Being a student is often quoted as being ‘the best time of your life’- and it certainly can be. There are so many good aspects to student life that it’s often easy to forget the hard parts i.e. having no money. Most students manage to get by but usually there is a lot of scrimping and saving required to do that. The problem is when that saving comes at the cost of others. With sweat shops being used to make cheap high-street clothes and farmers being exploited around the globe, it’s difficult to find ways to save money that are ethical. However, there are still ways to save money and be an ethical consumer. Here are two big ways:
Fashion to Dye for…
The fashion industry is well known for its ethical misdemeanours and has faced criticism for years over it. We’ve already mentioned sweat shops and cheap labour from foreign countries which most of the high-street chains use, but there is even more to consider. Look at any item of clothing you’re wearing and you’ll likely be wearing something that has been coloured with synthetic dye. Most of these dyes involve the use of carcinogenic and harmful chemicals, which are obviously harmful to the environment. Once you realise that many of these clothes are dyed in developing countries where health and safety standards are poorly enforced, you can see how poor workers can end up suffering long term health effects from the process. Now there are ethical clothing companies who sell garments that use natural dyes and fair trade, but these tend to be expensive. So what’s the solution?
Quite simply, buy second hand clothing. From a cost point of view second hand is fairly cheap, especially if you avoid ‘vintage fashion’ outlets and target charity shops, plus you can always haggle on price. As far as being ethical, you are reusing fabrics which may have been through an intensive fabrication process and would likely be going to landfill. Plus, you’re more likely to be contributing to a good cause than shareholder profits.
Food prices in general are on the rise in the UK but you can still get some things dirt cheap and out of season. How do the supermarkets manage it? Massive economies of scale is one way, but there is also the push to use suppliers who operate at rock bottom prices, often in developing countries, and often selling exotic base ingredients or products (cacao and coffee beans for example). There are fair trade suppliers and even ethical supermarkets; however, they are almost always too expensive to buy your regular weekly shop from. So how can you lower the cost of your weekly shop while ensuring supplier’s get a fair deal?
Again, very simple; buy less, eat less and waste less. According to Love Food Hate Waste, the average family wastes up to £50 of food a month. So just think of the savings a flat share could make if they grouped together! Part of the reason we waste food is simply not portioning correctly! We make too much food and simply throw it away when we’re done. By buying in bulk and then dividing and freezing/storing what we don’t use, you can save a packet. This will offset some of cost of buying fair trade products, some of which are inherently going to be a bit more expensive. By buying as much as you can locally however (from you butcher to fresh veg) you can reduce reliance on the big shops and save money too!
This blog was written by Your Debt Expert, who provide free debt advice in Scotland. So if you need advice on managing your money, you know who to call.