To wrap up my 7-day local shopping challenge, I turned to my favorite source of free entertainment: the local library. I'd had my eye for a little while on a book called The Economic Naturalist, which I came across in the library's online catalogue, that promises to explain such "everyday enigmas" as "Why do 24-hour convenience stores have locks on their doors?" and "Why are brown eggs more expensive than white ones, even though the two types taste the same and have identical nutritional value?" I'm a sucker for this sort of "how come" genre, and I've already devoured Freakonomics and several volumes from the Straight Dope and Imponderables series. Because this particular example focuses on economic questions, it may also turn out to provide some useful fodder for future blog entries. But even if all it provides is entertainment, it's still a great value at zero dollars.
All in all, I think this local "shopping" challenge has been a successful one. I've managed to bring home free or near-free stuff in several different categories, from food to reading material to household goods, and I've spent only 75 cents on the whole weeklong project, making it much more cost-effective than my first local shopping challenge. However, like the first one, it was more entertaining than useful. True, all the items I found had some value to me, and none of them cost more than a dollar, but most of them weren't things I actually needed. With the possible exception of the walnuts we found on Sunday, these weren't items I would actually have picked up if I'd had to pay more than a dollar for them.
So next time I set myself a local shopping challenge, I think I'll go about it differently. Instead of just setting a challenge and giving myself a certain amount of time to meet it, I'll wait until there's a specific item that I actually need, and then I'll try to find some way to acquire it locally for as little money as possible. Success will be gauged not just based on whether I found the item or not, but also on whether I was able to buy it without paying significantly more than I would have spent at a big-box store. After all, what really keeps most people from shopping locally is the limited selection and higher prices, so if I can figure out ways to get around both of these problems, that's probably what my ecofrugal readers would most like to know.