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Introducing Wallet Activism, a New Book and Podcast

I’ve been quiet over here for some time, but it’s because I’ve been working on two big things that I’m finally ready to share. It’s time at last to talk in depth about my new project, Wallet Activism.

Wallet Activism is a book. And Wallet Activism is a podcast.

But what actually is “wallet activism”? Why do you need it in your life? (And also what bonus resources can you get for pre-ordering Wallet Activism, and how can we hang out in real life or virtually this fall?) Read on.

An Origin Story

Ever since I got out of debt in my late 20s, I’ve wanted to be more intentional with how I used my money, because I knew that I was inadvertently funding a lot of stuff that doesn’t align to my values, everything from increased fossil fuel extraction to exploitation of workers here and abroad. But I couldn’t find much guidance out there. Folks would share cute little epithets like “shop local” or “consume consciously.” But those directives aren’t specific, and they aren’t even always helpful. (Like what if the local store where you would shop has a bunch of NRA stickers in the window and you’re staunchly pro-gun control? Is it still better to shop local if that’s who you’re enriching?) I bought slews of books over the years that seemed like they might answer my questions, but none ever did. At the same time, I watched elected leaders in the U.S. and around the world sit back and do nothing or make only performative statements as climate change visibly worsened and inequality continued to grow all around us. Though I worked in politics and believed in its potential for driving progress, I grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of action, and came to understand that we can’t rely on policymakers to solve our problems.

After Work Optional came out, I started asking myself if I wanted to write another book. I knew I did, but had a lot of unfocused ideas that felt less than half-baked until a friend asked me, “What’s a book you wish existed but doesn’t? A book you really want to read?” I knew immediately what I needed to write about, but I wasn’t sure if such a book even could be written. Could I answer all of these incredibly complex economic questions, taking social and environmental justice into heavy consideration? I decided I had to try, and I wrote about how scary that was in this post on the blog, back when the book was tentatively named Spend Like You Give a $hit, a name that never felt quite right because it was only about spending.

Almost two years, 500 citations and just shy of 100,000 words later, Wallet Activism is now a real thing.

Wallet Activism, a book by Tanja Hester

“Finally! Wallet Activism is the book we all need to see through the marketing lies we’re surrounded by and make better choices for the planet and our fellow humans. It’s an ambitious deep dive into the complex factors we must consider when using our financial power, but with clear, practical guidance to help anyone at any income level make better choices.”

– Vicki Robin, New York Times bestselling author of Your Money or Your Life

What Is Wallet Activism?

Wallet activism is using your financial power in all its forms to change the status quo, as the subtitle says: use every dollar you spend, earn and save as a force for change. It’s changing the status quo around the climate crisis. It’s changing the status quo around the inequality crisis. And it’s thinking more broadly about what financial power is, recognizing that how you earn a living is just as important as how you spend your money, and that where you bank is one of the most impactful choices you can make. Wallet Activism covers all of that and more.

One of the biggest shifts I argue for is to stop seeing ourselves as consumers. That assumes that the point is to consume, and that leads us to conclude that questionable concepts like “ethical consumerism” must be the answer, when much more of the time the best answer is “consume less.” That’s a good place to start, but just walking around in the world thinking “consume less” is not much more helpful than “shop local.” That’s why the first half of the book is devoted to giving you concrete tools to assess whether a potential choice aligns to your values or not, and to better understand how your financial choices impact others and the planet.

Does all of this mean that it’s on us as individuals to solve all of our biggest problems? Absolutely not. We can’t solve the climate crisis with our individual choices – but we can make a real dent. And we can drive social change that forces politicians to act. First, we must reject this notion that it’s either/or: either rely on individual choices to create change, or hold policymakers and corporations accountable. This is not and either/or question. This is and. We must hold them accountable absolutely, and we must examine our own choices. That’s how progress will happen.

Wallet Activism, the Book and the Podcast

Wallet Activism, the book, will be released November 16 in the U.S. and Canada, with other countries to follow, in paperback, e-book and audiobook (read by me). The paperback version is available for pre-order now, and there’s lots more info to follow about the bonuses I’m offering to those who pre-order it (and request it from the library, because that’s important, too!).

Wallet Activism, a podcast by Tanja Hester

Wallet Activism, the podcast, is out now, as of today! And it’s not a duplicate of the book, at all. The book is a standalone guide to shifting your mindset to make financial choices that best align with your values, and then a deeper dive look at those choices: what you buy, what you eat, what work you do and how you operate in the workplace, where you live, how you travel, where you save and invest your money, how you donate, and much more. The podcast is conversations with people who are practicing wallet activism in some way, or who have research to share that can help us all be better wallet activists. Below are all the links you can use to subscribe, and please do subscribe, because I’m still retired and have no interest in committing to an inflexible and arbitrary schedule. ;-)

The Case for Buying Books

I’m sure every author feels a little bit icky asking you to buy their book, but it feels even stranger in a way to ask because, if you’re a reader here, you know that we are already financially secure. But on the other hand, I have no trouble asking you to buy Wallet Activism because it’s all a part of creating demand for the world you want to see, which is the best way to align your financial choices to your values.

When I first shared my proposal for the new book with publishers, the feedback I got was that people loved the idea, but that books focused on changing the status quo didn’t sell well. And as much as we would like book publishing to be some altruistic place where the best ideas get published without question, book publishing is a business. They publish books that they think will sell, and they pass on books that they think will sit on shelves (or not get stocked by book stores at all). It’s only in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests that publishers have begun to consider publishing more books pushing for social change, but that was only a little over a year ago. When I was shopping this book around, there was a nearly universal sense that “this type of book” had no chance.

I always make a point of buying books by people I want to support or on topics I want to see more of, exactly because I want to see more of them. I want to show publishers that those books are profitable, so it’s worth their while to publish more like them. But watching people tell me that books about changing the status quo could never do well strengthened my resolve to write the best book I could, so readers would find it especially helpful and worthwhile, they’d spread the word, the publishers would be proved wrong, and more books in the social and environmental justice space would get published.

So I invite you to join me in this mission of creating more demand for books that drive positive change, starting with Wallet Activism. (Also because it’s good on its own!)

“I was blown away. From plastic straws to carbon offsets, from the mortgage interest deduction to DIY culture, you’ll never think about the impact of your choices in the same way again. This book shines light on the futility of good intentions and performative efforts, and shows how to make an actual, quantifiable impact.”

– Paula Pant, host of the Afford Anything podcast and founder of AffordAnything.com

The Perks of Pre-Ordering

As much as I’d like to give you the book for free, I can’t do that because my publisher needs to keep the lights on and it needs to pay its incredible staff what they’re worth. But I can give you other things for free. I’m offering two types of bonuses: resources you’ll receive for pre-ordering, and entries into a drawing for virtual time with me. In addition to creating demand for more books in this vein, I also want to use this book launch to support independent bookstores and to get the book into as many hands as possible, and so the perks offered here align to those goals:

  • Pre-Order 1 Copy – If you pre-order one copy, you’ll get a downloadable PDF you can save on your phone or print out and put in your wallet that reminds you of the most credible third-party certifications for foods and products, so you can refer to it while you’re shopping.
  • Pre-Order 2 Copies – If you pre-order 2 copies, you get my favorite thing: the Take Action pack, filled with templates you can use to level up your wallet activism, like a template boycott press release, a template letter to a corporation asking them to clean up their act, scripts you can use with friends and family, and more.
  • Pre-Order 3+ Copies – If you pre-order 3 or more copies, you also get the in-depth book club discussion guide.

For any of these bonuses, you can mix and match formats (paperback, e-book, audiobook), though only paperback is available now. (E-book and audiobook should be available for pre-order in the next few weeks.)

 Fine print: Pre-order bonuses are available to everyone who pre-orders Wallet Activism by 11:59 PM in your local time zone on November 15, 2021, prior to the November 16, 2021, release date.

Virtual Chat Entries – Lots of you told me on Instagram that something you’d love to get for pre-ordering is a chance to talk to me virtually, so we’re doing a drawing for 10 hourlong virtual meetups with me, to be used however you want: just hanging out and chatting, talking about specific questions you have, speaking to your book club… whatever you wish. Here are all the ways you can get an entry into the drawing, to be held in January after the holidays:

  • 1 entry for each copy of the book you pre-order
  • 1 entry for each request you submit to your library to carry it
  • 1 extra entry if you order from an independent or local bookstore instead of the everything store

Don’t assume that buying from an indie bookstore will automatically be more expensive (and we’re talking about a max price of only $18 anyway, not some big splurge). For example, the book is actually cheaper right now on Bookshop.org, which supports local bookstores, than it is on Amazon.

We’ll do additional drawings after the book comes out to thank those who write reviews, so stay tuned for that. We’ll also have one other perk for those who pre-order that I’ll share soon. ;-)

To claim your pre-order bonus resources and be entered into the drawing, send your receipt and screenshots of library requests to walletactivism at gmail dot com. (Note that the marketing team is managing this email address, so notes you send there won’t get to me.)

Here are a whole bunch of places where you can pre-order the book, or you can call your local independent bookseller and ask them to order it for you:

And here’s a guide I did for Work Optional on how to request a book from the library. (Obviously swap in Wallet Activism for your search this time around.)

Events, Events, Events

I had hoped to be able to make this announcement along with a long list of in-person book tour events, but the pandemic rages on, and safety is of course the most important thing. That said, I’m excited about the schedule we’re putting together of in-person and virtual events, with more to come as details are finalized. Keep an eye on the events block in the right hand sidebar, or follow me on Instagram or Twitter to stay updated about additional events.

Launch Night Party – November 16, 6 PM PT, Green Apple Books in San Francisco
*Must be vaccinated to attend in-person, per City of San Francisco’s health regulations, but there will also be a virtual option for folks who are out of area or don’t feel safe attending in person. This assumes, of course, that things don’t get worse with the pandemic.

If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy of the book, you can pre-order one from Green Apple Books, a San Francisco institution that sells both new and used books and is just a generally rad place. Note in the order that you’d like a signed copy.

Virtual Events and Readings:

If you plan to attend one of these virtual events, please consider placing your pre-order with that store! And stay tuned for many more event announcements.

Thanks for Your Support!

It feels good to be talking about the book and podcast at last, and I can’t wait to hear from you after the book is out what you think about it. Readers like you made the book possible in the first place (because having people who read what you write is a prerequisite to get published these days – it’s a business!), and I’m grateful that you care what I have to say.

I hope you’re staying healthy and safe in these scary times.

My best,
Tanja

P.S. For those who’ve asked, we were never in danger from the Caldor Fire that got close to South Lake Tahoe (we’re in North Tahoe), but those firefighters get all our gratitude nonetheless.

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