19 Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably

By Emma Diehl · July 25, 2022 · 10 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

19 Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably

Many people consider it a priority to protect the planet these days as reports of climate change are frequently in the news.

While living sustainably can take planning (Where to start? What are the right moves to make?), it doesn’t have to be pricey. Learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget can be surprisingly simple with some motivation and practice.

Sustainable living isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. One person may be all about composting while another would never try it. But the non-composter might bike rather than drive as often as possible or keep their thermostat in eco-mode year-round.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to figure out their preferred way to live a greener lifestyle. Remember, any adjustment can help the environment (and the wallet), so don’t feel intimidated.

Ready to learn more? Here, you can read up on:

•   What is sustainable living?

•   What are the practical benefits of living sustainably?

•   What are the financial benefits of living sustainably?

•   What are specific ways to live sustainably and save money?

What Is Sustainable Living?

Living sustainably means considering the environment when making daily decisions. It involves prioritizing actions that reduce your carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse-gas emissions your actions trigger). These moves, in turn, can benefit the environment.

Sustainable living is an all-encompassing umbrella term covering everything from how people shop and prepare food to how they allocate their money (say, with socially responsible investing).

What’s more, sustainable living can also help you reduce your expenses. Learn its basic principles, and it can help you to financially downsize.

What Are the Practical Benefits of Living Sustainably?

At first, a sustainable lifestyle sounds as if it may benefit the environment more than it does the individual. Certainly, it is focused on helping preserve our planet. However, practical benefits come with going green, including:

•   Saving money. Sustainable living encourages people to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Consuming less and reusing can also cut back on living expenses, which is a good money-management strategy.

•   Improving health. Depending less on a car can be an easy way to go green. Walking or biking to destinations can incorporate healthy living into everyday activities.

•   Gaining knowledge. People may learn to reuse or repair things they already have, picking up practical skills. That could mean learning to mend clothes instead of buying something new or becoming a home gardener who grows fresh veggies.

•   Creating community. As sustainable living gains steam, community groups may prove to be a way to meet like-minded people and make new friends.

What Are the Financial Benefits of Going Green?

Besides practical benefits, there are several direct financial benefits to eco-living:

•   Tax benefits. Purchasing everything from eco-friendly appliances to electric cars can come with tax credits or federal rebates.

•   Less consumerism. Since green living encourages reusing, people may be less likely to purchase new items.

•   Lower bills. Simple things like turning up the thermostat a few degrees in the summer can lead to direct savings on utility bills.

•   Reduced transportation costs. Biking, walking, or using public transportation can be considerably cheaper than driving a car or requesting a ride-share.

19 Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably

You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive electric car to live sustainably. Learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget can be easier than it sounds. Read on for 19 affordable go-green tips. These creative ideas may help you save money while giving back to our planet.

1. Riding a Bike to Commute

Riding a bike to the office a few days a week is a win-win-win. With no emissions, riding a bike helps reduce harmful pollutants in the air. It’s also free (after the bike purchase), and as a bonus, it’s a form of exercise that can benefit your health.

2. Turning off Water When Washing Dishes and Brushing Teeth

Turning off the water when brushing teeth can save up more than 100 gallons of water a month. Conserving water during daily tasks could also lead to savings on the water bill.

3. Buying Items Second-Hand

Want to shop more ethically? Second-hand items are typically sold at a fraction of what their original price was when new. Perusing thrift shops could mean finding gently used, high-quality items for less. You might come across anything from brand-name kitchenware to clothing for much more affordable prices than buying at a department store or online. As a bonus, shopping for second-hand items gives them a longer life and saves them from the landfill.

4. Joining a Buy Nothing Club

Learning how to live sustainably on a budget can be easy when you snag a lot of things for free. Buy Nothing communities have sprung up across the country in the past few years. Members offer items they’re getting rid of for free, including everything from clothes to home decor. It’s a practical way to both give and receive items for free.

There are other similar organizations that have different names, and some people find that Facebook Marketplace or local groups, as well as Nextdoor have similar benefits.

5. Using Energy-Efficient Appliances

Swapping an old appliance for an energy-efficient one may cost more upfront but can save users in the long run. It could seriously lower energy bills and give you a tax credit to boot.

6. Eating Food Before Buying More (Reducing Waste)

The average American household wastes over a third of the food they buy, essentially throwing money down the drain. It also represents a waste of the energy and expense that went into the food’s production as well.

Making a conscious effort to eat everything in the fridge before another grocery run can be a good way to save money on food and help you cut down on waste.

7. Replacing Disposable Items With Reusable Items

Sure, disposable items are convenient, whether it’s a single-use plastic bottle of water or paper plates. Understanding the math behind cost per use is an important lesson in learning how to be eco-friendly on a budget.

For example, buying an insulated water bottle may be more expensive than a plastic bottle of water, but remember, once a reusable item is purchased, it’s used repeatedly. Its cost per use declines every time you reach for it, making it a better deal.

Opting for single-use items will likely be more expensive in the long run and worse for the environment. Consider swapping reusable items, like:

•   Water bottles

•   Straws

•   Sandwich bags

•   Shopping bags

8. Taking Shorter Showers

The average shower can use about 20 gallons of water or more. Cutting down shower time will save water and the monthly water bill.

Or, instead of shortening shower time, try a “Navy Shower,” which is when a person gets wet, turns off the water, lathers, then turns the water back on to rinse off. A Navy Shower can cut water usage dramatically.

9. Using Smart Power Strips

One of the cheap ways to go green is hunting down the “phantom energy” or “vampire loads” in a home. These terms refer to appliances that continue to suck up energy, even when they’re not in use. It’s been estimated that this kind of load represents 7% of all energy use in the U.S.

Power strips that have “all off/all on” switches can keep devices like smart TVs or printers from sucking energy and raising your electricity bill in their sleep mode.

10. Buying Used Over New

When it comes time to make major purchases, you may want to think used instead of brand new. The quest to buy used but still super functional items can be a good way to control spending money and be kind to the environment.

Buying, say, a used car or laptop, can definitely save money, as the item is likely to cost a fraction of its original price. It also encourages reuse. That car or laptop won’t wind up being junked if you swoop in and snag it.

11. Waiting to Run Laundry Until You Have a Full Load

When it comes to how much electricity home appliances use annually, washers and dryers are at or near the top of the charts. Cutting down on laundry loads saves on electricity and can help lower your bill. Aim to wash clothes only when there’s a full load, and consider running the washer on cold to save more electricity.

12. Upcycling

Upcycling is finding a second life for an item that typically goes in the trash. Let’s say you have an empty salsa jar. Rather than trashing it, you can use it to store leftovers in your fridge. And if you have an old door in the basement of your house, why not transform it into a desk or table that you might need?

Upcycling keeps items from being dumped into landfill and can save you money since you can buy less.

13. Going Meat-Free a Few Times a Week

Buying less meat at the store cuts down on the grocery bill, and going meat-free on a regular basis can reduce greenhouse gases — the gases in the earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. Cows and sheep emit methane, a greenhouse gas, as they digest grasses and plants, and ever larger amounts of land are needed for beef production, which is also a factor. Going plant-based for just one day a week can cut someone’s greenhouse gas footprint about 5% annually.

14. Composting

Composting is a process that takes what we typically consider waste (food scraps that usually go into the garbage, leaves that have fallen from trees) and turns it into fertilizer that can benefit the land. Creating a home compost or enrolling in a city collection program can divert food waste from landfills and have it perform a positive action for the environment. It also, of course, can save on garden maintenance expenses.

15. Avoiding Having Your Car Idle

When driving is necessary, avoid idling when you pick someone up or are waiting in a lot. Idling can produce harmful pollution. What’s more, it unnecessarily burns off fuel, costing you more at the gas pump.

16. Hanging Laundry to Dry

As previously mentioned, dryers are the most energy-consuming appliance in the home. Hanging laundry to dry saves electricity bills, and gentle drying outdoors could prolong the life of your garments.

17. Using Rechargeable Batteries

Disposing of single-use batteries in a landfill can lead to chemicals leaching into the soil. While rechargeable AAA or AA batteries are more expensive than single-use, they can be repeatedly recharged. As mentioned above, the cost per use gets lower and lower over time.

18. Opting for Slower Shipping

Global shipping accounts for 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The rise of free and fast shipping can contribute to rising overall emissions. The rush to get the product to the consumer could waste more natural resources as well.

When possible, opt for slower shipping and choose bundling items so they arrive together in a single package versus multiple ones. That slow shipping might also deter impulse purchasing.

19. Utilizing Local Libraries

Visiting the local library helps cut spending and encourages lending instead of buying new. Local branches may offer everything from books to tool rental, cutting down on buying new or purchasing something for a single use.

The Takeaway

Going green (meaning being eco-friendly) and saving green (as in your hard-earned cash) don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sustainable living encourages spending less overall. With a little practice and planning, learning how to live sustainably and benefiting your budget could become second nature.

Another way to save money while living sustainably? Open a bank account online with SoFi. When you open Checking and Savings with direct deposit, you won’t pay any account fees, and you’ll earn a competitive APY so your money could grow faster. Go ahead and opt for digital statements to help save the trees, too.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


Can living sustainably cost more money?

Some sustainable choices may cost more upfront, but ultimately, the goal is to cut down on costs as well as minimize purchases that harm the environment.

How can I live sustainably if I do not make much money?

There are cheap ways to go green that don’t involve spending more. Shopping for second-hand items vs. buying new, for example, can save you a considerable amount, as can riding a bike or using public transportation rather than owning a car.

Am I living with financial integrity if I don’t live sustainably?

It depends on an individual’s outlook. For those who prioritize protecting the environment, financial integrity and a sustainable lifestyle probably go hand-in-hand to some extent. Spending sustainably would likely be very important. Others, however, might feel that finances and sustainability are two completely separate concerns.

Photo credit: iStock/FeelPic

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender