Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Keep spending home for the holidays

Redirecting $100 to local stores can have huge impact on economy


Image from “The Story of Stuff”. This year, keep your holiday spending local and give the gift of local economic impact.

It seems as if after Thanksgiving, the major news in our country is shopping and whether retail sales will top last year's sales. And spend we will! We spend an average of $856 per person on the holidays, according to the American Research Group.

Unfortunately, most of our hard-earned dollars will go straight to China because more than 70 percent of the goods on store shelves are from there. If we multiply that by the current U.S. population, that's about $180 billion leaving home for the holidays.

A recent economic study conducted in Austin, Texas, found that if each household in Travis County (population 921,006) simply redirected $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores (carrying cheap imports) to the stores of local merchants, the local economic impact would reach approximately $10 million. Imagine how $10 million would boost your community's economy.

On average, we spend between 20 and 40 hours shopping for holiday gifts and waiting in long lines. You easily could make most of your holiday gifts in that time and have the added bonus of time shared as a family. If you are buying gifts or giving money, you are cheating your loved ones. Instead, give gifts of time. Offer to change your elderly relatives' light bulbs to compact fluorescents, or give them coupons good for a free day's worth of caulking and winterizing. Those are things they could really use, and time spent together will benefit all of you.

Holidays should be about time well spent, not money. In the land where we have plenty of food, noise and gizmos, those are the things we cherish. Here are a few ideas for adding more joy to your household and community this holiday season:

· Spend less time shopping, and make gingerbread men with your children one afternoon. Put the gingerbread men on decorative plates, and drop in on each neighbor to spread cheer.

· Pump money into the local economy by making donations to the food bank. That money will help families in your neighborhood more surely than money spent at a national chain store.

· Ask young children to pick out toys to buy, and donate to one of the Toys for Tots programs.

· Have a family meeting to decide on a spending limit, and figure out what imaginative gifts you can make together.

· This time of year is craft fair season, and most churches and community groups offer at least one. Craft fairs are great opportunities to support local producers directly and keep your holiday spending local.

· On Christmas Day, once the gifts are opened, don't let it be anticlimactic. Instead, spread birdseed and crumbled cookies outside for the wild things. Take a plate of food to a neighborhood shut-in or someone who has to work.

· Do something wonderful for someone else—anonymously.

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