Local Holiday Shopping: How to Save Time and Money
There is no shame in shopping online or out of state for the holidays. I’ve found some of my best holiday gifts in distant cities. BUT! There is so much more to be gained, for you and your community, by weaving a good deal of local shopping into your holiday plan. The only trick is saving time and money while you’re at it.
It’s no secret that the small businesses at the center of town count on you for their livelihood. And you count on them to keep their doors open so you don't have to drive half an hour for a quart of milk or that thing you need right NOW. Without your local small businesses, Vermont towns can begin to feel a lot like a ghost town, with no place to congregate or meet new people.
When you shop close to home, your money is placed in local hands. It is used to pay local employees, and may be used to purchase other local items or services. It may even be saved in a local credit union or bank. When your money stays in your community, it benefits the people closest to you. It even benefits you. The more money stays in your community, the more resources you have access to, and the more prosperous the community becomes.
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This doesn’t make shopping locally easy, of course. Sometimes (not always!), local shops are more expensive. This may be because they are specialty shops or because they can’t order in large enough quantities to keep prices low. Either way, you may feel like it’ll be easier to keep to your budget if you hit the department stores or shop the online deals. It can also take more time to find what you’re looking for in the available local shops.
So how do you shop closer to home without spending more time and money than you have? I have been curious about that lately, so I asked around. I conferred with my colleagues and friends, did some good old fashioned internet research, and brewed up a few ideas based on my own experience. Here’s what I’ve collected:
- Shop early and often
The sooner you begin shopping, and the more frequently you go, the less stress you’ll feel because you’ll be able to collect ideas and find what you need without worrying that you’re running out of time. Once you’ve set a good shopping pace, you’ll enjoy checking things off your list and won’t want to lose the momentum (i.e., you won’t be as likely to procrastinate); and because you’ve started early enough, you’ll have more time to find better deals.
- Make a list and check it twice
The best way to spend a ton of money and waste time doing it is to go shopping without a list. When you do that, you tend to buy the first semi-appropriate thing you see and buy far too many gifts because you can’t remember what you’ve bought already. So make a list! Jot down the people you are shopping for, items you want to buy, and how much it will all cost. Then organize the list so that you know where you will need to go online or in town to make your purchases. If you’re shopping online, this will prevent you from making a lot of small orders at the same store, which will save you money on shipping.
- Shop online at local shops
Just because you’re shopping locally doesn’t mean you can’t save time by shopping online. A lot of local shops have an online presence and offer a positive ecommerce experience. The best way to do this is to look up all of the shops on your list to determine which ones offer online shopping. Sit down for an afternoon and get those out of the way, and then head out the door for the rest.
- Find rebates
As you’re planning your list or shopping, check out Ebates or Ibotta (mobile), or seek out another site for rebates on your holiday purchases. These cash back offers can really add up!
- Call ahead
You can save time by calling the store ahead of time to find out if they have the item you’re looking for. If you find out that they don’t, you’ve just saved yourself a trip into town. If they say no, you might want to ask them if they have something similar. Maybe they’ll suggest an even better idea!
- Find the local shopping events
Discount events and other opportunities tend to pop up around the holiday season. You may find these online on your local events calendar, Front Porch Forum, Listserve, or chamber of commerce site. For example, Seven Days is a popular community calendar. And if you live in Montpelier, you can check out the Montpelier Alive website for money-saving shopping events.
- Ask for a discount
If you are turning an item over in your hands, wondering if it’s worth the price and finding that it’s just a little more than you’re willing to put down on it, ask for a discount. Tell them what you’re willing to pay and ask them if they’ll meet you there or somewhere in between. Bartering may not be a common practice in the United States, but discounts are and shop owners are often willing to give a discount to get the sale.
These ideas are meant to help you spend more locally so that you can give the gifts your family and friends will love while supporting your local community. If you’re in research mode, check out our blog, where you'll find articles that will help you make the holidays more affordable or get your last-minute shopping done. Keep reading and shop wisely this holiday season!
Using credit to pay for the holidays? Learn how a credit card strategy can save you money.
About Heidi White
Heidi White is the content and communications specialist at VSECU. She is responsible for communicating information and ideas through the written word for the credit union’s internal and external audiences. Her passion is helping people live more joyful lives through timely, useful, and compelling content. Heidi lives in Barre, Vermont.