Want to help the planet? Start with your spending.

I have watched Greta Thunberg’s address to the United Nations at least a dozen times. I have watched it alone, with colleagues, my husband and my two teenage daughters. Each time my emotions run the gamut of anger to despair. Anger because Greta is right, we have stolen her future and that of our children with our choices of today. Despair because I want to do the right thing for the planet, but how I am just one person.

As a money coach I see many parallels between our attitudes about the environment and to those about our money. We live in a world of instant gratification and consumerism. Few people want to give up their wants of today for their needs of tomorrow. We are literally spending our futures much like what we are doing to the resources on this planet.

So what can one person do to reverse climate change? A great first step is to look at your spending habits. Do you spend on products that are good for the planet? Things that are built to last or are you buying out of convenience? Have you thought about how your disposable purchase decisions may impact your savings in the long run as well as the planet?

How to become a conscious earth-saving spender

  1. Start with your groceries. Tally up the total cost of your weekly trips to the grocery store; determine the frequency of your trips and your average spend. Are you making conscious decisions on what you buy and when? In my practice I find that food accounts for most of my clients behavioral spending. Once you have determined your grocery trends ask yourself the following questions. Do I throw out food every week? Do I go to the grocery store when I am hungry or tired? Do I shop multiple times a month? Could meal planning cut down on my spending and wastage? Am I buying food that is farmed in a way that is good for the planet and therefore good for me and my family?
  2. Next, examine your weekly convenience food purchases. Do you really need to go through the drive thru every day on your way to work? Those coffees and breakfast sandwiches can take a toll on your savings not to mention your waistline and the planet. When I did a deep dive into my latte habit I realized it did not even bring me joy it was a habit. Nothing more than a warm cup in my hand, I have switched to hot water and it does the same trick. And oh let’s not forget all those cups and single uses plastics from our daily caffeine fix!!!
  3. Hold off on buying something until you absolutely need it. I like to play a game with myself and go as long as I can before I purchase something. I like to see how much I really need something. Then if it is still on my mind or I see how it can improve my life I save up for it and pay for it in cash. This helps me decide if I really want something or if the moment will pass. Buying something with your savings makes it all the sweeter.
  4. Put your money power to good use. Companies listen when you stop giving them your money. If you do not like the practices that certain companies use in manufacturing or delivering their goods stop buying from them. Look for alternatives that better suit your values but also give them a chance to improve by telling them why you have switched.
  5. Invest like your future depends on it. There are many socially responsible investment options available for your savings. These funds not only invest in best of class companies and organizations that are doing good things for this planet they also have a seat at the table for change all with a track record of great performance. Why not secure your financial future by investing your money in a way that aligns with your values while securing the future of the planet.

Becoming a conscious spender is a great way to help the planet as you will reduce your consumption and reuse what you already have.

One person can make a difference and everyone should try.
—John F. Kennedy

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