Self-sufficiency comes in many forms and exists at many levels. Many of my posts describe personal self-sufficiency. However, self-sufficiency also exists at the community level and that’s the level addressed in this post. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is a day when many people kick off their holiday shopping. An alternative theory states that Black Friday is also the day when businesses begin earning a profit; although, this probably isn’t a fact.
There is a tendency to view local stores as expensive. People who use cost as their sole motivation for choosing a particular store use this reason as the only one for shopping anywhere else. It’s true, if you check pricing alone, your local store might not be competitive with the big box store at the mall. However, there is more to consider than the actual price you pay for a product.
- Cost of gasoline: When you check the price at the big box store, you also need to factor in the cost of the gasoline to go there. When the price of the local item varies by just a few cents, you might actually save money by shopping locally when you factor the cost of gas (currently between $3.00 and $4.00 a gallon) into the picture. Let’s put it this way, if your car gets 30 miles to the gallon and the store is 15 miles away, you need to add the cost of a gallon of gas to your calculation. (It would also be helpful to add the cost of wear and tear to your car.)
- Your time: As I’ve spent more time working through self-sufficiency issues, I’ve come to realize that my time (all of it) has value. If I have wasted time driving somewhere, when I could have easily cut wood or grown something, then I’ve lost money for my time. Like most people, I have little time to waste. When you shop locally, you save time, which means that you save money.
- Toll on your health: Driving, especially during the holidays, is a stressful activity. If you’re spending your time fighting with a lot of other potential customers for a product that may not even fulfill your needs, you’re spending your health. You only have so much health to spend—use it wisely. Viewed from another perspective—the stress you endure for a lower cost product today could very well translate into higher medical costs tomorrow.
- Eventual cost of local jobs: You may not really care about your neighbor’s job, but you should. Jobs are important for everyone. When you shop in the local community, you support your neighbors and help them lead happy lives. Happy neighbors translate into a better community and lower stress for everyone. Everything from taxes to the availability of services revolves around the ability of people to earn a living.
Of course, these are all anti-repercussion reasons for shopping locally. Yes, they’re good reasons for shopping locally, but you really don’t get much of an immediate nature out of them personally. Shopping locally also has some significant benefits for the self-sufficient person that you should consider.
- Individualized assistance: A local store owner, one who is part of your community, has every reason to learn the kinds of goods that you value most. The local retailers that work with me often order goods because the retailer knows that I’ll purchase that particular product and no other product. Big box stores service entire areas, states, or even the country as a whole. My wishes don’t matter—only those of the mob are taken into consideration.
- Higher quality goods: I don’t like buying something and then having it fall apart a short time later. Because I shop locally, I can usually request (and get) quality products that have a long last time so that I don’t have to buy them again next year. The big box store is only interested in price and will offer the products that meet that sole criterion no matter how poorly made the product might be.
- Better service: When I go into a local store, the owner knows my name, asks about my wife, and wants to know how my harvest was this year. I might get a discount because of past purchases I’ve made. In many cases, I want to visit that store because I don’t have to work too hard to find what I need; the owner knows I need that product and will provide it without my asking. When something does go wrong, I don’t have to threaten a lawsuit to get a proper response. In short, I get better service.
The bottom line for local shopping is that when you don’t use the local store, you end up losing it. One term that has seen a lot of use recently is food desert, a place in an urban setting where people can’t obtain fresh food. One of the reasons that food deserts exist is because people didn’t patronize the local stores; the stores simply went out of business from non-use. To keep your community healthy, reduce your personal costs, and get a better deal shop locally this Black Friday. Let me know your thoughts on local shopping at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.