Can Shopping Locally Save You Money?

by Jamie Simmerman · 5 comments

Coffee shop owner

Shopping locally is a popular trend I’ve seen popping up everywhere from Facebook to the local news. This is one of my favorite ways to shop, since I despise visiting most large chain stores. When I drive past a Starbucks to the local family-run coffee shop to get my caffeine fix, I feel better about supporting the families in my community. I often get better service, friendlier greetings, and better quality goods from local shops, as well.

But are there financial gains when shopping locally? You bet.

Local Discounts

In addition to the fact that supporting local businesses helps my county’s economy, I can also qualify for a “local discount” in some areas. When I worked in Tennessee, the local discount exempted me from the 11.5% sales tax that was charged to tourists visiting the area. Ask your favorite local businesses if they offer a local discount, as it could definitely save you a few bucks every year.

Price Matching

Since local businesses rely on your continued patronage to stay in business, they’re often eager to earn your trust in any way possible. This extends to price matching. If the neighborhood K-Mart has Pepsi products on sale, your local grocer is likely to match that price just to get you to shop at their establishment. After all, if you’re buying Pepsi, you’re probably going to add a few other items to the cart before leaving.

And if you know you can always get the lowest price without fighting the shopping hordes, you’ll get in the habit of returning to that same local grocer for all your food purchases.

Small Perks

There are often small hidden perks to shopping locally, as well. My favorite local coffee shop doesn’t charge me the 50 cents for a side of cream cheese with my bagel, and they offer free Wi-Fi and a community basket for discarded local newspapers that other patrons have left behind. Small perks can really add up over time, so be on the lookout for those nickel-and-dime charges you get from large companies.

Better Service

I’m generally a good tipper, as long as I’ve received good service. I’ve found that local businesses have happier employees, since they’re not dealing with corporate policies that make their work environments unpleasant. Local shops are more likely to employ family or treat their hires as an extended family. Plus, small businesses remember their customers more often.

When I walk in to my favorite restaurant, the waitress knows that I tip well for good service, so she puts in the effort to make sure my food arrives quickly and as ordered. I get a better dining experience for the same amount of money.

Word of Mouth Matters

We had a local family who got ripped off by their village savings and loan bank. The father drove around town with a plywood sheet anchored in the bed of his truck with a message announcing to everyone how the bank had done him wrong. This went on for several months — until the bank’s business dropped so severely that they were in danger of closing their doors.

They made an effort to right things with the family, who then told the neighborhood about the bank’s actions. Business picked up again once the community’s trust was restored. This small local bank couldn’t afford the bad publicity, so they had to correct their mistake instead of sweeping it under the rug.

Your business matters to small mom-and-pop shops. Don’t forget that where you spend your money does make a difference.

Do you shop locally? Does it save you money? 

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Small grocery stores pretty much never price match. They can’t afford to. When we lived out in the sticks (30min+ away from any chain grocery store) I always used our local grocer for emergency supplies, when I forgot something I really, really needed that night. But it was 150% of regular grocery store prices, so I didn’t use it for regular shopping.

  • Mario says:

    It can, yes, but it rarely does. It’s a shame, really. I’d love to do all of my shopping locally, but just can’t afford it

  • Amy says:

    I always try to shop locally, if you plan it right and have the time you always get a better experience than just buying everything from a supermarket and the quality of goods is so much better.

  • Christian L. says:

    Jamie,
    When it comes to food, I’ve been terrible at shopping locally. Our farmers’ market is incredible, or so I hear. But I do shop at tons of the local places in our tiny downtown. In fact, it’s easier to shop locally for me because downtown is a much closer bike ride than the mall. So when I go gift shopping, I buy exclusively local.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  • KM says:

    I like the idea of shopping locally, but it’s usually way more expensive since they don’t have the economy of scale. I mean, the local frozen yogurt place or tea house, yes (once in a while), but I can’t afford shopping at the local farmer’s markets, especially since those are only set up one day a week.

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