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Is it practical to live an environmentally friendly, frugal, and minimalist lifestyle?
Are you a practical saver, minimalist, zero waste, or frugal person? There are so many labels today to pigeon hole people into categories. Is it possible to take the best of all four categories to save money, reduce complexity and do better by the earth?
It is clear that there are niche aspects of all four categories that prevent perfect alignment. Can you see a zero-waste advocate buying 20 boxes of granola bars on sale at Walmart with all that packaging?
Let’s agree that the goal is to find common ground (a radical idea these days). The goal is not to be perfect. It is to look for ways to improve and grow.
Before we begin, how would you define yourself using the terms practical saver, frugal, minimalist and zero-waste?
Personally, I would currently categorize myself as somewhere between a practical saver and frugal with a desire to be more minimalistic and an eye for helping the environment. Am I perfect? No, and I look forward to additional recommendations from you.
Where can we find agreement?
9 Common Ground Ways to Be a Practical, Environmentally Friendly, Frugal, Minimalist Saver
1. Paperless Bills and Automatic Bill Payment
This is a personal finance-focused site, so we should start here. Automatic bill payment not only eliminates stamps and paper, but it also helps get the bills paid on time. Paying bills on time is a key method for improving your credit score.
Now if we could only get the postal service to delivery twice/week, we would really see some environmental saving and potential shipping cost reductions.
Magazines are serious clutter. For those that are frugal, visit the library to read your favorite magazine. For those that are more worried about the waste and clutter, consider digital magazine subscriptions.
3. Takeout Coffee
I am still confused by the allure of continuously taking out coffee.
If you are serious about the environment or a minimalist, how can you support all that waste?
If you are a practical saver or frugal, it just costs too much.
4. Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic water bottles have the same issues as takeout coffee just on a larger environmental scale. There really is no excuse to routinely buy plastic water bottles.
Yes, I am getting on my soapbox and plastic water bottle shaming….think Handmaid’s Tale.
5. Paper Towels
This is an easy place to start. Just try and reduce the usage of paper towels and use dish towels or microfiber towels instead.
Less clutter, better for the environment, easy switch, and saves money – perfect.
6. Reusable Grocery Bags
The minimalist gets this one in keeping clutter out of the house. The environmentalist gets it.
The frugal may struggle with this one unless there is a bag tax in your area or you shop at Aldi.
Here is the deal – those plastic bags are weak.
Who hasn’t had a plastic bag split and have to deal with an exploding jar of spaghetti sauce?
Reusable bags are durable. It’s worth the cost of lost groceries and cleanup hassle to convert to reusable bags.
7. Electrical Use
Being extremely practical, start by eliminating as many electrical devices as possible. If you don’t use the lamp, radio, etc., it is time to donate or sell the item.
The 3 biggest electric hogs for a typical home are heating, cooling, and hot water. If you implement energy-saving tips in these three areas, it is a good start to reducing your energy bill and helping the environment.
8. Minimize Food Waste
This is definitely a hot button topic for everyone for various reasons. The key to minimizing food waste is meal planning.
Meal planning is not a sexy topic. However, meal planning is super powerful in reducing your food bill, minimizing the number of ingredients used, and eliminating waste.
We reduced our grocery bill by $8,000/year by primarily implementing better meal planning.
This is another hot button topic. What fabric should be used for clothing? Where should our clothing be made? The list goes on. Let’s stick to simple.
Buying less clothing is better. Having pieces that are interchangeable reduces the size of the wardrobe. I really like 2 clever ideas in this area.
Good Idea #1: Turn all your hangers backward in your closet. When returning clean clothes, turn the hanger the normal way. After 3-6 months, look at the clothes on backward hangers. Do you really need or want these items?
Good Idea #2: Limit the number of hangers in your closet. Many minimalists will argue that 30-40 hangers are all the clothes you really need.
It might be more practical to start where you are and try to gradually reduce the number of hangers in your closet.
Personally, I am nowhere near 30-40 hangers, but it is aspirational. Maybe, a goal like just 100 hangers is a better goal for me! Remember, it is all about progress and not perfection.
Our lives are filled with competing goals that prevent us from reaching our ideal state. Balancing competing goals is important and hard.
Everyone wants a clean environment.
Humans strive for life balance and purpose.
Additionally, it is critical to be financially independent.
These are places of common ground. No group is morally better than another.
As Jim Wallis states, “we can find common ground by moving to higher ground.” Hopefully, this article inspires you to start looking for ways where you can feel good about making small changes to be more of a practical, environmentally friendly, frugal, minimalist saver.
It is a lofty goal and not completely realistic, but it is a start.
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