11/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

4 Green Money Savers

Every little bit counts in a strained household budget. These tips offer ways to go green while reducing costs.

Tip #1: Cut back on disposable paper products and food containers
If a four-person household relies on paper napkins at every meal, it can cost more than $130 annually. Add throwaway sandwich bags for weekday lunches, and you could have another $85 a year heading straight for the trash. Of course, single-use products also weigh heavily on the environment. With green cleaning habits, reusable cloth napkins and durable food containers offer affordable ways to save energy and resources. Not ready to pay $40 for a lunchbox system? You can assemble your own kit from fabric scraps and thrift store finds. Share your tips: Have you cut back on disposable products? What alternatives have you found?

Tip #2: Get rid of extra appliances--especially refrigerators

A conventional fridge sold in 2001 uses 40 percent more energy than today's Energy Star-qualified models. Yet we have more than 47 million refrigerators operating in the United States that are more than a decade old, and each one of results in an extra $90 or more in annual electricity costs. For a simple interactive guide to recycling older refrigerators (and a cool savings calculator), visit Energy Star's
Share your stories: Have you streamlined appliances in your home? How else have you cut back on home energy expenses?

Tip #3: Break the habit of buying bottled water on the go--even at the airport
Restrictions on liquids during air travel mean you have to buy bottled water, right? Wrong. You can still pack an empty bottle in your carry-on and fill it up at a water fountain after you've gone through security. As for everyday on-the-go hydration, you can save more than $1,000 a year if you equip your family with reusable bottles instead of relying on throwaway juice boxes and water bottles each day. Share your tips: Have you stopped buying disposable drink containers? What do you use instead?

Tip #4: Dabble in vegetarianism
Meat may be many things, but cheap it is not. While burgers won't set you back much at the drive-thru, they could contribute to high health costs over the long term--and they have a big environmental impact. If you cook at home, tofu and eggs offer protein-rich, low-cost alternatives to meat. If eliminating all animal products from your diet sounds like too much, consider starting with vegetable-centric meals three times a week. Share your tips: Have you changed your diet and ended up saving money? What do you think about part-time vegetarianism?