Tuesday, December 6, 2011

101 Ways to Buy Local this Holiday Season

The economic well-being of every community is dependent upon one simple thing: cash. When people are getting paid, things work out. When they aren’t, communities decline. So what’s the easiest, fastest, and most efficient way to ensure that a community has money? Buy local.

Unfortunately, the American model of consumption puts price and convenience above all other considerations. This helps big box stores to dominate the landscape, which are not boons to the local economy, but rather massive money-extraction devices. By spending money with companies and on products that are not local to us, we send more of our dollars far away to pay for materials, factories, workers and executives who will gladly take our money, and spend it where THEY live. The U.S. trade deficit is over $40 billion!  That’s not sustainable.

It makes the hordes of Black Friday shoppers look like economic cannibals. So eager for “a good deal” they unwittingly kill local jobs in the process. Countless studies now support just how much a difference buying local can make. And no, buying at your local Walmart doesn’t count.

Yes, I know you can’t get a flat screen TV that was made down the street, but your region is chock-full of products, services and worthwhile experiences that are better because they ARE local. Local isn’t a compromise. It’s about loving where you live and acting like it.

If you’re inclined to try spending more of your money locally, but are at a loss of ideas, here are a few useful websites that can help you find businesses you probably didn’t even know about.

And here are a handful of suggestions to get you thinking. Some are fun, some are practical, some are downright kooky, but all will keep more of your money right nearby, where it belongs:

A selection of great locally-produced items:
  1. Jewelry
  2. Photography
  3. Paintings
  4. Pottery
  5. Clothing
  6. Turkey or ham
  7. Baked goods
  8. Honey
  9. Maple Syrup
  10. Jellies and jams
  11. Local attraction guides
  12. Beer
  13. Wine
  14. Christmas trees
  15. Christmas wreaths
  16. Dog and cat treats
  17. Dog and cat accessories
  18. Candles
  19. Soap
  20. In-name donation to local charity
  21. Fudge and other sweets
  22. Fresh-roasted coffee
  23. Flower arrangements
  24. Gift baskets
  25. Cards and stationery
  26. A farm share of seasonal produce
  27. Christmas ornaments
  28. Books from a local shop
  29. Toys made by local craftsmen
  30. Home decor
  31. House plants
  32. Hand bags
  33. Hats
  34. Local food specialties
  35. Local coupon books
  36. Local business gift cards  
Local services that make surprising gifts:
  1. Car detailing
  2. House cleaning
  3. Dog and cat grooming
  4. Dog walking
  5. Poop scooping
  6. Landscaping
  7. Lawn mowing
  8. House painting
  9. Home repair
  10. Babysitting
  11. Gym membership
  12. Oil change
  13. Duct cleaning
  14. Carpet cleaning
  15. A pimped ride
  16. Laser hair removal
  17. Laser tattoo removal
  18. Chiropractor visits
  19. Furniture reupholstering
  20. Dry cleaning or laundry service
  21. Custom tailoring
  22. Home energy audit
  23. Errand running
  24. High school kid doing odd jobs
  25. Custom picture framing
  26. Tree trimming
  27. Home theatre installation
  28. New sidewalk, driveway or patio
  29. Family portrait
  30. Personal organizer or assistant
Give a local experience:
  1. Go out to eat, of course!
  2. Theatre tickets
  3. Sports tickets
  4. Catch some live music
  5. Museum membership
  6. Manicure/pedicure
  7. A day at the spa
  8. Matching tattoos
  9. Music lessons
  10. Dance lessons
  11. Deep tissue massage
  12. Winery/brewery tours
  13. Bowling party
  14. Go cart racing
  15. Indoor skydiving
  16. Cooking class
  17. Ski lift tickets
  18. SCUBA certification
  19. Martial arts classes
  20. Sleigh ride
  21. Ice skating
  22. Horseback riding
  23. Snowshoeing
  24. See a roller derby match
  25. Local hotel getaway
  26. Guided fishing trip
  27. Go out on the town in a limo
  28. Visit a fortune teller
  29. Painting classes
  30. Visit a comedy club
  31. Go gallery hopping
  32. Host a bouncy-house party
  33. Hire a clown
  34. Hire a charicature artist
  35. Have your holiday party catered
Who says you have to give things? Give some great memories instead. Stretch your imagination a little bit for a more memorable holiday season you can really feel good about!

Mike Sobol works for PassportGenius.com, a national passport and visa expediting service. The company issues sameday passport renewalschild passports and travel visas to any country in the world.