Local on a Budget: Introduction

Les compteurs d'argent Nancy 3018

Shop Local: Don’t let these folks hoard all the dough!

I was on FB the other day when I noticed a friend’s status update.  He had postulated that the US is lacking in jobs because big companies have outsourced them to countries with cheaper labor.  Big Boxmarts buy the cheaper products that were made by folks in far-off places, and small local vendors just can’t compete.  Consumers buy from box-marts because they don’t want to pay for quality goods made by their neighbors when they can get cheap stuff made by underpayed labor abroad.  And so, the money we spend goes partly to those folks in far-off places, but mostly up the corporate ladder.  Because we buy cheap instead of buying local.
Veronese, Paolo - Juno Showering Gifts on Venetia (detail) - 1554-56

Take a lesson from Juno:
Patronize your patrons.

This all sounds pretty depressing, but it isn’t, because the opposite could be true:  We could buy local instead of cheap.  We might not be able to buy as much, and we might have to transition little by little, but we’ll be part of an upward spiral instead of a downward one.  Our purchases will go toward our neighbor’s paychecks, and when those neighbors buy local too, local businesses will thrive.  Then they’ll hire.  Unemployment will go down and meaningful employment will go up.  You know what else?  Small businesses are innovative.  Some of those exciting new ideas will create products that go beyond the local market, beyond the national market.  Soon, we’re making stuff the rest of the world wants, and money starts flowing into our town/state/region/country instead of out.

When the economy crashed, the government handed out stimulus money and hoped we’d spend it.  My only expertise is as an observer, but it seems to me that the problem isn’t that people aren’t spending:  It’s that they’re spending in all the wrong places.  I think choosing to shop local and independent can go a long way towards saving the world.

This is when most people object that buying local is expensive.  It can be, but it doesn’t have to be, and I say that from experience.  Keep an eye out for “Local on a Budget” posts.  Everyone can afford to buy local, and I’m going to tell you how.

In the meantime, here are some great resources for finding local and independent businesses this holiday season:
your local Local First organization
Indie Store Finder
Shop Small (a campaign by AmEx, which is not a small local company, but still a good resource)
Local Harvest

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