Financial Fluency Episode #24: The Power of the Purse
Today I want to talk about the power of the purse. Usually when someone uses the term, the power of the purse, they are talking about government, and one group or agency or arm of the government having the ability to manipulate the actions of another by withholding funding or putting stipulations on funds.
Yes, I did look that up, and I wrote it down, because I wanted to get it right!
You can listen in below and Tweet it out here
What I’m talking about is something a little different, however, I thought it was a good title, considering we are in an election year that looks like it will have the first ever female candidate. I realize this is going to go out a little while after I record it, so at the time this goes out, we will probably know whether it’s Hillary or Bernie Sanders in the Democratic nomination spot.
Right now we’re still in the very early primaries as I’m recording this, so given that this is the election year with an actual viable potential female candidate, I think we should do what so many other media outlets are doing, and talk about her accessories!
Just kidding! I don’t want to talk about Hillary’s actual purse, I want to talk about the power in your purse, and the way that we all vote with our dollars every single day. Tweet that!
Use The Power You Have
Historically women have not had a whole lot of power over personal finances, but one power that women often have had is some amount of choice over the household budget, over which product you buy, who you buy it from, where you buy it from and how much you pay for it.
Given that you were in a place that had more than one option – maybe if you lived in a small town, maybe there was only one butcher and grocer – today we are so far from that with the internet.
We have so many choices. We can make choices to spend our money in so many different ways, to order things, have them delivered, to buy local, there are so many ways we can affect who gets the money from our own purses, and that really is a whole lot of power.
There are a number of ways we can harness this power and really make a difference in the world using just what we buy. I know sometimes in elections, especially here in the US where we have the whole electoral system and it seems convoluted and like the early primaries are the only ones that matter, by the time any kind of national election gets to us in Arizona, it feels like our vote doesn’t really matter.
But our ability to buy things, to vote with our dollars, to decide who gets that money, that is a very real power.
If we look at organizations like the Koch brothers, because they’re so big, they’re so political and they put so much money into politics, we are the ones filling their pockets. We buy their products and we put money into their pockets, and that money then ends up in the pockets of lobbyists who have real political influence.
In the past it was hard to always know what products came from what original companies, where the money actually really filtered back to, but nowadays thanks to a lot of innovation and a lot of new people making incredible apps, we can actually find out.
Here’s How to Harness the Power
So I’m going to tell you about a couple of apps that I really like, that can help you make some of these decisions.
One of these is Buycott, and there are a number of apps like Buycott where you scan the barcode of something you’re about to buy, and it can tell you a number of things.
I wrote down three of my favorite campaigns that they have, the first being Say No to GMO. If you scan the barcode of a product, it lets you know if the company this comes from supports GMO labeling or not, and if that company is directly involved with genetically modified organisms.
Another one is Boycott Koch Industries, and I picked on Koch Industries a little there just because they are so political and so divisive in their politics. Another one is Boycott Nestle, depending on how you feel about Nestle and water rights in different countries, things like that, so what this app does, it lets you be there in the store, standing in the aisle, looking at the products there, and make a slightly more educated decision about where the money that you’re spending is going to end up, and what kind of causes that will support.
Whether you’re for or against GMO labeling, for or against Koch Industries, for or against Nestle, you can make that decision, you can choose to have your money go to those people.
Another app I like isn’t actually looking at your purchase, but I think it’s great to know, and it’s called All Are Green,. What this browser extension does is it allows you to see where funding comes from for anyone who’s an elected official in the US at the Congressional senate level. It shows you which industries have donated the most to their campaigns.
Transparency is Key
While that only affects your spending a little bit, you can see which companies, oil and gas industries, big pharma, industrialized agriculture, are funding different senators and congressmen and women, to get an idea of where their allegiances may lie, based on the funding they receive, and whether or not that actually influences your choices about what kind of purchases you make within those industries.
That’s up to you, but it’s good to know where the funding is coming from and who they’re influenced by in terms of lobbying. With this being an election year, I feel even more of a heightened awareness around all of these things. I also really want you to feel that power, to feel that you have this choice.
You are the customer, you are voting with your dollars every single day, whether you buy one thing or another, whether you go to the local farmers’ market or you order something from Amazon online, you’re supporting those things actively.
While we don’t always have choices for everything we need, we have a lot of choices for a lot of things, so if it’s something that’s important to you, take a little time, do a little research, see how your money funnels towards the causes that are most important to you, and try to do your best to funnel them away from the ones that you don’t want.
Another Choice We Have
We can also do this in our investing.
Not so many years ago, the idea of socially sustainable investing or investing for social good was kind of laughed at. The funds existed, but they really weren’t making very good returns. That’s been changing over the years, some of that with the recession, the oil and gas prices dropping, that being less of a huge sector, but also some of these really major endowments like Harvard divesting of all of their oil and gas investments.
Moves like that may seem relatively small, those colleges have a lot of money in there for one institution, and in the overall picture of the US economics, it’s not a massive shift to have one or two colleges to divest of their oil and gas investments, but as more and more do it, it’s a shift, it’s kind of a slow sea change.
It’s where people want to support solar and wind and these other sorts of things, and at some point we’re going to run into problems if we only and always rely on these resources that have some detrimental effects and that other countries control the natural resources for.
When you’re investing there are a number of ways to do it, but if this is important to you, this is another way you vote with your dollars. Do you want your retirement funds invested in certain things? You can look at the different funds you’re invested in now, find out which companies are involved and find out exactly what they do. Are any of these companies doing things or supporting causes that you don’t like?
Index funds are fantastic and easy and low fees and great, but they are coming up with more and more, like Vanguard has its own, and a number of other companies do as well, of these sorts of social good, socially conscious investment funds. If that’s important to you, go seek it out, educate yourself and find out more.
This voting is the kind of voting we do all the time. We don’t wait for every four years, it’s happening day by day, and it’s so subtle that we don’t really see the effects. It’s only now and then that we get an idea of how much any of these companies really make off of all of us, but we have the choice, we really do, and we can vote with our dollars.
In this election year, get out there, vote with your dollars, decide what you want to support, what you don’t, and don’t forget to support yourself, that’s one of the most important things. Paying off your debt and building up your savings, that is you voting for your future.
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Quick and Dirty Guide to Voting with Your Dollars
Wanna know more? Information is the key. Combining the information in the tools below with the money you spend gives you the power to change the world, one grocery store trip at a time. Download this guide to learn about useful apps that can help you consciously vote with your dollars this year!
You have the power to change the world, one grocery store trip at a time.
I love this idea.
We’ve been using the power of our purse for years – we’ve put all of our super into the “sustainable shares” options, we shop at local, family-owned shops as much as possible, and we set aside a small amount each week to support crowdfunded campaigns for things we really care about.
And recently, when Woolworths (one of the two big supermarket chains here in Australia) decided to call people who liked eating healthy, home-cooked meals “freaks”, we decided to ban ourselves from shopping at any of their stores ever again.
Sometimes it can feel like we’re just one family, so what difference can we make, but I’m sure it adds up over time, and the more of us who exercise this power, the more the world will come to be more like the place we’d like it to be.
It absolutely adds up. And the more of us who do it all together, the more it adds up. So great to hear how you’ve been doing this all along. Great job! Hopefully technological tools like the ones in this episode can help even more people learn how to do these kinds of things too!