5 ways to be better with your money today

Written by Lisa Stanley Mann on 20th April 2017

Want to be better with your money? Want to be a better human being? Ever thought the two might be related? 

Being an upstanding citizen might not exactly fit the term “trend”, but the idea does seem to be taking on greater meaning, as collectively, we start to look beyond the accumulation of stuff and towards our impact for a sense of self – see Grazia’s recent ethical fashion spread or Jody Shield, the Daily Mail’s latest favourite mindfulness guru, for starters.

But how does it relate to the pounds in your pocket?

Here are five ways you can start being better with your money – as in financially and for the wider world – today.

  1. How eco-conscious is your home?

While we may not all have the luxury of a Grand Designs-style Passivhaus, carbon neutral home, there are things we can do to lessen our domestic impact on the environment. This includes recycling as much as possible, and deploying a make do a mend attitude to all we consume.

Also look at your home energy use – if you’re not already on a renewable energy tariff then consider switching. A number of newer suppliers, such as Bulb, offer great, 100% renewable tariffs which, in many cases are even cheaper than a fossil-fuel based tariff with the big six. Check their website for a great £50 referral offer.

2. Commuting and holidays

For more reasons, than one staycations continue to make good sense for the planet as well as our pockets. A lower carbon-footprint, and not to mention not having to face the dreaded gulp when buying foreign currency post-Brexit, are both reasons to consider remaining on English shores this year.

In terms of commuting – it’s summer, get out on your bike, or walk as much as possible. With a provider like Vitality Health, keeping active can even save you money on health insurance AND consumer treats such as the Apple Watch, Starbucks coffee or Vue cinema tickets.  

3. Shopping and spending 

Do you really need another £15 Zara T-shirt? Really? Well we all like a treat now and then, that’s for sure, but have you ever stopped to think that those little fast-fashion purchases could be eating into your future pension fund?

According to Which? Money, if we’re in our 20s we should be trying to put away £131 each month to ensure we’ve got enough in retirement. That’s a fair few Zara t-shirts. Taking more of a slow fashion approach also ensures a better outlook for our planet, as well as the people employed to make those clothes for us.

And if you simply cannot tear yourself away from the odd Zara treat, then elsewhere with your shopping and spending you could try to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as possible of what you use. Jen Gale of My Make Do and Mend Life has some great tips on her blog.

For spending on other goods – from tech to luggage – so many brands these days take the counter-intuitive approach, as in they are made to last a lifetime or come with a guarantee. The Model for Green Living has a great list of brands offering a ‘lifetime guarantee’.

When food shopping, if you’re not keen on the full vegan route, then reducing your meat consumption can have a greater than expected impact both on your pocket and the environment. As much as possible buying organic, local produce, supporting local and sustainable businesses can really help, too. Check out the Soil Association for more info.

Triodos Bank – watch this space for its new current account – provides a handy guide to all the sustainable and responsible businesses it supports on its website www.knowwhereyourmoneygoes.co.uk so you can check your spending is doing good.

4. Family life

What legacy are you leaving for your children? It’s all very well giving them the odd bit of pocket money and not giving in immediately to the 1,000th daily request to play on the iPad, but your environmentally conscious behaviour at home can really take root from an early age in your children. Get them to help recycling, take them to the local dump to see the waste, try walking, scooting or cycling as much as possible, whatever the weather, introduce them to the love of British camping – all ideas your children and the planet will thank you for later.

And its not just high flying executives who are learning mindfulness. There’s a growing trend for teaching mindfulness to children in the hope it will improve their mental and academic wellbeing and roundedness. This is a great idea to start with at home. Baby Yoga it is not, but the simple idea of thinking more about everything we consume and everything we do, embracing the slow over the fast, could help set up your children for life.

Read our recent blog from Good Money Girl Lisa on how she’s changed her habits since having kids.

5. Money

Finally, here are five simple checks you can run over your money to check it’s doing as good for the planet as it is for your pocket.

  • Your mortgage – the biggest debt you’ll ever have. In many cases you’ll thank yourself lucky just to get a loan in the first place. But where you borrow from can make a difference. Lenders such as the Ecology Building Society and mutuals such as Nationwide and local building societies can offer good rates that are often ‘fairer’ to borrowers as well as the environment, meaning no-one’s going to get stitched up when interest rates eventually rise.
  • Your bank – the current account into which your salary is paid. Any money paid into your current account doesn’t just sit there, your bank puts your money to use for other purposes, such as lending to borrowers, which may be the man on the street but equally could be a company investing in fracking or other activities you’re not too keen on. Check our banking articles to find the good banks.
  • Your investments, savings and pension – these too have an impact. Many of the ‘mainstream’ savings accounts, investment and pension funds will be based around the FTSE 100 which is largely made up of oil companies, big banks and defence stocks. But there are plenty of options if you don’t want want your money invested in these sorts of companies, and in recent years the performance of Socially Responsible Investments has been better than that of the FTSE 100 too. See our recent guides to ISA investing for more info. And if you’re looking for something paying a little more than cash, but not quite prepared for full-on stock market investments, you could consider the new Innovative Finance ISA which allows you to put your ISA allowance with one of the regulated crowdfund platforms. Abundance Investment and Crowd2Fund are two good platforms to start with.
  • Energy – as above, there’s no need to stick with the Big Six when it comes to your energy supplier. Green providers such as Bulb, Ovo, Ecotricity and Good Energy all offer great tariffs that are kinder to the environment and your pocket.