Top Ten Reasons to Shop at Your Local Stores

shoppingIt may seem like those days are gone forever, lost in a sea of big box stores and faceless cashiers, but the local movement has been making a comeback in recent years From concerns about suburban sprawl to worries about the environment, there are many reasons why shoppers have been taking a step away from the big box mentality and giving their local shops another look. If you doubt the value of acting locally, just take a look at the top 10 ways shopping local helps the community, the economy, and the environment.

1) Local stores give back to the community. Local merchants give back to the community in a variety of different ways, from buying those Little League uniforms to serving as mentors for youths who might otherwise turn to a life of crime. No matter how good their intentions, big box stores simply cannot match the level of commitment and community involvement local stores can provide.

2) Local communities help to support the local tax base. When the tax base suffers, everyone in the community suffers, so supporting local merchants is good for everyone in the community. Many communities that have seen their downtowns decimated have also experienced a spike in local taxes, so patronizing your local stores can be good for your bottom line.

3) Local stores carry unique merchandise not handled by the big box stores. Big box stores by their very nature can only carry so much merchandise, and that means you may not be able to find the unique items you need there. Local stores know the needs of their customers, and they are able to order accordingly.

4) Local stores give character to the community. We have all had the experience of driving across the state or across the country, only to experience a disconcerting sameness. The downtown communities used to offer a relief from that generic look, and downtowns can thrive again if each of us does our part.

5) Buying from local merchants provides personal interaction that big box stores simply cannot match. Personal interaction is a big part of the buying experience, and local merchants can provide that personal interaction. The entire purchasing process can be much more satisfying when you actually know the store owner and his or her family.

6) Local stores employ your friends and neighbors. When you buy from local merchants you are helping to keep members of your community, from your friends in the church to your colleagues on the Chamber of Commerce.

7) Local stores can lessen the environmental impact of retailing. We have all seen the big box stores move into town and buy up the local farms and other open land. Local merchants tend to have less of an impact on the environment, so buying local can be good for the Earth as well.

8) Local stores provide better choices for consumers. While every big box store stocks the same merchandise, local merchants can afford to be a little more creative. If there is a product you have to have, chances are your local store owners will be able to find just what you need.

9) Store owners plow money back into the community. The owners of local businesses have a vested interest in the long term health of their communities, and they know that when their communities thrive they thrive as well. Local store owners have a commitment to their communities that no big box retailer can match.

10) Local stores provide peace of mind. When you buy from a local merchant you know where your merchandise is coming from, and that can provide real peace of mind. This can be particularly important when it comes to grocery stores – being able to talk to the owner about where the meat and produce came from can give you real peace of mind.

The Ten Don’ts of Christmas Shopping

christmas-santa-2Although Christmas shopping begins as an enjoyable experience, it often decays into a frustrating nightmare. Holiday shopping should be fun. Remember the ten don’ts of Christmas shopping and savour every holiday moment.

Thou Shalt Not Procrastinate
Don’t put your Christmas shopping off until the last week of the holidays. The stores will be overloaded. The other shoppers will be in a panic. The staff will be getting tired of the holiday rush. The deals will be picked over and the hard-to-get items will be sold out. The earlier you can get started, the more enjoyable your Christmas shopping will be.

Thou Shalt Not Be Unprepared
Don’t head out to the stores without a plan. Make a simple list of names and gift ideas. Stick to it as much as you can. This ensures you will not have to run out at the last minute to find something for a forgotten niece or nephew. Good homework will help prevent you from browsing for hours. Preparation will help you stay strong and not succumb to inadequate impulse buys.

Thou Shalt Not Overspend
Don’t end up with a financial hangover and a case of buyer’s remorse. Don’t become caught up in the excitement of consumers consuming at full throttle. Prepare a budget in advance. Decide on appropriate spending targets for each name on your list. Check to make sure that the sum of your holiday spending is well within your means.

Thou Shalt Not Over Do It
Don’t try to do it all in one day. Holiday shopping is no small task. Try several small outings. This will allow you to hit many stores in many different locations, all over town.

Thou Shalt Not Over Pay
Don’t assume that because a price is already marked down, that it is also the best price in town. Christmas retail is the most competitive time of the year. Take the time to do some research on a computer. Browse your flyers. This will help you to come up with gift ideas It will help to flesh out your budget. Most of all, it will help you to take advantage of the best deals.

Thou Shalt Not Walk Alone
Don’t fly solo. The holidays are all about friends and family. Make sure to include them in your shopping plans. They may have gift ideas to share. They may have information about deals They may even want to chip in on some of the gifts you are buying.

Thou Shalt Not Deny Thyself
Don’t forget to eat. Bring a snack. Spoil yourself at the food court. Stay hydrated. Dress in layers to avoid becoming overheated. Buy a special Christmas gift for yourself; after all, you have been so good this year.

Thou Shalt Not Get Stuck In Traffic
Don’t shop during rush hour. Avoid peak times Many retailers have longer store hours for the holidays. Arrive early to get a good parking space. Do your shopping during the week.

Thou Shalt Not Buy Junk
Don’t buy something that will be in the landfill before next Christmas. Sometimes deals are not all that they seem. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes that plastic toy or knickknack dust collector seems like a great gift idea. Often, it is really just a waste. Choose either gifts that will be consumed right away or gifts that have a practical long-term value.

Thou Shalt Not Be Indiscriminate
Don’t miss the chance to vote with every dollar you spend. Do you prefer to support mega-corporations or small businesses? Would you rather purchase locally made products or imported products? Would anyone on your list appreciate an environmentally friendly choice? Sometimes a green Christmas is not so bad after all.

Three Ways to Buy Christmas Gifts for Less

christmas-santaChristmas is the most expensive time of the year and Christmas gifts are likely to account for a large proportion of your expenditure in the run-up to the festive season, especially if you have a large, extended family or a wide circle of friends. In times of economic difficulties, it makes sense to re-think your normal Christmas gift shopping habits and look for ways in which you can save money whilst at the same time still buying presents that will delight the recipients. Here are some ways to shop smartly for Christmas gifts.

Outlet Malls

Shopping for Christmas gifts at outlet malls is an excellent way to make your dollar stretch further. Outlet malls typically sell branded goods at prices 50 per cent to 70 per cent lower than in normal retail outlets. Clothing, accessories, cosmetics, home wares, books, toys, and many other items can be bought at outlet malls, so it is possible that you will be able to buy most, if not all, of the items on your Christmas gift list on a single trip to an outlet mall.

It is a good idea to set a budget before you leave home and keep to it. Since many items are offered at a large discount, you may be tempted to buy more gifts than you need to and you may end up spending more in total than you would have spent in your local shopping mall.

eBay and Other Online Stores

eBay sellers and owners of other online stores can afford to sell goods at lower prices than traditional retailers because they have lower overheads. Further advantages of doing your Christmas shopping online include being able to browse and order at anytime of the day or night, and not having to fight your way through crowded shopping malls in the run-up to Christmas. If you have friends or family members living overseas, you could order gifts from a website in their home country and arrange for them to be gift wrapped and delivered directly to their door.

If you buy gifts on eBay or other online auction sites, it is important that you set yourself a maximum price for each item and do not bid beyond that. Sometimes it is all too easy to get carried away with “auction fever” and offer more than an item is worth.

Personalize Low-Cost Items or Make Gifts Yourself

Unique Christmas presents can be created by either personalizing a low-cost item or making a gift from scratch. Look in your local dollar store for items that you could personalize. For example, you could buy a hardback notebook in a plain color and cover it with fabric in a design that would appeal to the recipient. If you buy an inexpensive fabric remnant in a fabric store, you could make a unique personalized gift quickly, easily and inexpensively.