7 Life-Changing Ways to Spend Less, Feel Blessed, and Save Our Planet
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From endless packaging, to fast fashion, and having one of everything “just in case”, this article will show you it’s possible to spend less, feel blessed, and save our planet. I encourage you to pare down your life until only the essential remains. Let’s talk about how to live a sustainable life that makes you happy and that you are proud of. I’ll share bits and pieces of my own journey as you learn to spend less, feel blessed, and save our planet.
What is “enough” in a world full of excess? I’ve been there, surrounded by surface level acquaintances and material items weren’t meaningful.
In a world full of “stuff” and “busy work” I craved meaningful experiences and quality time with those I love most.
7 Life-Changing Ways to Spend Less, Feel Blessed, and Save Our Planet
I used to go shopping in my spare time, ordered things online multiple times per week and couldn’t go into a store and leave with nothing. It was a hobby. Seriously, I was always on the hunt for that new thing that I might need. Despite my ethical intent, I liked to test out different health foods, natural beauty products, skincare, makeup and Lush’s newest scents. I liked to buy artwork from local artists, indulge in Starbucks and collect their mugs from varying cities while I traveled. It was never enough and it never got old. And there was always a lot of packaging and waste.
I shopped online, didn’t bring reusable bags to the grocery store and the cashiers at the candle store, bless their souls, wrap those suckers up using at least three sheets of paper. Also, if anyone has ever ordered anything online you know that the amount of waste and packaging associated with shipping your item is excessive.
I didn’t value the things I owned the way I do now; I regularly disposed of cheaper, lower quality items including clothing and shoes (think fast fashion). Trending items are always fun! And where I live, footwear must-haves alone include Birkenstocks (US), Hunter Boots (US), and my personal fave, Blundstone Boots (US).
My six-year old niece isn’t even old enough to buy things and our family has managed to fill her bedroom with pink plastic toys of all shapes and sizes. The only thing of note here I that we aren’t the exception, you see this everywhere.
Buying more things is NOT the solution to making you or me happy. In fact, the more that I had, the more I wanted. This is why lifestyle inflation, AKA the hedonic treadmill, AKA lifestyle creep or “keeping up with the Jones’s” is so common. It just happens! Honestly, it happens because we aren’t paying attention. It happens more when we don’t show gratitude toward what we already have.
“The more I had, the more I wanted.”
What is global warming and why should you care about it?
Global warming refers to the rise of our Earth’s surface temperature. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council global warming, or climate change occurs “when energy from the sun is reflected off the earth and back into space (mostly by clouds and ice), or when the earth’s atmosphere releases energy, the planet cools. When the earth absorbs the sun’s energy, or when atmospheric gases prevent heat released by the earth from radiating into space (the greenhouse effect), the planet warms. A variety of factors, both natural and human, can influence the earth’s climate system occurs when air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface”.
Greta Thunberg has been making waves as one of the world’s youngest climate activists. She has been drawing attention to the discussion about global climate change and protecting our environment. If you haven’t heard of Greta, first off you must live under a rock. But secondly, she firmly points out that Countries are taking baby steps when they should be making leaps and bounds. She is bold, yet brilliant for her age and young people should look up to her.
Global climate change is happening, now, we need to try to tackle it together. I’m not going to tell you to go strict vegan and never buy plastic again in your life. Yet we all can make changes that would add value to our lives, and reduce our impact on the environment.
The Impacts of Global Climate Change
- Glaciers will continue to melt and sea level will continue to rise, threatening us with more frequent flooding and the sinking of low-lying cities.
- Ecological changes including changes of seasons suitable for agriculture, increased migrating patterns, and extinction of species (plants and animals) which rely on stable temperatures and habitat.
- Changing climate patterns increase the risk of destructive natural disasters including raging storms, variation in rainfall, and longer, warmer summers.
Dirty air and health risks. I don’t know about you but most of my favourite pastimes include being outside in the fresh air. Air quality also impacts the enjoyment of riding my bike to work. While this may seem like a minor inconvenience, the World Health Organization states that: “An estimated 7 million people per year die from air pollution-related diseases. These include stroke and heart disease, respiratory illness and cancers”; and that “Many health-harmful air pollutants also damage the climate. Fine particles of black carbon (soot) from diesel and biomass combustion and ground level ozone are leading examples.”
How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Throughout this post, we will discuss 7 life-changing ways to spend less, feel blessed, and save our planet. In the meantime, here are a few lifestyle changes to reduce your impact on the environment:
- Conserve water and electricity in your home. Aim for quicker showers, don’t leave taps running, and unplug appliances that aren’t used regularly.
- When you shop at the grocery store, only buy what you will use and avoid buying in volume if there is a chance it will go to waste. Also be sure to bring re-usable bags.
- Eat less meat. Meat production (especially beef) is a huge contributor of greenhouse gases of many varieties. Also, it’s healthy to incorporate more plants into your diet, and cheaper too.
- Reuse & recycle when possible. Purchase used household items and become familiar with what can be recycled in your community. Avoid purchasing unnecessary items and before buying something, think about whether it will go to good use or be sacrificed to the “junk drawer”. As a whole we produce much more garbage than necessary. It is important we do our part to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.
I, along with a bunch of other blog writers have collaborated to write a number of posts to share how you can reduce your carbon footprint. For more ideas on how to reduce your environmental impact, check out the other content at the end of this post.
7 Life-Changing Ways to Spend Less, Feel Blessed, and Save our Planet
We could talk about the ethics of what you spend your money on from a consumption perspective: who you purchase from, where and how products are made. It’s all important. But today we aren’t talking about which companies have bad ethics.
The intent here is to get you to start thinking about how to spend sustainably while putting yourself and your future-self first.
I’d like to bring in the topic of personal finance and how we could spend our hard earned money on:
- the things we need to live;
- experiences that truly fulfill us (which may include giving, or making purchases that add value to our lives) and;
- Invest the difference (expediting the opportunity to work less and freedom to spend more time doing what you love).
1. Switch up Your Commute / Find a Job Closer to Home
One change that would add value to your life, and reduce your impact on the environment would be to switch up your commute. So much pollution is as a result of fuel consumption in single occupant vehicles and walking, biking, carpooling, or taking transit are simple solutions. Carpooling and cycling to work has had a significant impact on my quality of life.
I know that’s a bold statement; and yet it is so true. Last year my husband and I switched to carpooling (we donated our second car to someone in need). I used to commute 30-minutes each way, my husband commuting ten minutes each way. But we took separate vehicles. We paid separate insurance, fuel and maintenance fees for each, along with an auto-loan on our primary car. His car needed some repairs and we decided to test out using just one vehicle. It was simple, but not necessarily an easy decision. It required commitment and flexibility. Since it was my idea, I worked extra hard to accommodate my husband’s schedule. It seemed to work fine for the most part. Except that I was still annoyed at the mileage we were putting on our new vehicle, the amount of fuel we used, and the time spent commuting. Of course our commute was a bit longer now that we were carpooling. Since we were trying to save money, it annoyed me to no end. I brainstormed daily about possible solutions to alleviate my frustration. I hated that we were “forced” to use our vehicle so much.
I decided I should try to find work closer to home. I emailed someone I knew through a volunteer position I had with the organization. She would be my manager if I worked there. I basically cold-emailed her to see if she had any openings. I shared that I would be willing and enthusiastic about accepting a lateral move if it meant I would work in my hometown. We emailed back and forth a bit, but nothing was imminently available. A couple weeks went by and I got a phone call from a woman asking me to come do a test for the position. Within a few days of doing the test I was invited to work in my hometown and they sent me a hiring package.
Somehow I got this job without even having to interview for it– awesome! I went from asking for a job where there were no openings at the time, to getting hired without having to interview. The takeaway here is that it’s always worth it to ask or try for something. As a result, I work near where I live and have a lot more opportunities for switching out my commute. Now, during more reasonable weather (also mostly April-October) my husband and I both commute by bike at least half of the time. We live a bit far from work to walk every day. On days where the weather isn’t great, or we have other plans after work, we carpool to work.
Our mileage and time spent commuting has meaningfully reduced. We would also have to get our vehicle serviced less frequently, saving between $100-450 per year depending on the service. We also save about ~$200-250 on fuel each month, and have significantly reduced our carbon footprint. This has positively impacted our life satisfaction, pocketbook, and helped the environment.
Swapping out your commute for some form of active transportation can take life satisfaction to the next level. It gives you more time for yourself and it’s a great way to get in some exercise. I personally find the identity of being “self-sufficient” and walking or commuting by bike to work very fulfilling.
2. Shift your Mindset with Meditation and Gratitude
Being grateful for all that you have in your life makes you feel less like you need anything else. Positive Psychology states that “You can have all the money and achievements in the world. But, if you are grateful for nothing, it’s like no matter what you make or do, life simply will not get any better. It’s like everything falls into the black hole of things we take for granted”. I included that passage because it captures everything I want to say in fewer words (and we all know I’m long winded). I have an entire post dedicated to the importance of gratitude for a better life. Meditation is also important because it places a significance on putting yourself first and claiming that time for you and only you. It teaches you to be conscious and in the moment. Being in this state is the ideal place to be when you are first learning to express gratitude. It’s meaningful. Realizing what you are grateful for makes you better understand what is a necessity for you to conduct your life, and exposes all of the excess that exists everywhere else. It gives you the power to make decisions based on your values.
3. Look for Used Items Before Buying New
We do this with a lot of items. Many of my favourite purchases were second-hand items including furniture, our Vitamix, my refurbished laptop, and many items we needed for our wedding! We also sell stuff on the Facebook Marketplace when we don’t need something anymore.
This saves you money on the initial purchase and recoups costs once something has served its purpose. It has a significantly positive impact on the environment. It allows you to avoid consumption of a new product including the packaging that initially comes with it.
Also, it gives a second life to something that might otherwise be headed to the landfill. I personally believe that it makes you have a greater appreciation for the items as they come into your life, and when they leave to someone else’s home.
4. Spend More Time Doing Free Outdoor Activities You Love
There are benefits to getting outside in the sun, smelling the fresh air, and if you can, out into green space. Who doesn’t want to go hiking, biking, walk your dog to cool waterfalls, “forest bathing”, to the beach, to play disc golf, geocaching or for a walk someplace nice?
Take the time to slow down, experience the season you’re in, and appreciate your surroundings!
Besides an initial investment in some equipment like a bicycle (buy used?) or a few discs for throwing around the park, these hobbies are pretty much free for life. Not sure you’ll keep it up? See if you can rent or borrow someone’s bike before you buy one of your own. And while I would highly recommend trying to pick up a used bike, sizing is very important for comfort and preventing injuries. So be sure to do some investigative work before deciding on a bike.
My husband and I enjoy ourselves while taking part in low-cost adventures in our community. We go mountain biking, hiking, visit with family, indulge in delicious food and wine (picnic style), go for big long walks, hike to the mountain from our house, play disc golf, and eat dinner at the beach. You name it. The difference is, we do these things intentionally. Further, I truly believe that by spending more time outdoors you gain an increased appreciation for nature and the environment.
5.Get off the Hedonic Treadmill and Show your True Personality
Not only is this easier said than done, it actually is rewarding on more levels than you would expect. While we’ve already addressed many environmental benefits (fewer purchases, packaging), a bonus benefit is that it empowers you to be your true self. If you only spend money on what really matters to you, and do things that are genuine to your personality, you will attract similar-minded folk.
Now is the time to quit comparing yourself to others. Focus on your personal values instead of trying to be like everyone else. No more fake, surface-level friends. Your true personality will show through and you will attract more people who are actually like you; who also have fun quirks and personality. This will make it easier to be confident in your true skin, worry less about what others think and begin feeling like you belong without having to try. Just be you, someone might need a friend like that.
6. Get Creative
To me, getting creative is the epitome of luxury. It means you have enough time and headspace for your mind to be capable of thinking creatively. Think random thoughts, express yourself, paint, write, do some graphic work, try out an experiment, or cook with new flavours.
Maybe even dabble in adjusting some numbers in your spreadsheets…okay did I just lose you? Don’t mind me. I know I’m nerdy, and am clearly fond of spreadsheets. There’s nothing wrong with letting my true self show through, it might even inspire someone. 😉
As long as you don’t get caught up in having the “best of the best” of the tools needed for your hobby (super fancy paintbrushes for example), you can create many things for relatively cheap of free. All while having fun, creating something beautiful and thoughtful from only its parts. It will positively impact your mental and emotional health if you take the opportunity to work through your thoughts and express yourself using creativity.
Imagine if you had the mental space to come up with something that fulfills the above traits, and it could lead to making you money. Maybe you begin to write, or start a business. BOOM! Dream job waiting to happen. It may just be for fun, but it also might evolve. You may never experience this if your brain is filled to the brim all the time. Take the time to slow down and get creative.
7. Buy Your Way to Freedom
Unfortunately this isn’t a quick fix. What I mean by buying your way to freedom is to start saving money now to take more time off work later. I’m about to go on a tangent here; there is so much to discuss! Did you know that the typical promise of working during your best years only to retire at 65 isn’t for everybody?
Some choose to save money so that they can live during their best years and not wait to fulfill their dream lives once they retire. The message here is to save money. Actually I lied completely. Don’t just save your money – invest it. Spend less so you can invest more than the suggested 10% of your paycheck toward retirement. Maybe you save 15% of your salary, then you would be better than most. But what about 30% of your income? Are you working in a high-paying, high-stress job? Imagine if you saved 60% of your salary so that you could have more freedom in the future.
If you have never played around with a compound interest calculator before, you are in for a treat. Let’s say you manage to start contributing $300 bi-weekly from your paycheck (a car payment for many) toward retirement in a savings account.
In 20 years you will have saved $156,000. If you start investing $300 bi-weekly from your paycheck toward retirement in an investment account, at 7% interest you would end up with $339,133.35. In case you aren’t great at math, that’s more than double!
This is why investing in your future is so important.
Whether invested in tax-deferred retirement accounts or a post-tax account, saving more of your annual income will give you more freedom. More freedom to take more time off work to be present for whatever is most important to you. Maybe you want to travel with family, to be at home with your kids, to start your own entrepreneurial adventure that you might have otherwise never taken seriously. Or for that day you decide you have had enough of your day job (this is affectionately known as “F-you money”). The main message here is to spend less so you can invest more and feel free to be present when it means the most to you. Choose freedom over material items.
What Brings you Happiness and Joy Every Single Day?
Many people buy stuff thinking it will make them happier, only to feel like their stuff eventually weighs on them. You can’t do this forever: paying for more square footage in your house to store more things that you don’t need; it’s not sustainable. We live in a world of so much stuff. Really we should be focused on reducing waste, and being nimble with our lives so we can take advantage of opportunity as it arises.
Think about the things that you enjoy most on a day-to-day basis. what are they? What experiences might they include? What activities make time seem to just fly by? Write them down.
Now it’s time to simplify. Which of the items on the list make you feel proud, are aligned with your identity, and you want to include more of in your sustainable lifestyle?
Now that you know what you love most about life, re-frame your days to achieve more of these things. Allow your savings to buy you more time away from the office, and contribute to enriching your life with experience. Spend less; feel blessed; save our planet.
Want to be more sustainable in other aspects of your life? Be sure to visit the blogs involved in this collaboration, who share how to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling and throughout other aspects of your everyday life.
- aditikapur.com – Stop Climate Change- Let’s do it together
- mydawninglight.com– GLOBAL WARMING & SUSTAINABILITY: It All Starts With You
- southerncomfortliving.com– The terrifying truth behind disposable diapers
- alternativelyspeaking.ca– The truth about eco-friendly hair dye
- ofearthandbeauty.com– How fast fashion is hurting our planet
- overwhelmedbeauty.com– 4 ways you can stop WASTING and fight global warming
- youthsoloartsy.com– Global warming affects our travel lifestyle
- thebetterperiod.com – Global warming and your period
- travel-by-maya.com– How to become an eco-friendly traveler?