For most people, building an eco-friendly dream home comes with a steep price tag. While LEED-certified homes can ultimately save money through energy efficiency, home owners might be initially discouraged by the high cost of eco-friendly materials. Features such as photovoltaic panels for the roof or a bottomless sand filter septic system may make a better home than a McMansion, but ultimately they add up to greater upfront costs.

For some home owners, that burden can put retirement and children’s college savings on hold. The Los Angeles Times reports on one couple’s struggle to rebalance their accounts after building the eco-friendly home of their dreams. California couple Eric and Dana Ellis are both fiscally and environmentally friendly. Now they have readjusted their priorities to service both aspirations.

The Ellises built a home near Mammoth Lake, Calif., using natural straw-bale insulation in the construction. By placing bales of hay in the walls, heating and cooling bills were reduced to just $28 a month. However, the investment placed into this low-impact construction impacted their other accounts. Despite fiscally responsible practices such as shopping at thrift shops and growing their own food, the couple worried that their depleted retirement funds would never recover. Also, they feared they might go broke sending their 9-year-old son, Orion, to college.

Delia Fernandez is a financial planner who helped the Ellises get back on track after their eco-friendly venture. The Ellises, both teachers, have a combined income of about $80,000. "This couple is very disciplined," Fernandez told the Los Angeles Times, noting that the Ellises line-dry their clothes, cut their cable bill, and take local vacations on the cheap. She urged the couple to save $10,000 a year in two Roth IRA account, which can be used towards both retirement and college.

Fernandez felt this move would enable the couple to accumulate $330,800 in savings by the time they retire. And more importantly, it would allow them to keep the eco-friendly house in which they had made such a great investment. Ultimately, with a few, easy tweaks, the Ellis’ were able to readjust their savings to accommodate their green dream home.

Luckily, not all green construction is so costly. Postgreen, a company in Philadelphia, recently initiated the “100K Project.” This project provided an “affordable home [for around $100,000] that prioritizes quality, design, energy efficiency, health and sustainability.” Nic Darling is their marketing and public relations officer. As he told Earth 911, “We were also surprised how much we could accomplish with fairly standard, cost-competitive measures after doing the legwork.”

For further reading:

Family strives to balance eco-friendly living with harsh economic realities
One California couple scrambles to catch up on retirement after investing heavily in their green dream house.