Voting with your dollars is the concept that every time you buy something, you’re casting a vote for that business existing. How you choose to spend your money has always mattered, but it matters even more now—both for you personally, and for the world.
For you personally, the economic impacts of the current situation are historic in The Bad Way. There are layoffs, and furloughs, and medical expenses, and and and and and.
There’s a huge amount of privilege involved in being able to do anything more than get by right now. If you’re struggling, vote with your dollars by supporting yourself through this in any way that’s available to you, very much including using the programs available through your government and starting or stocking your emergency fund.
But something to consider for those of us who are lucky enough to still be working and earning an income: in almost every city there are small businesses who are closing because they won’t survive the current shutdown. The impact will be profound even for the ones that stay open, and every day independent businesses are doing everything in their power to adapt quickly and keep their doors open.
We’re also (maybe? probably?) still in the early stages of all of this.
If you’re still working and financially safe, there’s a real opportunity to be thoughtful about how you’re voting for our new normal.
Every purchase is a vote for the new normal
It’s entirely possible your favourite brewery, or your local coffee place, or that made-in-Canada clothing brand you love might be struggling. It’s also possible that of the two big stores you could order from, one of them is treating their workers better than the other right now, even if it means lower profits or slightly less convenience for you.
And while no one should ever sacrifice their financial health to keep someone else’s business afloat, if you have money to spend, it’s a good time to consider the votes you’re casting with your purchases.
If you’re able to cast a vote for your favourite business existing in the new normal, or for the business practices you agree with, or for an ethical supply chain, that’s worth doing—especially if you’re going to be spending money anyways.
This isn’t a call to spend—it’s a call to think about your spending
The first thing my husband and I did when everything shut down was to look at our budget. Things we had been saving for, like travel, weren’t a priority anymore. Then there were services that we no longer used—like my monthly transit passes—that we also cut from our planned spending.
And then there were things that became more important to us, like the local food and drink businesses we love. Our grocery budget has gone… wild. (Crucially, so has the amount we donate to our local food bank.)
But it’s perfectly aligned with what’s important to us right now: voting for the future we want to exist. And with purchases, we vote much more often than every election cycle—although with the amount of structural change needed to support people through this, that matters more than ever, too.
And remember: you’re voting for the future you want for yourself right now, too. Do you want your future self to have a stocked emergency fund, to make it through a longer period of economic uncertainty? That’s voting with your dollars for a new normal, too.
The choices we make are shaping the new normal
In all the news coverage, you’ve probably seen talk about how rapidly things are changing right now. It’s true, and the longer this goes on, the more the habits we form now will shape whatever our future normal looks like—it won’t just go back to the way things were.
I want our new normal to be local businesses who can thrive with community support. I want our new normal to be ethical supply chains. I want our new normal to be sustainable wages for everyone, and social safety nets for all. I’m in a position to vote for some of that future when I buy things right now, and it feels even more important that I consider these things.
No one is perfect, and we are all compromised under capitalism, but even just being slightly more aware of the impact of your purchases is a wonderful first step. And one that’s more important than ever in ~these uncertain times~.