All things equal, buy local

When online prices match in-store prices, it's best to buy local, Hamm writes.

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    In this October 2009 file photo, workers at the family-owned R.E. Kimball company, which makes jellies and jams, prepare orders to be shipped or picked up in Amesbury, Mass. When you buy local, at least some of that money stays in your community, Hamm writes.
    Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
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I compare online and offline prices all the time. It’s simply part of how I naturally shop.

Sometimes, though, I’ll find that I can get essentially the same exact deal both online and off. The best online price I can find matches the price I see in the store.

In that situation, I always buy local.

There are a lot of reasons to buy local, of course. Here are some thoughts and tips.

First, when you buy local, at least some of that money stays in your community. If you buy from a company halfway across America (or in another country), very little of the proceeds of that purchase stays local. If you buy local, at least some of it will directly help your community. 

The local taxes help out with pretty much every local service, from police departments to schools. The revenue for the business goes into the pockets of the employees. The profits go into the pocket of someone that’s hopefully at least somewhat local.

Beyond that, by buying from local businesses, you’re helping them to keep their doors open and employ local people. A larger tax base brings more benefits to everyone in the community.

You simply get more value out of your dollar by buying local.

So, hand in hand with that idea is the concept that some things are more local than others.

For example, there’s a dairy not too far from where I live that’s owned by locals. They produce their own milk and sell it to the public through local grocers. When I buy from them, a very large portion of the money I spend stays in the community. They get revenue from the grocery stores. The local grocery store gets revenue from me. Multiple local businesses earn an income because of the dollar I spend.

Another example is the farmers market. If I buy produce there, the cash is going right into the pocket of someone in the community without a single middleman. If the prices are the same at the farmers market as they are in the grocery store, I’d rather keep the money as local as I can.

A final thought is that local independent businesses are often the ones that heavily support the community. They sponsor youth leagues. They help financially back community festivals. They often help support community organizations. They often organize clubs and other activities that offer yet another option for free community entertainment and involvement.

If you’re going to buy an item and you can approximately price match it in your local store, buy local. There’s no better way to squeeze a little more value out of that dollar.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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