How to shop ethical on a budget

5 Tips & ideas to buy affordably sustainable

Is ethical and affordable even possible? There are definitely some smart ways to choose sustainable and stylish alternatives while you keep your budget in mind. Let’s find out!

If someone gave you a thousand bucks and urged, “Go ahead, have a little ethical shopping spree!” you would undoubtedly have a great time but would not get as far as you may hope. One of many reasons is that responsibly sourced, ethically produced items may involve higher quality materials or ingredients, include more steps, and employ a production staff that may be higher paid. Each of these components is more costly than their counterparts that may be mass-produced with toxic or synthetic materials and poorly treated labor.

There are ways to buy guilt-free a bit cheaper. I have been completely spoiled by living in an area with a multitude of secondhand fashion and interiors choices.  There are also several local food/beverage production businesses and co-ops. These resale businesses fundamentally contribute to the resistance of fast fashion destruction by keeping items out of landfills and extending the life of the item. They also save me anywhere from 10%- 80% off the original price. Local coffee roasters, bakeries, farmers’ markets, and food co-ops bring wholesome ingredients to the community at reasonable rates. Many other options for getting the best deal on a conscientious purchase is the focus of this adventure.

Ethical shopping on a budget
Photo Credit Burst by Pexels.com

Photo Credit Burst by Pexels.com

1. Tips to ethical online shopping on a budget

I can easily go to a plethora of sites and buy a new, responsibly sourced, ethically made piece of clothing but the price may be in the hundreds which are higher than I want to go.

Tamga Designs was my destination while searching for a festive summer dress. Their Vale Midi Dress caught my eye and is offered in two gorgeous prints but at $148 I just couldn’t squeeze that into my budget this month so the first thing I did was search the sale section on the site. When I spotted an adorable two-piece set for about 40% less than the dress, I was thrilled. This will keep my shopping relationship open with the creative folks at Tamga even when the full price is out of my range. 

Having followed The Root Collective from its creation, I have been blessed to know the founder’s personal story and see the gorgeous product line grow. Watching their social media feeds for the Imperfect Boot and Shoe Sales has allowed me to score some of their fabulous flats at a great rate. They usually feature sales on their website as they change their designs or featured color line.  


Ethical shopping on a budget
Photo Credit Artem Beliaikin from Pexels.com

Photo Credit Artem Beliaikin from Pexels.com

2. General tips to shop ethical on a budget

Here are a few inspiring ideas to get you shopping while keeping you under budget:

  • Resale boutiques, thrift stores, and flea markets- My fav way to save is as classic as savers themselves.
  • Swap communities offering piece per piece trade or items for purchase- these may be virtual or in person.
  • Online thrift store and resale boutique shopping- the best of both worlds
  • Seasonal Sales every company clears out its inventory to make way for new stuff.
  • Buy offseason, the best time to get winter boots may be in the early spring.
  • Watch featured promotions and sales on Social Media- your favorite businesses want to keep your interest daily.
  • Sew or knit your own clothes- keep it simple; try an under 3-hour pattern, choose your own organic fabric.
  • Make your own cleaners, lotions, potions, and creams- you are in charge of the safe and natural ingredients.
  • Find locally-made products.
  • Food/produce co-ops.
  • Grow your own veggies and herbs.

Where Do I Get Started?

Change The World offers a great starter guide. In addition to several helpful categories they have “Shop Near You” and “Wholesale” tabs.

3. Find a thrift store in your area

Not sure about thrift stores, resale boutiques, or flea markets in your area? Joybird has a wonderful overview guide.

Ethical shopping on a budget
Photo Credit RF.studio from Pexels.com

4. Find discounts, sales and bundles on ethical online stores

If you are buying first hand, I randomly selected a few sites to see exactly what their sales and offers are currently.

Ethical shopping on a budget

5. Do It Yourself

There have been several times when the garment I have in mind is just not there in a style or fabric I like. Thankfully, I had a grandmother who taught me to sew which has come in handy. There are several ways to sew or make clothes, accessories, or bags without investing in ridiculous time and money. The benefit of living in the YouTube era is that you can be guided by a video and audio tutorial to make just about anything! You can also choose your fabrics or fibers and keep them as organic as you want them.

Ethical shopping on a budget
Photo Credit Caroline Feelgood from Pexels.com

Making simple cleaning, health, and beauty products at home can be very simple and cost-effective as well. In addition to choosing your ingredients, you can select your containers or bottles and jars to reuse as much as you like. My favorite example is my home-made laundry powder which included Fels-Naptha, Borax, and Baking powders. The ingredients are basic and cheap, easy to buy in stores or online, and it lasted twice as long as the strongly perfumed store brands. You may even choose to customize the scent with some peppermint or lavender essential oils.

Ethical shopping on a budget
Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels.com

Whether you are choosing to buy a finished product or create your own, the sources and resources available to the average shopper today are almost endless. This allows for great savings if you are willing to put a little time and intention into your ethical shopping journey.

Please share any saving and creating ideas you have discovered in the comments below.

Ethical shopping on a budget

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Shawna Serpe

Colorado native Shawna Serpe shares the joys of dance, watercolor, hiking, and writing. Her adventures in parenthood, education, and ministry eventually opened doors to work for nonprofits. She interpreted Bethlehem, Pennsylvania history, worked with the disabled, and collaborated to free trafficked women. Working in an upscale resale boutique she learned the process of re-homing garments, shoes, and accessories while cooperating with volunteers. She observed that the customers were highly motivated by their purchases going towards sheltering local victims and that they support similar businesses. Serpe emphasizes the blessings of community, creativity, sustainability, and wellness in her freelance writing.

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