Thrifty mum saves £21,000 in three years thanks to sustainable lifestyle

A thrifty mum who saved £21,000 in just three years has shared her top tips for cheaper and more sustainable living. 

Sian Young, 47, from West Sussex, has used a wide range of sustainable living hacks that have helped her save a hefty sum of money.

A sustainable success consultant, Sian lives with her husband James and their two-year-old daughter Analicia and says along with an increase in funds, her overall health and wellbeing has improved too. 

‘I was always buying cheap because I had no money and I thought buying cheap would stretch what little money I had,’ says Sian, who is the CEO of the Centre for Sustainable Action. ‘But the things I bought would be so out of shape on the first or second wash, or broken if they were toys.’

To counteract the issue, she began researching sustainable living and was wholly surprised at the results when she started implementing new practices. 

‘When I started buying with more thought to my environmental cost, it made me really look at why I wanted to buy what I was buying and also lots of relatively cost-free alternatives,’ she explains. 

‘The healthier and happier I got and the more money I saved, the more enthused I became about living sustainably. It didn’t just start with money – it all started with a desire to have less chemicals affecting our health and planet – but the more I learned, the more I noticed how much money it was saving us. 

‘Our health kept getting better too, and we got slimmer and more vibrant. We have turned the financial savings into income too by using it to invest in our business.’

Most of Sian and James’ household items are upcycled from online market places and they even saved money on their wedding by having it at home. Compared to the average £12,000 cost of a UK wedding, the couple spent only £2,500 by making the decorations themselves. 

Meanwhile, adding up the average costs of items including TV cabinets, coffee tables, dining table sets and other assorted furniture, Sian estimates the family have saved £21,000 in total since cutting back on costs three years ago. 

Now the savvy mum is sharing her top sustainable living tips. 

Change your mindset

Her first piece of advice is to change your mindset when it comes to sustainability. 

‘The decision to spend money first starts in your mind, we buy stuff for two main reasons: we think we need it, or we think we ‘should’ get it,’ she says. ‘[We have to] question where this need comes from – did you just pass an advert or see something on social media that placed the thought in your mind? 

‘Never buy something because you think it will impress someone else. When you are happy, you just don’t need to buy senseless purchases – and often ones that you can’t afford. You reflect on the outside what is going on inside, and when your mind isn’t happy you tend to buy things which you perceive will make you happy. 

‘A lot of the time it just gets lost in a pile of stuff.’

Back to basics 

When it comes to household items, Sian has a back to basics attitude. Instead of buying conventional beauty products, she makes her own body creams using coconut oil, sweet almond oil, coconut and shea butter and essential oils. Plus, she also creates her own cleaning products.

She says: ‘I decided I could not risk having poisonous chemicals in my home so I started to make my own cleaners and they have been highly effective and so incredibly cheap to make. 

‘We are talking back to basics with bicarbonate soda and essential oils with good old boiled water. When I was broke, I started with water, bicarb, lemon and tea tree oil. This would last ages and allow me to make as and when I needed it – this also stopped me from going to the shops, often saving me money.’

While many choose disposable nappies and sanitary products, Sian notes she saves a total of £1,562 every year by choosing sustainable alternatives. ‘We use cloth nappies for our baby and this saves over £1,475 per year,’ she explains.

‘If you started using reusable nappies you would reduce your personal environmental footprint by 25%. I also use sustainable sanitary wear, saving me £87 per year and dramatically reducing my impact on the environment.’ 

Get crafty 

Much of Sian’s saving efforts comes from avoiding large purchases and instead upcycling something old into something new. 

‘We have upcycled or found most of our furniture for free,’ she says. ‘For the screen we used on our wedding day, I found it online for £10. I stripped the old stale paper that was there, cleaned it, painted it with chalk paint, and three layers later I used a furniture wax to give it a protective coat. 

‘I bought some linen cuts from another online marketplace for £3 and staple-gunned it across each screen section. There you have it – a new screen that would have cost me hundreds cost me £30 all in. I love the creativity of upcycling and the fact you can get something that someone else no longer wants a makeover and it looks amazing.’

Buy second hand 

Instead of buying new, Sians shops at thrift and charity shops. ‘I am upgrading by having a stylist use my old clothes and material I have around my house to redesign a custom-made wardrobe,’ she explains. ‘I’m happy [buying my clothes from charity shops] because I know this is me doing my bit to solve the water shortage issues we have and the pollution issues. If you do buy new then make sure you put money aside and buy a quality item that is sustainably sourced that will last you years.’ 

Plan, plan, plan 

Sian says that by pre-planning meals and ordering her groceries ahead of time means she never buys more than she actually needs. ‘I eat locally sourced organic veg boxes which are delivered to my door each week and for only £12.50 a family of three can have main meals and some lunches for the week,’ she exclaims.

‘I also order organic meat once per month and spread it out. It saves me money on impulse shopping and buying food that goes to waste – the UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes so this is also a good thing.’ 

Overall, Sian insists her lifestyle doesn’t just save money – but also helps keep her stress levels down. ‘Living sustainably reduces stress, you don’t have to try and keep up with the crazy commercial desires that we are exposed to daily,’ she adds. ‘This saves money which means you have less money stress which means less stress on the body. 

‘Living sustainably is our way of life. We have so much more we can do but life is a journey so I am enjoying it.’ 

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