- A version of this article was originally published on Style Wise.
Five years into this ethical fashion journey, I still find that the most difficult barrier to buying from more ethical companies is price.
Firstly, we’ve been conditioned into buying things in high quantities at low prices, so it’s hard to change our mindset. Pair that with high inflation and stagnant wages and it feels almost impossible–and, in fact, may be impossible–to inch up our cost-per-item from $20 to $100. Then there’s a third concern–for me at least–that some ethical (fair-trade, sustainable, vegan, etc) companies actually charge customers an inflated price just because they can.
When I first started out, I worked part time at a coffee shop making something like $17,000 a year, so I simply couldn’t afford artisan products. I relied heavily on thrifting and thoughtfulness to get by. And that’s ok!
But thanks to some recent job changes (like moving to full-time) and freelance income, this year I’ve been able to save up for higher-quality goods. But even that takes a lot of time and effort to get right, because I don’t want to throw down two days’ wages on something that isn’t precisely what I want or need. I’ve made some costly mistakes.
The point is, it’s difficult to be an ethical consumer when you don’t have a lot of disposable income, and we can’t blame ourselves for personal financial situations that are influenced and impacted by politics and capitalism. The good thing is that there are many ways to be thoughtful and intentional in the way that we choose to shop, and middle income folks may have an advantage because we really have to think hard about what we buy.
If buying from ethical and independent companies feels unattainable to you, but you’re in a lower-middle class bracket like I am, try these genius ways to save money and keep just a little more for your ethical wish list…
1. Cut your own bangs.
My tips: Pin your hair back on each side of your head, make sure to form a subtle arc where your bangs touch your regular-length hair line, then use a fine tooth comb to visualize the line where you’d like to cut. Invest in a pair of sheering scissors and snip from the center, moving out in each direction until you’ve completed the first trim. Correct discrepancies as needed.
2. Dye your own hair.
3. Make coffee at home.
That Vegan Vanilla Rose Hemp Latte, tho…
Create a morning ritual. I prefer using a French Press or a Pour Over because it’s slower and more intentional (and the coffee tastes much better). Also, consider investing in a coffee grinder and buying whole beans. Making good coffee will help you resist the temptation to buy it elsewhere.
4. Buy used books or visit your local library.
Better World Books, local used book shops, and the library are great, low cost ways to get your reading fix. I buy almost all of my books at the thrift shop where I work!
5. Get a digital antenna instead of buying cable.
Make a one-time investment in a digital antenna and get access to lots of local channels, including network TV.
6. Consign or sell your old clothes.
Sell off your high quality goods at the beginning of each season so you can invest in essentials you really need. Here’s how to resell your clothes.
Save money on gas by seeking out carpools to work, events, and religious services. In a bike-friendly city, you can also invest in a high-quality bike and save yourself money–*and* get loads of exercise! (Might even let you cancel a gym membership–more ways to money!!)
What do you think about these ways to save money? Do you have your own favorite tips to share?
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Photo: Leah Wise; Molly Lansdowne