Top tips for saving money by being sustainable

3 December 2020

UCL Sustainability blog contributor, Sarah Noro, lets us in on her top tips to save money by being sustainable.

seedling in glass of pennies

When I arrived at UCL, I lived on my own for the first time. It meant keeping a schedule and doing chores alone but most importantly budgeting in an extremely expensive city. Almost 3 years later, here are my top tips for budgeting while being sustainable:

Cook rather than buy ready-made food

Bring your homecooked food and water with you everywhere. I know take-outs are tempting but cooking and trying to plan your meals saves money and reduces useless packaging – especially if you use one of your million tote bags for grocery shopping, transport, and refrigeration. It’s also healthier!

Get food that would otherwise go to waste

There are a lot of initiatives that allow you to get food for free or for a discounted price to save it from going to waste. Try out apps like TooGoodToGo to get discounted meals, as well as the discount corner of your supermarket. Grab good deals and save food from the bin.

Go vegetarian

This is probably what saved me the most money without being even 100% vegetarian. Meat has an immense carbon impact, it is extremely expensive and usually low quality in London - try to cut it out of your diet to make both your bank account and your planet happier. I often get inspiration from BBC Good Food vegetarian recipes or the YouTube channel Avantgardevegan. If you want to go even further, you can plant the seeds from the fruits and vegetables you eat to grow them yourself.

Think more than twice before buying new clothes

Ask yourself whether you really need new clothes, how long they are going to last, if you could buy something second-hand, in a charity shop – my favourite one is Traid. If you decide to get something new, buy it in a shop rather than ordering online to save both transport and packaging.

Make gifts yourself

Try crafting some gifts yourself. It’s cheaper and it’s an opportunity to gain new skills, as well as being a great opportunity to give something very personal. My partner was really happy about the Star Wars Valentine’s Day card I made, even if it was far from perfect, because it was made just for him. You can also gift “experiences”, moments to share like a visit to museum or a home-cooked 3 course dinner, these are a great opportunity to show your loved ones you value the time you share.

Save on utility bills

You live in a great country where power sockets have an integrated switch, use it! Switch off your appliances to save electricity and take showers rather than baths to save water. These might seem like minor changes, but they will save you a few quid by the end of the year.

Get involved in environmental groups

This won’t directly make you save money, but the issue of climate change cannot be solved only by individual actions. Join an environmental group, make some new friends. You could even get your share of physical activity from marching in demonstrations, drumming at rallies, or cycling and raising money for environmental causes rather than paying a gym membership.

Last revised: 8 September 2021

Sarah Noro, UCL Sustainability blog contributor