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Why and How to Shop Locally on Small Business Saturday and Beyond -- Even on a Budget

As tempting as it might be to head over to a big box store or add item after item to your online cart the holidays present a great opportunity to support local businesses.
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Taking time browsing the large selection at a locally-owned toy store

Around this time of year many of us start thinking of taking some action on all of the great gift ideas they have been accumulating for friends and family. But, even once the decisions made about what to buy there is another decision to make -- where to buy. As tempting as it might be to head over to a big box store or add item after item to your online cart the holidays present a great opportunity to support local businesses. With Small Business Saturday rapidly approaching the day after Black Friday consider skipping the day-after-Thanksgiving madness and shopping close to home the following day instead.

There are many reasons to shop locally:

• If you want to ensure the local businesses you love in your community are around for the next holiday season they need your support. If you love your neighborhood, chances are a unique locally owned café, boutique, restaurant or shop is part of the reason why.

• Even though shopping locally instead of online may mean paying taxes your tax dollars are reinvested in your community and the benefits return to you many times over. Everything from schools to roads to trash pick-up depend on tax dollars. The less tax revenue that comes in, the less money there is to spend on things like infrastructure, services and social programs.

• According to the 3/50 Project, $68 of every $100 spent in a locally owned, independent stores stays in your community versus only $43 of every $100 spent in a chain store and nothing if items are ordered online. Nothing. Consider also that most prices are set by vendors, not merchants so prices are likely to be comparable in locally owned and big box stores.

• By shopping locally you will likely have access to a broader array of items carefully chosen by those who know your community well because they live and work there. Rather than looking for items that will appeal to everyone local stores can focus on what you and your neighbors will enjoy.

• Because locally owned stores have a stake in the community they will often go above and beyond to help when it comes to customer service whether it is special ordering something that is hard-to-find or taking the time to steer you to just the right item.

Enjoying a homemade cupcake at a local cafe

Even if your budget does not allow you to spend a lot of money in locally owned stores there are still plenty of ways you can support you locally owned businesses throughout the holidays and all year long.

• Post, tweet or instagram about a new local find, a great pastry you had at your local coffee shop, a cute dress you saw in your neighborhood's boutique window or the great customer service you had at your local bookstore. This will get your friends' attention and remind them of the great places to shop and dine close to home.

• Start an affordable weekly or monthly ritual involving a favorite local business. Give yourself a boost Monday mornings or a treat on Fridays by stopping into your local café for a bagel and coffee on the way to work. Set a monthly date for just dessert and a glass of wine at that cute restaurant in your neighborhood you can't afford to eat at too often. Allow your child to buy a book once a month from your local bookstore the last Friday of every month.

• Say positive things about your local businesses and leave positive reviews about your local business on review sites. Even if your budget doesn't allow you to make big expenditures at small businesses letting others know what you like about them will encourage others to patronize them.

• Recommend your locally owned business to out-of-town guests and friends who live in different parts of the area. Visitors and tourists always appreciate being steered towards establishments with a local flavor and even people who live nearby but not in your neighborhood will love finding out about unique spots close by.

• Wait for sales at your locally owned stores and get on their mailing lists or follow them on social media to be sure you don't miss a great opportunity to get something you will love while supporting your community.

• Recognize that even spending small amounts can make a big difference. Few can realistically do all their shopping and dining in locally owned businesses but making an effort to spending your dollars locally when you can will go a long way to supporting your local economy.

By supporting your locally owned businesses you are making an investment in your community. Don't let the opportunity to make your community better by putting your money to work for you pass you by this holiday season or throughout the year.