Why You Should Buy From Local Businesses (And A Few Ideas on How to Do It)

November is unofficially “Conscientious Consumerism” month at She Spends. We’ve talked about thrifting a work wardrobe and investing in ESG strategies, along with questioning who benefits from #girlboss merch. As we raise our consciousness as consumers this month, we’re going to discuss buying locally.

Buying from small businesses is important to supporting your local economy, keeping tax dollars in your community, lowering fuel expenditures and creating jobs. There’s research to back it up, too. 

Wage ratios at small businesses, or the difference between the employees that make the most money and those that make the least, are far smaller, a 2015 study by professors from New York University, the University of North Carolina and the University of British Columbia shows. What’s more is that the money spent at local businesses — rather than big-box chains — has a much greater effect on the local economy, likely because the revenue stays in the community. 

Goods don’t have to travel nearly as far when they’re made or grown locally, meaning that fuel expenditures are far lower than products coming from China, Taiwan or other countries. Finally, the taxes that a local business pays remain in the community; rather, those taxes will support the area where a big-box retailer is based. 

So how can you actually support these local businesses? 

Start by checking out your community’s small business administration. That website will likely include links to local companies that offer everything from locally grown food to accounting services. 

A fantastic first step is making a concerted effort to shop at these businesses rather than the Targets and Walmarts of the world. If you’re not big on libraries, consider supporting local bookstores. My favorites in New York include McNally Jackson, Books are Magic, and Word, among others. Same goes for home-grown fitness studios, hairdressers, financial planners and clothing boutiques.

Swapping out local restaurants for chains like Olive Garden or Chili’s is another easy, and tasty, switch.

One way to ensure that you support local businesses is to shop for your food at farmer’s markets. The food is grown on local land by a farmer who will directly profit from your purchase. Plus, the food tastes better. For more on buying local food, I recommend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book truly changed the way I think about food and where it comes from.

You can also start buying gifts for family and friends from local companies. Not only will the gifts be unique, but they’ll also be a vehicle for spreading the word about your favorite spots. 

Finally, if the opportunity arises through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, consider supporting entrepreneurs with big ideas in your area. You search the sites based on location, which allows you to find cool local projects to invest in.

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #29

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