How to save money (and be more green) at home
Your guide to how being a more sustainability-minded homeowner could help you save money, according to financial coach and money expert Bola Sol.
Financial Wellness Coach
Money expert and author Bola is passionate about building financial confidence in everyone (but especially women). Having created the financial blog Refined Currency in 2015, she's also the founder of Rich Girl Chronicles, a virtual digital membership program that is about discussing money and wellbeing. She is a co-host of The Last Three Digits money podcast, host of web series The Bola Sol show and has written How To Save It: Fix Your Finances published by Merky Books.
As someone who was previously a renter and is now a first-time buyer, I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve my home energy efficiency and live more sustainably in the hopes of staying afloat financially. The little changes in our home that help the environment can help our pocket too. So many of my clients are coming to me, wanting to take control of their finances before everyday prices start to rise beyond their control. To help you stay ahead of the curve too, I’ve listed below some of the guidelines I’ve shared with them to navigate the cost-of-living crisis while living more sustainably at home. After all, irrespective of your housing situation, we’re all collectively feeling the pinch.
1. Take ownership of understanding the wider context
It’s vital that we take ownership of our financial situation, not only as a result of the current times, but also for the future and to keep ourselves in alignment with good habits. “We can’t grow through what we don’t go through” is something I’ve told myself many times when I’ve been budgeting and learning to take accountability for my financial blips. One of the most important ways to save money (and energy!) at home is to understand your energy bill breakdown. After all, we can only reduce our energy use and start saving once we know how much we’re spending and if we’re paying the right amount. Read it and if something looks out of place, take ownership and challenge it. Take meter readings if you can and call your provider to ask exactly how much these changes are going to cost. Then challenge that number and ask if there’s assistance like grants available to you. Taking ownership doesn’t mean that there isn’t room to negotiate or clarify the prices we pay for services. The Energy Saving Trust1 has some great information to help you understand your energy bill breakdown further.
2. Get ready to adopt new habits
The cheeky thing about life is that change is constant. Right now, all our lives are changing financially and it means we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and adopt new habits such as checking our energy meters more often, comparing bills month by month and talking to everyone in the household to ensure we’re all on the same page when it comes to saving energy. Often we leave many appliances on standby. I know I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. At my best friend's house every plug is turned off when it isn’t in use, so now I’ve adopted the same habit. From the kettle (my most-used appliance as I love tea) to the toaster and my phone charger, the list goes on. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the TV. Just make sure you know whether switching off affects any of your recorded shows. And according to Energy Saving Trust, you can save around £55 a year by remembering to switch your appliances off standby,2 although this figure will differ across households.
3. Rethink what you’re spending money on – and why
One of the things I tell clients to be aware of, because I’ve been guilty of this too, is over-consumption. Whether we are consuming too many things in our homes or buying more food than we need, we have to begin to look at using everything in moderation. How we operate in our everyday life has an impact on the wider world whether we believe it or not. The more we learn to be creative with what we have, instead of seeking out more, the greener our world becomes. You could be surprised how this shows up. When paper products were hard to find during the pandemic, many of us learned to go without and we got resourceful. Although life has largely gone back to normal, we shouldn’t forget some of the savvy habits we picked up. It’s much cheaper to wash and reuse a set of cloth napkins or dish towels than to keep buying paper towels – and far more sustainable.
4. From finances to the environment, the little things matter
Planning ahead with our food shop and living expenses can make a world of difference. Making a list of what I need at the supermarket prior to going can mean that I reduce waste, optimise my spending and help the environment. That way it’s a win for me and others. My favourite thing to do is see how my budget differs from month to month, especially with my home costs. We have to keep a close eye on our expenses these days.
5. There’s no shame in seeking out support
My top tip is to remember that there are always options available – it’s just about knowing who to ask. Give your energy supplier a call and ask if there are options such as payment plans, payment breaks and more time to pay given the circumstances. If you’re wondering how you can get financial support for your energy bills, you should know that the UK Government is offering households a £400 discount on their electricity bills. Every household with a domestic connection to the electricity grid in England, Scotland and Wales is eligible for the £400 discount.3 The discount doesn’t need to be applied for. It will be paid by electricity suppliers over six months, with the first payments starting in October 2022. If you don’t see a reduction don’t be afraid to call your supplier.
6. Speak up – you’re not alone
There’s power in speaking up and realising you’re not alone in this cost-of-living crisis. We all have to keep a close eye on our expenses these days. But we also need to talk to one another, because small conversations can lead to significant savings. A great way to start is by asking, “How are you doing financially?” A listening ear can be more helpful than we know.
Together, we can get through this.