The Conscious Consumer

Earlier this week, Mr. Frugasaurus and me did something exciting. 

We went out and sat our butts down at a cozy, independent and local café. 

This café was started after I moved away from Trondheim the first time, and I have been intending to visit it ever since we moved back. 

That means I have been intending to visit this place for over 1.5 years, but haven’t! In part because I’m a homebody, but also in part because I lean a bit too far to the cheap side of things, especially since discovering the possibility of financial independence. 

So here is why we consider our small splurge a good thing. Even if we could’ve taken that same money and stuffed it in our ever-growing savings accounts.

Supporting local

By supporting local businesses over big chains, you are also investing in your local community. A retail study found that local businesses will, on average, spend more of their wages on other local businesses. They will often also buy supplies from other local vendors. 

On average, the study found that when you spend $100 on a local business, $68 of that money stays in the community versus only $48 for a big chain. 

Local personality

If we want cities with personality and a unique vibe, we need to support the small independent businesses that make up that vibe. If we think all the local cafés along the harbour are super cute and adorable and want them to stay, but always go for Starbucks when we are out with friends, then we are not actually putting our money where our mouth is. 

If you like something, the best way to support them is to give them your business. That is why, even though we like to support ourselves in the Frugasaurus household, we always try to choose local when we do go out and about on the rare occasion. ‘

That means finding local, skilled craftspeople. Like a goldsmith to fit and engrave our wedding rings, a cobbler to repair our shoes instead of buying new, a watchmaker to repair our clocks, and seeking out local cafés and restaurants when we have friends visiting. 

We will freely admit that we are not the best of customers because we like the comforts of home, but we do try to be conscious about our responsibility to our own local community when we are out and about. 

Local businesses give back

I mentioned above the statistics related to how a larger percentage of your money stays in your local community if you shop locally, but supporting a local business can mean more than that as well. 

In the case of the café I had wanted to visit, it was not just because it was a local business. This particular café ticked all my boxes. It is organic, provide fairtrade coffee, use reclaimed furniture, has many vegan options and they arrange events like seed-swap nights and clothes-swap days for adults and children alike. 

In short, they encourage community, sharing and being clever with resources in a way I have never seen any chain business even try to do. 

Local businesses will also frequently be hubs for other local businesses. When I enter my favourite zero-waste shop downtown, they always have flyers or business cards of other businesses lying on the counter, be it yoga classes, foraging or cafés like the one I just visited. 

These businesses know they are at a disadvantage against larger chains with supplier discounts, so their best bet is to support each other and provide a great and unique experience to their customers. 

Balance

Of course, this is not me telling you to abandon all your goals and just spend all your money on your local businesses. Your savings/debt repayment/financial security goals should be first, front and center. 

But, if you are like me and might skew a bit too far onto the “cheap” side of things, it might be nice to be reminded once in a while about how it is ok to spend a little “unnecessary money” on treats once in a while. 

Luckily, we are seeing an increased focus on this on several of the “softer” personal finance blogs. Where you are encouraged not just to pursue financial independence, but also to enjoy your journey while on your way there. 

And if I can support a local business owner who is creating jobs for the community while enjoying my way to financial independence? Well, I am certainly all for that. 

Over to you

Are local businesses something you actively try to support, or are they just not worth your time? How do you consider the balance between saving for the future and enjoying the present? We’d love to hear your comments! 

10 Comments on “The Conscious Consumer

    • The seed swaps for spring is true! And clothes and lots of other awesome events. We’d love to have you! 😉

  1. Delighted to see this post. I agree completely with the importance of supporting local businesses to create thriving communities. I sense I am not alone in wanting to go even further and take some of my (retirement) savings out of the stock market and invest it in local businesses and farms. In the revised edition of Your Money or Your Life Vicki Robin referenced her involvement with the Local Investing Opportunity Network (LION). People can learn more about LION and other such local lending organizations in the US at Locavesting.com.

    I’m trying to collect information about local investing on the resources page of my blog. Just today I conducted a Skype interview with a thought leader in the regenerative economy field during which he shared with me a number of helpful suggestions people can implement to start exploring local investing opportunities in their areas. I’ll be transcribing that interview and posting it on my blog shortly.

    • Oh yes, I love Vicki Robin’s approach to local investing. I hope to be so financially secure one day that I can do what she does for my local community.

      That interview sounds really interesting, I’ll look forward to reading it!

  2. I wish there were more local businesses to support in my area. It’s always a nice feeling to support someone out there hustling to survive the fight against the bigger chains. Small, local restaurants seem to have better food on average as well! It will be interesting to see what comes of any brick and mortar business as we continue to move more into internet shopping though.

    And also, I like to support my local -through-the-internet bloggers out here writing good content like this and keeping me entertained 🙂

    • Oh, I agree! And small, local restaurants are so much more interesting than your run to the mill chain too! But that might reflect my foodie nature… more than half the point for me when travelling is to sample new and interesting foodstuffs. I do hope brick and mortar businesses will stick around because they add such a good vibe, but I do think they more and more need an active online presence to make people aware that they exist.

      Local-through-the-internet for the win! One of the things I love about the internet. 🙂

  3. This is something we try to actively seek out and balance with our limited time and funds. Unfortunately many of our staple goods still come from chains but it’s a priority to balance it out by pushing our business over to local businesses as much as we can. Every little purchase is a bit of a victory in that way.

    • Yeah, I know the feeling. We could be buying more from the farmers market, but it is much farther away from us than the local shop, so it’s a real quest to go there to get anything. And there’s the time aspect too, as we’re both quite busy and trying to start things at this point in our lives. So I agree that every purchase helps. We do what we can. 🙂

  4. I’m really lucky to live in a town with lots of local businesses, and do try to support them. Like you, we don’t go out for coffees all that often, but we have greengrocers and butchers that we regularly use, and a lovely wine shop (although a lot is imported, of course, they also sell locally brewed beers!)

    I sometimes fall for the lure of amazon’s cheap prices… but to be fair to amazon, sometimes they have eco alternatives I just can’t find in shops- local or otherwise. For example, I’m on the hunt for bamboo toothbrushes to replace our plastic ones once they’re out of life, and I can’t find them in any shops at all.

    There’s not fun in being financially independent, but living in a soulless, empty town. I want places to drink coffee occasionally once I hit retirement!

    • It sounds lovely to live in a place with lots of local businesses! We have a mix, but we try to go local when we can!

      I hear you on Amazing – when we lived in London it was so easy. But the shipping prices to Norway are just abhorrent, so that is a nice deterrent to look for local alternatives (and we have an eco shop with loose weight stuff and bamboo toothbrushes – so lucky!)

      I absolutely agree with you. One of the things I really look forward to when we are financially independent and have more time is the ability to support more local businesses with both time and money. 🙂

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