Issue 20: The Ultimate Buy Local Holiday Shopping Guide

Melody WarnickBuy local

Confession: I spent Black Friday at a mall in Roanoke, Virginia. From the lady who can’t shut up about buying local, that may strike you as just a titch hypocritical, never mind the extenuating circumstances that this was my daughter Ella’s requested birthday outing and that I repentantly spent a couple hours at an indie bookstore on Shop Small Saturday.

But let’s be real for a second. Everyone shops online, at chains, and at big box stores. It’s almost impossible not to. The steady stream of willpower it would take to resist that impulse would zap the emotional stamina you need to resist leftover Thanksgiving pie.

This is not an all-or-nothing proposition, anyway. In This Is Where You Belong, I suggest a few strategies for increasing your local, independent purchases, like spending $50 at three stores each month, or committing to buy one category of items (say, camera equipment) locally. Might I suggest a similar approach to the holidays? Buy one local gift for someone you love this season. A million ideas below.

Experiences Are Better Than Stuff

Since studies show that experiences are more more meaningful than mass-produced crap, considering one of these options.

  • A pair of tickets to a play or concert
  • A ticket to see a beloved local sports team play
  • Lessons—piano, cello, Irish dance, art
  • Classes—yoga, CrossFit, pottery making, gymnastics
  • Tickets to a local movie theater
  • An overnighter at a nearby bed and breakfast or AirBnB
  • A tour, like a foodie tour or a city walking tour that helps you get to know your place better
  • A reservation to camp at a state park
  • Tickets to a music festival
  • A guided hike
  • Passes to your town’s children’s museum
  • A hot air balloon ride or scenic airplane flight
  • Passes to miniature/regular golf
  • Community pool passes
  • An outing to the local roller rink/trampoline park
  • Membership to a rock climbing gym
  • A membership to a local historic site
  • Cooking classes
  • A YMCA or local gym membership
  • Museum membership
  • Tickets to a local workshop or gala (check Eventbrite or your local newspaper listings)
  • Snowshoe or cross-country ski rental
  • A boat, kayak, or SUP rental for when the weather’s nice again

Make Someone’s Life Easier

Buy someone a few hours of a service offered by a local practitioner.

  • Maid service
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Deck staining
  • Power washing
  • Professional organizing
  • Certificate to a nail salon or hair salon
  • Massage
  • Landscaping
  • Time with a lawyer to make a will
  • Car wash
  • Graphic design (for a business card or website)
  • Photography (for a family portrait for the next Christmas card)

Eat This

Food can be super-local, and as a consumable, it’s minimalist too!

  • Gift certificate to a local restaurant
  • Gift certificate to a bakery (I often do this for teachers because a relatively affordable $5 is a loaf of bread or a couple cupcakes)
  • Wine from a local vineyard
  • Honey—virtually every community has their own beekeepers
  • Share of a cow from a local farmer
  • Jars of locally made jam or apple butter
  • Bags of locally roasted coffee
  • Gift certificate to a local ice cream store
  • Gift certificate to a local coffee shop instead of Starbucks
  • Chocolate (how I adore Chocolaterie Stam in Ames, Iowa)
  • A basket of produce from the farmers market
  • A loaf of bread, plate of cookies, or pie from a nearby bakery
  • A bag of bagels
  • Regional specialties for far-away relatives (like White Lily flour or Virginia ham for Westerners)
  • A mix from a local restaurant (we gave Kerbey Lane pancake mixes when we lived in Austin—huge hit)
  • A longed-for local food item for friends who have moved away (my Texas friend flew east with tortillas from HEB grocery store for me, and I love her for it).
  • A CSA membership

Gifts You Can Unwrap

Buy something tangible for someone you love in a brick-and-mortar store where you live.

  • Books from a local bookstore (find one at Indie First)
  • A potted plant (from a local nursery, not Home Depot)
  • A t-shirt/mug/magnet/necklace/ornament that declares one’s love for one’s place (like gear by North Carolina company Home State Apparel)
  • Anything from a nearby antique store, thrift store, or Craigslist
  • Toys (if you lack a locally owned toy store, you can now shop mine, Imaginations, online)
  • Knitting supplies
  • Bicycles and bike gear
  • Clothes from indie stores (in my town, Walkabout Outfitters and Back Country Ski and Sport are stocked with everything you’d ever need in terms of hats, mittens, socks, coats, sunglasses, shoes, and awesome Patagonia gear that my daughter lusts after)
  • Handmade jewelry
  • A guide to local history
  • A flower bouquet
  • A map to area hiking trails
  • A downtown gift certificate
  • Locally made furniture
  • Hand-sewn quilt or apron, commissioned from a local seamstress
  • All kinds of handmade art (Etsy has a Local Search function!)
  • Subscription to the local newspaper or magazine
  • A basket of favorite local things—a jar of jam, local bread, a book from a local author, a water bottle you got at the indie outdoors store


Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter: I had a great conversation with Callie Crossley of WGBH about the meaning of home. Take a listen. Also, I just found out that my lovely friend Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy included This Is Where You Belong in her 2017 holiday gift guide. If you’d like a signed book for a mobile/moving/newly settled friend, just let me know.


7 items of interest

1. Get paid to move to the Swiss Alps. Fine, if you insist.
2. If you’re not sure which place your holiday giftee likes best, give them this slightly generic print from brilliant artist Judy Kauffman.
3. “New York is brown, Berlin is red, Paris is aquamarine, and San Francisco is a pastel rainbow.” What color is your city?
4. Community planning where the community is actually involved.
5. “Gifts purchased locally are a win-win. Your loved one enjoys a hand-selected gift, local shop owners enjoy your business, and you are the all-star who made this play possible!” More preaching about buying locally—and I’m quoted!
6. Your house can make you ride your bike less. What can your town do?
7. 100 people making their cities better.

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