Are your spending habits aligned with your personal values? I really started asking myself this question when I began investing in early-stage companies and taking a vocal (and highly visible) stance on investing in female founders. Flipping through bills and thinking about my purchases, I faced a moral crisis of character: My powerful public statements on the importance of investing in women didn’t always align with the merchants on my credit card statement.
For me living a double life (publicly taking a high ground on how to invest and who to invest in while privately doing the opposite) was not an option. So, I took a hard look at my expenditures — from vendors to service providers, entertainment options and e-commerce sites — and adjusted my spending.
Click to read more about celebrities who use their wealth to pay it forward.
I’ve observed that an overwhelming number of us eagerly change our Facebook profile picture to a rainbow, use a trending activist hashtag or tweet out moral outrage upon the discovery that a beloved brand supports a cause we don’t. However, since changing my own spending habits, I often wonder if others consider how, as consumers, those routine, continuous purchasing habits fuel the bottom-line of the very things we vocally rally against.
Just like outrage, values travel further when there is some serious financial backing behind them.
Investing in What Matters to Me
One of my favorite expressions is “invest in the change you want to see in the world.” Whether for returns, impact or supporting social causes, investing for many people is that activity they seek to do at some yet-to-be determined date in the future. Investing, for me, is also about routine spending choices. Investing occurs each time I hand over my credit card (or cash) to pay for something.
Collectively, our spending habits are not inconsequential. Personal consumption expenditures are an economic driver — close to 75 percent of overall economic growth is attributable to consumer spending. Since the economic downturn in 2009, 83 percent of total economic growth has been fueled by household spending.
Stop waiting to invest in change. Choose to make an impact each time you buy a cup of coffee or select a movie to watch. The power to be impactful is in your wallet 24/7, and today is as good of a time as any to see if your personal spending is aligned with the way you see the world. Scan your credit card statement and make a note of routine expenditures, then tally of the amount you are (or are not) directing to further your values.
Business Choices Are Part of My Brand
I make my living primarily from public speaking, writing and projects related to my social following. A question I always ask when I’m approached as an influencer is whether the company seeking to work with me (and leverage my network) is sexist, racist or homophobic.
Yes, I’ve declined opportunities (which is not always easy, as an entrepreneur hustling for the next gig). However, for me, it comes down to this: It is simply not negotiable to accept money from an organization whose conduct is the polar opposite of the things I believe in. As an influencer, who I work for and who I accept money from is not a trivial transaction (i.e., a couple of tweets or posts) because that activity is now permanently associated with my personal brand.
My brand is my reputation. I’ve worked hard to build it to where it is today. To succeed financially, I have to nurture and grow my reputation. Why would I risk diminishing its long-term value for a few quick bucks?
Sticking to My Principles (Most of the Time)
I admit it, it is not always easy — and much like sticking to an exercise regimen, I’m not always perfect on aligning my values to my expenditures. A busy travel schedule, convenience and ease of use (e.g., “1-click shopping,” etc.) sometimes budge values out of the way.
For instance, I love to read and support other authors, as well as local businesses. Yet, it costs me more to buy a new book from an independent bookstore than to have it conveniently delivered any time of the day by an online retailer at a deep discount. The woman who emailed me to say she’d ordered a copy of my book from her local, woman-owned bookstore quickly righted my perspective.
More Food for Thought: These 9 States Pay Women Much Less Than Men
Further, the impulse to purchase an on-trend blouse from a fast-fashion retailer that I thought I couldn’t live without? I wore it once and then quickly donated it to Housing Works. If I’d stuck to my principles, I could have saved a few bucks instead of spending too few in the right place.
Of course, the next request that I get to share my networking know-how could be located anywhere — including a city primarily and conveniently served by an airline that I’ve sworn never to fly again. It’s easy to forget your morals when you’re trying to snag a good deal, but it’s something I know that I have to keep in mind.
One of the best things you can do is to put your money behind the things you believe in, instead of blindly throwing it toward products and services that don’t make sense for you as an individual. It’s not always easy, but you’ll find that you’re happier and have better peace of mind if you know that your money and your values are aligned.
Click through to read about Warren Buffett and other celebs who donate millions to charity.
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