Sometimes, the simplest suggestions can be the most valuable.
A reader recently dropped off a copy of a message in our office.
It was one of those things that has been kicked around the Internet for awhile. I am generally not a fan of these things, but this one is timely and is based on logic that even a curmudgeon can support.
The nub of the thing is that rather than going out and buying a bunch of imported “stuff” for our family and friends this Christmas, we might consider a product or service that will help both the recipient and the community.
Most of us don’t need more things cluttering up our homes, but practically everyone can benefit from some kind of local service.
This is especially true during these tough economic times.
For example, a certificate for an oil change at a local shop is something everyone (at least everyone who owns a vehicle) can use.
Other choices include a certificate for auto detailing at a local business, or a book of gift certificates for free car washes.
We are all busy these days, and a certificate for a day of house cleaning from a local cleaning person would be a welcome gift for many.
For some people who want to exercise more, but have a tight budget, a membership to a local fitness center might be a healthy choice that they would appreciate.
Perhaps a certificate to a local barber or hair salon would be appropriate.
And, if there is someone on one’s gift list who deserves a bit of pampering, a gift certificate for a therapeutic massage would be an ideal gift that would leave the recipient smiling and feeling great whenever they think of the sender.
Perhaps you know someone who is on her own and could use some help around the house.
Buying that person a season of lawn-mowing or snow removal could make a real difference for her.
Other services such as driveway sealing or carpet cleaning might be a big help to some people.
When budgets are tight, entertainment may be out of reach for some of the people on our Christmas list.
A gift certificate to a local restaurant or tickets to see a local play or concert might be a treat that they will remember.
Certificates for a round of golf at a local course, or other recreational options may also be appreciated.
Begging our readers forgiveness for straying into the arena of self-promotion, we would be remiss if we failed to mention that people on a fixed income might be thrilled with a gift subscription to the local newspaper, which would allow them to read about their friends and relatives, and keep up with local events for the entire year.
If one is determined to give the gift of a product rather than a service, there are plenty of beautiful locally-made craft items and delicious food items that people would enjoy.
The list of creative local options that would be a perfect fit for someone on our Christmas gift list is limited only by our own imagination.
If we choose carefully, the recipient will know that we took the time to think about what he or she really needs or would enjoy, rather than just grabbing the first shiny item we saw on the shelf or online.
And what do all of these ideas have in common?
In addition to being things that the recipient can use, they keep money in the community. They support local people and help local business owners to keep their doors open.
Instead of funneling money out of the area, they keep money in the area, where it will continue to circulate and help to pay local wages and local taxes.
These are, without question, gifts that keep on giving.
The big box stores and Internet mega sites are probably here to stay, but they won’t do much for our local economy.
Taking the time to choose local products and services for the people we care about this Christmas is a way to show that we care about our community, as well.
Buying local products and services helps to support our friends and neighbors, who in turn pay taxes, volunteer in local organizations, and do other things that benefit our area.
The money we spend on gifts may not make much difference to the mega stores, but a few dollars here and there may make a big difference to small independent restaurants, service providers, and retailers, and the decisions we make now may determine whether those local businesses are still around next Christmas.