Big decisions: Living simply and more ecologically

Four ways I changed my life for living simply and saving money.

Jabari Allen on living simply - Jabari Allen Graduating from college and entering the workforce is not as easy for young adults like me as it was for previous generations. In a post-recession economy, we’re considering things more carefully, like whether to get our own place or move back in with our parents, or buy a used car or a new one. However, I made a lifestyle choice that I use to help me make those decisions — choosing to live simply.

You may think “living simply” is little more than a fad perpetuated by those with a desire to reconnect with rural or lost ways from previous decades, but in reality, simple living can mean saving money. The added benefit? A reduced impact on the environment.

Incorporating minimalism in your life may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of small changes you can make to your routine that add up to less stress, a healthier environment, and more money for you.

Meals

A good place to start saving money and cutting down on waste is by cooking more of your meals. The Washington Post examined the “slow death of the home-cooked meal,” with one researcher stating that if current trends continue, Americans are on track to cook less than half of their dinners at home. If you take into account that, on average, a home-cooked meal saves $6 per person compared with dining out, that means you could be saving an extra $90 a month on dinner alone. Once you factor in breakfast and lunch, you could be looking at $200 or more of savings per month.

My girlfriend and I are fans of making our own stir-fry and Indian meals because we can use brown rice as the base, then add meat or veggies and store-bought sauce. An average meal at one of our favorite local restaurants cost us about $40 with drinks and tip, but all the ingredients for one of our Indian meals (including naan and wine) costs about $15 total.

The key is to find meals you consider easy to cook and enjoy eating periodically. Cooking at home also means you are not contributing to the 150,000 pounds of garbage (e.g., food waste and nonrecycled trash) on average that a restaurant produces each year.

Transportation

Transportation makes up over 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Cutting down on the use of your car (or not using a car at all) can prevent CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

As much as I would love to buy a Tesla, I opt for the more affordable and environmentally conscious solutions. For quick errands at home, for example, I’ll take my bike. And with car-sharing and rideshare services, it is now easier than ever to get around without a car of your own. Decreasing the use of my car has saved me roughly $60 per month on gasoline and has resulted in saving about 4,000 pounds of CO2 from going into the atmosphere.

If you live in a community with good public transportation options, like my sister does, you may even have enough transportation strategies to avoid owning a car entirely.

Housing and clothing

Where you choose to live can also play a huge role in your expenses. For example, I have taken the approach of treating my mom’s house as a “home base” of sorts. When I’m not spending months traveling and living in other parts of the country, I’m living with Mom. The savings with that are obvious, but it’s a way to invest in myself, too. In a way, the money I’d otherwise be spending on rent during those periods subsidizes my other pursuits and helps me pay off my student loans quicker.

Using that “home base” strategy would be harder if I hadn’t simplified my wardrobe, too. I’ve cut the amount of clothing I own down to a rotating selection of staple garments, and, as a result, have saved over $200 this year from my typical clothes budget.

It all adds up

This year I have saved over $1,500 just from living a bit more simply.

The steps necessary to simplify your life range from easy adjustments in your weekly routine to significant lifestyle changes. That being said, the more effort you put in, the greater the savings you will reap. In addition to lessening your impact on the environment, you can also reduce stress that inevitably comes with living a more complicated and expensive life.

Incorporating minimalism in your life may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of small changes you can make to your routine that add up to less stress, a healthier environment, and more money for you.

Financial factors: living simply

Trying to keep your spending down and reduce your environmental footprint? Keep these additional money ideas for living simply in mind:

  • Environmentally friendly technology, like rechargeable batteries, are money-savers in the long run but do cost more up front.
  • Don’t skimp on health insurance. That’s one expense where DIYing or cutting back could cost you more in the long run.
  • Investing in “green” or “socially responsible” mutual funds is a way to extend your values to other parts of your financial life. Remember you still need to carefully consider the fees and risk and return characteristics of these investments.

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