When doing your research about how to save money, chances are you’ve stumbled on more than a few tips that are likely well-meaning but ultimately unrealistic for those of us unable to squirrel away huge chunks of our paychecks (or those of us that just want the damn takeout latte.)
It’s vital for anyone—no matter how much they make—to understand how to effectively budget and manage their long-term finances, but it’s just as important to find ways to save money simply by being more aware of your everyday habits, especially those around the house.
To provide some advice, we talked to Cara Smyth, chair of Fashion Makes Change—an organization building a community between brands, nonprofits, consumers, and supporting industries to responsibly drive action to social and environmental issues—who offers up easy ways you can save some cash by simply paying closer attention to your daily routines.
Examine your relationship with your clothes
Smyth is a strong advocate of thinking about our clothing as collateral. Generally, she says, our relationship with our clothes is different now. It’s less permanent, and pieces we don’t use as much should be reevaluated—money could be earned. Some examples are recycling or bring-back programs, which often provide discounts towards new purchases. Another idea is to sell the old to buy something new. But don’t be too quick to toss everything—watch the trends and shop your own closet when you want something new. Sometimes what we think we need is already there, even if it hasn’t been worn in some time.
Be mindful of where you’re shopping
“Every dollar has impact and supports the brands and retailers you believe in,” Smyth says. “If you’re spending a bit less, be sure you’re voting with your dollars for the brands you believe in and want to support.”
According to Smyth, the pandemic reminded the world that we’re all interconnected and reliant on each other. “Keep an eye out for brands that are supporting their teams or global issues that align with your value system,” she says. One good example is her own organization, Fashion Makes Change, a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Starting in March, Fashion Makes Change will invite consumers to round-up their purchases to the nearest dollar at checkout to support global women’s education—effectively an opportunity to say “keep the change” and support diverse women around the world.
Use a clothesline
Do your clothes a favor and switch off the dryer, suggests Smyth. Hang clothes to dry naturally. The material will last longer, it’ll smell and feel fresher and, of course, you’re saving on utility bills.
Green up your journey
You really can make a sustainable choice every time you need to go somewhere. Smyth recommends choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle when purchasing, taking public transportation if it’s available, riding a bicycle, or walking when possible. These are all ways to reduce out-of-pocket expenses and the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and heating our planet.
WFH? Use all the paper
It might sound intuitive, but Smyth is a proponent of avoiding paper waste by reusing. If you’re working from home and jot a few notes down, save it and use the rest of the sheet for notes tomorrow instead of using a fresh piece of paper. “American businesses—often located now in our living rooms—waste 21 million tons of paper each year,” she says. “Ideally, try to have your life as paperless as possible. When it’s absolutely necessary, print on both sides of the page. And don’t forget to recycle.”
Re-think your drinking water
Bottled water is handy when you’re on the go, but it’s expensive and not particularly friendly to the environment. Why not buy one reusable bottle and refill it from the tap or invest in a home filter? “Around 90% of water bottles end up decomposing in landfills rather than being recycled,” Smyth says.
Wash clothes in cold water
They get just as clean with today’s detergents. “Hot water washes use five times the energy, drive up household costs, and create five times the emissions,” Smyth says.