example, we use approximately a fourth of the recommended amount of laundry detergent and our clothes are clean and smell great. Marijke used to use conditioner after washing her hair, but is now okay with using just shampoo. I guess you just have to take a second and actually look at what you are actually using.
11. Get your ass off that sofa
Now I don’t know about you but most of our relatives and acquaintances tend to spend their evenings on the sofa, watching TV. Not because they love to, per se, but because it’s what they’re used to doing. They don’t necessarily like the programs they’re watching, but keep watching them anyways, or they planned on watching the news and the TV stays on for the rest of the evening whilst they read a book or have guests over. The next day they then tend to whine about lengthy commercials to their colleagues and friends.
Don’t get us wrong, if they like this, they definitely should continue doing so. It just seems like they could spend their time doing other stuff and enjoy it more. How about playing some board games together, going on a walk, exercising, reading, or anything else that doesn’t involve staring at a screen without interacting with the people around you?
Personally, we never watch TV. We have a Netflix subscription and follow some series together, and watch an average of four episodes a week. Other than that, we do stuff that’s useful and healthier, and we love it.