Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thrift Week 2012: The green version

Happy Thrift Week, everyone! When I first instituted the celebration of Thrift Week here on the blog two years back, I noted that the 20th-century version of this holiday included different themes for each day of the week (Have a Bank Account Day, Invest Safely Day, Carry Life Insurance Day, etc.) When I was trying to think of topics for this year's Thrift Week series, my first idea was to take these old themes and talk about ways to update them for the 'teens (such as changing Have a Bank Account Day to Dump Your Big Bank for a Credit Union Day). But last week, I came up with what I think is a much better idea while shopping. What, shopping? Well, allow me to explain.

It happened like this: A new comic-book and game store just opened up here in town, so naturally I had to stop in and browse. (What can a comic shop possibly have to do with thrift? Just wait, I'm getting to it.) During that first visit, I ended up spending ten bucks on a small game—something that's out of character for me, since I definitely didn't need it, hadn't been actively looking for it, and hadn't shopped around for it. But I soothed myself with the thought that even if it wasn't strictly necessary, it was worthwhile to support local business. From there, it was but a short step to, "You know, that really ought to be some sort of national holiday, Support Local Business Day." And then, with a flash of inspiration, I realized: wait a minute, there's already a perfectly good national holiday going unused, with seven whole days in it that could all be devoted to different aspects of the ecofrugal life.

So that's the theme of this year's Thrift Week celebration: instead of focusing on specific topics related to money management, each day will focus on a specific topic related to the ecofrugal life. Moreover, this year, I'm planning to do more than just talk the thrifty talk: I'm going to walk the thrifty walk as well. Each day this week, I'm actually going to go out and do something specific in keeping with that day's theme. And we'll be kicking off the week with the one that started the whole idea in the first place: Support Local Business Day.

What exactly is ecofrugal about supporting local businesses? Well, first of all, it means less driving. In a town like ours, you can shop for a lot of things—food, toys, office supplies, some kinds of clothing—without getting in a car at all. Even if you live in the boonies, though, the more local your businesses are, the less you have to drive to reach them—and that means less gas burned and less CO2 emitted. Also, supporting local businesses helps keep them afloat, which helps ensure that there will still be businesses in walking distance in the years to come. And in a more general way, having places to shop in town helps tie a community together, and close-knit communities are better at providing a lot of the amenities of the ecofrugal lifestyle (a topic we'll be discussing more on day 6 or 7).

So how did I celebrate Support Local Business Day? Well, I could have gone out and bought yet another new game, but that would be kind of stretching the definition of ecofrugality. So instead, I ran a more practical errand and brought my watch, which was in need of a new battery, over to Jimmy's Watches on Raritan Avenue. This little hole in the wall not only sells watches but actually repairs them, a service that's becoming increasingly difficult to come by in the modern world. With many local businesses, better service comes at the cost of higher prices and smaller selection, but Jimmy's is a rare exception; this tiny store actually has more choice and better value than I've seen anywhere else in our area. I popped up there on foot, handed over my stopped watch, and walked out with a working watch in five minutes. (From there, I went on to visit my local Baskin-Robbins, but that doesn't really count as supporting a local business, since I didn't buy anything; I just stopped in to pick up my free cone, courtesy of the Birthday Club. Birthday freebies—my favorite kind.)

So, that's how I celebrated Support Local Business Day; how about you? (It's a bit late for today, but Thrift Week lasts until the 23rd, so you can make a local shopping excursion at any time this week and still count it as part of the event. Then leave a comment to say how it went, and we can all celebrate together.)
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