Sustainable living is a huge movement for those looking to be greener, more environmentally conscientious and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. But did you know it can also be a means to the end of your student loans? Going off the grid can be a huge money saver and if you put the green you save by going green toward your school debt, you’ll be out of debt sooner and with a clearer conscience.
In case you don’t know the origin of the phrase “living off the grid,” it refers to living off the power grid. Some die-harders have managed to accomplish this with solar panels and other extreme measures, but for many people, getting off the grid simply refers to being as self sustainable as is practicable. For some, getting off the grid means a major investment such as water collecting cisterns, solar panels and other costly measures.
But if you’re deep in debt, sinking money into lowering your carbon footprint may not be the wisest cash management strategy. Instead, look at ways that you can reduce or eliminate consumption without having to make an off-setting investment in green technology or materials. Use savings to pay off your student debt as soon as possible to save you on interest and reduce your carbon footprint.
Let’s look at some ideas of how you accomplish this:
#1 Cut the cable – This is one utility that you can definitely do without. A digital antenna plus Netflix will suffice. And if you’ve been talked into a combo internet plus cable bundle, either break it apart and keep your internet or talk to a neighbor about splitting internet and getting a beefy WiFi router you can share between your apartments or homes. This can save you at least $100 a month.
#2 Quit flushing money away – If you grew up around hippies, you may have seen a cross-stitched sign like the one my Aunt Mary had that read, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Sounds icky, but if you let urine sit and only flush when you have something of substance to deal with, you’ll save gallons each day.
#3 H2-Oh-No – Other water saving tips include turning off your tap when you’re brushing, cutting back on shower time and not running a half-empty dishwasher. Also, if you have plants, you can capture rain water to water them without running the tap. Here’s one that’s fun and practical – wait for a really rainy day to wash your car. Grab your sponge, detergent and rain coat and head out into the rain and wash your car when the skies can do the rinsing for you. And this is a fun throwback to playing in the downpour as a kid (just don’t do it in winter months).
#4 Try money laundering – By this I mean save money on your laundry. First, DIY your own laundry soap. Here’s a recipe for a liquid detergent and another for a powder detergent. These cost about 3¢ per load – way cheaper than Tide. Use cold water rather than hot and consider investing a couple of bucks in a clothes line and pins and hang out your clothes and whites when weather is nice. Sun-dried clothes smell and feel awesome and will save you big.
#5 Rethink your ride – Carpooling, riding a bike or taking public transportation can immediately cut down your carbon footprint and save you a lot of money. Riding a bike or walking to work is also a chance to get in shape so you can ditch your gym membership, since you’re getting in your aerobics while you commute. Public transpo and carpools are also ways to enjoy some social time rather than stressing alone in traffic.
#6 Get Warm, Stay Warm – In the winter and summer both, windows are a huge source of energy leakage. Invest a couple of bucks in plastic to put over your windows in winter to seal in heat. If you’re lazy, hit the thrift store and buy some cheap blankets you can tack up over the windows. Turn off vents and close doors in rooms you don’t use much. In summer months, close curtains during the day to keep blistering sun rays out and at night, pop a box fan in the window to draw in cool summer breezes. In winter, consider shutting off the gas altogether at night and use a space heater in your bedroom.
#7 Power Down – Rethink what items you keep plugged into your walls and what devices you leave on. Anything that’s plugged in draws a little power so having a bunch plugged in can add 5-10% to your power bill. It can be a hassle to plug and unplug some items so consider a power strip for your computer and printer and another for your TV, DVD player, cable box and game system. That way you can just plug the strip in and power up when you’re ready to use. In the kitchen, unplug the toaster, coffee maker, toaster oven, etc.
Good luck getting off the grid and saving some green to help with your carbon and student loan footprints. And always be sure to take advantage of free resources to help with your debt like Tuition.io’s student loan tool. It costs nothing and will let you track and optimize your debt and find out how applying extra money can get you out of debt sooner.