Buying Used, and Also Buying Local

by Katy on December 14, 2011 · 31 comments

Sure, I could find all these games at Amazon, but I'd rather shop at locally owned stores like Cloud Cap Games.

As a member of The Compact, I’ve supposedly been buying exclusively used since January of 2007. However . . . I’ve slowly been expanding my Compact to include some buying new from locally owned shops. (This is the nice thing about The Compact, as it is absolutely self-defined.)

Today I will be mailing off a holiday package to my sister’s family in New York City, which will also include birthday gifts for my December 23rd nephew and December 16th sister. Supplementing my thrift store finds will be games from Cloud Cap Games, socks from Sock Dreams and Columbia Sportswear; super cute dish towels from Portland Homestead Supply and duct tape (for making wallets) from Fred Meyer. (True, Columbia Sportswear can hardly be categorized as a small business, but in my defense it is local, and does employ a number of people in our social circle.) And the duct tape? Umm . . . impossible to buy used or from a local shop.

I feel fine about these decisions, as I stayed away from Amazon and Target and pretty much stayed on track, financially.

Does my shopping at local shops mean I’ve opened the flood gates for non-stop consumerism? 

Of course not. I just want to shop mindfully. To buy useful and welcome gifts from shops that have an owner, not a CEO.

I truly believe in supporting the kinds of businesses that I want in my community. And because of this, I sometimes pay more for an item than if I’d gone the Amazon/big box route.

None of this is easy for me. I do not have deep pockets, so I feel the pain of these decisions.

How about you? Are you supporting your local businesses even when it means paying a little extra? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 14, 2011 at 11:28 am

I do whenever possible! We bought more expensive paint from a little local hardware store instead of buying from Home Depot, for example. And there’s an awesome little toy store near our house that we patronize as well.

However, there are some things that we just can’t buy locally, so then typically turn to Amazon.


Megyn @Minimalist Mommi December 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

We try to shop locally as much as possible. There used to be a locally owned toy shop close to my parents’ house. I had a hard time spending money on new toys, but the store charge significantly more than the big stores. And now it’s out of business. It’s hard because I’d love to shop locally more frequently, but sometimes it’s just WAY out of our price range. I guess Goodwill it will be for now!


Katy December 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

I do not just buy indiscriminately just because a shop is locally owned. There used to be a super cute Euro-style toy store in my mother’s neighborhood, but a pack of crayons was something like $16!

Talk about privilege!



Dogs or Dollars December 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I havent been in a Big Box (other than Costco) in almost a year! This Christmas has thus far been all locally produced goods. It is certainly more expensive. I’m trying to compensate for that by just buying less, which we could all stand to do a little more of.

Katy – I love that you are focusing on this more. Cloud Cap games looks super fun!


Kris December 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

In my small town, most of the local businesses have shut down (at least from what the locals told me when I moved here) and have been replaced by chains. We still have locally owned florists, restaurants, day spas and convenience stores but I can only support those businesses so often on my limited budget. lol If I drive further (aprx 30-40 mins) there are more locally owned shops but they are very boutique-y and not really in my budget unless I’m splurging.

It’s frustrating but I’m just going to have to figure out a way to make it work when I join The Compact in 2012.


Samantha December 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm

We are in almost the same exact situation here, but I’ve decided to take the plunge and join the compact. I think for one it will just mean less shopping in general. I am going to make an attempt to just keep a list of things I need and make a monthly shopping trip to the city where I can shop at the larger thrift and consignment shops, and then expand to local businesses if I can’t find the items used (and they truly are a need that is time sensitive, otherwise I’ll wait).
I have three young children (aged 5 and under), and I’m a bit apprehensive of how I’m going to be able to meet their needs without buying new, but I’m excited to try something new and adapt. My kids each get $100 for their birthday to either buy a gift, throw a party, or do an activity – I’m not going to put limitations on their own money, but I will encourage them to follow what we’re trying to do as a family.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land December 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Duct tape: Estate sales!

I’ve found we pretty much don’t need anything that we can’t always get used, other than odds and ends hardware (like faucet gaskets), so I do very little shopping at all. We do preferentially go to our local hardware store, though, and our local produce market.


Mary December 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

We’ve agreed to only a few gifts & I’m buying mine from a local group that sets up a holiday store in our town – they have artwork from the local college, pottery, handmade knitted caps, scarves, etc., jewlery & other crafty things.


Kayleigh December 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I live in a medium sized town in northwest arkansas which is home town to Sam Walton’s family and their locally owned business. I shop local when I shop at Walmart. I have not regrets as they employ a lot of locals.


Elaine in Ark December 15, 2011 at 9:02 am

Kayleigh, we’re neighbors! I live in the town that has the mule jump every year.

I like it here, but I’m not the biggest WM fan. I have family & friends employed by them, so I try not to diss them.


Kayleigh December 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Very Cool


min hus December 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm

It seems like the vast majority of the local stores in my neighborhood sell pricey furniture, decor, trinkets, and candy all stuff I don’t need or want. I have been trying to go to our local hardware store more. It is hard to pay more, even if I prefer to cater to local businesses. I support local restaurants the majority of the time, they usually taste better and care more!

I have horrible, horrible luck finding things used.


Renee December 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I smiled at the picture of Puerto Rico, and I have to pause and thank you for not just buying local, but buying games outside the mainstream (although I think Puerto Rico is certainly pretty popular now).

My brother is a new game designer for a small publisher called Tasty Minstral Games ( While Kickstarter made one of his games possible (Eminent Domain which, happily, is selling very well for such a small company!), and they are in funding for another game right now, it has taken A TON of work and personal sacrifice from himself and the man who started the publishing company to make it happen. So it really does matter when you choose to buy those new games. (Besides the fact that you can’t really get any of them used now, since they are new and small run.) You support the financial investment of the small business order, and you really support the dreams of the people creating the games!


Indigo December 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I don’t go out to eat often but when I do I go to a few of the locally owned places. The menu is always changing with seasons, supply, and demand, and it is nice to know that the experience is unique to the place.
Groceries I stop by the farmer’s market first (which is closed for the winder sadly).

Outside of thrift stores though I don’t do a lot of shopping. I do pick up yarn from a local farmer, loose leaf tea from a small shop, and various crafts at the craft fairs from leather goods to soap but there are not a lot of brick and mortar local stores in the area. I do think about what stores I frequent though and there is a list of stores I will not shop at (walmart, target, home depot, etc).


joanna | 365declutterchallenge December 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Oh yes, it’s definitely tempting to tell myself it’s okay to buy stuff just because I’m buying local! (I *will* get better!)

One great thing that I love about the local, family-owned placed is that you not only can buy things but you can also donate things! Have a pair of worn-out leather gloves, an old leather jacket, or wallet? The local shoe repair man will probably be happy to take the leather to use for shoe repairs.

Watch repair folks are also often happy to take old watches off of your hands and recycle the parts, or use them in repairs!

I just wish there were some things that I could get from local stores. Not a chance of finding a soccer ball in my town without going to Target or Modell’s.


Jennifer December 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I do try to shop locally if I can. The problem is money is tight and when I can get something for half the cost online, I do have to do it sometimes. You just have to find a balance I guess.


Megg December 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Same for me. I’d LOVE to shop locally more, but things just are more expensive. Plus, aside from local coffee shops, we don’t have a lot of small businesses in my area, unfortunately. If I went into the city I’d probably find more, but I can’t afford to go all the way into the city AND pay extra.


Megan December 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

We purchased a $75 homemade, wooden machine shed for my son, along with several die cast implements. This was all done locally. I feel the quality was much higher than the chain stores, and this way he will have a whole set of items that work together instead of cheap (or not so cheap) plastic crap that will break, and doesn’t hook up to each other. I also know that these are toys that he will play with for a long time, and probably be able to pass down. Since I couldn’t reign them in any other way, Grandmas and Grandpas are on board and each purchasing an implement as well. I did look into used in this case, but the used die cast implements were (much!) more expensive than new! I also purchased from a local Discovery Toys consultant, and purchased several other gifts from local craftsmen or merchants.

I purchased all of my cloth diapering supplies locally too. The owner talked with us for nearly 2 hours, and I walked out of there with exactly what I (think) I needed. I was planning on buying online.

Why do I feel the need to justify my spending? Even though we spent a lot of money for Christmas, I feel it was money well spent. And it was still much less than most unfrugal people spend! And we aren’t going into debt to do it.

Bottom line is yes, I would rather buy local. People are more friendly, product support is better, atmosphere is more pleasant, etc. My husband’s paycheck depends on local business, so we try to support local businesses whenever we can. I will pick a local restaurant over a chain any day, and could get lost in antique shops for hours. Don’t get me started on local wines, LOL.


FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist December 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I buy local when the local stores have better quality, better service, or better selection to justify their higher price. If it’s the same old crap I can buy at my local big box, sold to me by a grumpy, ill-informed clerk, well, forget it.

But it’s true that if we don’t support our local businesses, we won’t have them.


Megg December 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I like to support small businesses in the form of Etsy. It’s a wonderful place to find something different as a gift, and a lot of things there are reasonable priced and use recycled or upcycled materials. Since we don’t have a lot of small businesses around here, I feel like using small businesses like those on Etsy are the best route for me.
I do want to add that, though it’s not “stuff”, we do have a local, family owned eye doctor, chiropractor, and dentist 🙂


Ann December 15, 2011 at 5:51 am

I’m with Frances – I shop locally if I get good service and good product at a reasonable price. We live in a small town with limited shopping, but I do factor int he cost of driving somewhere else just to get a better price. I do a lot of online shopping, simply because I don’t enjoy walking around stores anymore, especially at Christmas time when people are in a rush, crowds are big and parking/driving is a pain. I do love Goodwill and any other second hand stores I can find and whenever I get the chance to go into one, I do it. If I can buy what I need used, I do so. Often I can’t find it unless I go online.


Donna December 15, 2011 at 5:57 am

I buy local as much as possible. We have a tiny mainstreet with not many stores, but they pretty much carry whatever you need. The bigger issue for me is to buy products made in the USA and from those local stores. For example, my dryer died last week and the only USA made dryer is a Speed Queen – luckily our little applicance store on mainstreet sells Speed Queen! The price was the same as the dryers on sale at the big box stores so that was a big win. I am not always that lucky. So sometimes I just go without.


Laure December 15, 2011 at 6:14 am

I LOVE shopping locally. I love being able to chat with the owner, ask questions of somebody who made the decision to purchase the goods for the store, etc. I also love shopping from someone who has a vested interest in the community – who wants to keep the sidewalk clean and clear, graffiti-free, etc. I’ve also found at some of the pricier local designer boutiques that the owner will sometimes negotiate on prices 🙂
Regarding duct tape, around here there are (1) independent grocery stores that sell it for the same price as large supermarkets and (2) independent hardware stores and franchised Ace Hardware stores that do the same.


Heather December 15, 2011 at 6:36 am

I love the idea of shopping locally, but I’m always turned off when I see something in the shop marked up 3-4x as much as other places I can get it. I thought I was being really supportive by buying some locally made candy canes from a local business…and then found the same candy canes in our grocery store for just a quarter of the price in the other local store. It was really nice to see that the grocery store was supporting other local businesses though. We’ve made a more conscious decision to focus our local purchases on a local farm for meat, eggs, cheese and milk and for services, piano and guitar lessons. If a local store sells custom made items then we will probably be more interested than a local store that sells well known name brands.


Grace December 15, 2011 at 8:40 am


This is the first time I have commented on your blog — but I want to say thanks! I’ve been following it for awhile now. I’m from Eugene but living in Montana, and let me tell you…. growing up in a town/state that recycles religiously and then moving to the middle of nowhere where the nearest can crusher is Spokane has been interesting. Reading your blog reminds me how important it is to build upon my roots, even in a place in the country where it is not communally important.

As for this post in particular, I agree about shopping local as much as possible. Yesterday I noted on my blog how I’ve been able to knock out many of my Christmas gifts locally. Thrifting has been successful, but I also picked up a mini job at a local specialty food store this season and I am utilizing my amazing employee discount for gifts! Also, as a student, I trade in my old books and textbooks to the local book exchange, racking up tons of dollars of paperback credits for future buys.

I do understand your argument about Amazon, but there are certain circumstances where it is impossible not to use it. For me, it is the only resource I have to send gifts to a friend who is in prison. Pretty much all federal institutions only allow books to be sent from the big retailer, like Amazon or It is ridiculous, but so far it’s all I can do. Anyway, just keep that in mind!

Thank you and keep writing! You make me feel close to my home state.



Katy December 15, 2011 at 8:50 am

I am not 100% against Amazon, I was just horrified with their Price Check program from last week. It just seemed like Goliath stomping on Davey. I did order an umbrella from Amazon a few weeks ago, as it was specialized item (it has a ninja sword handle) and my son’s one had been stolen. He was heartbroken, and I knew this was one of those instances where buying something would solve the issue. (It had been a difficult week for him, and the stolen umbrella pushed him over the edge.)

Welcome to the commenting side of the blog. Hope you share your stories again!



Jenny December 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

I own a small indie bookstore and we have sent many items to prisons over the years. My understanding is that packages just have to come directly from a store, and the sender is not allowed to include anything else. Every institution seems to have different rules about what type of books are allowed–mostly no spirals or hardcovers. I don’t know of any requirement that packages come from a big retailer.


psmflowerlady/Tammy December 15, 2011 at 8:43 am

I try not to set any rules for my buying but rather always start looking for gifts especially that are not only locally sold, but locally made as well. I won’t buy something if it’s not what I want or need regardless of where it is sold. I think sometimes we believe that locally made is more expensive but I’ve found that to not always be the case. I recently bought for my best friend, a wedding gift of two, locally-made and purchased from year-round Farmers’ Market, hand-made rocking chairs. The craftsman delivered the chairs for free. My friend and her new husband were thrilled because the chairs are truly well-made and lovely. My $ stayed locally and supported a local craftsman and it was a win/win. Earlier this week, I priced 2 rocking chairs at Lowe’s and they were $5 more expensive each and delivery was not an option. I didn’t check, but I think they would have required assembly as well. I felt really good that I had gotten a MUCH better (imo) deal from a “neighbor” and now every time he sees me in the Farmer’s Market he waves and asks how my friend likes her chairs. I do find that shopping locally works best if I have very general ideas for what I want. If I’m looking for something very specific, it is sometimes hard and expensive to find the exact right thing.


KD December 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

Many towns here in the Boston area have placed red plastic sleeves over the town parking meters that say “Shop (name of town) First”. It is a great idea and I try to stay as local as I can. It saves petrol and it is a nice sense of community.


Kim December 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Today was the last day of school for my nine year old and the kids had a book exchange. There was a $5-$8 dollar range on the gifts.
The boy my son had chosen loves animals and had just gotten a new pet snake, so that made what type of book to buy easy.
We had gone to the ‘Friends of the Library’ to do some snooping and what do you know, about 5 books and magazines leapt into my arms, all about reptiles and various world animals. Grand total; $2.50.
However, I did gnash my teeth all day worried that either my son or the other boy would be embarrassed because the items were not new, but was told that he really liked them.
Also wanted to mention that my son had a pair of undies with several holes and I was getting ready to toss them. He said “Mom, sew don’t throw!” Of course I thought of you as he said that.


Kathryn December 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Yes, we definitely spend more in order to buy local. Our neighborhood doesn’t have a lot of options, but there are several restaurants and a great independent book/toy store. They all cost more than their chain/big-box equivalents, but we spend our money there regularly. It means eating out a little less and buying fewer items (e.g., our niece gets one toy instead of two for her birthday), but that’s probably a good thing anyway. And the extra money spent definitely comes back to us in the way these small businesses contribute to the well-being of our neighborhood–they donate to the local schools, provide space for charity and arts events, etc.


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