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For a Thoughtful Holiday Gift: Shop Local

November 14th, 2011

It's official. The holiday season is upon us. People are putting up exterior lights while it's still warm (relatively speaking), parties are being planned, cards are being ordered, and gift lists are in the making. Is your stress level going up yet? Don't panic! There's an easier way to get through your list of holiday to-dos. And it's sustainable to boot. It's as simple as this: shop locally.

We've all heard the reasons why shopping locally makes sense:

 – Money spent here stays here, creating a strong local economy

 – Local business owners invest in the community, supporting schools, teams, non-profits, etc.

 – It preserves local character and ensures choice and diversity

 – Local stores typically are friendlier and have personalized cusomer-service

They're all true. So stop battling the big box crowds. Refuse to go shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving and instead spend Black Friday enjoying a cup of tea at your local coffee shop.  Resist the temptation to buy stuff on sale that no one truly needs. Instead, look to local stores and businesses for more meaningful offerings.

And if you're cringing at the idea of buying any physical thing that will take up more space in an already cluttered world, give thoughtful gifts that enrich your loved ones or make their lives a bit easier instead. Focus on things that give the gift of time, pleasure or adventure. Need ideas?

Time:

 – Offer babysitting services to new parents or a harried mom or dad, or pet care to the neighbors with the friendly dog

 – Provide a cleaning service for the relative planning a big holiday party at their home, or for a busy working couple

 – Give your time and attention to a friend or child. Take them out to lunch, go for a walk.

 – Contract lawn care or snow removal services for a single parent or an elderly relative

 – Drop off a home cooked meal during a busy week


Pleasure:

 – Local restaurant gift certificates: try Madison Originals or City Tins for lots of dining options, or give gift cards to specific restaurants or stores. For example, your chai-addicted office mate might enjoy a gift card to the local coffee shop (ahem), or the foodie in your life may appreciate a gift certificate to the hot new restaurant in town

 – How about giving gift certificates for necessary and appreciated services like car washes, gas cards, hair salons, and so on

 – Then there's the unnecessary but highly appreciated gifts like spa services, nail salons, golf games, kayak rentals, a couple hours with a life coach, etc.

 – Give the gift of art in the form of concert tickets, a museum membership, theater tickets, a gift from the local art fair, or something you've created yourself like a framed photograph or poem

 – Write a meaningful letter about what makes that person dear to you

Adventure:

 – Help them cross things off their bucket list. How about flight lessons or a hot air balloon ride?

 – Contact your local travel agent and book your significant other the trip they've always wanted to take

 – Sign them up for a course in pottery, photography, woodworking, or a foreign language they've been meaning to master

When you begin to think about gift giving as a way to support your community and create pleasant memories instead of just one more thing to cross off you're already too full list, the ideas will flow. And you, your gift recipient, the local economy and our environment will all be better for it.

Happy shopping!