Author Topic: Help me (or don't) not feel so guilty about not supporting local businesses?  (Read 2938 times)

blake201

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There was a thread about this a while back, but it seems dead so I wanted to ask about something I'm struggling with as I get more serious about cutting unnecessary expenses down to the bone: feeling guilty about pulling back from my old habit of trying to make purchases at local small/independent businesses and eco-friendly retailers as much as possible.

When I do the math for what it will take to get out of debt as fast as possible ($15,000 in student loans, down from an original $45,000) and start working towards early retirement, I KNOW I have to avoid as many purchases as possible, and get the things I do buy as low-cost as possible... so I have been doing this three main ways:

  • Just NOT buying whenever possible. This I feel no guilt about—I was buying too much, and that's just an immediate win.
  • Buying things I do need used whenever possible, from local thrift stores, eBay, local list-serves for swapping/selling used goods. Again, no guilt here, buying used is better for my wallet AND the planet! (Well, maybe a little... I used to buy kitchen goods at a fantastic local shop that had great advice and a good range of prices, but they still can't beat Craigslist).
  • Buying items in bulk from Amazon Subscribe and Save... especially grocery and household goods that are super expensive in my neighborhood in NYC (for example, the fortified oat milk I need for my food-allergic daughter is $4/quart in local groceries, but $2/quart on Amazon, and we use a LOT of that stuff... ). This is the one really bothering me a lot, but I haven't found any other way to get these kinds of items for cheaper.

I shouldn't feel guilty about this, right? I still shop at local secondhand shops, and local grocery stores (for the most part), and the farmer's market, and I belong to a local farm CSA... and I really don't have the money to be "helping" out my wonderful local kitchen goods store or hardware stores instead of scouring the thrift shops or eBay/etsy, I can leave that to my neighbors.

Also: why is it that in this country we feel like shopping is somehow the best way to change the world or do our duty or help out? Hell, I work all day at a nonprofit where I know the money I help raise is really doing a lot of much more serious good... If I wanted to I could donate money to local charities that are helping to build my community.

But man, I still feel BAD. Like I'm somehow neglecting my local community and sending my money away to support Amazon's crappy labor practices instead and I'm just too focused on the bottom price line, and not all the other externalized environmental or labor costs that are behind any given item we buy. 

gooki

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For goods like that where they aren't made locally I vote for zero guilt.

Abe

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I understand your concerns, but have thought about this a lot and feel you are doing the right thing for your family and community.

Decreasing spending:
The majority of my purchases are for groceries from a re-seller that buys food other grocery stores didn't want due to short remaining shelf-life or are "funny" looking (apparently potatoes should look a certain way!) We hardly buy anything else, as I imagine is similar to your situation. The environmental benefits of a low-consumption lifestyle far outweigh high-spenders going to local stores.

Buying used:
This is a good idea because something that would otherwise have been discarded has a prolonged useful lifespan, environmental costs are minimized and money is recirculated among the community.

Regarding buying in bulk:
A lot of the small stores just re-sell things they bought from larger companies, and these were purchased from manufacturers overseas. I agree with gooki: unless the products are made in the area, there isn't much difference in externalized environmental costs. In many cases, there are environment savings due to centralized storage and shipping facilities serviced by ships and trains. For example, Amazon has storage facilities adjacent to a UPS terminal for this reason. Trucks delivering to local stores (or you) are by far the most environmentally and economically costly part of shipping. UPS minimizes the cost of small item delivery with advanced algorithms and efficiency most shipping companies can't match.

Overall, your efforts in the non-profit are significantly more important than going to small businesses to spend money. Hope this helps put things in perspective!

blake201

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I understand your concerns, but have thought about this a lot and feel you are doing the right thing for your family and community.

Decreasing spending:
The majority of my purchases are for groceries from a re-seller that buys food other grocery stores didn't want due to short remaining shelf-life or are "funny" looking (apparently potatoes should look a certain way!) We hardly buy anything else, as I imagine is similar to your situation. The environmental benefits of a low-consumption lifestyle far outweigh high-spenders going to local stores.

Buying used:
This is a good idea because something that would otherwise have been discarded has a prolonged useful lifespan, environmental costs are minimized and money is recirculated among the community.

Regarding buying in bulk:
A lot of the small stores just re-sell things they bought from larger companies, and these were purchased from manufacturers overseas. I agree with gooki: unless the products are made in the area, there isn't much difference in externalized environmental costs. In many cases, there are environment savings due to centralized storage and shipping facilities serviced by ships and trains. For example, Amazon has storage facilities adjacent to a UPS terminal for this reason. Trucks delivering to local stores (or you) are by far the most environmentally and economically costly part of shipping. UPS minimizes the cost of small item delivery with advanced algorithms and efficiency most shipping companies can't match.

Overall, your efforts in the non-profit are significantly more important than going to small businesses to spend money. Hope this helps put things in perspective!

Thank you so much for this! This helps a lot. I think I'm still trying to break free from the idea that I can somehow do good by shopping for something new... you are very right!

Iron Mike Sharpe

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I never understood why so many people get so provincial about buying things. Why does an arbitarary geographical boundary matter as to where you buy something from or where it was manufactured?  Aren't we all humans?  Why is a group of humans living in one location better than another group of humans?

chasesfish

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I buy from the stores that give me the most value for my money .  I also follow that philosophy when investing.  My favorite store and stock both happen to be Costco.