I remember when the evil Harbucks landed in South Park. It made me feel guilty. I like my tall cappuccino from Harbucks. Then it hit me. It’s okay to shop big business. In fact, there’s a reason they’ve gotten so big. People like the product they’re selling. It may not be an epiphany to you, but it took me a while to realize that I can do both. I think this is what Oprah calls an Aha! moment. The reason to shop local is to invest in your neighborhood and community. It’s not always about the business. It’s about the people.
Community Ties Increase Your Happiness
Your ties to the community directly increase your happiness and life longevity. There’s the research to prove it but, after so many moves, I know this intuitively. So, when I move somewhere new, I focus on my relationships, my kids’ schools, the community and volunteering. You end up getting a lot more out of the community when you put your time and energy into it. Only recently did I realize I was not all-in on my commitment. Something was missing.
Shop Local To Support Your Neighbors
I never really thought about the Shop Local slogan. My mind focused on helping small business in an abstract way instead of focusing on the people behind the business. The store owners are our neighbors, our friends, the parents of the kids at school. This isn’t a “big business vs. small business” argument. I like big business. I appreciate the ease and convenience of shopping online and getting a package within 48 hours. Aha! moment here…It’s okay to shop at amazon, but it’s also important to shop local.
What You Can Do: The 3/50 Project
We want our local shops to stay because that’s what makes our neighborhoods feel like neighborhoods. In 2009, Cinda Baxter wrote about shopping local with the 3/50 Project and it struck a chord with readers everywhere. It entails spending a total of $50 at three local shops each month. You pick whichever three stores you would be sad to see go in your neighborhood and you buy something there. This is our way of saying to the store owners: “Thank you for investing in our community.”
Create a Cash Mob
When I first heard about a cash mob, I thought I would finally realize my lifelong dream of being in a flash mob. Unfortunately, no singing or dancing is required for a cash mob. A cash mob is a large group of people who show up at a store at the same time, each spending $20 or less.
I’m always on the lookout for different ways to get to know new people. If you’re new in town, get a group together to create a cash mob. Pick a local shop. Maybe it’s an indie bookstore or a place that specializes in comics or home décor. Send out an evite for Saturday at 11 A.M. Plan lunch afterwards at a local restaurant. It’s a unique way to spend an afternoon and everyone will be feeling good about it. Meet some new people, make a difference in the community, and it only costs you whatever you want to spend.
The Impact of Shopping Local
Let’s assume there are 10,000 households in your town. Half of the households do the 3/50 Project and the other half participates in a cash mob. So, that’s 5,000 households giving $50 and 5,000 households giving $20. If every household participates, your neighborhood could pump $350,000 into the local economy in only one month! Even if only 10% of the households participate, that’s still $35,000 in one month. This would make a huge difference to your local town.
Pay in Cash
Credit card processing fees can eat up 2-3% of sales (not profits). That’s a big chunk of change for anyone, but especially for small business owners. When possible, try to pay in cash at local stores to save them those high fees. Every little bit helps.
As with most supposedly altruistic acts, we get a lot more than we give when we shop local. We make new friends. We feel like a part of the community. Plus, it will make us happier, increase our life expectancy, and we get a delicious meal or a new sweater out of it. It’s hard to argue with those benefits. I hope you’ll join me in shopping local — and not just on Shop Local Saturday or during the holiday season. I may be carrying my coffee from Harbucks, but I’ll still be shopping and dining local throughout the year. In the end, it’s all about the people.