Monday, April 25, 2011

Frugality and Sustainability-Hand in Hand?

I'm a Frugal Gal. Frugality, by its very nature, often crosses into other movements for many.  As I've yelled more than once from the hilltops, although I'm a frugal gal, not too much of the simplicity movement enters my life.  I like my stuff.  Equally importantly at this juncture, I need much of my stuff.  Going out to replace something I decluttered if I change my mind is not an easy feat  at this point.

I do find that in my little corner of the world, being frugal also usually means being "green".  While my first choice is not always the environmentally kind choice, the fact is that I am a frugal person both by necessity and choice.  This means that I generally promote sustainability simply by default.  This is a good thing, even if it's a side benefit of my life..  Often, it seems to me, people assume making the greener choice is the more expensive choice. While that may on occasion be true, much if not most of the time the two mesh well, even if unconsciously.  For example:
  • I don't use disposables (except for toilet paper) because I "did the math" and it's cheaper for me to wash cloth napkins than to buy paper. Of course, I also like the look of cloth napkins.  Now, some might say that there's water used in the cleaning process, but a few napkins (or a rag for cleaning) go into the regular wash, at the regular level. I have applied this philosophy to eliminate paper plates and cups (If a dish breaks on the patio it isn't the end of life as we know it), the use of towels and dishrags (used daily and washed) and other so called disposable items. 
  •  I try to save as much on energy costs as I can.  This means I take heat and electricity to my lowest comfort level (which isn't very low, especially in winter). I hang clothing when I can, and I only water once a week (yes, even in Texas).  I cook stove meals together and use ceiling fans.  Again, I do these things for financial reasons but the end result is sustainability.
  •  I reuse or re purpose everything I can.  This is a necessity for me. The Easter basket that was lined with spring fabric and filled to decorate my living room will now be painted with a sponge and filled with a candle on hand for the patriotic holidays. Whether it's decorating for a holiday, setting a table for entertaining or another cause-I look to what I have on hand first.  The immediate result for me is financial, but this also means I am unlikely to put much into a landfill or trash pile.
  • When I need to buy, I look to the used market for most things.  I do this from a financial stand both because of cost, and because if something is well made and working in a thrift store, it's stood the test of time and will probably last much longer.   From a sustainability standpoint, again, this means that I am not putting things into the land fill. Since petroleum products and chemicals are used to make everything from plastic dishes on up, I'm environmentally friendly in more ways than one.  I've even considered joining the compact, at least for a brief try.
  • When it comes to transportation costs, I try and save much of my car budget for travel, so I am very conscious of commutes and trips and do my best to conserve gas (even as I road trip once a month).  Hopefully this contributes in some small way to the planet in general.  I've chosen to try a variety of income streams from home to eliminate commuting and "dress for success" type costs, with the same result.
I should probably add that most of the frugal choices made above are to free up "disposable income" for travel and entertainment and quilting fabric.  Sometimes my choices in those areas are not as "green" as they should be.  Also, there are some "green" choices that a Frugal Gal on a fixed income simply cannot make.  I'll probably never buy a Prius or have solar panels.  On some occasions, frugality has had to trump helping the environment, at least for me.  The bottom line is that I'm a Frugal Gal before I'm a Green Gal, if you will.  Still, the choices I make in my daily life because of finances affect the environment in little and big ways, overall.

What about you. Do you aim for Frugality, Simplicity, or Sustainability first.  How often to more than one of those things mesh in your life?


  1. well lost my post! grrr

    All 3 are a toss-up depending on the situation though I've been trying to make better choices.

    Since I have a decent paying job it's hard to discipline myself to be as frugal as I probably should be. Not proud of this fact but I k now frugality would have to be #1 in all areas should I lose my job or take a cut in pay so I try to live that way now. I use dishes though I do use paper towels,plastic stuff for freezing/nuking dishtowels are awful and leave fuzzies - I need to invest in some decent ones I guess. I have tons of cotton fabric from quilting so could make some napkins probably but the fabric just seems so thin.I know I waste a lot of paper towels and would like to cut way back in this area or eliminate entirely. I try not to waste food by not buying so many starches but I still fall behind in this area being the only one eating the food and getting tired of tortillas or potatoes or whatever starch I have on hand after so many days in a row. some canned foods I freeze to use later in soup or something. I've cut back on frozen dinners by cooking more at home and freezing leftovers. I don't drive much because I dislike it but no one to carpool with for my job since I work 12 hr rotating shifts.

  2. I hate driving. So I have always tried to live someplace where I did not have to drive. The one time I lived out in the country and had to drive many miles for anything was the worst time of my life.
    I now live in a city where I never have to take my car out of the parking garage. I use public transportation or walk. I think there are too many cars to be sustainable. Too many cars will be our collective downfall.

  3. I wish public transportation would work for me - Houston has metro bus but it stops too far from my job - not that I mind a 1/2 mile walk for exrcise but the area I'd have to walk or run through isn't too good. same with biking. I agree with the cars - we're sunk with cars now that there are so many - things were a lot simpler before so many cars but now we're more mobile and traveling more.


  4. I am frugal both by choice and temperament. I am very happy eating leftovers, using 2:1 coupons at Taco Bell, and having a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner once a week.

    I wear a T-shirt and jeans most days and buy almost no new clothes. I have made a serious effort to go from two loads of my dirty clothes to one most weeks.

    Movies come from Netflix and TV comes free through an antenna. Books are from the library.

    Our biggest expense each month is medical insurance and various vitamins and supplements. All that takes over 33% of our yearly budget but I will not go without insurance. I'd never sleep from worry.

    Our indulgences: vacations and doing things with and for the family.

    The end result is, like you Barb, frugality. My wife and I live simply because that makes us happy.

  5. What you describe has been my entire life. When I was young we didn't have money so we used and re-used everything we could. My Mom did use papers towels like crazy for a short while but that was because she read that you could avoid a lot of germs by cleaning with them and then throwing them away. She soon came to her senses.

    When I was a young (Hippy) wife my husband and I always bought at yard sales and thrift shops. I keep all my old towels and cut up flannel pj's to make rags for cleaning the house and cars.

    We have always tried not to buy what we don't need and keep what we have working. We live a very green lifestyle by default not because we are trying to be in the trend of things.

    I do have to say though that I think some of this green living is going too far. There are some things that maybe a bit unfriendly to the earth that are so necessary. Those things are drapers, feminine hygiene products, and toilet paper. I am truly shocked to see that people on the internet and media are promoting doing away with these items to use re-usable items instead. No Thanks!! Diapers maybe but the other two, OMGOSH they need to get real. LOL!!

  6. Sue, everyone has to do what works for them, When I say toilet paper and some paper towels are the only things that have been in my home for years, I mean that in every sense.......but thats a separate discussion Im happy to share privately at some point if you like.


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