My first memory of Christmas was when I was four. I remember being so upset on Christmas eve with my Nana. She had brought over this jar that looked like Santa filled with peppermint candies and I was not allowed to open it. For like an hour it jar was on the coffee table, taunting me, calling me to open it. Finally I couldn’t take it, the tantrum started. No matter how many tears came streaming down, my Nana didn’t give in and let me open it. After dinner I could open it and I remember being so excited, so happy in that simple moment.

As I got older Christmas became less exciting. The hassle of shopping, fighting for a parking space at the mall, and not having money to spend, it just wears you down. I’m very much the type of person that prefers to give presents than to receive them. Seeing the people that I love happy, that’s my present, that’s all I need. This year we bought the kids presents and every one else is getting a handmade gift. Either I made it or I found someone locally to make it. I think my family is going to really enjoy the presents. Buying locally helps keep the money in my community and I like knowing that something I bought locally helps someone else to have a merry Christmas.

There was a great article in the AZ Republic about buying locally, 42% of what we spend at local businesses stays in the community compared to only 13% from a chain retailer. This is a huge passion for me. There is a movement happening, Shift Arizona, move 10% of your spending to local businesses and keep your money in your community. Its actually easy to do. I started small, only eating at local restaurants, then that moved on to other things. I discovered that my I could use my medical insurance to buy prescriptions at a local pharmacy, no more CVS! I may drive a few more miles and I give up 24/7 service but when I walk into that pharmacy, they know me by name and they take a extra few minutes to ask me how my day is going. And if I time things right I can pick up the doggies food next door at another local retailer. If I can’t make it to the pet store I can have the food delivered for FREE from another local business. I remember growing up and going to the butcher to get all of meats and getting veggies and fruit from the roadside stand. Trips to Winn-Dixie were minimal back then. Granted we don’t have roadside fruit stands but we have several amazing farmer’s markets. I still have times where I need to make a target or costco run but I would say that 70% of my spending is at local retailers. As we move into 2011 take a moment to think about where you spend your hard earned money and look for opportunities to buy those items at a local retailer. The impact of those small changes are huge!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Merry Christmas!

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