Updated on 10.03.07

Frugality Campaigning: How To Support Your Favorite Candidate Or Cause With Frugal Living

Trent Hamm

Please note that I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate or cause with this post. I use a few examples in here, but the examples were chosen solely for clarity.

My wife and I both are heavily interested in politics, and since we happen to live in Iowa (one of the traditional “early” states in the nominating process for President), we often throw ourselves deeply into the campaigns of candidates we support. That usually means dollars, and we’ve both made donations to our preferred candidates.

The question is what does that money really mean? For people who are well-off, it usually means just cutting a check from the ol’ fat bank account, but most people aren’t in that boat. A donation of any size, for many people, is a challenge because of the expenses of their day to day lives.

bulbChange Your Light Bulbs For Kucinich?
At the same time, many Americans spend money in a highly inefficient manner that actually betrays the political and personal values that they stand for.

Here’s an example: many people who express a strong belief in environmental causes might consider supporting Dennis Kucinich – here’s a sample of his views on the environment. If you support Kucinich and are also an environmentalist, why not take a stand and do something environmentally positive that also puts cash in your pocket – then donate that cash to Kucinich’s campaign?

Spend a weekend making your home and automobile as energy efficient as you can. Change the light bulbs in your home to CFLs. Install a programmable thermostat and set it so that your air conditioning or furnace doesn’t run during the day. Air up the tires on your car to the maximum level indicated in your car’s manual. There are lots of things you can do.

Then, calculate how much this will save you over the next three months and donate that money to Kucinich’s campaign.

You can follow similar logic for any candidate you might want to support. Here are a couple more ideas:

Eat At Home For Ron Paul Libertarian-minded people might want to practice self-sustainability by preparing all of their own food for three months instead of eating out, then donate that saved money to Paul’s campaign.

Give Up A Bad Habit For Barack Obama Obama gave up smoking to improve his health. Why not challenge yourself to give up a bad habit for a greater cause? Quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating fatty foods, quit drinking sugary sodas, quit watching television – find something that eats at your health and your dollars and challenge yourself to give it up, then donate that money to Obama’s campaign.

Turn Off Your Television For NPR If you’re an NPR listener, this is a good one to try. Whenever you might watch television, instead turn on your radio to NPR and find something else to do. The energy use is far, far less. Then, during fund drives, donate the difference to public broadcasting.

Keep The Progress Going
Once you’ve tried this and the campaigns are over, you might find that it wasn’t all that big of a change after all and continue doing it. This will do nothing but improve your financial situation. Even better, you could find yourself giving that saved money to another cause that you believe in – there are many worthwhile charities out there that you could donate your money to.

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  1. Mariette says:

    What a good idea!

  2. demetri says:

    I think Ill buy my next gun through a private party or at a gun show instead of paying full retail price and donate my money appropriately. (tounge in cheek comment to add a little right wing-ness)

  3. Amanda says:

    Hm… good idea. Whatever money I save this month will definitely be going to Ron Paul, but the suggestions are helpful.

  4. bill says:

    Instead of going to the movies with my wife, I’ll fool around with the intern and donate the money to Hillary’s campaign.


  5. Andrew Stevens says:

    I’m not quite sure how self-sustainability is particularly libertarian. (There’s not a whole lot that is particularly libertarian. It’s why they’ve never been much of a political force even though there are lots of them. They’re all the sorts of people who don’t join movements.)

    I’ve got it. You can evade taxes (preferably legally) and donate the proceeds to Ron Paul.

  6. meagain says:

    oh my gosh. How many times are you going to bring up CFLs? Are there not any other ways to save some electricity besides unplugging everything (and having to plug it all back in) and CFLs? I know they save money and energy, but come on…….

  7. lorax says:

    Does this mean that instead of buying a gun, I could become a braggart for Giuliani (he likes to brag, and was pro-regulation of guns)? Or flip-flop for Romney? Those are both low-cost activities. :)

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

  8. 60 in 3 says:

    I’m going to avoid making yet another political joke and just say thank you Trent for the great advice. I’ve recently become involved in both local and national politics because I believe we should all be more involved in these issues that end up impacting our lives. Part of that involvement is money, but part of it is just plain work and time. Even if you don’t have money, you can still be part of the political process.

    Volunteer to help out a campaign or join your local city government. These are things that cost nothing but will provide you with an education and a sense of satisfaction that you’re not just a helpless bystander waiting for the government to do its worst.


  9. Amanda says:

    Well, you could sponsor an illegal alien for the Republicans (except Ron Paul) or impose a tax on your rich friends and neighbors in honor of the Democrats.

    Seriously, though, there ARE a lot of things that are libertarian. Support a local business with the money you save. Put it into an education fund for your children. Do something rational which benefits yourself and doesn’t hurt anyone else. Like, for instance, saving money. That’s libertarian. :)

  10. Susan says:

    You can do some insider trading to make profits for Hillary!

  11. Ben Gonzalez says:

    I’ve been reading this blog less and less. Every time I do it feels more and more like a sham. Especially on this charade of being a libertarian when there has been outright advocacy for plain liberal policies like protectionist trade policies, minimum wage increases, and the wonders of what government can provide for “free.”

    If you want to feel really frugal you can be like one of my cousins. He works on occasion but doesn’t make enough to support his family, they live in a 3 bedroom apartment that costs them only $150/month – they’re going to upgrade once the next baby’s born to free version. They go to the Dr. whenever they feel like it even though they don’t have health insurance and they have all the latest electronic gadgets his inconsistent salary can provide – as well as a Tahoe with rims.

    Trent, it seems to me that this type of frugality isn’t far from what you might call success. Hey, this guys brings home truckloads of chips and soda from the supermarket for free! Sign me up for one of those cards!

    On one other point, I’m really tired of people that use the I’m a “Ron Paul Republican” tag for themselves. I’m a “Joe Lieberman Democrat” how about them apples? If you’re that scared of Democrats or liberals don’t call yourself a Republican at all. There were merits for the Iraq invasion and there are more for staying there. An overwhelming majority of Democrats thought so from the late 90’s up until April of 2004 of the Fallujah campaign when they first started accusing our soldiers of atrocities.

    If Democrats really believe that a majority of Americans want to leave Iraq now then why haven’t they acted yet? If Ron Paul thinks he has his finger on the true pulse of conservatives, libertarians, or Republicans then why isn’t he doing better? I understand the bumper sticker politics that a majority of people operate on thats why I’m joining the “whoever is on stewart/colbert 08” bandwagaon myself.

  12. rhbee says:

    When I read this post I absolutely agreed with the first comment. Activism from the heart. But the commenters after that appeared to decide that some sort of advocacy was at work behind the words that needed to be attacked or defended or in typical American fashion made fun of. But now that I’ve got that said and out of my mind, I still think this was/is a great idea that fits perfectly with whatever your reasons for being frugal may be.

  13. Oleg K. says:

    What a creative way to look at supporting candidates. I enjoy reading The Simple Dollar, but it does get repetitive sometimes. Even though you’ve mentioned most of these acts before, putting them like you did in this post shows them from a whole new perspective. Thanks.

  14. Nicole says:

    I don’t believe in jumping on political bandwagons when it comes to issues I care about. I would rather just go out there and do what I think is right. One tiny example: I am frugal by nature and I hate the fact that my mom buys bottled water. So I take a few in my car, and when I see someone who could use some refreshment, I give them a bottle. It is better than giving money to a stranger and it is always appreciated. And I don’t have to worry about recycling.

  15. Laurel says:

    Great ideas, Trent. I’m campaigning for Ron Paul, myself, but have been trying to figure out ways to budget for some monetary contributions in addition to my time. I really like your idea of, instead of adding to our budget, subtracting and donating the difference.

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