Talking to friends and family lately they are always telling me about ways they are more economical when it comes to spending. Nowadays, it's usually cutting back on travelling because gas prices are too high. Me and my husband, for example, only use the vehicle when we absolutely have to. Otherwise we walk or take the bicycle. A friend of mine has to travel about 45 minutes or more to get to class each day so she can't exactly save much on gas. Instead, she cuts back on other luxuries like going to the hair salon. Or another friend, who likes to shop, only goes when there are seasonal retail sales. She even buys summer clothes in the winter because it tends to be cheaper. However, I never hear people talk about being economical about necessities, like, what they buy at the supermarket or use in their homes. I assume most people spend the bulk of their money on products such as: food, trash bags, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, body soaps, creams, gels... So, I've decided to share a few of my own tips and tricks that I believe aid my husband and I to cut down our costs as well as protecting the environment.
1) Instead of buying the large bottle of dishwashing liquid (here in Spain called "Fairy") we buy a much smaller bottle that is also ecological. There are no added chemicals in it that are harmful to the environment. It comes in a much smaller bottle and lasts about twice as long as the name brand bottle that is more than double in size. This may seem counterintuitive, but I think it has to do with psychology. Since the bottle is so much smaller, we use less of it to wash the dishes, and you really only need a dab of it to wash a sink of dishes anyway. With the larger bottle, you use more since you can. Even if you can't find ecological brands where you live, or they are too expensive, still try to buy a small bottle. Trust me, it will last you a long time. This also holds true for detergent. In fact, if you are one of those "product junkies" that like the more expensive products that claim to make whites whiter or maintain the color of your denim after millions of washes, try using cheaper homemade remedies. A cool article provided by Reader's Digest states that baking soda, asprin and vinegar are just as affective at maintaining whites white. For the darks, use coffee or tea, salt or a combination of vinegar and salt. It's great on the budget and for the environment too!
2) Always go shopping with a list. Seriously, this is very important and one of the easiest things you can do to help save yourself some money. Especially when it comes to produce. My mom (and my husband's mom) are women who like to buy in bulk. They buy every week even when their shelves are stocked; as if they are preparing for hibernation for the winter. They have food that can last them a few months and yet they still go shopping every week. As in my mom's case this leads to her forgetting what she actually has in the cupboard and so food expires, spoils and just goes to waste. Produce, for example, can be expensive so it is a complete waste of money to buy more than you are going to eat because it will inevitably go bad. The same goes with experimenting. Just because you heard that such and such is good for you, if you don't know how to cook it, and don't have time to find a recipe for it, you won't use it. In fact, this has been proven by some researchers somewhere because I remember reading it online. Produce is the number one food item wasted. What I do is to shop for the week. I stick to my list so I don't overspend or buy things I don't need. I keep staples such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and bread, oatmeal, as well as soups, canned beans, tuna fish, nuts, and pretty much anything that can be kept for awhile without going stale or spoiling. Things like cheese, yogurt, eggs, milk (and in Europe they have that milk in cartons, which you only have to refrigerate when opened, so I don't even have to buy that all the time). I'm also a fan of buying frozen vegetables and buying meat in bulk and then separating it in smaller portions to freeze for later.
3) Things like trash bags are also available in environmentally friendly versions. But on your next shopping spree keep that Walmart or Target bag and reuse it for garbage disposal. The same goes for the next time you go grocery shopping, or shopping anywhere really. Keep the bags. To protect the environment, what I do is to bring a reusable bag with me to the supermarket (they charge for plastic bags in Europe) and when I get low on the plastic ones I just replenish the stock next time. Since I separate my trash (organic, plastics, paper) we do use the environmentally friendly bags for organic trash, because they are bigger, and the plastic grocery bags for everything else. So, as you can see being a consumer does not have to be expensive if you are smart and creative. And of course, protecting the environment makes you feel good too.
By: Samantha Taylor
Samantha is a Boston, Massachusetts native. Her studies have taken her from Ohio to England, where she lived for two years. Currently, Samantha lives in Andalucía, Spain, with her husband. She is a writer for Nexxt and contributes to one of its many blogs: retailgigsblog. She also works as an English teacher and personal trainer in her spare time.
"Image from dreamstime.com"