How to Be a Conscious Consumer on a Budget

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written by:  Hope Kudo

editor's note:

We are all trying our best and I hope you leave this page with encouragement, knowing that while it may feel like there is more to learn, taking steps to make conscious consumerism accessible even on a low budget is huge in itself.

When starting your journey of sustainable living, I’m sure one of the first things you heard of was conscious consumerism. What is it? Well, conscious consumerism can be explained as having the understanding that the money you (yes, you!) spend has an impact on the lifespan and actions of businesses and companies you support. Whatever products you purchase encourages the kind of practices the company chooses in the future. It is up to you to support products with ethical sourcing made in safe working environments in order to promote sustainable business ethics.

Conscious consumers make purchase decisions that have a positive social, economic, environmental, and political impact. This can look like keeping an eye out for logos that certify fair trade, cruelty-free, sustainable production, companies that are certified B Corps, or 1% for the planet. While it is not the ultimate solution to climate change, this movement is an impactful way to begin intentional eco-friendly living.

Now that we know the general essence of conscious consumerism, I have to let you in on something you might already know: shopping from ethical brands can get so! expensive! As a college student especially, I understand the dilemma of wanting to use my purchasing power at businesses that implement ethical practices, but lacking the funds to buy from them. We’ve all been there, online window shopping at our favorite ethical brands, finding the perfect outfit, just to see it be way over your personal budget.

If I’m wrong and we haven’t all been there, consider yourself lucky! So here I am, trying to help you avoid those upsets and give you my insight on how to be a conscious consumer while not trying to break the bank. 

Think About What You’re Buying

The first step to conscious consumerism doesn’t begin with where you shop, but instead your mindset. This means we need to check our consumer habits before we start shopping. Often the things we buy end up used a handful of times and tossed to the side to be forgotten for months on end. Alternatively, we could have borrowed from a friend or re-purposed something we already owned.

We are trained by modern marketing and the rise of fast fashion to “buy new” at the turn of every season. We are told multiple times a day that there are must-have products that make our lives easier through current social media platforms. Because of this, our spending habits are the first thing that needs to be checked.           

It is so easy to see something we really want and instantly buy it. But by doing this, we spend without thinking which leads to the surplus of items we own. When we are conscious about the amount we spend, we are instantly saving ourselves money. By taking the time to think, “Do I really need this?” we limit impulse spending and immediately stop the wasteful cycle of our own spending. With this tool in mind, we can use what we already have instead of buying an extra or multiples of any item.

Second-Hand Shopping

Second-hand shopping is so much more than a new-age trend. It is a price-savvy tool accessible to everyone that minimizes the number of new sources being used for our purchases. When we buy used, we are able to obtain new items without supporting fast-fashion supply and demand chains. It guarantees no direct sales that encourage the continuation of overproduction by choosing already-produced goods in place of brand new items. 

Second-hand shopping doesn’t always have to happen in person either. I have loved using apps such as Poshmark or Depop that allow me to online shop for second-hand items. I find that personally this takes out a lot of the frustrations of thrifting because it tends to be more organized and I can search for a wider range of items not limited to my city!

Quality Over Quantity

Once we have decided that we couldn’t use something we already have, borrow, or buy secondhand, we now have gotten to the place where we must buy new!

I’m not going to sit here and pretend we will never buy something new again. So, when we are at this point it is essential to remember we are shopping for quality over quantity. While buying quality items that are meant to last may get pricey, we may be able to make peace with the prices knowing a replacement won’t be due for a long period of time.

Once we have these items, I recommend learning how to properly take care of your purchases. If we can learn how to fix and mend what is broken, we will not need to buy a replacement. With proper upkeep and a handy mindset, the lifespan of each item you own grows exponentially!

Savvy Shopping

When buying new from ethical brands, I have found it extremely helpful to sign up for their newsletters to know when they are holding sales or have clearance items! Keeping an eye out for these sales can help you save significantly when you’re coming up short for whatever you are wanting to buy. Along with emails, you can follow their social media for the same updates if they have them. Patience is key here– but in the end can save you a ton.

Be Easy On Yourself

The last thing I would like to point out is that there is no one right way to being a conscious consumer. Just by finding what values are important to you and choosing to try your best to support companies to uphold those standards already puts you in a great direction. We are all trying our best and I hope you leave this page with encouragement. While it may feel like there is more to learn, taking steps to learn how to make conscious consumerism accessible even on a low budget is huge in itself.

written by:  Hope Kudo

editor's note:

We are all trying our best and I hope you leave this page with encouragement, knowing that while it may feel like there is more to learn, taking steps to make conscious consumerism accessible even on a low budget is huge in itself.

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