It's too early to know, or comment on, the economic fallout from COVID-19.
Part of what I have personally found overwhelming is the cacophony of varied economic experiences:
Many people are jobless, have had income interrupted, or lost big in the market; others are flush with cash that they would have otherwise spent on restaurants, gym memberships, commuting, and travel. Some businesses and restaurants are shuttered or declaring bankruptcy; while trampolines, puzzles, & Peletons are back-ordered and meal-prep services can't keep up.
One truth that is indisputable: the economy local to our area is immensely valuable. It's necessary to the lives & livelihoods of our neighbors, and to the vibrancy (not to mention basic maintenance) of our towns & cities.
[Obviously, dignify is an online store, and almost certainly not in your neighborhood! I appreciate that if we all shopped completely locally, a business like dignify would be dead.
I'm ok with holding that tension.]
Dylan & Naomi are friends of mine who have been intentionally "loving locally" for 9 years. Dylan is a municipal councillor of their city of ~65,000 and is passionate about making their hometown more sustainable, livable, and connected.
Since the pandemic hit and isolation changed... everything... they have become more intentional about how to spend money locally.
Chatting with Dylan, he shared some great ideas that are simple, practical, and actionable, so I'm excited to share our convo with you!
How do you practically prioritize spending locally?
Right now, we aren't buying anything online until we've looked to see if we can buy it locally. So we're making sure to re-task some of our existing spending to local businesses.
But we're also concerned about our local retail and hospitality sector. So we've re-allocated some of our monthly spending.
We've used category based budgeting for many years (YNAB is our system) [dignify note: we love YNAB, too!]. This allows us to allocate our monthly spending to match up with our family's priorities.
Usually we put aside a bit of money each month for our next vacation. For now, that's been cut dramatically. We also have "fun money" categories for each member of our family. These have also been cut.
Instead, we're putting these funds into a "local fun" category.
What are some examples of spending on "local fun"?
It's money that we'll spend at locally owned retail businesses or restaurants. So far, we've bought puzzles from a board game cafe, local brewed beer, and some very nice coffee. I think takeout for a family movie night will be next.
We've enjoyed this "local fun" category. It supports businesses we care about. And it's guilt free, fun spending for us!
Was spending money locally in this way on your radar prior to the whole isolation/covid situation?
Not really. We certainly spent money locally — I've dumped thousands into our local economy over the last month because we had a very bad basement foundation leak! But that's not money I would've chosen to spend.
Supporting local was on our radar, but we had zero discipline to make sure we were spending a certain amount locally.
Like many, we've lost income and we don't know what our income looks like month-to-month. But, we've also been relatively fortunate so far. So, we want to make sure we're helping keep the local economy going. At the start of every month, we'll need to evaluate how much money to put into "local fun."
But, it will certainly be a part of our budget for the foreseeable future.
My overall attitude towards businesses I like is: if I want this business to succeed (survive!), I need to support it how I can.
Here are some other ideas that I have seen or heard lately for investing in the local economy:
- Support local farming by buying food, meat, produce, etc. produced closer to home
- Hire outside help to complete repairs and projects (obvs. the ones that can be accomplished right now with social distancing)
- Keep a membership active, even if you aren't getting the same value as you were previously (But, certainly do not feel beholden to bad business! One of my local gym chains treated their customers terribly during the shutdown, withholding payments, not answering queries, etc. This is a great time to give these types the boot!)
- Support the arts — inquire about future subscriptions for local theatre, orchestra, ballet, etc.
- Switch your banking to a local bank or credit union
- (FREE!) Leave a review for a shop or service on Yelp, Google, OpenTable, or Facebook
We're just working on one, small step at a time, in the direction of "the good". Share any other ideas or comments below!