by Gina Lee
One of the biggest topics surrounding sustainability is cost. Unfortunately, sustainability does come with a higher price tag. That higher price tag is caused by a ripple effect in the industry to cover fair wages, better working conditions, and sustainably sourced raw materials from vendors who also provide fair wages and good working conditions for their employees. A truly sustainable business model is reflected in the product’s cost.
With that said, many people criticize the cost of sustainable fashion—how it's too high, classist, etc (& rightfully so!). To a certain degree, sustainable fashion can be costly and limiting for those who earn close to minimum wage. However, participation in sustainability and sustainable fashion is very doable if we take baby steps towards those goals.
Today’s Unwind Friday focuses on 3 easy steps to improve our overall financial health so that we can take small strides towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.
1. Keep track of your finances.To know where to cut your money spending, you need to know where your money goes. When I first started focusing on my finances, I spent the first couple months logging and categorizing my normal money spending.
There’s a certain magic in manually logging everything that cannot be found in looking over last month’s bank statement. Writing the word “food” repeatedly leaves a greater impact than seeing the names of different restaurants we went to, reinforcing the amount of money that we’ve spent and giving us a visual on which categories we’re spending too much on.
My favorite way to log finances is Excel or a good old notebook and pen. No need to download a fancy app.
*TIP: Set aside a time every day or week to log spending.
2. Reprioritize where your money goes.
After you categorize your spending, your expenses (money needed to live, ie. rent, groceries) and your wants (ie. Postmates, shopping, $6 lattes) should become clearer.
These are some questions I ask myself when trying to limit my spending:
- From my spending, how many things are a necessity?
- How many things are a want?
- What brought me the most joy?
- What are the top three categories I can cut my spending in?
*TIP: Recollect all the moments of 2021 that brought you most joy and/or were most memorable. Were they experiences or were they material objects?
3. Spend within your means & start saving.
To be able to start saving, you need to spend less than you earn. The average American earned a gross income of $84,352 and spent $61,334 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s 27% in savings, which is a pretty good percentage if you ask me! But maybe 27% sounds daunting to you. There’s nothing wrong with setting aside $1 a day. In one year, you’ll have $365; in two, you’ll have $730. (If you add this money into a high interest savings account, you’ll have even more thanks to compound interest!) Consistently taking baby steps towards your goal is more important than taking only one big stride.
Some things I’ve been saving up for:
- AirPod Pros
- Future vacations
- A house
For many people, setting a budget every month for different categories and spending within that budget is a method that works best for them. But my go to method is setting up multiple automatic transfers from my checking account that go into different savings. After those transfers, I’m free to spend whatever is left in my checking account. Automating my savings allowed those accounts to grow without much effort on my part and kind of budget in my own way.
*TIP: Find an accountability buddy!
I hope these 3 steps encourage you to work on your financial health and eventually give you the financial means to shop and spend more sustainably! Don’t get me wrong, there are other ways we can participate in sustainable fashion practices without breaking the bank, but for some of us, the real issue is not a matter of whether we have the money or time to consume sustainably, but whether we prioritize our money and time towards the humanity of the people who produce the goods we consume. In reclaiming our financial health and reevaluating the ways in which we spend our hard earned cash money, we can have more opportunities and freedom to prioritize the humanity of those at the base of our supply chain.
Remember: a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, it’s something that we save up for and build towards.