There is a sweet spot between frugality and environmentalism. While I aim for both values and they have much overlap, they are sometimes at odds with each other. And I discovered that I’m happiest when I stay in that sweet spot. Read on to see what I mean.
As I review the nearly 2,000 posts published on this blog, a few things have struck me. I’ve changed through the years. One of the things I noticed?
I was a pretty crunchy mama. Now, I’m a bit… soggy.
I did things like make my own skin and hair care products, live without a dryer for a few years. I used cloth diapers with all seven of my kids and even did a bit of elimination communication with a couple of them. We drank raw milk and I made my own sauerkraut. I rendered lard and made my own dishwashing liquid for goodness sake. Five of my babies were born at home. Etc.
I won’t touch raw milk with a ten food pole at the moment, mostly because my anxiety levels shot sky high after my preemie was born. The kids beg for it, so maybe I’ll reconsider once Josiah is older. But I got scared off after reading one too many stories of vulnerable kids ending up on dialysis because of e.coli in raw milk. (Apparently, e.coli, like everything else in this messed-up world, is getting hardier and nastier, making outbreaks more dangerous than they were in our grandparents’ day. Le sigh.)
For several years I recorded a podcast called Natural Moms Talk Radio. Most of those 100+ interviews were on eco-friendly, ultra-crunchy alternative topics.
I’m not as crunchy as I used to be.
At the moment, there are (gasp!) paper plates and cups in my kitchen because my dishwasher has been broken for weeks (the repairman is coming today, praise be!) and I got tired of spending so much time washing dishes for nine people. I don’t make homemade natural cleaning products.
I think my crunchy turned a bit soggy as my family grew and as I got older (read: more tired). I simply don’t have the time or energy to do some of the things I used to.
However, I still do many things that are environmentally responsible.
I use reusable grocery bags (hello, ALDI!), clean with microfiber cloths, I still use cloth diapers, I shop used for 75% of the things I acquire, I conserve water and energy, wash laundry in cold and even take cool showers. And I hang laundry occasionally – particularly last week, when my dryer was broke.
Ordering household essentials online (using Amazon Subscribe and Save, for one) is more eco-friendly than driving to the store all the time. Since one truck taking thousands of items to people in the area is better than thousands of people driving to the store.
I also place a lot of importance on healthy eating. It’s why I gave up sugar 10 months ago.
What’s all this crunchy talk have to do with frugality?
Last summer I went on a fiscal freeze and spent as little money as possible. While I did manage to sock away a good deal of money into savings for our upcoming home purchase and put some money into Stash for investments (love this app, I’m already earning dividends!), I also learning something about myself:
I’m happiest when I stay in the sweet spot between frugality and environmentalism.
I drew this diagram that illustrates this. (Apologies for the greasy spots, there is no place I can put down a piece of paper in my home where this won’t happen. I have a lot of husbands and children.)
Some things are obviously frugal and eco-friendly. Hanging your laundry. Using cloth diapers. Keeping the A/C at 81 all summer. Breastfeeding. Etc.
Others are environmentally friendly but not particularly frugal. Paying extra for the safer toothpaste. Shopping for the highest-quality clothing because it will last for decades. Installing solar panels on your roof. Eating organic food.
I snagged free-after-coupons-and-deals shampoo last summer, but the plastic-y perfume smell coming off of my daughters’ heads is making me sick. I regret that purchase. It would have made me happier to spend a little more for paraben-and-phthalate-free shampoo.
I know this, but I forgot temporarily.
Staying in my sweet spot of frugality and environmentalism means I just might go back to making some homemade products. At least, the ones that actually work! (I’m talking to you, homemade laundry detergent.) It also means buying natural skin care products from companies like Grove, who has really great prices and seasonal discounts.
What’s your crunchy/soggy sweet spot? Have you gotten more, or less crunchy over the years?