New year’s resolutions are an interesting phenomena: a noticeable demarcation point in the year that makes for a good time for self-reflection and changes. For some, it is an opportunity to make serious, long-lasting improvements in their quality of life. For others, it is a time of well-intentioned but soon-abandoned plans.
I for one have never faired well with goals like, “I’m going to lose weight and look good in a bathing suit by March.” (There could also be an argument for realism in New Year’s resolutions, and that one approaches a Tom Robbins’ novel on the realism charts.) I prefer goals that are going to require concerted long-term efforts. For example, the year I was 23 my resolution was to read a biography of every president of the Untied States. This would obviously be an ongoing project as we elect new chief executives, and it has proven difficult to find books on some of the less remembered (Chester Arthur for example).
And, so, my hope with Live Local is that though some of the New Year’s resolutions might require a bit of effort and time to implement, the long-term benefits will be worthwhile. During my years of local-only shopping, chronicling it in encore has helped hold me accountable. Perhaps discussing my resolutions will do the same—and just maybe you might consider joining me.
1. I am going to try to build a fairly comprehensive local shopping option resource for our readers. One of the on-going and very thoughtful requests we get in feedback to the Live Local column: “Is there a list somewhere of places that we can buy things locally?”
We have addressed this topic at various times through this column, but it only has dealt with items which I, personally, am looking to purchase. Anything involving children—clothing, school supplies, toys—is just not part of my wheelhouse. Still, if I expect people to continue on my bandwagon, I realize I have to open up my resources beyond what I need.
So, I need to create not just a campaign to make people aware, but a set of tools to use once people are aware. As soon as I have a concrete answer as to what this is going to look like, I will start asking for your input and help. It should be an awesome opportunity for the community to build a support web around each other.
2. I am paying cash and getting out of debt. These two are tied together. When I started this column, one of the goals was to eliminate my credit-card debt while shopping locally. Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the last two years, rather than diminishing it, my credit-card debt load has soared, because, like many small business owners, I have been patching together funding solutions primarily through my credit cards when we hit rough patches.
There are a lot of reasons why this is not a sustainable solution. First and foremost, every $1 spent on interest is not spent here. The fees (monthly, machine rental and percentage of sales) do not benefit our community; they go straight to the coffers of the credit-card companies—who don’t need the money and do not spend it here.
If I spend $1 in cash at a small business, the investment is significant: over $0.80 will stay here instead of leaving to pay fees, corporate salaries, national advertising campaigns, all of which don’t spend any money with our local outlets (“The Beat” magazine closed this year; did you notice iTunes never bought an ad with them?). The fulfillment I get from not paying credit card interest and investing in my community far exceeds the misery I feel spending money with Visa and Master Card.
3. I am investing my money in a local company (not just my own). In Woody Tasch’s book “Slow Money,” he suggests that people invest 50 percent of their money within 50 miles of where they live. As a small business owner, I obviously have sunk everything I have and everything I can borrow into my family’s bookstore. As I get out of debt and start rebuilding my life, I am going to pass this on. Whether as a silent partner or crowd-sourcing fund-raiser (a la Kickstarter, Indie-Go-Go), I am going to make an investment in this community in another small business (and, of course, hope to see returns both monetarily and through larger economic development, in the form of job creation).
Wall Street doesn’t care about me or Wilmington; Clark Howard and Jim Cramer don‘t care about us either. I can’t, in good conscience, look to them to build any security for myself. I hope that over the years these local investments will flourish, I will get to enjoy to enjoy them in person as well as on paper.
4. I am stepping up my Locavore activities in 2012, including foraging and gardening. All of our holiday-giving this year centered around locally pur