January is a tough time, I think it’s fair to say. This year in particular is tough, so I wanted to talk about something real for a second. Saving money is top of my priority list this year – with inflation higher than ever, and the energy price cap raise, staying healthy, warm, and within budget feels more impossible than ever. It’s honestly quite a sad situation to be in, and I know it’s not just me; millions of people are experiencing it. So, how can we all save a bit of money and still take a sustainable approach to life this winter?
As BBC Look North presenter Peter Levy so pointedly asked me in last week’s interview, “People want cheap don’t they? Doesn’t sustainable fashion need to take a back seat?” And I suppose, now probably isn’t the time to start investing in high quality organic cotton t-shirts for £60 a pop. I’ve actually written extensively on the subject of the expensive nature of sustainability, and that social needs are greater than environmental needs in times of crisis, so I’m not going to bore you with any more essays. (Go read the ones linked if you so wish). But in reality, there are ways to save money and save energy – the two go hand in hand. Spend less, save more, and follow these life hacks because they’ve been consistently saving us money here there and everywhere…
15 Ways To Save Money (& Still Be Green) This Winter
1. Check Your Boiler
(Or get your landlord to check it.) Our landlord was good enough to send a plumber out to look at our boiler in November of last year, so we knew we would be able to safely heat our home. We also quickly reported issues with the boiler sending hot water to radiators instead of taps in December, and again, it was rectified quickly. Both the boiler check, and the fix, have saved us from spending on energy output that we don’t actually benefit from…
2. Choose Layers Over Heating
We made it to December before putting the heating on. And now, in January, we only have it on for 3-4 hours in the evening. In some ways, my boyfriend and I are basically playing a game of chicken – who’s going to wimp out first?! But we’ve been getting by thanks to lots of layers, blankets, and hot water bottles. It’s far cheaper to preserve body heat than put the heating on, and honestly when I’m at home you’ll find me in one of three places: sat at my desk (wearing layers, with a hot water bottle), sat on the sofa (layers, blankets, bottle), or laying in bed (you get the idea). And now that I’ve discovered the joy of bed socks, even my tootsies are warm!
3. Start Passive Cooking
If I were to shoot a duet with the woman asking “Show me the life hack that you randomly saw one day that is now an unconscious standard practice…”, this would be it. Passive cooking has changed my life!
- Got pasta to cook? Boil the water, cook for 2 mins, and then turn off the pan and wait for 10 mins more.
- Got veggies to roast? Heat the oven, put in your veggies, leave for 15 mins with the oven on, and 5 mins off.
- Want a cup of tea? Make it in a flask and drink it hot, all day long!
So far, I’ve found passive cooking works perfectly for pasta, and can be fine for boiling veggies if you’re going to serve them with a sauce (greens like broccoli tastes a bit flat otherwise). I’m also cooking things in the same pot – such as broccoli and grains, or peas and pasta. It saves on energy, and it’ll be something I do for the rest of my life!
4. Mend Your Wardrobe
I could go on and on about why it’s important to care for your clothes, but today I’m just going to mention the cost-savings. Mending your clothes can save £££ when the cost is compared to replacing them. Recent mends include:
- Coat, originally £300. Bought second-hand, £100. Worn for two years. Coat, dry cleaned, £30. Coat is as good as new.
- Sling-backs, originally £200. Bought second-hand, £90. Sling-backs re-heeled, £20.
…And of course, if you can mend them yourself, the cost savings are even greater.
5. Redo Your Grocery List
We’ve made big savings on our grocery shopping in the last few months. How? First, by switching where we shop. I got a little too comfortable shopping at my local Co-op in my last flat, and honestly when I switched to shopping at Aldi and Lidl, I was a bit shocked at how much I was getting ripped off.
Second, reduce how many days you buy groceries for. This is a food-waste saving tip, as a food shop for 3-4 days can often be stretched for an extra day or two, and it helps me to eat up fresh food before it goes bad. It also stops me from overbuying food.
Finally, redo your shopping list. Simple switches we’ve made include buying frozen fruit and vegetables (berries, broccoli, chillis, peas, spinach) which is cheaper, and lasts a lot longer. I’ve also stopped putting fancy ingredients on the shopping list – goodbye capers, goodbye sriracha mayo, goodbye barista oat milk. Aldi’s oat milk froths just fine!
6. Reduce How Much You Travel By Car
If you can cut down how much you drive, please do so. You’ll save on petrol, and emissions too. Although, this point also applies to electric vehicles, including my NIU MQi electric scooter. With electricity prices at an all-time high, my scooter also costs more to run. It’s been a delayed effect, considering petrol drivers have been dealing with this for months now. So I’m taking steps to reduce how much I travel around Brighton, instead walking more and wrapping up warm. It’s also dangerous to ride in icy conditions so that’s something of a saving too…
7. Supplement Vitamin D
At this time of year, I get affected by SAD. I’ve found vitamin D supplements really do help, and with 1 in 6 Brits with low levels of vitamin D, it’s well worth supplementing during the darker months. The cost of my £12 bottle of Vitamin D* is far less than the cost of staying in bed feeling really out of it.
The same goes for my iron supplements* – if you menstruate, please start taking iron supplements. I find that I have more energy throughout the month, and my periods are more regular too.
8. Switch To LED Lights
The EU banned the production of halogen bulbs back in 2018 because of how energy inefficient they are. LED bulbs consume one fifth of the energy of halogen bulbs, so it’s well worth checking around your home to see if you can switch out any pesky halogen bulbs still hanging around. In our house, we found two hiding in cupboards, which are rarely used but will still cost us far more than LEDs. You can find out more about the benefits of LED bulbs in my previous review.
9. Take A Holiday In The U.K.
I recently saw a viral video where a suited-and-booted banker said that “we all just need to go on holiday less” and honestly, I couldn’t roll my eyes harder. Well, duh. If you can’t afford a holiday, you’re not going on holiday. But to ask us to simply abstain from taking a break from work? Honestly I think it’s ill-advised. We all deserve a break. January is the most popular month for booking holidays, but it isn’t always the cheapest. So, instead of planning far-flung holidays now, I’m recommending spending time exploring the U.K. this season. While money is tight, I’m still enjoying a city break here and there around the U.K. and I get to save some carbon emissions at the same time! Late last year I visited Manchester and Edinburgh, and this month I’ve got a weekend away to Amsterdam planned, travelling by Eurostar. All of these were done on the cheap, and done by rail too! Check out my guide to eco holidays for more U.K. travel tips.
10. Take Leftovers Home
Why waste half a lunch at Ottolenghi when it can be tomorrow’s lunch for free? (My inner bougie food critic can’t stop spending money at restaurants, it’s seems, but hey, I can curb the food waste). Don’t be awkward about asking for leftover food to be boxed to take away – it’s your food, you paid for it! Plus the fancier the restaurant, the more I enjoy breaking the social expectations. (And if you aren’t so bold… why not bring a foldable lunchbox or reusable cup to store leftovers in?)
11. Turn Off Your ‘Vampire’ Devices
While I might sometimes fancy myself as a Vampire’s Wife, I don’t particularly want to lose money to vampire devices. These are the devices that suck up energy, even when not in use. For example, the little red light that glows on your TV when it’s ‘off’, or the smart speaker that’s always listening. Switching off all the stand-by devices in your home can save pennies on the pound, so it’s a no-brainer really. It’s a small change and only really requires creating new habits, such as switching off sockets before going to bed. Everything in our house goes off at the switch except the fridge, freezer, and router.
12. Wash At The Gym
If you go to the gym 3-4 times a week like I do, it kind of makes sense to start washing there. I saw a Tweet recently that said a long hot shower can cost as much as £2.50, and if true, that could equate to almost £35 per week spent on showers for my partner and I. My monthly gym membership doesn’t even cost that! I’m fortunate that our budget gym that has really nice, clean facilities, so I feel comfortable showering there instead of at home. So it’s a win-win: there’s no extra charge to my membership, and I save on heat and water at home.
13. Wash Clothes Less, At 20C, And With An Extra Spin
Just like showers, washing clothes can cost a lot of money in both energy and water use. Choosing the right mode for your washing machine is important, as it can help to prolong the life of your clothes, as well as reduce your bills. To increase the effectiveness of this, I’m also trying to wear my clothes for longer, by wearing them with base layers, undergarments, and t-shirts that are much easier and cheaper to wash than the heavier outer layers.
When it is time to wash your clothes, reduce the heat to as low as your washing machine will go. Ours does 20°C, so all our clothes are washed at 20°C except for towels and really stinky items (they usually get a scrub in white vinegar first too).
And before you start the clothes drying process, give your clothes an extra spin in the machine. This will get more water out of the clothes, and help speed up drying, especially if you’re using a clothes airer.
14. Winter-Proof Your Home
Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I moved into a charming little cottage built in the 1850s. We were smitten. That was the summer. Now, with winter upon us, we’ve realised we need to quickly adapt to two major issues: the cold, and the humidity. Our place has these frustratingly pretty single-pane glass windows, and they let the heat slip out very easily, while the walls keep all the moisture in. For the timebeing, we’ve been careful to wipe down condensation each morning, air our rooms, and use the blinds as a secondary layer whenever the heating is on. We’ve also got plans to apply Magneglaze to each window pane.
Elsewhere in the house, we’ve got two great big draught excluders* for our front door and bedroom door. And as extra protection from the condensation, we’ve got these little manual dehumidifiers which I’ve hidden in our bedroom wardrobe and around the house. Our last resort is the electric dehumidifier, but it is noisy!
15. Work From Your Local Library or Cafe (To Now Be Known As WFL Or WFC)
If you work from home, you might be worried about the cost of powering your laptop and keeping your home warm all day. I know it’s definitely crossed my mind… And then I had a light-bulb moment: Why not work from the local library?! These public spaces are quite literally designed for us to go and use – and will stay around and get more funding the more we use them! Before we moved to our new home, I was shelling out over £100/month for a co-working space, yet the library provides the same quiet work spaces for free. If you have a day without meetings, it’s well worth working from the library. And if you don’t have a library near you, what about a cafe? So long as you buy something small every few hours, they won’t mind you working from a table, and will most likely appreciate your custom.
I hope this list helped! I’m really trying to save money sustainably, so if you have any additional suggestions please drop me a comment below!