By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo

This is the time of the year when advertisements are being thrown at us from more angles than usual. Many of these marketing campaigns come from big box chains. It’s always nice to score some nice deals on gifts for your loved ones, but let’s not forget those hidden independent gems often overlooked. In the spirit of holiday giving, be sure to spend some time buying local as a way to give back to your community.  

There are a lot of benefits to your community’s economy when you purchase locally. Supporting small businesses keeps more money in your community and usually helps money circulate faster. Buying local helps small businesses flourish. It creates jobs and opportunities for people in your neighborhood, rather than outsourcing jobs overseas. Additionally, local businesses tend to rely on other local businesses for services such as banking, printing advertisements, supplies, and legal services. (Source: Time Magazine Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy)

David Boyle, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation, explains how money circulates differently when you spend locally, rather than at large chains. He uses an interesting analogy: “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," but when spent at large, multinational businesses, “it flows out, like a wound." The force pumping that money is you, the consumer.  

Buying local can also prove better for the environment. Local stores are less likely to import products, reducing the need for transportation. Delivery vehicles and other modes of transportation, including airplanes, account for a considerable amount of carbon dioxide emissions. This is startling, considering that shipping accounts for one billion metric tons of Co2 emissions a year. The hundreds of miles that a product travels to get to your local big box store is a hidden cost to the environment, your health, and your wallet.

Buying locally isn’t just about where your money goes. It’s also about what you get in return. If you explore local shops, you’ll find unique merchandise that can’t be found in the big box stores. There’s also something quaint about visiting a small shop rather than a large department store. The “buy local” movement is about understanding your options as a shopper and informing yourself about the impact of your decisions.  

For example, if I want to buy a book I have a few options nearby. I can check out my local used bookstore and get it for $3. If I purchase it brand new at the large bookstore chain, it will most likely cost me double, or triple, the price at the least. For me, a brand new book and a used book aren’t too different in value. I could get it used on Amazon for pennies, but the shipping will set me back $4, and I’ll have to wait at least a week for it to arrive. There are ebooks, but I’m sentimental and like to read with pen in hand to write in the margins. Considering the options, buying locally is best for me. In addition, the woman who owns the used bookstore is much friendlier making the buying experience more personal and enjoyable.

Now, granted, with the success of big retailers, local vendors can’t always compete with the prices of larger chains. However, buying locally does not mean sacrificing your wallet. It means being aware of the benefits of buying locally versus shopping at large chains. It involves understanding the value of what you’re buying rather than just the price. Some things are more easily accessible at a large store because many small businesses just can't compete. In other cases, a local restaurant may offer better and more unique dining options than a chain restaurant or fast food option.  

When given the option, don’t forget to support local businesses. Paying it forward is not just about service. It’s about the lifestyle choices you make each day that impact those around you. It’s important to focus on where your money is spent, and make decisions about more than a price tag. As a consumer, your money is your vote.

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