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Why you should shop locally

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Reinvesting in your community

With the constantly bleak economic news were seeing these days, everyone is being more careful with their dollars. That's a good thing. But even as I am searching out the best possible deal on, well, everything, I am also balancing where the profit portion of my dollars go. I'd prefer those profits stay in the local economy. I'm making more of an effort to save every possible cent, yes, but I am also making an effort to shop locally.
Reinvesting in your community
Should you shop locally? Generally speaking, I say yes. And for more reasons than you might think.

In my small town we have a small market. This market is the only market in town, in fact. It opened just as the recession got into full-swing after several years of an empty storefront (a regional chain had declared our little town not profitable enough). Not only is the store owned locally, it truly serves locally. How does it do that?

Hiring locally

My local market created a number of full-time jobs and numerous part-time jobs for high school students. These are my neighbors.

Sure, larger chain stores hire local people, too. But for local high school students, unless they have cars that can take them out of town to those chain store, their options for employment were rather limited. The market has offered employment opportunities for moms re-entering the workforce, too.

Local reinvestment

Because the market is owned locally, the profits made at the store are spent (mostly) locally, not near a corporate headquarters multiple states away. This is putting money back into our local economy.

Resources for Seniors

Before the market went it, the residents of a local housing complex for retirees were having a hard time getting to the out-of-town markets to get their needed groceries. Now, with a store in walking distance, the seniors are much happier. The store has responded by offering them discounts and getting in specialty items when requested. The loyalty factor here cannot be underestimated. It has helped build a greater sense of community as well as giving all of us a place to pick up some bread and milk.

Increased traffic in the business area

Before the market opened, our small business area was not very busy. We were all worried about the long term health of businesses in general. Since the market went in, there is more traffic in that area. This has led to two new businesses opening in the area, and established businesses reporting better sales, even as the economy has struggled. And because these are all locally owned businesses, it's even more local reinvestment.

Less travel for residents

While prices for most staples are a touch higher than at the out-of-town chain stores, I find that it's sometimes cheaper to go to the local market. Since I have to use a lot less gas to get to the local market, the cost of fuel (even at its currently relatively low price) offsets the savings on one or two items. Plus I'm just plain not using fuel I don't have to use. And this doesn't even take into account the value of time saved.

Building community

From the increased traffic in the business area, to the hiring of local people, to reinvestment of profits in the community, it all contributes to an increased sense of community. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have started working with the market to establish recycling and bottle redemption areas, and other charitable organizations have received grants from the market.

This example is a fairly obvious one. Even if I can't quite swing doing all my marketing at this local market, I can and do make an effort to shop there for fill-in items at least once a week. The positives create a win-win situation for everyone. It's an upward spiral I can contribute to, proudly, and it will eventually spiral up to the economy as a whole.

As you look at ways to make the best of your family budget, I hope you will think locally, too. Think about friends and neighbors and their businesses and ways we can support one another economically. Balance the sticker cost with total cost.

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