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How to save money and the planet

Because it doesn’t have to be one or the other – being more eco-friendly doesn’t have to cost you the Earth. Here are some simple changes that could help you make a difference.
Plant growing out of jar of money
Reading time: 6 mins

Ask most people if they’d like to be more environmentally friendly, and the answer would probably be “yes”. After all, we’re already witnessing the devastating effects of climate change first-hand with California experiencing more and more frequent wildfires and the city of Venice starting to sink (yes, SINK).

As we are already seeing these things happen now, just think about how bad things might be for future generations.

Given we’re currently in a cost of living crisis – thanks to soaring food prices and energy bills – switching to sustainable brands (and the extra costs that can come with this) probably isn’t at the top of your priorities right now.

In fact, when we did our own research back in 2021, over half of the people we surveyed said they were held back from shopping ethically because it was too expensive to do so.

And although you may be switching off the lights more, having speedier showers, and rationing the heating due to increased energy and gas costs (which is obviously better for the Earth), there’s more you could be doing to not just save money, but reduce your environmental impact too.

Here are some simple changes you could make this year that don’t have to cost the Earth.

1. Switch to a water meter

If you’ve already cut down the length of your showers to reduce your gas and electricity bills, then you may want to look into switching to a water meter in your home (if you don’t have one already).

Having a meter will actively encourage you to reduce your water consumption as you will pay for the amount you use – meaning you’ll probably think twice before leaving the tap on when brushing your teeth or running a half-empty dishwasher.

As a rule of thumb, if you have fewer people living in your home than you have bedrooms, you could lower your bills if you have a water meter. However, do bear in mind that if you live in Scotland, you may need to pay for it to be installed.1

And if you find that your new water meter isn’t saving you any money, there is always the option to go back to unmetered billing if you ask your water company within the first year of it being installed.

2. Change your light bulbs

Again, you’re probably already switching your lights on less due to the rise in energy costs, but just in case you (or someone else in your home) has a bad habit of leaving them on, the Energy Saving Trust says that average households in England, Wales and Scotland could save almost £20 a year by simply turning a light off every time someone leaves a room.2

And that’s all well and good, but sometimes, you do need to have the lights on. So, why not consider swapping out your traditional (incandescent) bulbs and halogen bulbs for LED ones? As well as being the most energy-efficient bulbs available on the market, they’re cheaper to run too.

As an example, you could save up to £15 a year3 by switching a 100 watt incandescent bulb with an LED one – and that’s just by changing one light bulb. Just imagine how much the savings could stack up if you replaced every single one in your house!

3. Sell your old clothes

…or the perfectly good furniture you no longer need, unwanted Christmas presents you’ve not given a second thought to, or anything else that could become someone else’s treasure. Second-hand shopping is on the rise, and with the price increases we saw across the board last year, it’s likely that more and more people will start to embrace it moving forwards.

There are plenty of places you can sell your preloved items online (with their own pros and cons, so do your research). Some popular options are eBay, Vinted, Depop and Facebook Marketplace, but a couple of clothing brands, like ASOS and Zara have their own online marketplaces where people can sell their preloved items to others. However, this is not a recommendation to use these platforms in particular, and other ones are out there.

And if you don’t mind venturing outside, you could also pack up your stuff, get up early, and set up a stall at a car boot sale (and you may be able to pick up some decent bargains while you’re there too. It’s a win-win, really).

4. Bring your own coffee cup

It’s a simple tip but it’s one that’s so easy to forget. The next time you’re heading to work and know you’ll grab a coffee on the way in, make sure you’ve got a travel mug in your bag. Because, although single-use plastic straws have been banned for a while in the UK, getting a takeaway coffee multiple times a week still generates a lot of waste which requires energy to be recycled (in the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and discarded every year4). 

As an incentive to reduce waste, some stores will even knock some money off your drink if you bring your own cup with you. So, you could end up with extra change in your pocket the next time you get your caffeine fix.

5. Get rewarded to recycle

Came home from the car boot sale with most of the clothes you were planning to sell? Struggling to shift those last few items on eBay? Don’t just throw them in the bin so they’re destined to end up in landfill. If you’re planning to add something new to your wardrobe soon, then why not pack up your old clothing, and head to a store that won’t just recycle them for you, but reward you too?

At the time of writing this, H&M and John Lewis both offer a £5 voucher in return for your unwanted clothes, and even George at ASDA will give you 10% off your next clothing purchase. So, if you needed to pick up a new t-shirt or pair of jeans anyway, it just makes sense. However, please note that these offers might not be available in future.

And if you love pampering yourself, then you might not know that some beauty brands will give you rewards if you bring your empty bottles, jars and tubes into store to be recycled – making it cheaper to replace your favourite products.

Need help saving? Why not check out our Instant Access Savings Account.

The tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future.

Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested.

Wealthify does not provide financial advice. Please seek financial advice if you are unsure about investing.


  1. https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/blog/utilities/splash-the-cash-can-a-water-meter-save-you-money
  2. https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/advice/lighting/
  3. https://www.kent.ac.uk/news/environment/32807/storm-in-a-coffee-cup-how-the-disposable-cup-problem-is-reaching-boiling-point
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