Like many people, I love going to farmer’s markets on the weekends to ogle over the beautiful produce, flowers and art. What I don’t love is looking at my inbox a few hours later to see the Square charges that accumulate after a morning spent practically throwing my bank card at vendors. While I have always wanted to support local artists, and buy high-quality, sustainable produce I historically have had a hard time choosing between my savings and my conscious. I thought that on any given day, you had to make a choice: save your money or uphold your conscious. Now, I’m learning that they aren’t mutually exclusive.
Advocate for your wallet and your causes
There are dozens of ways to save your money, but I’m still learning what’s right for me. Yes, eating a diet consisting mostly of Top Ramen and free office coffee might be cheap, but do I really want to suffer the consequences down the road? Not so much.
Having a healthy heart, mind, body, and bank account are all about the choices we make. At Nav.it we use the term conscious spending to define the first step in being aware of our spending and then incorporate this concept that really allows us to let our money represent us in the world. Here are a few decisions I’ve learned work for me and my wallet.
Make commitments to local places
If you’re anything like me, you have little plastic cards that give you discounts at every Kroger grocery store in the nation. Those discounts can really help save your money and make a difference on a weekly basis. After one too many food documentaries I was starting to question my food choices, but I also had a budget to keep in mind.
That’s when I learned about my local grocery co-op. Co-ops not only offer discounts to their members, they allow you to connect with your community in valuable ways. While I had to pay a fee to join, as a member I was then able to receive discounts on monthly shopping trips while feeling good about supporting local, sustainable food production.
Dig around and see what kind of community organizations exist around you. You can search through this co-op directory or this interactive co-op map to find one near your neighborhood. Some, like mine, offer discounted cooking classes and a voice in decision making. And it goes for more than just food! You can contribute in your community by joining clothing, toy and other cooperatives.
A fun one and a favorite of mine. We all live for the weekends (if you don’t, you’re the better person and I applaud you) and want to celebrate our days off when they finally come around. Usually this happens in the form of nights out on the town or lazy, endless brunches. I completely advocate the Treat Yourself lifestyle, but what happens when the treat jar budget is empty?
That’s when I like to suit up in party planner mode. While logistics may seem hard to tackle, I always try to remember that a group message on Facebook costs exactly zero dollars to start. Come up with an easy menu–pasta bar, tacos, burgers and salad–so each person only needs to bring one or two items. Before you know it you’ve only paid for your one topping but are eating like a queen. And always be sure someone’s assigned dessert duty.
Don’t lose money both on groceries and restaurants
This one is tough, but has saved me so much financial anxiety. In the past, my cooking resolve over a week deflated like a bouncy house with a hole in it. On Sunday I was Super Marissa. I would buy groceries that had the color palette of a forest (Super Marissa would never get tired of just eating spinach and brown rice, surely), make a fantastic dinner and go to bed peaceful, knowing that lunch tomorrow would be delicious leftovers.
By Wednesday afternoon all I could think about was pizza. Even though I had budgeted and told myself that THIS would be the week where I’d cook every single day, my determination dissolved. Week after week I felt like I had failed. What I eventually learned was that it was okay to mess up and that punishing yourself is never going to solve the problem. Instead, I nav.ed it and thought about what action I could take.
It seemed that while I made a good effort to cook every meal for five or so days a week, it just wasn’t realistic that I was never going to grab lunch in a hurry or want to see a friend for dinner. Instead of buying more groceries than I could cook and then having to throw away wasted produce, I reduced my grocery spending. Yes, I’m constantly working on cooking more and saving money on eating out when I don’t need to. But there is no reason to assume that a habit is going to change instantly when little progress has been made.
Changing how I thought about my weekly cooking was good for my health because it reduced anxiety that I had somehow “failed” myself by buying a meal once or twice a week. It was good for my wallet as I wasn’t spending more money on groceries than I would actually cook and eat. And it was good for the environment as I wasn’t throwing away produce after letting it sit for days.
If someone ever tells me my shoes are cute or they like my dress I turn into what probably looks like a drunk owl, peering at them expectantly, waiting for them to ask me where I bought said item. That’s because there are few things that bring me greater joy than to reveal that my new look is brought to you by the local thrift store.
Yes, there’s a strange amount of pride wrapped up in finding a bargain that matches your style. Even more, it’s awesome to know that your new digs are second-hand. Not only does this help save your money, but you can shop happily knowing that you’re re-using goods (and rocking them).
Socially responsible investing
To me, investing is the smartest and scariest thing on this list. I completely believe it’s vital to my future. But I feel like a third grader in a masters program when I read my prospectus. I have only recently come to find out that the vast majority of people feel the same way, no matter what their age. Plus, for as long as I’ve had a conceptual idea of Wall Street all I could imagine was constant yelling and one of my least favorite versions of Leo Dicaprio. I had this notion that investing is for those who were already wealthy, or those who were just greedy for more.
As I began to understand my own finances and how to save for my future, it became clear that diversifying my money made sense. I researched the concept of socially responsible investing, in which you invest your assets in corporate behavior with which you agree. This can include stocks with lower carbon exposure than most, bonds that support local initiatives, companies that focus on diversity in leadership and more. Personally, I’m all about clean tech.
Do your own reading, think about what matters to you, and look into portfolios that match your interests. I found The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment and Investopedia’s page on this type of investing particularly helpful when I was in the research stage. If you’re not sold on the idea and want some more background, check out this great piece on Forbes about the concept. The sooner the start, the more you gain!
On good days I want to change the world; and then later that day, I look at my checking account and consider just thinking about the world. But by making a few changes, nav.ing your decision making, and focusing on making a difference in small, individual moments I think you truly can shift this planet’s momentum. Let’s get started.
Image credit: Mirjana Jesic