During this coronavirus pandemic and time of social unrest, what can one person do to make things better?
Really, is there anything I can do that will make a difference?
These thoughts have been setting up camp in my mind on a weekly basis (at least it’s not daily, eh?). Sometimes when this happens, I start to feel hopeless and I’ll spend the day not wanting to talk to anyone, procrastinating on my work, and sequestering myself in my bedroom reading and listening to podcasts. Hey, we all need those days!
But, on other days when I recognize what’s happening, I’ll stop and ask myself two questions.
How do I want to spend my time?
How do I want to spend my money?
I want to focus on the second question today, because I’ve realized over the past few months that I have a forgotten source of power right in the palm of my hand.
That source of power is my wallet.
Here are some questions I asked myself, and also asked my husband Marcus, earlier this summer.
Do you realize that every time you shop, you’re voting with your dollars?
When you buy something from a business, is it a business that you want to see exist and prosper?
Do your money ‘votes’ match your beliefs and values?
After some discussion, we realized that our spending habits–our ‘voting’ habits–needed to change.
We don’t want to give our money to businesses that support President Trump and his anti-human policies and/or that have inhumane or discriminatory (racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic) policies or practices.
Because of this, we had to make tough decisions about stores we’ve been patronizing for nearly 20 years. These stores have quality products and there are good people that work there, but we cannot, and will not, keep supporting companies that continue to uphold and fund societal inequities.
Thus, we no longer shop at Fred Meyer and QFC (both owned by Kroger) and Home Depot. We have also severely limited our shopping at Amazon to items that don’t involve fulfillment by their warehouse staff (such as ebooks).
We’ve read enough news over the years about Kroger not treating its employees well and more recently, about them not keeping their employees safe, and even more recently about them not allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter buttons.
We also read about Bernie Marcus, the billionaire cofounder of Home Depot, giving $7 Million to Trump’s 2016 campaign and to his reelection campaign.
Lastly, it should be no surprise to anyone that follows the news that Amazon has continued its inhumane treatment of warehouse employees. Also, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos makes about $311 million per day. Per day, people. Why do we keep giving Amazon money?!?!
So, where is our money going instead?
Our money now goes to local stores and family-owned businesses that we want to survive the pandemic and beyond. This includes Secret Garden Books, our neighborhood bookstore; PCC, a food co-op that supports Northwest farmers and producers; Tall Grass Bakery, our neighborhood bakery; Stoneway Hardware, our neighborhood hardware store; Morgan’s Kitchen and Bath, our neighborhood electric and plumbing store; our neighborhood lumber yard, Limback Lumber; and our local gardening center, Swanson’s.
We don’t avoid all big companies though. We also shop at, or order from, Costco once a month. Costco has been known as a fair and generous employer for years and we feel good supporting them. Also, we shop at Trader Joe’s. We enjoy TJ’s products and friendly customer service, but their corporate management has made questionable choices regarding some of their Seattle employees and Black Lives Matter. So, the jury’s still out on TJ’s, and I’ll continue my due diligence on them.
Does all this local shopping mean that we’re spending more money?
Not necessarily. For example, while the groceries we buy from PCC may cost more item for item than at QFC or Fred Meyer, some items cost the same or less. For example, head lettuce and bulk carrots are actually a better buy at PCC because they’re organic, fresher, tastier, and come from local farms. Also, because we’re more conscious of what we buy, we no longer buy stuff because it’s on sale and is “such a good buy!” Now, we buy what we need and that saves us money.
Even though there are still days when I feel down about the state of America and the world, there are now more days when I believe, and know, that I can make a difference.
Every time I shop, I vote with my dollars.
Each time I buy something, I vote for a business that I want to see exist and prosper.
My money ‘votes’ now match my beliefs and values, and it feels good.
Peg Cheng is the author of Rebel Millionaire, a guide for how to retire as a millionaire even if you make a modest income, co-owner of Plaid Frog Press, and a career coach combining intellect with intuition. Born in Southern California to Taiwanese parents, Peg lives in Seattle.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao
Rumi Tsuchihashi says
Bravo! Thank you for sharing about the changes you’ve made. And including data that contributed to that decision.
I, too, have been thinking lots about unfair distribution of resources a lot lately. And that how I spend can shift that distribution. My everyday purchases can contribute to–or detract from–creating more of the just world I want to live in.
Since groceries are a big budget item, I try to get most of what I need from Imperfect Produce. (My cat’s food comes from All The Best Pet Care.) And because books and writers mean a lot to me, I’ve begun shopping from independent bookstores owned by Black women.
Besides inventorying my shopping habits, I’m also paying closer attention to how I bank and invest. My goal is to make incremental shifts where and when I can, to be less swayed by “the best deal.” Doing more with BECU is a start.
Like votes, each dollar counts, right?
Peg Cheng says
Thanks, Rumi! That’s cool that you’ve been voting with your dollars too. My neighbor also gets Imperfect Produce delivered and really likes it. It’s a great way to get the produce you want and decrease agricultural waste. What bookstores have you been shopping at? I’d like to find more ways to support black-owned businesses.