Ah, the season of giving is upon us. Lest we forget, that also makes it the season of buying. I will stay away from my personal feelings on the consumerization of the winter holidays and focus on one thing - helping the economy.
Buy locally. Yes, from your neighborhood stores. I know it's easier living in Lakeview, Chicago to hit local stores. I can walk North on Lincoln Avenue up to Paulina and hit most every type of shop. Two toy stores, clothing, art, sporting goods, army/navy surplus, two Starbucks, you name it.
When you're out and about looking for the best items, try to steer clear of online retailers and big box stores. Patronize small, specialty shops. Bring in ads from the big box stores and ask them to match the deals. More than likely, they will be happy to oblige. We all know that once you get into the store, you'll either change your mind and get something better or get additional items.
I will try to do the same. My family patronizes Costco and Target regularly. More and more recently, though, we are trying to buy from the smaller shops. The toy store, Building Blocks at 3306 N. Lincoln Ave. (no website) is one of our favorite stops. They have a train table set up in the middle of this 400ish square foot store that is stocked floor-to-ceiling with toys. No video games, either. They have educational and just-for-fun toys. Best of all, the staff know their inventory and give great suggestions for age-appropriate toys.
Sure, you're going to hit your grocery store and Starbucks, but look out for the little guy. We all know a can't-miss deal and jump on it when we can, online or otherwise. More jobs are provided by small retailers than larger ones. They provide better service and usually have comparable prices on most items. (They don't have the cheapo loss leaders that are used to get people in the door.) Your local economy will thank you for it.