So we’ve talked about buying your food locally but most of us spend money on more than just food. Whether it’s clothes for the kids, a new book, or hardware for home renovations, we all spend money on different things each week. How we spend those dollars and cents can have a huge impact on our local communities, as well as on large socio-economic and environmental issues. 

I’ve always enjoyed the “leaky bucket” analogy to understand why shopping locally is important. As explain by one article:

“In the leaky bucket analogy for local economies, money flows into a region to circulate through local businesses like water into a bucket. Water that leaks out is money that escapes the local economy to pay for imports. The more watertight the bucket, the more wealth retained.”

In other words, if you buy your light bulbs from a locally owned and operated hardware store, the money that you spend goes to support people who actually live in your neighborhood. If you shop big box, the money goes to a large corporation in another city, or often another country. 

If you’re thinking, “So what if my money goes here or goes there? What difference does it make?” check out this article from TIME magazine.

“But I love [insert big box store name here]! They are so cheap and carry the best [insert random bobble here]!” – Right. I hear you. But there’s a reason that big box stuff is so cheap – because it’s made poorly by people who don’t get paid fairly.

If you want to put your money where your green values are, run through these 5 questions before you make your next purchasing choice:

  1. Do I really need it, or am I wasting my money? Be honest, now. 
  2. Could I make it myself or do I know someone who could?
  3. Could I get it from a local second hand shop or Kijiji?
  4. Is there a business in my community that makes it? Could I buy it directly from them?
  5. Is there a locally owned store that sells it?

If your potential purchase fails all these questions, make sure to do your research about where you will shop. If you’re going to send your dollars to a corporation rather than a person, make sure that you know what the corporation is doing with those dollars – some of them are better than others. But honestly in the last 2 years, I can’t think of a single purchase that I’ve made that hasn’t been caught by one of these questions.

Give it a shot this week and see if you can get in the habit of thinking about the purchases you make. Even if you don’t change your behaviour yet, start the process of running through the questions every time you pull out your wallet. Hopefully it will start to become habit after a while. Maybe you can save a bundle of money by shopping locally too!

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