I talk a lot about voting with your dollar and choosing to spend money on companies that share your values. It’s a very powerful action, and it allows you to speak up outside of the voting booth. Money also tends to talk, loudly. That’s why boycotts work. However, it can feel impossible to use your money to make your voice heard when you don’t have much money to spare. I do believe it’s possible to vote with your dollar on a budget, so check out the ideas below!
Money also tends to talk, loudly.
1. Identify your values
The first step before making any changes is to identify why you’re doing it. Once you have your “why”, you will be a lot more motivated to do the thing. So figure out what your values are, and how they can play out when you’re spending your money. What issues are the most important to you? What actions would feel the most meaningful? Go from there! (You’ll also need to budget for this, so find out how to do that here!)
2. Switch banks
An easy (though tedious) way to vote with your dollar is to switch banks or other financial institutions. For example, Wells Fargo and Bank of America tend to invest money in things like oil pipelines. For me personally, that means their values don’t align with mine, so I don’t want to contribute to their profits. Even entire cities have divested from Wells Fargo in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which sends a very clear message. If this is something you want to do, look into your local credit union.
You can also change who you’re investing your money with. I put most of my extra money in Ellevest, because I know they are a fiduciary and hold similar feminist beliefs. I trust that they’ll put my own best interest first when managing my money. There is also the option of impact investing, which is the practice of investing in ways that align with your values. (For more information on impact investing, go here.)
3. Buy from companies you believe in
One of the reasons it’s so hard to vote with your dollar is cost. Many businesses that live our values tend to be less affordable. I’d love to buy everything I own from U.S. manufacturers, but the fact is, that’s cost prohibitive at this point in my life. However, when I can, I buy local or from companies I believe in. Some examples of these companies are Third Love, Wire and Honey, and DC Brau.
Another way that I vote with my dollar is not spending money at certain companies. Thanks to my political and social views, I no longer shop or eat at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, or Chik-fil-a. It’s important to me to keep my money away from companies or organizations that use their profits in ways I disagree with. We all have that right, and it allows us to align our money practices with our values.
Not all impact has to be made with literal money. Where you spend your time sends a clear signal about what you care about. It also truly helps the organizations that you’re volunteering for. Are there organizations in your city that work on issues you care about most? Sign up to be a volunteer! It doesn’t even have to be a huge time commitment. I used to serve breakfast at N Street Village only once a month. Any little bit helps!
5. Donate to a cause
Another great way to vote with your dollar is to donate to causes you care about. Certain organizations saw donations sky rocket after the 2016 presidential election. That was another way for people to make their voices heard. Stay tuned next week for a full piece on how to build donating to charity into your budget.
Do you have other ways that you vote with your dollar? Share in the comments!
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.