Becoming a Conscious Consumer

I have to confess to more than a little fondness for social media. Whether it’s checking out what friends are doing on Facebook, tweeting during my favourite show or looking at the pretty pictures on Instagram. It’s a rabbit hole I frequently fall into.

What often takes me by surprise in the online world, is the energy given to outrage. Every day it seems I’m asked to sign a petition, share a hashtag or like a page dedicated to fighting this week’s cause. I’m not suggesting we don’t use social media to try and effect change, however I do often wonder whether the average person likes, shares or hashtags and then goes about their day unwittingly contributing to the very cause they just rallied behind.

How would they do that? By being unconscious consumers and not paying attention to where they’re spending, borrowing and investing.

I believe if we really care about the campaigns we profess to get behind, we need to become aware of how we may be unwittingly contributing to them with our wallets. Which means becoming conscious consumers. To start to care a little more about what is happening when we make choices about where we are spending, borrowing and investing.

Perhaps there needs to be a little less hashtag outrage and a little more voting with our wallets which, after all, is where it really hurts, right? So how do you become a conscious consumer and what money choices could you be making that are going against your values?

  1. Understand where your money is being invested. In life, you could be a card carrying vegan who chooses what you eat and wear carefully and considerately. However you could unwittingly be spending more than you consume in a year by supporting companies who are pro-animal testing by not understanding where your money is being invested. And before you argue that you don’t have any savings, what about your superannuation? Too many of us once ticked a box on a form and then never gave it another thought. Which means we also don’t understand where our money is being invested. Before you spend valuable energy campaigning on social media, make sure you’re not unwittingly being outraged with one hand and participating with the other. Sure, you might argue it’s too hard and you don’t understand what your fund is doing but that is what people like me are for! We can show you exactly who your fund is investing in and what their activities are (making sure you understand that these companies may have or be subsidiaries). Other options might include investing in ethical funds, cherry picking the companies you want to invest in or considering Self Managed Super.

  2. Understand your spending. Before you add your name to another campaign featuring a child working for too many hours in unsafe conditions or against companies using certain chemicals in food – understand the story behind where you’re spending your money. That’s because you could be signing today and recklessly supporting companies who support child labour and harmful pesticides with the other. Yes I understand this may involve a bit of research but if you choose, every single week, to look into one brand that you’re purchasing from or one store that you’re buying from then you can start to become a deliberate consumer. Again, it’s important to understand that choosing to purchase from one company which is under the umbrella of a larger company may indirectly be contributing to the profits of the group. But at least when you tug at the ball of string that is your spending power, you can start to make conscious choices about who you want to benefit from your spending power and just as importantly – who shouldn’t. If you want to make life easy for yourself then choose local producers, smaller stores and ask the business owner directly where they source their product.

  3. Understand your borrowing. Easy credit really can make life – easy. But store cards, car loans, even being able to pay your insurance monthly generally means your loan is being provided by a company you aren’t even aware you have a relationship with. Which means you might be choosing to shop with companies based on ethical values everywhere else in your life but you may feel a tad uncomfortable if you start to look at who you are now unwittingly providing profits to. I’m certainly not suggesting all of these companies are unethical, but again, it’s about understanding who you’re spending with and choosing whether to spend or not according to your own individual values.

It’s so easy to sign a petition, retweet for a campaign or use a hashtag and then walk away feeling good about ourselves. But too often we’re unaware that the issue we’re rallying so strongly against on social media we just might be supporting with our financial choices.

At The Money Barre we know that ethical choices are particularly important for the Gen X and Gen Y which is why we believe it’s so important you decide to become an informed, savvy consumer and start to vote with your wallet as well as your keyboard.

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