The Cost of Cheap and How to Do Frugal in an Ethical Way
Balancing between cost-conscious and consumer conscious isn't always easy, but there are some simple ways you can do frugal in an ethical way.
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels
As a longtime, frugal-to-the-max type person, I used to be quite a “free squeezer,” always trying to find ways to get things without paying for them, and choosing the least-expensive option. But in recent years, I've noticed how the cost of cheap impacts the quality of products and the sustainability of small business owners.
As Ellen Ruppel Shell's book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture discusses, when it's all about quantity and keeping costs low, there's a trade-off for craftsmanship, quality, and durability. Plus, not a lot of concern about the life cycle of a product, or its carbon footprint.
But to be a conscious consumer, it often feels like you need to spend money, as products branded as eco-friendly are usually more expensive. “Socially conscious products tend to be more expensive, for a variety of reasons,” says Tristan Blaine, founder of Law Soup, and a member of the Advisory Board of Net Impact Los Angeles. “In particular, the practices associated with socially conscious products generally involve higher costs: the people involved in making the product should be well-compensated, the materials should be ethically and sustainably sourced, and the manufacturing processes should have minimal negative impacts on the environment.”
If you're on a budget, there are ways to be frugal and shop with sustainability in mind. Here are a few simple ways how:
If you have limited funds, one way to reduce your carbon footprint and save on costs is to go the secondhand route. You can find gently used wares, furniture, clothing, and accessories at thrift shops, consignment shops, yard sales, and online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, or OfferUp.
Besides saving money and reducing your carbon footprint, you often can find quality goods for a fraction of the price, and you can often find vintage or gently used items.
By consuming less, you are reducing your impact on the environment. Plus, you'll have more money to spend on higher-value items or those green products you'd like to purchase. “Think hard about whether you need that product,” says Blaine. “If you do need it, or if it will bring you joy, consider whether you could make it yourself somehow.”
Not sure what you can do without? Start by attempting minimalism and going through a purge. Do some spring cleaning and declutter your closets and what you have stowed away in your kitchen pantry and fridge. Then, take inventory of what you might have more than you unnecessarily need. When I purge, I am personally reminded of my impulse buys or types of goods that I tend to spend too much on. For instance, I am prone to buying too much produce, so I've made a pact with myself to cut back on fresh fruits and veggies. Instead, I'll buy less but spend a bit more on organic products or help support the local economy by shopping at small businesses.
Go the DIY Route
Some eco-friendly products can be hashed from simple ingredients. For instance, household cleaners can be made out of white vinegar, hot water, and essential oils. Or if you have some yard space or well-lit areas in your home, you can grow potted plants, invest in an herb garden, or grow some veggies.
While it is an investment of time and energy, you can save in the long run, especially if you make these items in batches. If you're able to grow some produce, you can potentially set up a produce exchange with your neighbors, which can yield an abundance of fruits, veggies, herbs, and baked goods.
Be Mindful of Energy Consumption
Simple ways to save on electricity and gas in your home are to turn down the heat and turn off the lights when you leave a room, or to unplug the power strips entirely. Other ways to save on electricity and gas are to pull down the shades to keep out the heat, and hang-dry your clothes.
Being cost-conscious and environmentally conscious isn't always easy. But by employing a few tactics, you can make it work for you.
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