When Ben and I first switched to a renewable energy company around seven or eight years ago we were shocked by the cost. We were trying to do our bit for the environment, but at the time we couldn’t afford to pay a premium to be greener so we begrudgingly had to switch back to our old supplier.
Luckily times have changed and sustainability is a hot topic. In recent years we have actually been able to cut our household expenses by using renewable energy.
Getting free energy from solar panels
When we were looking to buy a home we were interested in any energy saving features they had. Luckily we were able to find a home with solar panels already installed. Going forward we would definitely look for another house with solar panels, or alternatively we would make the investment ourselves. As the new home owners the tariff simply transferred to us. Not only do we use the free solar energy before anything else, which reduces our bills, but we also sell the surplus back to the grid. These quarterly payments add up and they pay for two-thirds of our annual energy consumption (gas and electric). That’s quite a saving!
Investing in a log burner
Almost four years ago we invested in a log burner and we have been very lucky to not have to buy a single piece of wood yet! Ben’s late mum worked locally at a place that had woods on their grounds. They let us know whenever they had felled trees and were more than grateful for us to take the wood off their hands, as were we! We’ve also had family members call us whenever they’ve cut trees back, or their neighbours have, and want us to come and clear the wood. Ben, my husband, is always looking out for free wood opportunities on Facebook too. Plus we get lots of offcuts and smaller pieces that are great for kindle from Ben’s own workshop. I’m sure we’ll have to buy some wood soon as we are running low, but it must have saved us a small fortune to not buy any for four years and it might even stretch to five.
(Just to note you should never just take wood you find lying around in woods and forests. In some counties you can apply for a licence to give you permission to collect felled wood on Forestry Commission owned land, otherwise you’ll need permission from the landowner.)
Switching to a renewable energy supplier
We had been wasting money needlessly for the first few years in our new home as we had stuck with the same energy supplier. I never realised how easy it was to switch and the great savings we could make. In 2018 we took the plunge, did a price comparison and switched to renewable energy company Bulb. This saved us £264 compared to our old supplier British Gas and the most amazing thing is Bulb use 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas. This definitely aligns with our values and we’ll be looking for green energy companies should we ever switch again.
In 2019 I have decided to do a no-spend year on clothes for myself. I’ve asked my husband Ben to join in too, but we’ll see if he does. My wardrobe is down to approximately 50 pieces, not including nightwear, gym wear or underwear. That’s approx. 50 pieces of normal clothing, including 2 occasion dresses. Though those dresses are more smart/funeral type, so let’s just hope we don’t get invited to any weddings in 2019!
I love being minimal and was already on this path before it became a trend. I unknowingly had a ‘capsule wardrobe’ before I read any articles about it. I wasn’t always like this as I used to have a massive shopping addiction, clothes addiction and debt problem. I would wear an outfit once and then never again. I’d shop on store cards and the debt and addiction accumulated. When it was time to get myself out of debt and go on a debt management program, I really had to learn to budget. I had to sell most of my belongings, including nearly all my clothes, and I lived in a bedsit for the cheapest rent possible.
It was here that my minimal journey really began as I lived in one room! That room was my bedroom, kitchen and living room in one! It was small, but it had to do. I had to learn to lie minimally as I simply had no space for anything else – not even one storage cupboard!
Now I love to live minimally. I also like a challenge and I have a financial savings goal this year too, so I’m interested in all these no-spend challenges I’ve been seeing flying round the internet. We’re going to try a couple of no-spend months and I’m personally trying a no-spend clothing year. I did buy a backpack as I didn’t have one and a couple of bras as mine didn’t fit and now that’s it. That was all I really needed to get me through a year when I looked at my wardrobe.
Whilst not buying any clothing for an entire year might be a little too extreme for you, there are still ways you can cut back on your clothing spend, but still look and feel great. One of these ways is with subtle fashion.
How to do subtle fashion and keep your clothing costs down
Subtle fashion is simple fashion. It’s knowing what looks great on you and keeping it understated, but at the same time also looking great! It’s perfecting your own style and throwing together a look that looks effortless. I want to show you why subtle fashion is the best fashion, and how you can easily achieve the look without it looking boring.
Here’s how to do subtle fashion:
Keep it neutral
You can’t really go wrong with neutral colours and most people actually like to wear simpler things. You can still look great in neutral colours by picking the best fits for you. It doesn’t have to be boring as you can match it with a nice bag, some shoes, and some accessories.
Minimalism is a key part of subtle fashion as it’s about being subtle and not going overboard screaming look at me! It fits well with a capsule wardrobe and minimal lifestyle. It’s about choosing pieces carefully for the wardrobe and choosing well.
Accessorising is essential
It’s easy to make the plain and subtle fashion look more interesting through accessorising. This is always a cheap and cheerful way to add interest, colour and pattern to a neutral outfit. It also keeps costs down as you can alter the look of the same outfit with a few new accessories, which are much cheaper than buying clothes. One great way to keep the look subtle and not clunk it up with jewellery is with a lovely pair of earrings. It can add some bold features to the look, especially if you have your hair out of the way. But for a subtle look, we think simple earrings are the best, rather than going for something like big hoops or a statement pair. Minimal jewellery has been on trend and suits the subtle look perfectly. Choose thin band rings, dainty necklaces and bangles. Then just wear one or two at a time. In the winter months a simple hat or scarf in a bright colour or monochrome pattern could be all you need to make your outfit more bold.
Keeping it comfy
There’s nothing better than being able to keep it comfy and that often comes in the form of the shoe that you’re wearing. Subtle fashion for me is all about being comfortable and not overdressing, so flats are a must for me. A good pair of comfy flats such as TOMS are great for a casual daytime look and some flat lace-up boots are perfect in the winter. It’s possible to look chic, but also be comfy in slim stretch jeans and oversized jumpers. Leggings, ponchos and flat knee-high boots. It’s about being comfy and stylish all at once.
Adding subtle colour
Sometimes if you find yourself wearing all neutral colours, you need to find a way to add a bit of colour without making the look too bold. Bags can definitely do this for you. If you’re wearing all black then a contrasting colour such as mustard or red will really make the look pop, without making it look too chunky in colouring. Again, you can also choose a scarf or hat for a pop of colour.
Mostly it’s about comfy clothes that are still stylish – a minimal wardrobe of your favourite fits that look great on you with accessories to add interest, colour and pattern. Keep costs down by replacing key pieces when you really need to and looking to accessories to rejuvenate your outfit instead of an entire new outfit.
Going green and being environmentally friendly isn’t just in vogue right now, it’s the right thing to do. While we all love nature and would like to take care of our planet the best we can, it doesn’t really seem like everyone knows how to do it. People might talk a big game, but you’ll hardly find more than one trash bin in their homes - and you will certainly not find a compost garden outside in their yard. Being greener is more than just talking about it and acknowledging there's a problem. It's about putting those words into action too!
Improving your lifestyle and leading a more environmentally friendly life is actually so simple to do and even a bit fun when you get into the rhythm of it.
Here is a couple of tips to get you started right away so that you can pass the message on to the rest of your friends and family, perhaps even your neighbourhood. it doesn't need to be complicated. Just a couple of small changes will get you on your way.
First: Cut down on your energy and water usage
Going green at home is about a few simple rules; you should decrease your energy and water usage, eat locally grown produce, and wave goodbye to plastic once and for all. This is definitely quite easy and will even make sure that you eat healthier on a daily basis - so why not get started as soon as possible?
By cutting down on both your home’s energy usage and water usage, you will also be able to save a ton of money. Make small lifestyle changes such as changing your bulbs to LED, always turning off the water when brushing and shaving, and cutting down on your showers to just five minutes instead of fifteen.
Use a smart thermometer such as Hive that you can manage from your phone. That way you can turn your heating off remotely when you're not going to be home until late.
Consider solar panels as an investment to make money by selling energy you don't use back to the grid, but also as a way to reduce your energy bills and usage as you can use solar power instead. Alternatively you should at least look into moving to a renewable energy supplier.
Buying food that has been grown in your area and that is in season will be one of the most delicious choices you make. Simply hit your local farmer’s market and you will be able to find a ton of beautifully grown vegetables that haven’t travelled further than a few miles. You could even order an organic vegetable box to be delivered to your home each week.
Another great idea is, of course, to grow your own vegetables. They will be so much bigger than the ones you find in the grocery shops as yours will have the time to grow and mature; not like those that the commercial farmers grow as they cut them down as soon as possible to sell them a bit quicker. Plus you know exactly how yours have grown and what you've put on them! Oh, and larger vegetables tend to last much longer than the smaller ones so you can avoid the tricks of the grocery shops as well.
All you need now is a decent compost garden to dispose of your food waste later on. These are easy to start and mean you'll save money on buying compost for your vegetable patch as you'll create your own from your own scraps at no extra cost to you!
Finally: Recycle, reuse, reduce!
I'm sure you've all heard of this, but it's really important! We need to stop throwing so much rubbish into landfill. We need to reduce our plastic usage, especially single use. make sure you recycle everything that you can and aim for zero-waste in the landfill or very reduced! Reuse or donate what you can. Don't just throw everything that is unwanted into the bin. It's probably of use to someone! Even unwanted and ruined clothes can go to the rag trade via your local charity shop!
If you run your own business then you should have a look at this site for an environmentally responsible rubbish removal company to cover yourself from all sides and make sure you are disposing of everything responsibly. The great thing about choosing companies that are clear about their commitment to the environment is that you’re sending a message to the other companies as well. If they don’t change their ways, we won’t buy their stuff - and, that way, they’ll kind of be forced to change and improve.
There are so many ways we can start making a difference. It's never too late to start and to start making a difference.
The answer? It can be as expensive or as affordable as you want it to be. Pretty much like anything else in life. You can choose the cheap car or you can choose a more luxurious car. The same goes for food, drink, holidays, clothes, homewares, you name it. Choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle is no different. It can cost a pretty penny or you can choose to do it on a budget.
One question I’m asked a lot as I am now 100% plant based (or vegan as it’s more widely and easily understood), is whether it is expensive. My answer is yes and no. No it’s not expensive if you stick to eating a diet stuffed full of fresh fruits and vegetables, but mostly veggies, that are in season. But yes it is expensive if you start buying processed vegan food and junk food such as vegan cheeses and vegan mayonnaises, raw chocolate bars, meat alternatives and so on.
If you keep it simple then being vegan can be done on a budget. Keep it simple by keeping it as plant based as possible with no processed foods and then costs will stay down. In fact, that’s probably a load cheaper than eating meat or cheese as they can be really expensive. When I was vegetarian I loved cheese and it had to be the proper mature stuff. It cost a small fortune! Even milk is quite costly and yes, plant based milks are expensive, but you can easily make your own oat milk very cheaply.
It’s funny really, as I was veggie for several years before cutting out all animal products completely and no one ever questions if vegetarianism is more expensive than eating a meat based diet, but as soon as you mention following a vegan diet then a lot of people will ask if it’s expensive to eat that way. In fact, many people think eating anything healthy is an expensive and I often hear people comment how ‘healthy’ food should be cheaper. I’m not sure where they are shopping as the last time I went to the supermarket I managed to buy a banana for 12p, yet a chocolate bar was closer to £1. Many commonplace fruits and vegetables are very cheap indeed.
Tips to save money and eat healthy
Like anything, being healthy or being vegan can be expensive, or it can be cheap and affordable - the same as most things in life. It depends where you choose to shop and what level of products you choose to buy – savers, shop’s own brand, branded, luxurious, independent or organic.
Here are some of the ways eating healthily or following a plant-based diet can be more affordable:
Keep it simple and eat a lot of fruit and vegetables
Check out your supermarkets fruit and veg aisles and you’ll see a lot of prices well under £1 for large bags of goodness. I often see comments on articles about healthy eating such as the introduction of the sugar tax, where people say something along the lines of ‘if you want us to quit sugar and eat healthier then make healthy food cheap’. I really believe it already is cheap and I’m not sure where they are shopping!
Over Christmas my local Tesco had big bags of vegetables on offer for 29p each! 2.5kg of potatoes for 29p! Even today they sell a 1kg bag of carrots for 59p! I can see around 9 large carrots in the bag and so that’s a lot of great healthy carrot stick snacks for adults of kids, plus plenty left over as a side of steamed veg for a couple of meals or more. Eating affordable healthy snacks by creating your own from fruit and vegetables is totally possible.
If you go organic, choose a subscription box
Yes, organic food is at a premium and I totally think that is wrong. We buy organic in our household as I believe it’s an investment in our health, the planet and wildlife. It is more expensive and I think this is wrong.
Organic food needs to become the norm and accessible to everyone.
One way to get better value on organic fruit and veg and to ensure you get a good variety is to order a fruit and vegetable box each week. The boxes should provide you with local fresh produce that works out cheaper in a box than buying the items individually, plus companies such as Abel and Cole regularly have special offers and new customer offers.
Base your meals around vegetables
If you base your cooking and main meals around the vegetables and some wholegrains then you can make meals more affordable as you’ll not be adding costly meat or cheese. Of course there are meat alternatives, but we rarely use these and just stick to vegetables, wholegrains, herbs, spices, beans and lentils when cooking. This makes things a lot more affordable and probably even cheaper than a meat diet.
If you start buying processed ‘healthy’ foods such as pre-packaged meals, dried fruit bars, meat alternatives and so on then the cost of eating healthy can start to add up.
Instead, keep it simple and stuff your diet full of as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible to keep costs down. Plus, if you fill yourself up on as much fruit, salad and veg as possible, you’ll leave less room for the bad food and stop reaching for the expensive snacks as you’re already full on the good stuff.
Use supermarket coupon apps to save on healthy food
I’ve just recently got into the supermarket coupon apps, also known as cashback apps, that give money back on certain items in the supermarkets. They have loads of offers every day, on around ten or so items per major supermarket, where you can save money or even get 100% of the cost of the item back.
There are regularly fresh fruit and vegetable savings to be made with these apps. They even regularly have some vegan food included so you can try some of the branded prepared food with a discount. The plant based milks have been on them too.
I’ve signed up to GreenJinn, CheckoutSmart and Shopmium for virtual coupons via their smart phone apps. You buy the product, upload the receipt and then get the cash back after.
Another tip is to always remember to check for cashback if you do your grocery shopping online. Sign up and always check for cashback at Top Cashback and Quidco for cashback. Or try your luck at Boom25 for a 1 in 25 chance of winning your entire spend back.
Leading a healthy (and plant-based) lifestyle can be as expensive or as affordable as you need it to be!
Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, or it can feel like a chore. Either way, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as it can first seem. Sure there are lots of gadgets you can get nowadays and the gardening aisles in your local DIY stores are overflowing with tempting products. But, if you’re on a budget or wish to be a little savvy with your garden expenditure, then here are a 5 ways you can save money in your garden.
Artificial grass from a supplier like New Lawn is becoming more commonplace nowadays as people realise not only the amount of maintenance and time this will save them in the garden, but also how much money it can save. As the grass is artificial it will not grow, so you won’t need to invest in a lawnmower. You’ll therefore use less energy to maintain your garden as you’ll not need to buy fuel or use electric to power this lawnmower. Just imagine never having the hassle of mowing the lawn again!
Sow direct from seed
When growing your own vegetables there are countless apparatus available to you such as starter seed trays, propagators, grow lamps and so on. The idea being you sow your seeds indoors in tiny sections of a starter tray, then move these into a larger pot , then eventually move outdoors. Whilst you can grow like this, it’s usually a lot of faff and to be honest, you’ll be spending a lot of money on various trays and pots when you really don’t need to. Many vegetables are perfectly fine to be planted directly outdoors and will thrive. I simply plant my veg directly in the soil, cover with fine mesh netting until they have grown a couple of inches, and then remove the mesh and off they go (or grow!). To save money by planting directly outdoors, simply opt for easy to grow summer varieties and hardy winter vegetables.
If you want to opt for something that requires very little maintenance, then opt for succulents in your border. Not only are they unusual and instantly add interest, but they will save you a ton of money on water! These plants are designed to withstand harsh conditions in deserts and thus need very little attention or watering. Plus they are slow growing, so you’ll never need to expend energy cutting them back!
Make your own compost
Buy a compost bin or build a simple square structure at the bottom of your yard to start a compost heap. Compost can be pretty compost when purchased from gardening centres, but it’s so easy to make your own from your left over scraps of food. Plus, it’s sort of free! You were going to throw this food away anyway, so now you’re using waste to create something that you would otherwise need to buy. You’ll also save time and energy on making trips to the store to buy compost when you need it. Win-win.
Raid your recycling
Instead of buying plant pots and seed trays when you need them, start keeping plastic packaging from your kitchen such as takeaway trays and margarine pots. These make perfect seed starter trays if you stab a few holes in the bottom. Cardboard egg trays also work perfectly for this and they can even be planted directly into the soil when the seedlings are ready to go outdoors, and the cardboard will naturally rot away. Spray old tin cans in colourful paints for unique plant pots. The possibilities are endless if you let your imagination run wild. You’ll be helping to create a more sustainable world by reusing items and generating less waste.
There we have it. Five ways you can begin to save time and money in the garden.
It amazes me how many people I know who still don’t use cashback sites. It’s basically money back for all the things you already buy! Sign up and always check for cashback at Top Cashback and Quidcofor great discounts at major retailers, airlines, car garages, insurances, holidays and more. Or try your luck at Boom25for a 1 in 25 chance of winning your entire spend back.