Shopping Locally and Saving

by Jane Wangersky | February 22nd, 2011 | Money Saving Hints

Shopping locally shows community spirit and eco-consciousness — but does it save you money? Sheila Keenan, who has been shopping only in her own town for the past four months, says, “I’m not doing it to save money, but it does tend to have that effect.”

Starting October 1st, 2010, Sheila began doing all her buying within the city limits of New Westminster, British Columbia, with the intention of going on for a year. On her blog, My Year of Shopping Locally, she shares spend reports, local businesses she’s discovered, and deep questions like whether there’s any other town of over 60,000 that has no hardware store.

Between early October and early December, Sheila’s average weekly spending went down by over $200. “I spend a lot less time shopping and less on gas,” she explains.

The time saved is the greatest benefit. She now goes to a store only to buy something specific, not to browse. There are no more trips out of town to big-box stores that end with Sheila buying more than she planned. (She does live near a Wal-Mart, but is avoiding making this “my year of shopping at Wal-Mart”.)  Keeping track of her spending has also turned out to be useful in keeping it down.

Though the price of gas has gone up, Sheila spent less on it in December 2010 than she had in December 2009 — $148.14, down from $202.99.

Online shopping is out, too. (You can shop locally online, but that’s another story.) Here, too, Sheila finds that the biggest saving is the time formerly wasted browsing.

Her advice to shoppers: “[D]on’t assume automatically that just because it’s a local product or just because it’s a small store means it will be more expensive . . . I also wouldn’t assume that shopping at a big store or a big mall will save you time or money. There are more distractions at a bigger store and more ways to spend both your time and money. At small stores, you really can just zip in and out for exactly what you need.”

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