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6 Simple Tips on How To Save Money and Save the Planet (Before You Buy)

Learn how to save money by changing your mindset before making a purchase. You can reduce your consumption and save the planet with these 6 simple tips!
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I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

It can be REALLY hard to say NO to buying something new. 

Even knowing that reduced consumption is vital to save the planet, poor spending habits are my crutch. 

But, in thinking about how to save money, I’ve figured out how to curb my spending. 

I call them my Sustainable Buying Habits.

These are the things you need to do before making a purchase.

Let’s jump in!

Tip #1: Get a Complete Understanding of Your Spending
Tip #2: Save Money by Avoiding Spending Opportunity
Tip #3: Know Your Money’s True Worth
Tip #4: Know Where Your Purchase is Going to Live
Tip #5: Save the Planet by Knowing Where Your Purchase Is Going To End Up
Tip #6: Buy From Sustainable-Minded Companies

TIP #1: Get a Complete Understanding of Your Spending

The first thing you need to figure out is how much you’re actually spending. The simplest way to do this is with a spreadsheet.

When you break it down into categories, you can see exactly where you need improvements, or where you’re doing really well.

monthly spending performance

It looks like we need to avoid more restaurants and general merch spending for the rest of this month!

If you like a more automated approach, you can use an app like Personal Capital or Truebill. 

Keep in mind that the automated approach is usually more challenging to manage if you keep your expenses separate from your spouse or significant other.

Now that you’ve set a baseline of your spending, the next critical step is to avoid your spending opportunities.

TIP #2: Save Money by Avoiding Spending Opportunity

A few years ago, I realized I was spending way too much on things I did not need. I started keeping mental notes on how I was buying these things. 

Before long, I was noticing some trends. 

First, most of my purchases were from my mobile devices. 

Second, my purchases were made because of social media, news outlets, and peer pressure from friends. 

With that in mind, I set out to make some changes. 

Here are the simple changes I made that could work for you as well:

Stop shopping on your phone. It may seem harmless, but mobile shopping is a dangerous time suck, and it makes shopping WAY too easy. 

Minimize social media and news consumption. Social media and news outlets are hubs for targeted advertising. Not to mention, reduced use of these two things will free SO MUCH of your time for more important things.

Make friends with frugal people. Find other people who are intentional with their spending. Talk openly about money with them. Discuss how to save money!

Now that you’ve got a handle on reducing spending opportunities, let’s move onto our next tip.

TIP #3: Know Your Money’s True Worth

Think about your money like this: if you avoided this purchase, what amount of money would you gain if you invested it instead?

Now, I’m not perfect. So I’m going to give you an example of when I recently caved on a purchase:

I recently bought a brand new iPhone 11 (and have a severe case of buyer’s remorse). I spent $793.82. 

You can tell I wasn’t thinking about the future value of that purchase because I could have made $3,613 by saving and investing that money instead. 

How did I calculate that?

Take a look below…

future value calculator

If I had invested $793.82, in 30 years, my investment would have become $4,406.97.

In other words, I lost $4,406.97 because I bought the iPhone 11. It’s not worth that much money to me.

(Fun fact. This is how the stock market works. People bet on the future value of companies.) 

So, when figuring out how to save money, this can be an incredibly powerful strategy.

Tip #4: Know Where Your Purchase is Going to Live

Now that you know the future value of your money let’s think about where this purchase is going to live.

What do I mean by that?

I live in a small, 600 square foot house. It’s hard enough to prevent it from cluttering with so little real estate available.

That’s why when I’m deciding on buying something, I NEED to determine where it will live first. 

Case in point, our local pizza restaurant was selling $10 growlers in light of the pandemic. The catch was that you MUST buy the glass from them to get the deal. You could not bring in your own growler for a refill. 

(This would be a steal in normal times… but these are not normal times as of April 2020).

As much as I wanted that growler, I asked myself, where would the empty growler glass live? There was literally no space for it. 

So I didn’t buy it. (I also saved myself $56 in future value).

Even for just simple daily purchases, ask yourself where that item is going to live. It could be the difference in being a few thousand dollars richer in retirement!

Tip #5: Save the Planet by Knowing Where Your Purchase Is Going To End Up

I’ll be honest with you:

This one is difficult because you will have to think past your lifespan. 

I’m talking anywhere from 100 to 1000 years in the future.

To know where a purchase will end up, you need to understand a bit of background on materials.

Let’s take a smartphone, for example (but this can really apply to most consumer goods). I’ll break it down to its components.

A smartphone contains at least four main categories of materials: paper, plastic, glass, and metal.

Not everything will end up in the landfill unless you throw it into the trash. (Don’t do that).

Just take a look at this infographic about the life of your smartphone.

life of your smartphonne

If you can inform yourself about where your purchase will end up, you might rethink it and save yourself some cash. Not to mention you’ll keep that waste out of the landfills.

TIP #6: Buy From Sustainable-Minded Companies

Sometimes, after I’ve thought it all through, I still need to make that purchase.

So I hop on the internet and do some research. 

I want my purchase to go towards a responsible company. A company that sources sustainably and has proper systems in place to recycle and reuse as much as possible. 

Here are a few good indicators that a company is making a push towards sustainability:

A trade-in program. Patagonia, Google, and Apple all have trade-in programs for some of their products. In those cases, you can get some money back AND make sure your old item is recycled correctly. 

Data-backed claims. Every year, Apple releases a supplier responsibility report. It’s a pretty comprehensive overview of the actions they’re taking towards sustainability. A few companies have some really detailed reports, so keep an eye out for them.

Fair Trade Certified. Fair Trade Certification is a third-party organization that assesses if the product was made according to its rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. This usually applies to food and clothing products.

Supply chain transparency. Mapping the entire supply chain is a difficult task for any company. But the transparency of the supply chain is vital, as it allows anyone to do their own research. Nike has made public its entire supplier network.

A Supplier Code of Conduct. There’s no reason why a company would not make this public. It shows a public commitment to setting standards.

Conclusion

It can be HARD to shift your mindset to the long term.

But with these simple changes to your spending habits, the ways to save money are almost endless.

By reducing our consumption, we can begin to turn the tide on consumerism culture.

Let me know the one item on this list you’re going to take action on first!

Leave a comment below. Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Related: 5 Pillars of Financial Independence and Sustainable Living

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We are Stuart and Grace. We’ve been working towards financial independence and a sustainable lifestyle for 3+ years now.  Learn how we got our start and where we plan to go.

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