Shop Small neat-os.comBlack Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Shop Small — all these ways to entice us to shop today and for the next few weeks — does it matter how, when or where we shop?

It’s a complicated answer, but yes and no. We all have to do what is comfortable for us, for our families and for our budget. A long time ago, before I had a company of my own, I realized my dollars were much more powerful than my voice or my vote. I started shopping as though every dollar was a vote for the candidate or policy I believed in. It’s not the easiest path, but it has made our lives a bit more interesting and for me, more meaningful.

Before my husband and I were married, when we were in grad school we drove cross-country — twice. I would make him wait miles and miles to eat until I could find somewhere I found suitable. This was before smart phones and yelp too, so it either took a ton of research involving books ahead of time or just a quick eye. At the time he didnt understand, but indulged me nevertheless. I guess love is stronger than hunger pains.

Avoiding big chains is almost completely unavoidable, but I try. I have seen neighborhoods change with the closings of small bookstores, children’s shoe stores,  and cute clothing boutiques shortly after the opening of a big box store. One of my favorite things to do is to walk around neighborhoods filled with local independent stores where I live and when I go to new cities. So our family has decided to do with less and to spend the extra dollars to shop at an independent local store, to buy clothes at the re-sale shops, get our produce at the farmer’s markets and buy products that don’t have GMO’s. My kids may not have as many clothes or toys as some of their friends, but they get it and for the most part are okay with it.

Right now, I don’t think it’s necessary to boycott shopping today, however, there are many benefits to “shopping small.” If there is an independent toy store, clothing store or book store nearby, try shopping there instead of the big box store for your holiday gifts. Not only will you keep your dollars in your community and help keep your neighborhood from losing it’s local flavor, but you might find a unique gift that can’t be found anywhere else. And you might meet the shop owner who will appreciate your business and is just as invested in your community as you are!