What if you could make an investment that would not only directly benefit you and your family, it would help your neighbors and your entire community, too?
This isn’t a hypothetical question. Indeed, as a consumer, you have an opportunity to make such an investment virtually every time you reach for your wallet to purchase something. It’s called buying local, and the reasons for choosing to spend money with a locally owned business instead of a huge multinational corporate retailer are clear and compelling.
For reasons of convenience and cost, those retail giants have found a place in communities large and small. But for a community and the people who live in it to be healthy, the locally owned businesses that operate there have to be healthy, too.
That’s where you can make a difference. Choosing to buy locally sourced and sold goods and services puts money directly back into your community and in the process, helps local businesses — the mom-and-pop shops and entrepreneurial businesses that are the lifeblood of our American way of life — compete against their larger corporate counterparts.
Even a subtle change in buying habits can make a huge positive impact on local retailers and local economies. That’s because, according to the American Independent Business Alliance, dollars spent at community-based merchants create a multiplier in the local economy, where with each dollar spent at a local independent merchant, up to 3.5 times as much wealth is generated in the local economy compared to a dollar spent at chain-owned businesses.
Since in most cases it’s neither practical nor financially prudent for a consumer to rely exclusively on community-based businesses, the best approach starts with being mindful of the “buy local” option, and purchasing local goods and services when it makes sense, explains Becky Krieger, CFP®, with Accredited Investors in Edina, Minn. “Buying local doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach, because it can be more time-consuming, it can cost a little more and it can require more planning. But if you value making a difference in your community, buying local even just some of the time is a great way to have a positive effect. And it’s a routine that’s easy to get into.”
Still skeptical? Consider the following benefits of buying local:
1. A healthier local economy. It’s widely documented that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business rather than a national chain, significantly more of your money goes back into other local businesses.
2. A healthier you. The health benefits of eating fresh organic produce and dairy products are clear. All the better when you get them directly from local farmers through a community-supported agricultural organization or a farmer’s market. To learn more about what’s available in your area, search the Web using the name of your town and the keywords “community supported agriculture” or “farmer’s market.”
3. Better service. Local businesses often provide a level of personal attention that large chain stores don’t. Remember, better price doesn’t always mean better value.
4. Earth-friendly. Locally sourced goods don’t need to be shipped over vast distances. That conserves resources and cuts pollution.
5. Cultivate a sense of community. Wouldn’t you rather support businesses owned and staffed by friends, neighbors and fellow members of the community rather your giving your dollars to a large corporation and its anonymous shareholders?
6. Reinforce what makes your community unique. One-of-a-kind businesses give a neighborhood or town character.
7. Cooler stuff. For quality and uniqueness, the big-box stores often can’t compete with goods made by local artisans and craftspeople.
This column is provided by the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®).
Photo credit: stevegarfield