In the past, I’ve written about No Spend months (I even tracked “No Spend” days for an entire year). When we were working to get our spending under control, that process was really helpful in tracking our day to day spending and making sure we were intentional with where our money went.

Our dog had to have surgery in 2019 to amputate a few toes, on top of cardiologist appointments and daily heart pills, adding up to over $7,000 in pet care expenses for the year. Unlike 2017 when we had $3,000 of unexpected vet bills due to an emergency overnight visit for her, 2019 was an expensive year for veterinary and pet costs but not one that was problematic for our monthly finances.

In 2017, we had to decide whether to drain our emergency fund after the emergency vet visit and larger home repair expenses or open a 0% interest credit card. In 2019, we simply cash flowed them as they arose. Even now in 2020 where my husband and I are both working 80% time, we have saved a bit more than 40% of our income over the year.

Long hikes in the December sunshine cost us no money

Our finances are in a much better position than three and a half years ago when we were struggling with unexpected expenses, and even then, we were still in a solid position. It might have felt stressful to worry about spending our emergency fund or choosing to open a 0% credit card in order not to pay credit card interest, but even then, we were in a good position overall.

We have now owned our home for 9.5 years (and just refinanced to a 2.375% interest rate), both of us have secure jobs that pay decently well, and we pay very little in childcare these days (reduced rent to the roommate as he helps homeschool the kiddo one day a week). As we close out 2020, people have either ended up in a better financial situation (like us), or a much, much worse one (like too many friends we know who have ben out of work or underemployed for months).

Either you still have your job (and there’s a good chance you’re doing it at home now, removing the commute) and your expenses have dropped (no vacation spending, less gas, no going out to restaurants/movies/concerts/etc), or you’re one of the millions of Americans who are out of work due to the extended COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Our difficulties these days stem from attempting to work + homeschool concurrently, not worrying about how to pay the rent or buy groceries

Intentional spending

Since we are in the former group, it feels like it is our responsibility to be especially intentional in our spending right now. Back in March of 2020, I started the Eastside Restaurant Support group on Facebook to help assist our local restaurants and hopefully keep more of them around during and through COVID lockdowns.

Summer was a bit of a reprieve with lower COVID numbers and more ability to distance comfortably outdoors, but with the colder weather and higher numbers, things are looking more dire these days. That, and because many who had the ability to support local businesses earlier in the year have run low on funds or have lost jobs themselves and can no longer support like they did early on.

We are in a marathon now, not a sprint. We aren’t out of this now, ten months later. And we won’t be out of it for a while yet. Even once the vaccines are wider spread, businesses will have been closed for good and jobs will have been forever lost. The economic recovery, along with the catastrophic loss of life, are not things that will simply disappear and have everything go back to normal on a dime.

Mmmm take out from Vovina. So good.

2021: The Year of Small Business

If we want our local restaurants, our local food coop, our local toy store, our local bookstores, our local arts organizations to still be around come 2022 when things are (I hope) more back to normal, we have to act now. One of my biggest long term fears is that we will look up once COVID is in our past and find ourselves left with just big box stores and big chain restaurants.

Minority owned businesses have closed in the largest numbers and are projected to continue to close at the largest rates. These small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and what makes them vibrant and special. If we don’t act now, they will be gone forever. While future entrepreneurs will fill some of that void, much of what we lose now won’t come back. At least, not in our lifetimes.

Local Spend January

So this year, instead of kicking off a No Spend month for January which is the more common thing to do, I’m kicking off a Local Spend January. For those of us who are in good financial positions, let’s think more about how we can do good, and not just for ourselves.

Clearly, our federal government should – and needs – to play a role here, but that is (mostly) out of our control, so for this, my goal is to focus on what I can control. And what I can control, now that we spend intentionally with a high savings rate, is where we spend our money. (My city makes it easier with Shop Local Kirkland – so I’m pretty lucky there).

While we may not have given up Amazon Prime yet – mostly for access to the kiddo’s shows – my goal is to continue to push back against the automatic order of “stuff” from Amazon simply because it’s the easy option.

Yes, it’s cheaper and faster to get a new book for homeschool kindergarten off Amazon, but we have some fabulous local bookstores that have a great selection. Our grocery store walking distance away might be our default, but as we’re consciously making fewer trips these days because of COVID, it’s not a big deal to drive to a local farm store nearby.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking and acting on this in 2020, but in January, I want to step it up a notch.

As Athena says, “I can’t get mad if shops close in my neighborhood if I don’t shop at them.

This happened recently with a local mall, everyone was angry when they first tried to close it yet they kept it open and no one still went to spend money there. I don’t want to be a hypocrite but it’s so easy to do Amazon since it’s cheaper.”

It takes a bit more effort and planning, and yes, a bit more money, to shop local, but it’s worth it. We all want those places around once we can finally venture back out into “normal life,” but they won’t be there if we don’t support them now. Now, more than ever, we need to vote with our dollars, or we won’t have a vote any longer.

I want to note here that there are families for which a “No Spend” January is a very good idea – specifically if they are on a very tight budget/newly unemployed/learning how to budget and save money. This is also true for disabled folks, who have only so much bandwidth each day and week, and if the extra effort to shop local is detrimental to your life in other ways, then it’s absolutely okay to shop at Amazon with no guilt. But for those of us who *can* do this, then I feel pretty strongly that we absolutely should.

Local Spend 2020 has definitely been a thing, but now I’m all in for Local January. Join me?

33 thoughts on “No Spend January? How about Local Spend Instead?

  1. Given that the Covid numbers are on the rise, and I assume all of us here locally want them to be on the decline, we do need to be conscientious of too many bodies out and about …. potentially spreading the virus. Maybe we can set up a, “I’ll pick that up for you…” kind of page? Of course thats only going to work for more common things, and we’d do a lot more calling into our local stores to check availability, but it would cut down on bodies out and about! Maybe we market people with personal services, I know there is one gal I’ve seen on BNK 2.0 on occasion offers her services. Yes, we have bigger services that offer deliveries from Costco, etc…. but thats circling back to the big box stores. A more neighborly and intimate way to help each other is the one or two item stuff that you don’t use those bigger services for. You end up going yourself, and if you’re older, you know you shouldn’t but do anyway! Just my 2 cents! Any way we can help support local along with helping to push the Covid numbers down, is best for us all. Here’s to 2021 that if nothing else will offer a brighter outlook to come!

      1. I love this and will continue to support local businesses with you! I’ve noticed a lot of local businesses have added online stores the past year too so you can support local even if you aren’t local to them now 🙂

      2. Yes!! A great option or what you need isn’t local but can still keep you away from the big box stores 🙂

  2. Really love the idea of spending locally! Agree – sometimes it’s good to think about what’s good for others, and not just what’s good for your wallet. Looking forward to seeing how this goes in January 2021 🙂

    1. There’s a point where optimizing the last dollar really isn’t the moral way to go, IMO 😊

      1. I like to optimize each last dollar so that I can build massive generational wealth long-term. Each dollar saved is actually $100 saved over 10+ years.

  3. Yes! I chose my neighborhood explicitly because of walkability to awesome local cafes, shops, restaurants. Thanks for the encouragement to double down on supporting them.

    1. Yeah. We have a limited number of places within a more normal ~2mi walk and want to make sure they are around!!

  4. I’m in. We do this anyway.. but happy to up the ante when we are so privileged to have secure incomes at the moment. Happy New Year to you Angela and your family and all your readers x

    1. Right?? We’ve been at this a while but now is the time it really counts. Happy New Year!

  5. I am totally in for this! Great idea!! I love how you put that part in about the fact that many people shouldn’t feel guilty about not doing this. We are so fortunate to be in the position we are as a family so we are totally on board for this.

  6. Great idea! I’ve been incredibly intentional of buying local like supporting my local spin class studio and my favorite restaurants. When it comes to buying books, I go local too even if it means waiting a little longer for the book to arrive.

  7. We are also among those who made financial progress in 2020 despite the pandemic. We’ve been spending locally all along, but this is a good reminder to focus on it in January. We’re in!

  8. How is buy local even possible when Target, Amazon, Costco can easily beat the prices for any generic household or food product? I don’t wanna spend $45+ for the same-sized bucket of honey when I can buy a cheaper version at Costco for the same size. If you’re rich enough to spend your money at boutique high end stores like Whole Foods, then please do so to support your local economy.

  9. Love the blog, Angela! I’ll make up your distaste for seafood by supporting the local restaurants that offer it 😉
    Wishing you a great 2021! Happy New Year! Keep up the great work!

  10. I love the idea of a local spend January. In our small town, there aren’t a ton of local small businesses, but I will do my best to visit whatever ones I can and make sure they they have business and can stay open for even longer.

  11. I am doing a No Spend January, and I live in the city. With everything that’s going on right now, I have taken the no spending approach, but I totally see the appeal towards wanting to support small, local businesses!

  12. This is a great idea! There isn’t a lot of small business close by, but we’ve had nearby restaurants close. Mostly they are not ones we frequented before, but we were still sad to see them go and we’re hopeful new ones will still decide to open soon.

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