This Eco-Friendly Mom Has Saved $113,000. Here’s How She Did It

We’ve all seen “going green” become an increasingly popular trend in recent years. Whether that means recycling, buying an eco-friendly car or conserving energy, environmental consciousness is important for the planet and for our resources. But what you might not know is that it can be important for your wallet, too. You could even save up to $113,000.

Many people think of going green as a costly endeavor. Although it might take more time and effort, Sara Tetreault of GoGingham.com and her family prove that it is not costly and is, in fact, a giant money saver.

Check how Tetreault dishes on her money-saving techniques and eco-friendly living.

Sara Going Green and Saving Money

Sara Tetreault of GoGingham.com saves money by living green.


Smart Military Money:  Tell me a little about your eco-friendly lifestyle.

Sara Tetreault:  We didn’t buy a Prius, we’re just living more like our grandparents used to. Yes, I think people recognize it takes a little more effort and time, but the savings involved in it add up when you put them together. We generate less garbage, so our trash bill is lower. We buy used clothing, so we don’t have that expense. We eat our leftovers, so we don’t waste food. I think that we enjoy it, too. We just make everyday events into something fun. We’ll pick berries and freeze them and enjoy fruit smoothies for the year. It takes a bit of a mind change if you’re not used to living that way.

SMM:  About how much money do you think you’ve saved since going green?

ST:  We’ve saved over $113,000 throughout the years. Over time the little things add up, and that’s money you can use to invest or pay for your kids’ college or travel. I’d rather save my money for a fabulous trip than spend it on weekly garbage pickup.

SMM:  What made you decide to live eco-friendly to create financial savings?

ST:  Growing up in Portland, Ore., we had a recycling center in our neighborhood. My mom had us going to the recycling center to take our paper and our cans. In college, I was horrified that people would throw their cans and bottles in the garbage. That was a big adjustment. My husband and I lived in Washington, D.C., for the first few years of marriage, so when we moved to Portland, the things we were doing were not strange or unique to Portlanders. It’s all about changing habits, and that’s always what I tell people when I give a talk about frugal living. You don’t have to make changes all at the same time. If you can make baby steps, it becomes much easier to adopt as a way of life.

SMM:  What are some of the things you do on a regular basis that help save money?

ST:  Hanging our laundry makes a measurable difference in our utility bill. We occasionally do home swaps in Europe, where no one has a dryer. One of the last home exchanges we did was to the Netherlands; there’s extremely little space so they’re very efficient. You take your clothes out of the washer and hang them to dry inside. I realized we have all this great space in our basement where we can hang things. I run everything through the washer then put it in the dryer for 8-10 minutes, then hang it for a day and it’s completely dry.

We also grow our own vegetables as much as we can. We live in the city, so we have several raised garden beds that we’re very efficient with.

We renovated our home with salvaged materials, which saved a lot of money. Everything came from a second-hand store or free piles.

SMM:  How do your chickens contribute to money-saving?

ST:  Our chickens are not really saving us money, but we’ve broken even on them now. We look at them as our pets because we don’t have a dog. We don’t have pet bills, and our pets live in the backyard so it works out well.

SMM:  What is your favorite money-saving practice you typically do?

ST:  My favorite thing is that I never buy bottled water. I always bring water with me. I have a to-go water glass and a thermos for car rides. That is the easiest thing to do and it saves a lot. Nothing wrong with the water that comes out of our faucet!

SMM:  What is the best way you save money?

ST:  Definitely buying my clothing used because I have expensive taste (I worked for Ralph Lauren for nine years). I’m trying to stay the same size so I try to only buy classic items that I know aren’t going to go out of style. If you have a Goodwill outlet center near you, that’s even more of an adventure.

SMM:  What advice would you give others who want to turn environmental awareness into savings?

ST:  I would say pick one thing to start with that doesn’t seem like it will be torture. If you want them to be lifestyle changing activities, pick easy things first. Instead of getting carry-out in foam containers, bring your own container or cook at home. If you go out for coffee, instead of getting a to-go cup, sit down and use a ceramic mug that you won’t have to throw away. Start where it doesn’t seem like it will be too big of a hassle. Then you’ll be more willing to move onto a next bigger step.

Photo courtesy Sara Tetreault