Shaping the world starts with your wallet
This week I spoke to a group of young people, each trying to improve the state of the world in different ways. They were motivated, driven to create change and had a track record of community leadership. And they were also keen to learn about money and financial literacy.
It’s a lazy societal stereotype that if we care about improving the world around us, we naturally don’t care about money and personal finance. Lazy and untrue. Indeed, at Money Bites we believe that creating social change means taking full responsibility for your actions as a consumer.
If you’re passionate about changing the world, here’s 4 steps to get you started in mastering your money:
1. Make conscious choices about your spending
When you’re at the supermarket, you’re faced with multiple options even within the same product category. Supermarkets love to know what influences our decision – is it cost, product design or marketing? Well for many consumers, it’s how the product improves the lives of others in our society and creates social impact. For example, I choose to buy Thankyou shower gel and hand wash products because I know that my choice has a wider community impact. Where you have an opportunity to select a product you would use anyway, choosing to buy from a social enterprise affiliated brand is one consumer choice which, when made regularly, can improve the state of the world.
Outside the supermarket, you can choose to bring your own coffee cup to the local café each morning to save one more takeaway coffee cup a day from ending up in the waste cycle. Many cafes also offer a discount if you bring your own cup, which is a saving you can round-up and pass on to your Acorns or Raiz investment account. Not a coffee fan? Save some plastics from the waste cycle and buy a reusable water bottle that you can take with you when you’re out rather than spending money on bottled water.
Around your home, focus on your energy usage by putting your laundry on a cold wash – you’d be surprised how much energy is used up simply heating the water used to clean your clothes. A bigger cost too can be saved in not using your dryer but instead buying a clothes drying rack and leaving your clothes out to dry naturally in the sun. With energy prices only going up, it’s a smart consumer decision which will save you money whilst also cutting back on your energy consumption.
2. Donate to causes you believe in
If you truly want to make a difference in the world, you have to actually put your hand in your pocket and donate to causes you believe. The cause you put your money towards will depend on your values and priorities for what you want to see in the community.
This could include:
- funding lifeguards so that your kids can safely swim at the beach
- supporting the least funded cancer research organisations, including bowel cancer which is a less media-friendly cancer but one which is becoming increasingly common
- donating to local and international charities to share the dignity by providing sanitary products to those in need
You have the power to change future outcomes through responsibly selecting a cause and applying your donation to something you care about. Select an organisation who makes a difference on that issue and ensure your money will go toward fixing the problem itself rather than excessive administrative or marketing costs. What’s more, many countries offer tax concessions for charitable donations so this choice to contribute could benefit your tax assessment, depending on your circumstances and if the charity you choose is eligible for the concession to apply.
Can’t afford to donate? Donate your time and skills to a social enterprise or charity – not to promote yourself via a selfie but to actually make a difference. Donate blood or plasma to the national collection agency to help someone who needs it. And the moment you can afford to, put your hand in your pocket. Because if you wait until you’re rich to donate, it will be too late.
3. Explore ethical financial products
When selecting financial products, look out for any ethical alternatives including retirement products or funds that offer a socially responsible investment option. When making this choice, do your homework and ensure that the fund’s investments and practices are ethical in reality beyond the marketing brochure. I would also recommend looking at the product fees and its average returns to ensure it’s a competitive product for the market, which is particularly relevant for a retirement fund as this is a long-term investment in your future self.
4. Get an emergency fund
This might a surprise addition to the list but you cannot save others if you don’t put your own breathing mask on first. Emergencies happen to everyone and there are several reasons why you need an emergency fund as a form of insurance against life’s uncertainties. If you need to get started, you’ll benefit from reading the 5 steps to building an emergency fund to cushion yourself from unexpected financial shocks. What’s more, having this emergency fund will enable you to fully commit to social causes, knowing that you have the financial security to back yourself to make a regular charitable donation or perhaps when the time is right, to start your own social enterprise.
Managing your money in a world where we’re constantly being marketed to isn’t easy and it’s less easy for those champions among us who choose to commit their money, time and skills to improving the state of the world.
However, it’s through making conscious spending choices, donating to causes you believe in, exploring ethical financial products and building your emergency fund, that you can start to use your money to create the change you wish to see in the world.