Thursday, February 2, 2012

My 10 Steps to Natural Living // Step Four: Budget & Priorities

(Previous posts from this series: Intro, Step One, Two and Three)

Ok so I’ve been pinning some natural living methods on and I’m thinking about them in light of two things: how soon we need the change and our budget.

A lot of natural living methods are meant to take the place of current conventional products or ways of doing things. I do not believe in waste, however. I’ve seen many examples of people switching from regular shampoo to no shampoo and just tossing out the bottles of remaining shampoo. And I understand the perspective: the product is harmful, so get rid of it completely. But I personally don’t feel the dire need to toss out every potentially harmful product. I am at peace with making the change gradually, and if there is something I want to replace immediately, I will consider donating unused items first. 

So first, I want to take inventory of things I might be replacing with natural items: shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, medicine/first aid remedies. Then I ask these questions:

1) Are we running low on this item?

2) What is the reason for replacing this item with a natural alternative?

3) Is the need to replace it an immediate concern?

4) Is the cost of the natural alternative worth the investment at this time?

And that brings me to our budget. 

We budget $30-40 per month for household and toiletries items. This includes everything from toilet paper to shampoo, cleaning products to make-up. I think we do really well in this category shopping for the best prices so we can stay stocked up on all our household essentials. 

As far as food, I want to incorporate more organic meats and vegetables while cutting down on processed junk. I am not sure what to think about the budget though. Our monthly grocery budget is $225, but I remember the months we lived on $175 (or possibly even less). What happened? I think part of it is that I am starting to buy fresh, whole foods. Back then, we were consuming processed foods daily – most of which I got for pennies after sales and coupons. I’ve read on a few blogs that buying whole foods is actually cheaper. Do they come from a couponing background though? I am eager to discover if it is possible for a couponer to save money on fresh, organic, whole foods…I have a feeling menu-planning is going to play a huge role in this feat. I'm not very good at this right now.

Because budget is so important right now, any changes to the items we purchase (or start to make) cannot cause much of an increase. I am ok with an up-front investment knowing that long-term we will save money (like buying items in bulk). But overall, my goal is going to be to cut costs. Is this possible?? I'm optimistic!

Also, I have a friend who has been living a natural lifestyle for a couple years now -- she has graciously shared some suggestions for how I can get started in my transition to whole foods. So helpful. (Thanks Stefanie!) I love learning from other people's experiences!

Do YOU have any tips for low-cost natural living? I look forward to reading your comments!

Next week I am going to dive into learning about organic foods…and explore how to save money shopping for them. Any tips I find I will be sharing with you then testing them out over the next several weeks.

Also, using the prioritizing process I just talked about, I’ve decided on a handful of natural solutions I want to try first. You can look forward to posts on:

How to “Green” Your Space

Washing Away Chemicals (bath & beauty products)

Squeaky Cleaning (laundry & cleaning products)

….plus more to come!