The United States is in a unique political situation right now that is… well, a blog post in itself. It’s had me thinking a lot, though, about all the ways we vote or offer support, especially with our dollars and our attention.
The channels you watch, the books you read, the blogs you follow- these are how you’re spending your attention, a finite non-renewable resource.
The things you buy, the brands you give your money- these are how you’re spending your hard-earned dollars.
When you’re committed to changing your finances by paying down debt, saving more aggressively, or investing more, it can be hard to give yourself permission to spend money. Even worse than not spending money, though, is spending money in a way that doesn’t align with your values; in other words, spending your money in ways that supports a brand, organization, or message that doesn’t align with who you are or what you believe is even worse than not spending money at all.
We’ve all heard the expression “you vote with your dollars.” Today, it is more true than ever. In the current political system of gobbledygook, it is not enough to vote every four years. It’s not enough to just vote at Presidential and mid-term elections. You can and should vote every single day by spending your money- or not spending your money- in a well-thought out way, just like you’d cast your vote.
Aligning Your Spending With Your Values by Budgeting
There are lots of ways to create a budget or to not create a budget, but there is only one way to ensure that you are aligning your spending with your values: by having a spending plan. By planning for the things you need to buy ahead of time, you can make sure you have ample money to cover those expenses at the vendor that aligns with whatever is important to you.
- How to Budget
- 7 Ways to Make Living on a Budget Fun
- My #1 Tip for Sticking to a Budget
- Cait Flanders’s Mindful Budgeting Planner
Christmas spending is a great time for this. After narrowing down the people on our Christmas list (and then narrowing it down again), I decided I wanted to focus on supporting veteran- and military spouse-owned businesses. All my Christmas shopping is done right now and some of the business I got to support this season were:
By planning out my Christmas budget before hand, I was able to spend a little more to pay for gifts from vendors who had missions greater than “make money.” While I would encourage you to also support these vendors, perhaps there are causes that are more important to you. That’s fine too! What matters most is that you are being intentional with how and where you are spending your money.
This approach to money isn’t limited to gift-giving. It is also applies to how your spend your money on a day-to-day basis.
A personal example: Print media in the United States is on decline. With that, the revenue model of most print media organization is changing. Many of them are struggling. Two months ago, I decided that I wanted to support quality American journalism. My solution: I subscribed to monthly print magazine of The Atlantic. For less than $25 per year, I could get a wonderful coffee table magazine, read well-written commentary on American life today, and support high quality journalism.
The decision originated in my obsession with The Daily, a New York Times podcast that keeps me up-to-date on the news. After recognizing how much value the podcast was adding to my life, I decided it’s something I wanted to be able to support. As someone who produces a lot of free content for the internet mostly for free (I mean, I don’t charge you anything for access to this blog), I recognize how important it is to support content producers and pay them for their work when I believe it’s worth paying for. Unfortunately, the New York Times is not available in my zip code, but I will reevaluate again when we move.
For me this isn’t limited to just the news either.
I pay for a Stratechery subscriptions, for example. For $100 per year (I do pay the yearly subscription), I get a ton of industry-specific information in my inbox four days per week. There is a free version- one weekly newsletter per week, but I think it’s worth $100/year for the paid membership.
This line of thinking, though, only applies in areas that provide a lot of value to my life. Hot Pod is the newsletter on all-things-podcasting industry. I was subscribed to it for a bit, but after three months I decided that I’m not that into the podcast industry- I’m just a consumer of great podcasts, but I don’t have an eye or interest towards the industry. This, too, is an example of aligning my spending with my values. If I were paying for something that I wasn’t using that would be wasteful, and being wasteful doesn’t align with my values!
It boils down quite simply to this: Don’t spend money on the things that aren’t important to you, so that you can spend money on the things that are.
Sounds easy, right?
A bit of a disclaimer: There’s a book by the name “Moral Capitalism”; I have not read it and assume no affiliation or knowledge of the book.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had passion for politics. My parents will tell you I’ve wanted to serve in elected politics since I learned to speak. As a right-leaning millennial, I’ve always believed in the idea that I’ve named “Moral Capitalism.” The idea is that we, as individuals, can spend our money in a way that dictates the market to be altruistic.
Behavioral economists recognize that often times people act irrationally (Source). I believe, though, the crux of humanity is good. If you and I, if my neighbor and yours, if the guy I walk past in the Target and the woman stopped behind me at the stop sign- if we collectively spend our dollars in a way that matters, we can make a difference to the economy, to our communities, and to our lifestyles.
Off course there are bad actors out there, but I’m not going to let their existence or even their negative actions stop me from making good decisions! If we stop doing good because there are bad actors out there, we compound their negative effects!
How you spend your money matters! Indulging on the things you value is not only good for small business, but it’s also good for you! I hope this holiday season and going into the new year, you spend your dollars in a way that aligns with your values.
Emilie is an Army Wife, Data Engineer, and CrossFitter with a love for working through her thoughts in this space on the internet. She is a contributor to many open source projects including dbt, Meltano, and GitLab. She lives with her husband Casey, their son RJ, and their pup Bo in Columbus, GA.