I was looking up some recipes for homemade ketchup (we just ran out, and I want to avoid the plastic bottle), and in the process I came across two blogs where the writers decided to not spend any money for a period of time. One was a month and the other was much more extreme. Then on other sites I came across tips for spending less that included ideas such as buying staples from Amazon for lower prices and to avoid paying as much (or any) tax. Something about these ideas made me cringe.
Though I am trying to buy less unnecessary stuff, I feel no guilt whatsoever when I spend my money on local entertainment, arts, and services. In fact, I feel really good when I do. Those are what keep our community thriving. I understand the purpose of a spending fast if a family feels in the thrall of consumerism or under a mountain of debt, but I think rather than a long period of no spending being the goal, I’d like to see more focus on thoughtful spending.
Yes, maybe you can save some money buying a product from Amazon instead of from your local store, but what’s the real cost? Amazon’s warehouses are famously automated and unkind to what staff is employed in them. If there’s a fulfillment center in your state and you have a state sales tax, then, yes, you’ll pay your state tax, but you won’t pay your local sales tax, and that hurts your community. Conversely, when you buy locally, a good chunk of that money stays in your community to pay employees and property taxes, to be spent on local services and in local stores — all of that in addition to the benefits of sales tax; a purchase from Amazon does no such thing.
I do buy from Amazon, by the way. I own a Kindle (and check out ebooks from my library regularly), and I have Prime for streaming TV and movies. Sometimes Amazon or another online store is the only place I can find a certain product, and when that is the case, I don’t feel bad about my purchase. What I won’t do is compare the price of a product at my local store to the (probably slightly cheaper) price on Amazon and then decide to buy from Amazon as many “frugal” sites recommend. To me, that’s like stealing money from the community. When I absolutely can’t find a product locally, I try to support online stores I believe in, which is why I bought my Klean Kanteen from Life Without Plastic even though Amazon offered it for a few dollars less.
There’s a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Paying more to ensure our local services and businesses survive is a frugal decision; the return on my investment in the product is higher than just the product itself in that case. I have purchased my new item and funded parks, libraries, police, street resurfacing, community groups, local employment rates, the arts, public transportation, city jobs, and my neighbors.
This isn’t an exhortation to spend, spend, spend because I absolutely do not believe in that, but I do believe thoughtful spending can be powerful, especially when the money goes towards local businesses and nonprofits.