You Have Power In Your Wallet – Vote With Your Dollars: Change Businesses Based on Your Purchases


After the recent governmental shut down, you may be feeling increasingly frustrated with our government. 

You may feel that you have no voice in politics and economic decisions.  Of course, you have the right to vote, but much of what the government does is largely out of your hands.

However, you can still take a stand and make your voice heard by voting with your dollars. 

Every day that you spend money, you’re making a choice and choosing one company over another, one product over another.

How you spend money is your voice, your vote.

Due to the economic law of supply and demand, if enough people show that they want better or different items, manufacturers will take notice.

For instance, “Making your next car a hybrid shows the automobile industry that you want more eco-friendly, fuel efficient vehicles, which in turn forces them to produce more.  Buying organic foods show that you care about our groundwater and the chemicals you are consuming.  Using reusable grocery bags demonstrates that you don’t want millions of plastic bags ending up in our oceans and landfills.  Buying products from corporations who are using methods to improve their environmental footprint helps their bottom line which shows their competition this is something important and forces everyone in their industry to raise the bar” (AG Beat).

How Are You Voting With Your Dollars?

Vote with your dollars!

Saving Money at All Costs

Donna is 60 years old.  She remembers the “good old days” when products lasted for years and years.  She’s increasingly frustrated by cheap plastic products that break after only a short amount of use.  She gets angry when she hears of another company moving production to China.  She remembers when jobs used to be U.S. based, and she thinks that should happen again.

Yet, when Donna goes shopping, she likes to stretch her dollars.

If she can save on trinkets and groceries, she can have more money to go to the movies with friends or go out to eat, which she does several times a week.  She buys toys for her grandkids from the dollar store, and they often fall apart within hours.

She gives lip service to what is important to her, but when it comes to her actual buying habits, she is voting with her dollars and showing companies that more expensive, quality products are not important to her.  She is encouraging companies that sell cheap products made in China.

Voting with Your Dollars Isn’t Always Easy

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As Donna proves, voting with your dollars isn’t always easier.

Often, choosing a better product requires discipline.  You may not be able to buy as much.  You may need to change your lifestyle to vote with your dollars.

However, while you may not be able to consume as much, what you buy may be better quality or align more with your personal beliefs.

A few years ago, I got fed up with buying food that was produced in the cheapest possible manner and was bad for my body.

I gradually switched from buying meat that was about to expire and deeply discounted as well as many processed foods to instead buying organic produce from a local farmer via a CSA and grass fed meat in bulk directly from the farmer.  My grocery bill shot up from roughly $350 a month to $800 for our family of 5.

Sure, even if I wouldn’t have changed my own and my family’s eating habits, our groceries from 2010, when I first began to make the switch, to 2013 would have increased a bit thanks to inflation, but not by 100%.

To afford these more expensive groceries, we’ve given up eating out and only do so about 6 times a year.  We’ve also found other ways to save such as discontinuing our regular phone service and using Ooma.  Groceries are our second largest expense behind our monthly rent payment.

But I think the way animals are treated when they’re raised for meat in a traditional setting is abysmal.

I also am bothered that the United States government continues to subsidize crops that are directly linked to an unhealthy lifestyle and many illness that plague modern Americans.   I choose to support local farmers because I want food that supports those in my area and isn’t shipped from halfway around the world.

I’m voting with my dollars for better quality food and improved animal conditions, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Does Voting with Your Dollars Really Make a Difference?

Let’s be honest, here.

Most companies don’t care about your opinions and biases.  What they care about is their bottom line.

If you buy something and everyone else does, too, companies will pay attention and more of the same kind of item will flood the market.

A few years ago, gas prices skyrocketed.  Suddenly sales of SUVs and Hummers, which had been in demand just a few short years ago, plummeted.  Instead, people began buying hybrid cars.

And a remarkable thing happened.

Within a very short time span, more and more car companies put a hybrid car on the market.  People demanded a car that helped them manage the expense of high fuel prices, and car companies responded.  They filled the demand.

Clearly, voting with your dollars does work.

As the organic food movement grows, have you noticed that more and more companies want a piece of that market?

Five to ten years ago, getting organic produce at the traditional grocery store was very difficult.  You had to go to a specialty store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  Now, however, you can find plenty of organic foods at your local grocery store.  Even Aldi, the discount supermarket, is now rolling out a program to carry organic produce in all of their stores nationwide.

The more people vote with their dollars, the more companies take notice, not because they want to do the right thing, but because they want your money.

If you do the right thing by purchasing consciously, you’ll help businesses decide to follow suit.

Do Your Research Before Voting with Your Dollars

When you vote with your dollars, you can’t just do it  blindly.  You have to do some research first.

For instance, Melissa Campbell of Spark Movement argues, “Companies aren’t dumb. They want you to vote with your dollars, because they want your money—that’s it! They don’t care about your ideals. For example, did you know that Dove and Axe are owned by the same corporation, so when you ‘vote with your dollars’ by buying Dove products because you love their ad campaigns, you’re supporting a company that’s responsible for some of the most disgustingly misogynistic ads ever created?”

Dove, of course, is responsible for the campaign for real beauty and features many women who have curves and are not stick thin models.  The campaign seeks to empower women to love themselves and find beauty in their own and other women’s appearances, no matter how they look.  Contrast this with a commercial from Axe for a body soap.  The ad has a picture of a woman’s body (her head is not in the picture) wearing a very small bikini with “wash me” written across her bare stomach.

That’s right.  If you spend your dollars on Dove, you’re also supporting Axe and its message.

In this era of big business, you have to determine the parent company of the product you are buying.  Is that parent company also the owner of another company who has a mission you disagree with?  If so, maybe it’s best to vote with your dollars and choose a different company to support.

Finally – Voting with Your Dollars Requires a Mental Shift

As Americans, we’re used to buying a vast amount of items.  We love to consume, and we like to find the bargains.

There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but if you want better quality products or improved conditions for workers or animals, you need to make your voice heard.  Sometimes the best way to do that is by being choosier when making purchases.

The majority of us have limited dollars to spend.  How we spend that money sends an important message to manufacturers.

Perhaps we need to buy less, but what we do buy should be higher quality.  If enough of us do this, businesses will get the message, just as the automobile and food industry has.

If you want higher quality, you have to make the sacrifice to buy higher quality.

Your Turn

How do you consciously spend your money?  Share your spending in the comments!

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Published or updated July 26, 2014.

Comments

  1. You’re so right that mindful spending is important.

    But I sometimes feel that my spending doesn’t count because I do very little of it. I don’t own a car. I shop at the local family-owned grocery store that I can walk or bike to instead of the big regional stores.

    It feels like other folks are always outspending me. And one by one, businesses I support fail because not enough other people are supporting them too.

    • The fact that you aren’t spending is what counts. When we go out and buy things we aren’t really happy about then we are validating the product’s existence. Follow your ideals in your spending. It seems slow many times but that how change sometimes happens.

  2. You’re spot on Melissa! My wife and I run our own advertising business and this is something they’re all aware of. They’re not dumb and when they see a shift or seeing people spend their money a certain way then they’re going to act to try and take advantage of that. We see it in the issue of stores being open on Thanksgiving. Stores are largely doing this because we’re telling them with our spending that we want this done. If we want it to stop, then we need to stop spending as they’ll feel it. In terms of how we spend, we choose largely not to. We’d much rather save and be purposeful about our spending on things that matter to us.

  3. Voting with your dollars really does work. I recently wrote an article about how today’s fashions are set. A big part of the industry is based on what sells. People voting with their dollars have a large influence in the fashion industry.

  4. This is so true. We’ve seen it in the recent influx of companies like Sevenly.com that allow you to buy consumer products and support important causes. Our dollars are our loudest voice in the consumer market.

  5. Great post Melissa, voting with your dollars is the best way to have your voice heard in the marketplace. Consumer items are mass-produced to keep up with an inflated demand, and unfortunately that includes our food. What that leaves us with is more processing to make the food travel better and serve a growing population, bad for us and our health. We need to have more local farmers producing organic foods which only have a very brief travel time to get to our mouths! Hopefully farming continues to become a more appreciated vocation!

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