Money, money, money; money on my mind.
In fact, more and more often, personal finance creeps into my brain and tickles like an earworm. This isn’t surprising. As a twenty-something, I am (verrryyyy slowly) levelling up on the grownup front. I’ve been doing the stuff like pay bills and budget for a while but now I’m also part of a pension scheme and have shares in things and I’ve even put half my savings into bonds (as of fifteen minutes ago). Those shiny new can’t-believe-I-did-that bonds are the reason for this blog.
Cue the crazy inner voice:
Money is weird to talk about as a twenty-something. Whilst I have some friends putting deposits on their first properties, talking mortgages and investments, there’s a group of others who remain super deep in student loans and credit card debt. We’re all muddling our way through, trying to make good decisions, making mistakes, learning from them. Yet a lot of it revolves back to how many plus or minus numbers we have lurking in our bank accounts.
For me, money was one of my ‘long-term’ New Years Resolutions.
Goals: to stop overspending, start budgeting more wisely, be more mindful with my money, save a little each month for ‘future property’.
I’ve definitely failed on three out of four counts. I’ve overspent, neglected my budget spreadsheet, saved a grand total of zilch. Oops.
But – yes there’s a but – I’m doing less badly on the mindful money front.
Okay, bear with me. Sounds like some kind of buzzword-jargon-hippy-rubbish right? A quintessential phrase to bandy around alongside ‘post-luxury’ and ‘gypset’? What I really mean though is that because I don’t have that much money to play with (yet), I want to put it into things that matter to me. Not things in the material sense, but in the bigger picture sense. Like if I buy that coffee brand or that jumper, what’s the long-term impact? If I’m going to put my money into an ISA, then what are the top ten holdings? I want to know where my cash is going, I want to know if it’s going to do good, and if it’s not then I want to know what my alternatives are.
So I’ve tried to think a bit more deeply about money. Taking inspiration from some of my favourite financially-savvy women on the web, I’ve started to educate myself about ways to be more aware, more mindful, and more prudent with what I have.
Embrace The Inner Veggie
I do. I love food. I think like 80% of what I don’t spend on rent goes on food. Food out. Food in. Food for me. Food for others. I’m possibly the most undomestic foodie ever but that doesn’t make it less true. SO you may or may not have heard of ‘flexitarianism‘. Another ridiculous neologism that I lovehate, it describes those who adopt a mostly vegetarian diet supplemented by meat and fish. It’s good for your body. It’s good for the planet. And, yep, it’s good for your pocket too.
On average, vegetarian meals are 60% cheaper than meaty ones. But if you’re like me and you don’t want to give up meat (for dietary or enjoyment reasons) then you can consume more consciously all the same. Try buying more local produce to help create a greener supply chain. Consider cutting down red meats to once or twice a week instead of everyday. I’m not saying we should all go vegan, but if you want a selfish reason to eat more ethically, then all you’ll have to do is check the bank balance.
Eco-Fashion – more than drudge and flannel
Ah fashion. I might not be the best dressed (or care all that much about retail), but clothes still factor into my budget. In the video above, Grist makes a wry but genuine series of points about why buying clothes for the long-term is essential for the planet. Fast-fashion creates an insane amount of carbon due to its production and disposal processes, but it’s actually super easy to balance ethics and aesthetics without falling into a world of hemp and bamboo or paying a premium. In fact, many fashion labels are increasingly eco-friendly – including highstreet faves like H&M – with more and more walking the Green Carpet Challenge. Without spending hours trawling through documents finding out if X or Y brand is guilty of whatever fashion faux pas, you can consider certain things like “will I wear this more than thirty times.” Just cutting down on the amount you buy-to-chuck is a big deal.
At the end of the day, we all want the stuff we like. But thinking broadly, if we’re buying shirts for £30 or dresses for £50, it doesn’t take a big change to think about how much those clothes are going to be worn and whether they’ll last. On the other hand, if you’re buying cheap maybe just consider whether a t-shirt should really cost less than your latte.
Find Time, Donate Time
Currently, I’m somewhat involved with one local charity and have also been researching volunteering opportunities with literacy projects (more about this later). Yet everyday I receive a dozen campaign emails – local, national, global – asking for money. Then I leave the house and there are people outside tube stations in green wigs, carrying buckets, asking for money for a good cause. As I login to all my weird and varied social media accounts, there are more charities jumping onto ‘World This Day’ or ‘National That Day’ to ask, again, for donations.
It drives me barmy. Not only because (at times) it feels like harassment, but because I can’t donate. Not to all of them anyway. Three pounds a month here, five pounds there. It adds up. And I don’t know where it’s going half the time. Maybe I’m too cynical but at this point, I’d rather just donate my time. It costs nothing and feels great to donate your time to something you care about and see the impact for yourself. Whether it’s using your actual expertise to provide a service for a charity, or just to play a supportive role at an event, there’s a lot you can do that’s just as valuable as three quid via SMS. You can also donate blood, sign up for the organ donation register, raise puppies for Guide Dogs, record books for the visually impaired etc etc.
The deal with Sustainable Finance
Sustainable finance has some big definitions but it’s really just a term to express all the things we can do through our financial systems to create greater economic and social value: ie “People, Planet, Profit.” The fact that I just put half my savings into the Kenninghall solar bonds through the Downing crowdfunding platform (#investaware) is me involving myself in sustainable finance. Instead of leaving it in a bank ISA, I’m choosing to direct it into a clean energy project I see as beneficial to myself and the future.
As digital natives we have so much technology at our fingertips to help us put fund what matters to us. Whether it’s water or fashion, food or energy, you can make a difference.
Statistics show that women and younger (twenty-somethings-up) investors are already fuelling socially conscious projects. Crowdfunding, fintech, and alternative finance are improving the transparency and accessibility of many options previously only available to the very wealthy or institutions. We are now able to invest, sponsor, manage and mind our money with a click and a swipe. So if you are interested then there are some really interesting places to learn more about ethical, responsible, sustainable finance.
And if not, then maybe I’ve just given you something to read with some weird gifs.