My high-school history teacher refused to buy bananas. We thought he was crazy, but he didn’t care. “You don’t understand the conditions bananas are picked under,” he told us. “Those people are like slaves.” This was my introduction to “voting with dollars”.

As part of the personal finance Question of the Day Marathon, Penny at Money and Values asks:

Do you involve your values in your money decisions? If so, what are some examples? If not, why not? Define “your values” however you’d like; I’m asking about the principles that are important and meaningful in your life in a broad and general sense, and whether and how you bring those into your financial/money-related choices.

This is a great question. Here are some ways I vote with my dollars:

  • I moved my accounts from U.S. Bank to a small local credit union. I get charged less than I did at the bank, and my money stays in the community.
  • I get my haircuts from local guys with small shops, never from chains. All my money goes to the guy cutting my hair; there’s no corporate “tax”. I pay less than I would at Supercuts, and I get to chat about fishing and hunting (about which I know nothing) with crotchety old geezers.
  • I rarely eat fast food, but when I do, I choose regional chains like Burgerville and Mike’s Drive-In. The food is a little more expensive, but it tastes better and is produced with local ingredients.
  • I boycott Regal Cinemas, which has a near-monopoly on theaters in Portland, and which promotes:
    1. Ads before movies (and now “The Twenty”, a twenty-minute video abomination)
    2. Sixteen-screen megaplexes that only show four different films
    3. Rapidly-increasing ticket prices
    4. Crappy candy selection (Twizzlers instead of Red Vines? Give me a break.)
  • I shop at Farmers Markets.
  • I contribute to charities that are closely aligned with my beliefs. These include First Book, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Oregon Historical Society, and my alma mater.
  • I always buy whatever kids are selling. I believe it’s important to foster entrepreneurship in children, and to encourage confidence.
  • I prefer Oregon wines to those produced elsewhere.

My values are involved in most of my financial decisions. They didn’t use to be. When I was younger, I bought what was cheapest or shopped wherever was most convenient, regardless of the larger social consequences. I’d make a trip to the local Mega-Mart just because it could save me a couple of bucks. Now I recognize there are values greater than myself. Saving money is important, but it’s not the only thing. Now I look for balance.

[Money and Values: Do you involve your values in your money decisions?]

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