Five Ways to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Local

When you join the shopping horde keep it local. UGNNN (LOCAL) BRAINS.

MUST SHOP. Illustration by Robert Ullman.The holiday season is upon us and that can mean only one thing: spending money you don’t have on things that other people don’t want.

I don’t mean to be a Scrooge, but I believe gifting has become a sickness. Just like the flesh-eating virus, it’s a relentless parasite spread by commercial spokespeople, morning show hosts and internet pop-up ads. As hard as it may be to ignore the hard sell of a sincere-sounding Chuck Norris or a super-excited Meredith Viera, you need to resist.

We must all resist. We need to hold our wallets and purses close and take two steps back from the edge of the consumer abyss. We must pledge not to follow the siren song of shiny things into the darkness.

But who am I kidding? Only the genuinely poor and pathologically cynical won’t spend money on gifts this year. The rest of us will bitch and moan and make empty promises to “get creative” and “thrifty,” but we’ll end up mumbling to ourselves as we click deeper into debt filling our shopping carts on Amazon.

(Don’t blink, because I’m about to segue effortlessly from “holiday rant” to “snarky, listy thing.”)

The way I figure it, if we’re going to spend money for the sake of spending money, we can at least make it make a difference. Why not thumb our collective nose at the big companies and turn this holiday into a hometown affair? Spend your money on small Richmond businesses and keep the cash in circulation.

Here’s five ways to guarantee your gifts leave a good local impression. Happy gifting!

1. Support your Local Drug Dealers

Before you get all bent out of shape, I’m not suggesting you stuff the stockings full of crack rocks and eightballs. That’s illegal, wrong and way too expensive. But you can brighten the lives of your family and friends with perfectly legal (and local) mind-altering substances. Give cartons of Phillip Morris cigarettes to your favorite smoker (supports local jobs!). Shop for bulk liquors at your local ABC store (the money goes back to the state which is then used for building schools and fixing potholes). And instead of giving any more cash to Starbuck’s (who’ll just use the money to encourage people like Paul McCartney to make more music), give bags of ground coffee from your favorite local caffeine pushers.

2. Boxes, Baskets and Buckets of Love

Where exactly is Hickory Farms? Does anyone know for sure that it isn’t in Venezuela? Can you trust two strangers named Harry and David with your fruit? And isn’t there something inherently strange about getting produce and beef sticks in the mail? These are all good questions that can’t be answered by me. The solution? Create your own gift assortments from delicious locally made foodstuffs. Richmond has a plethora of bakers, butchers and vegetable-inclined merchants who would be more than willing to trade edibles for American currency.

3. Feed a Musician

Alicia Keys and Josh Groban have enough money. They don’t need your $11.98 to push them over the poverty line. But many local musicians haven’t had a decent meal in years. I’m not suggesting you cook for them, because that would involve inviting them into your home (bad idea!). Instead, purchase their recorded music product, imprinted t-shirts or collectible bobble heads. It may seem like a small gesture, but the price of one full-length CD can feed a family of four musicians for a week. And fewer hungry musicians means safer city streets.

4. Feed an Artist

Strangely enough, artists get hungry too. They would appreciate it once in a while if you would buy a painting off the wall, a sculpture off the floor or a crafty thing out of the trunk of their Subaru. I know what you’re thinking, “Why should I give an artist hundreds of dollars? They’re just going to blow it on rent, groceries and health insurance.” That’s a common misconception. Most artists don’t have health insurance. Most prefer to self-medicate with recreational drugs and generic vodka. So when you buy their art, they will in turn use the money to support local drug dealers. The money stays in Richmond and everybody wins!

5. Help Your Neighbors

Remember charity? That’s when you give money to people who need it more than you. Apparently charity has become a hip gift these days, especially among the well-to-do who already have enough flat screen TVs and Swedish watches. If you’re going to go that route this year, why not drop a bundle into a local bucket? There are plenty of worthy causes within the city limits. And turning your selfless gesture into a gift makes you seem even more selfless! Simply donate in the name of your intended recipient and then let him or her know with a humble but tasteful card. Remember: Saying, “I gave $20 to the guy at the Laburnum exit for you” doesn’t count.

Illustration by Robert Ullman.

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Pete Humes

Pete Humes is a husband, father and writer who lives in Richmond’s North Side. He enjoys coffee and owns way too many records.

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