We all have to spend money; no matter what you think of that, it’s the way the world works in the modern age. Yet despite this need to spend, it is entirely possible to be ethical when doing so. Thinking carefully before paying for anything, particularly when making a large purchase or when deciding where to put our money for the best investment opportunities, can mean that, as well as potentially saving money, we are helping the planet a little more too. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways you can spend your money ethically.
Although we started this article by saying that everyone had to spend money, that doesn’t mean you have to spend money on everything. The less money you spend, the less waste you will be producing in many cases, and that’s obviously a good thing when you’re trying to be more ethical and eco-friendly. So, if you don’t need something, simply don’t buy it. You’ll be amazed at the positive difference it can make in your life, your home, and your bank balance when you only ever buy things you truly need.
When it comes to the things you do need, there are still ways – in some situations, at least – wherein you can potentially be a lot more ethical and not spend any money. In some places, it’s possible to use a bartering system, offering something you have in return for something you want. Although this is an ancient way of making a purchase, it is making something of a comeback for ethically minded people. Perhaps you can find a local group that is happy to use this method for transactions.
Buy Second Hand
If you do need to spend money, spending as little as possible is good for you, and buying carefully is good for the planet. Buying second-hand ticks both of those boxes. When you buy second-hand, you generally pay less for the item than if you were buying something brand new. However, more importantly, you are buying something that someone would have otherwise thrown out, and often, if it couldn’t be recycled, it would have ended up in a landfill. This is bad for the planet, so you are doing your bit to be greener by buying secondhand.
As well as buying secondhand, you can repurpose items. Taking something that no longer has any use in the manner it was intended and repurposing it through ‘upcycling’ into something else, thereby extending its life, is a great idea, and it’s a useful skill to have too. You could even build a business out of upcycling if you wanted to, putting something back into the community while making an income.
Where Are Your Savings?
It’s great to save money; you never know when you’re going to need to dip into your emergency fund, for example, and if you want to make a larger purchase such as a car, white goods for the kitchen, or even a home, you’ll need to have savings.
Yet where you put your savings can make a big difference. For those savers who want to do something more ethical, there are a number of different ethical banks around that will offer savings accounts. Ethical banks are those that only invest in (and lend to) businesses that help the environment or protect people in some way, so you’ll know that the bank you’re with is doing something good. The only issue is that, because these banks are doing a lot to help others, the interest rates on their accounts aren’t particularly high. It pays to shop around to find savings account that you can get behind in terms of what it stands for and gives you a fair return on your savings.
One of the best ways you can be more ethical – and more green – in your own home is to change energy suppliers to one that is renewable. Your energy bills are one of the times when you can’t barter or trade, and you’ll need to simply pay the money that you owe. So if you can ensure that the company you are using – and the energy you are using – is green and better for the planet, that’s a good thing.
It’s easy to switch from your current supplier to a greener one offering renewable energy. It takes a few minutes online, and often, once you sign up for the new deal, the energy supplier will complete the switch over for you; you won’t even have to contact your current supplier at all (this might seem like a small thing, but it’s something that often holds people back from switching even if they know it’s the right thing and it would save them money).
Even better, renewable energy won’t cost much more than you’re paying now, so it won’t add to your household bills in a negative way. If you are happy to spend a little more money, you can contact a local solar installer and have solar panels installed on your roof. In this way, you effectively create your own energy, which is highly ethical and eco-friendly. Although you will need to pay for the installation in most cases, the savings you can make will pay for that over time.
Most people use one or two online stores when they shop. The same is true of physical stores. They will be used to a certain store, they know the products sold there, they know how easy the website is to use or how friendly the staff is, and they will keep going back time after time.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this idea – humans are, after all, creatures of habit. However, it’s worth considering what those stores are and whether they are ethical. If you’re shopping at huge multinational chains, then, no matter how easy it might be to do so because the apps are well designed, or you can be confident that the products are what you want, it might actually be better to shop around and find somewhere else to buy from.
There are thousands of independent stores trying to make it online and in shopping malls and main streets all over the country. These are people who have put everything they have into starting a small business, and that small business directly pays for their food, their kids’ education, their healthcare, and more. If you can shop at an independent store, that is a much more ethical thing to do than it is to buy from a huge chain. Plus, you might find that you come across some truly unique and wonderful items that you would never have found if you had stuck to the stores you usually buy from.
Rather than making your next purchase a quick one from the same place you usually buy from without thinking, set aside some extra time and really search around. You’ll be amazed and impressed by the quality and range of goods available when you look for an independent business owner to buy from.
Another note to add in this regard is that some business owners set their businesses up expressly to be more ethical. They choose to invest their profits in ethical causes, or they buy from sustainable producers or small businesses in less well-off countries. If this is something you care about, then it’s even more important to shop around and research the companies you want to buy from.
We talked about savings accounts earlier, and we mentioned how having savings was a good idea. In fact, it could be said it’s essential, and without savings, many people would have a difficult time if they lost their jobs or were injured and couldn’t work. Yet if you want to do something positive with your savings while you aren’t in need of them, you could think about lending your money to those who need it.
We don’t mean friends and family, although of course, that is something you can do if you choose to; we mean small businesses and startups that need a cash injection. There are a variety of funding circles you can join that will mean you can invest your money into other people’s businesses. The idea is that they will pay you back with a certain percentage return, so it could even be a better way of making the most of your savings than using a traditional savings account, no matter how ethical it might be.
When you sign up for this kind of scheme, you can choose which businesses you invest in. That means you can find the ones that align with your sense of ethical working, whatever that happens to be. You can feel proud that your money is going into a business that is itself working hard to change the world for the better. The fact that you can make a profit is a bonus, meaning that you can top up your savings or reinvest that money in another business that will also help the world.