by Paige Burton-Argo on December 11, 2012

Christmas is exactly two weeks away! For those of you who already have your presents wrapped and sitting under the tree, this blog post may be a little late for you. But if you are like me, and you still have some (OK, most) of your holiday shopping to do, I’d like to offer up an idea: shop local.

It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard before, and a trend that is becoming more and more popular as we become increasingly aware of the impact of the choices we make concerning the things we buy, where they come from, how they are made, etc. But it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of commercialized Christmas — the Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday coupons, and “unbeatable” offers that we stampede each other for in the big box stores.

This year (and every year, really), I encourage you to shop at local stores whenever you can. While some people only shop local, I’m not that ambitious yet. There are some gifts you have in mind for the people on your list that just can’t be found locally. I think what I’m really encouraging is for you to actually go to your local shops, explore what they have to offer, and be surprised by the great, unique items you find there.

Here’s the bonus: whereas only about 40% of the money you spend at a national retailer is put back into your community, nearly 75% of money spent at local stores goes directly back to the community! So, for every $100 dollars you spend, about $75 is returned to the local economy. When you shop locally, you are contributing to the overall success of the place where you live. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping a community business owner continue to do the thing that they love — and that’s a gift within itself! Though it maybe doesn’t fit under the true definition of “shopping local,” my mother and I have started a tradition we really love of going to nearby craft fairs and doing some of our Christmas shopping there. It’s great, because we know our products are made in America — in the Midwest, even — and that we are supporting local entrepreneurs and their amazing skills/talents.

So, next time you’re about to pull into Wal-Mart to pick up a fruitcake for Great-Aunt Betty, drive down the street and pick up a freshly made treat at your local bakery instead. Your community will be grateful…and more than likely, so will Aunt Betty.