Interview with a Savings Expert – Becky Elmuccio

When it comes to changing your lifestyle, nothing seems easy. For many, going green can be as daunting a task as living frugally to get out of debt. The two, however, go hand-in-hand. They are both essentially about living sustainably and within your means.

To help our readers plant the seed of green living in their lives, we’ve asked Becky Elmuccio, founder of CraftyGardenMama.com to share her story and get you started on the right foot. 

You started blogging in 2010 after working as a third grade teacher. What inspired the change?

I stayed home after the birth of our daughter and was looking for a creative outlet a few months into being at home. I had some friends who blogged and I think the teacher in me thought it was another way to share my knowledge about green living.

At Crafty Garden Mama, you explore the latest in organic gardening, green parenting, and eco-friendly living. From where does your passion for the subject stem?

I had a report to do in 7th grade about the pollution at the Jersey Shore. It made a major impact on my ethics and world outlook. Local, healthy foods are an important part of our diet, so gardening is a great way for us to grow our own local food. It’s also important to us for our daughter to see how to live green so that she can carry forth in a similar manner.

This past year you were named one of the Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms of 2013 by the Circle of Moms – congratulations! Which Moms on the list do you look to for inspiration and read regularly?

I love the research that Safe Mama does. Several of the ladies, such as Green4u and Nature’s Nurture, are a part of the Green Moms Network of bloggers, which is one of the blogging tribes to which I belong. They also provide great tips and information for going green.

To me, living on a budget aligns with sustainable living. How do you view the relationship between these two lifestyle choices? Can they be complementary?

I think that aiming to use less helps you to spend less. Trying to cook from scratch with organic and local ingredients helps you to minimize the disposable containers that some foods can come in from the market. It may cost a little more at times, but if you look to buy foods in season, that can keep the costs down. Plus, canning and preserving food, one of my big goals for next year, can really save you throughout the year. Finally, cloth diapering has been a huge sustainability savings for us. We have drastically reduced both our costs and landfill impact.

Gardening seems like it takes a lot of time, energy, expertise, and money – but it doesn’t have to. Can you dispel a few of the most popular myths about caring for your own garden?

We tend to plant perennials, which are plants and flowers that come back each year. This helps to keep costs down over time. Annuals need to be purchased each year, and I do that sparingly. If you start vegetables from seed, you can really keep your costs down too. You need to plan before you plant to make sure that you are going to be caring for food and plants that you can utilize down the line. Finally, use your kitchen scraps for compost. It’s the best way to make quality soil at a low price.

How has growing your own produce impacted your grocery habits? Have you seen any impact on your monthly food budget?

In the summers that we do well, our food bill is down. This summer was rough with the weather and our schedule, so we chose to buy in season foods at the farmer’s market in order to provide us with produce. If I plan ahead and anticipate our needs and schedule, I can definitely lower our costs during the spring and summer months.

People often think of environmentally-friendly living as being less cost-effective than the alternative, but it’s not always true. From replacing old light bulbs with compact fluorescents to brewing your own coffee, there are tons of ways to save money and go green. What is one change that you would recommend people make in their everyday lives to make a big difference to their budget and the environment?

Wash your clothes on the cold temperature setting! It will save you on your gas & electric bill and I have never had a problem with colors fading too much over time. On the other end of the laundry spectrum, either line dry your clothes or take the time to make your own dryer balls. They get the chemicals of fabric softener sheets out of your laundry system and cut your drying time down.

I read that your main financial goal for 2013 is to set a monthly budget. Can you share some of the initial steps that you have taken and the challenges you have faced that our readers might be able to learn from?

We’ve been working on this continually throughout the year. Recently, I totaled up our bills over the last 12 months and tried to determine a monthly expense average. We’ve been trying to trim things down like switching some magazines to digital editions or borrowing more books from the library or cooking more at home with a meal plan in mind to help with budgeting. It’s an ongoing process.

You’re quite the expert when it comes to selecting environmentally-friendly products. What are a few of your favorite online stores for green shopping?

I think Abe’s Market has a great set of products to offer for the home and kitchen. Jillian’s Drawers has been a great resource for cloth diapering and potty training items for us. Finally, Gaiam does a fantastic job to provide eco-friendly shower curtain liners, organic cotton towels and other home items.

Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with our readers. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?

I hope that folks come to find that sustainable and eco-friendly practices can be frugal at the same time. We have saved almost $3000 by cloth diapering our little one and while it may be a little extra laundry, it’s worth the savings! Making your own food at home from fresh, local and organic ingredients can also stretch your dollar instead of buying take out. The most important part of going green and saving is to choose one area at a time in which to make a difference. That way it is not overwhelming and you can measure your success as you go.

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with a Savings Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #SavingsExperts to @CouponPal!

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