Perhaps more now than ever, consumers are conscious of what their money supports when purchasing a product or service. Does checking into a luxury hotel mean supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation in a completely different country? Does spending money at a particular bar funnel funds to Planned Parenthood, or is the owner of a certain restaurant a supporter of certain political figures you have no interest in funneling cash to? Political stakes are heightened, and mundane daily tasks like grocery shopping or going out for coffee can come with questions of where exactly your money will end up.
The term “voting with your wallet” is often thrown around to ensure that well-informed purchases are supporting what we believe in the world. Environmentalists can vow to only buy eco-friendly coffee and those passionate about gender equality can prioritize buying from corporations actively working to eliminate the gender pay gap. And while this information is sometimes hard to come by, practicing conscious consumerism can have positive effects not only on your overall well-being, but tangible perks to your budget.
Voting with your dollar (or euro or peso) can have benefits beyond funding causes you believe in. “It’s really important to feel good about where you’re spending your money and how you’re spending your money,” says Arielle O’Shea, personal finance expert at Nerdwallet. “It’s so easy to spend money. And that’s a detriment to your budget at a baseline.” For example, if eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich leaves you feeling guilt-ridden because of the fast food brand’s support of anti-LGBTQ causes, that may not be the best expense for your financial wellness.
Being more conscious about the places you’re spending money can also help you cut back on wasteful, unnecessary and impulsive purchases and help you identify true needs versus wants. “[Conscious consumerism can have] a good impact on your budget, where you actually need to spend your money and spending time to research your best options,” O’Shea says. “You’ll get out of the habit of making impulse purchases and evaluating what you need and if it’s the best price and values wise.”
While eco-friendly, sustainable and other values-driven (as opposed to price-driven, like fast fashion) brands can be cost-prohibitive, they can also help you budget — consider buying one vintage or responsibly made top instead of five cheap ones or prioritizing humanely raised meat, subbing factory-farmed meat for other affordable protein options (like tofu). Of course, different budgets will accommodate different values-based shifts, but budgeting according to your values can help empower the way you spend money.
Saving, especially for travel or longer-term expenses, can also have values-driven benefits. O’Shea recommends becoming “socially conscious about where you keep and invest your money.” She recommends banks that are Certified B Corporations, which are for-profit businesses that uphold high social and environmental standards as well as socially responsible investment funds. When you feel good about where your money is being saved and spent, you’ll be more well-rounded, confident and informed about your finances.