ethical spending

Over the past few months I’ve repeatedly seen that New Money Goals commercial. People share money goals that relate to investing, spending, and obtaining good credit cards. The commercial mentions investing in black-owned businesses and green businesses. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about the types of places where I want to spend and invest my money.

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

I’ve always felt that where you put your money matters. I believe that knowing your values and ethics and then spending in places that align with those are extremely important. After all, if something is cheap but it damages the world in a way I can’t accept, then I don’t want that thing. I can’t feel good about it.

Ethical Spending and Investing Isn’t Always Easy

For the most part, I think I’ve historically done a decent job of spending money with businesses that align with my values. However, I’m far from perfect. Honestly, you have to do some research and studying in order to find out the ethics behind a lot of businesses. Sometimes it isn’t easy.

Truth be told, I’ve slipped a lot in recent years. With the ease of getting things delivered directly to my door, plus the pandemic encouraging me not to go out to local shops, I simply haven’t been spending my money in the places I believe in most. For example, I hate fast fashion and have always shopped secondhand. And yet, in recent years, quite a few Amazon clothing items have managed to make their way into my closet. And I hate that. Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to recommit to ethical spending.

10 Places Where I Want to Spend / Invest My Money to Match My Values

Here are the ten things that are really important to me when it comes to the types of businesses and people who I want my money to support:

1. Vintage Clothing Stores

I definitely want to return to my lifelong habit of only purchasing secondhand clothes. For one thing, I love vintage clothes. I also love vintage shops and thrift stores. I want to see them survive. Moreover, I really believe that it’s important to stop new fast fashion from entering the world. The more life I can give to a pre-loved item, the better.

2. Independent Fashion Designers and Small Clothing Businesses

That said, there are a few things that I don’t buy secondhand. I find it challenging to find secondhand shoes, for example. And I definitely think socks and undergarments are better when they’ve never been worn by anyone else. However, that doesn’t mean that I need to get online and put a random brand in my cart. Instead, I can seek out independent makers who knit and sew and make items like these.

3. Other Independent Makers and Artists

It’s really important to me to support people who run their own little shops. Whether it’s through Etsy, craft fairs, local markets or pop-ups, I want these people to make a living. I can’t always afford to support them. However, I do want a percentage of my money to go towards this end. One way I do that is by supporting some of my very favorite artists through  Patreon. I also try to purchase / commission art and handmade items from people that I know directly whenever possible.

4. Small Family Businesses

Akin to the independent makers and artists, I love supporting small family businesses. Of course, it’s hard to specifically define “small”. We want family businesses to grow and sometimes they grow beyond the family. However, I think you can generally sense when a family business still maintains that family feel. (A true family feel, not the Bay Area tech startup “we are a family” mindset!) When I see a family-owned-and-operated restaurant or store, I want to give them my support.

5. Local Businesses and Arts

One of my favorite things about San Francisco historically is that it’s less friendly to big box stores and more friendly to small businesses. That’s shifted some over time but there’s still a spirit here that I like to support. Of course, it’s also expensive to run a business here due to high rent prices. As a result, I can’t afford to shop at local stores too often. However, every now and then I get the chance.

More than shopping at local stores, though, I like to give my money to the local restaurants, cafes, performance arts spaces, event spaces, etc. I frequently do buy tickets to events. I always tip the performers at shows. As much as possible, I try to support the people doing business here.

Moreover, I support small and local business through SMBX bonds investing.

6. BIPOC-owned, Women-owned, Queer-Owned Businesses

I want to support businesses that are owned and operated by people of color. Moreover, I want to support businesses that hire, promote, and empower people of color.

Similarly, supporting women-owned businesses and queer-owned businesses is important to me. I also work to support organizations, event spaces, and companies that are known to empower all of these groups of people.

7. Sustainable Eco-Minded Companies

If I’m going to shop with larger companies, in particular, then I want to know that they’re doing something good for the environment. At the very least, I hope that they aren’t harming the environment. It’s not always easy to tell about this stuff because there’s a lot of greenwashing that goes on. Nevertheless, I do believe in making the effort.

Similarly, I believe in at least attempting to purchase products that are low in chemicals and processing. I try to be green in my own life in the ways that I can.

And I try to put money towards change in areas where climate concerns are a big issue. For example, I’m very interested in cryptoart and NFTs but one huge problem with that right now is that it’s terrible for the climate. I’m putting my money in investments towards greener versions of cryptocurrency.

8. Fair Trade Companies

If I’m going to purchase items from a business of any size, then I want to know that the employees are treated well. Human trafficking and slave labor are very real problems in the United States and around the world. In particular, when I’m shopping from places I know work with artisans in other countries, I try to research that they utilize fair trade practices.

9. Peer-to-Peer Lending and Microloans

When possible, I like to loan money to other people so that they can do their own cool new things. Kiva loans, microfinancing, and peer-to-peer lending are a few of the ways I’ve done that in the past. Similarly, I’ll occasionally contribute to a Go Fund Me or crowdsourced funding goal.

10. Charities

I don’t tend to give a lot of money directly to non-profits and charities. After all, it’s really difficult to tell if the money is going where it’s supposed to go. However, there are a few select charities that I’ve researched well and worked with often enough over the years to believe in their work. I do give some of my money there.

What does ethical spending mean to you? How do you approach it and what have been the challenges? Let’s have a conversation in the comments below.

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