Keeping it local

Back in the 1990’s I once read a book called, Your Money or Your Life

Over the years, I’ve forgotten a great many of the finer details, so I’m certainly far from being a consistent follower. But a few things really stuck with me that I never forgot over the years after reading it.

One notion was, your money is your life energy converted into dollars. Looking at some shiny something at the mall you simply must have? Stop and calculate how many life hours that object truly costs you before you buy.

The first step in this is to figure out your true hourly wage though, taking in account the 8 hours or whatever your work a day happens to be, but then also calculating in all the other time and expenses your job truly incurs.

Do you spend 3 hours of your weekend ironing work clothes? Factor that in. Do you have to buy expensive or specialized clothing or tools for your job? Subtract that as well. Does getting to your job mean a 3 hour daily commute? Again include this in the hours spent at your job. And how about the cost of gas, parking or just commuting? Take all of this into account.

Once you have factored your other job related expenses, you may find your decent hourly wage has dwindled considerably.


This revised, often much smaller hourly amount, is what you must measure against that shiny object at the store that your reptilian brain says you cannot live without.

Let’s say what you want is a watch that costs $130.00, and your revised hourly wages with all the expense and time your job takes factored in, has gone from $18.00/hour to a sad $13.00/hour. Would you spend 10 hours of your life working so you could have that watch? Maybe the answer is a resounding, yes! I guess each individual must decide this themselves. But there have been a number of times where we have measured purchases this way and the answer became a resounding, no. It simply was not worth our life energy for some trinket or object.

This book had many other excellent concepts, and has been recently revised. Truth is I tracked it down myself at our local library and will be reading it again. I encourage others to check it out as well.

The other notion I’ve never forgotten was, “vote with your dollars”. Truth is that I can’t even remember this many years removed if it actually came from this same book. But it’s certainly not a far leap from equating the money you earn into hours of life expended, to next realizing that what you are buying is what you support or manifest on this earth with those hours. What do you want to spend the hours of your life creating, supporting, sustaining? This is what you are doing with every purchase you make, be it small or large.

Vote. With. Your. Dollars.

Our community thrives only when we support local businesses with those life energy/dollars. There is a lovely organization, Sustainable Connections that has been promoting this idea for a full decade now through their “buy local” movement.

Sustainable Connections lists the 10 reasons why we should “think local first” as:

  1. Buy Local — Support yourself: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.(Click here to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies; these include case studies showing that locally-owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact to the community and our tax base.)
  2. Support community groups: Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.
  3. Keep our community unique: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit.  “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust
  4. Reduce environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.
  5. Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents.
  6. Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.
  7. Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.
  8. Put your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.
  9. Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.  A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
  10. Encourage local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

It’s a good time to resolve to consider how much of your life you give up for the things you spend your dollars on as we approach the harried gift buying season. What exactly are you, “voting for” with your dollars. And how much does what you buy support your local community or help the people you share it with.


Money = your time/life energy. Where you spend that money is the businesses and behavior you sustain. This in mind you should “vote with your dollars”, and encourage those who share your vision. Start by: Thinking local first + Buying local when you can = Being a local! Protect your job, buy American made goods.


2 thoughts on “Keeping it local”

  1. One thing I learned from my Father was “don’t buy what you cannot pay for.” In other words he never had a credit card. He paid cash for everything. Nowadays that is not very practical I admit. I had to rent him a car the only time he came to visit me since he did not have a card and they won’t rent with “cash only”.

    If he wanted to buy something he saved up the money and paid cash.

    I know I hate paying interest rates so have always paid off credit card balances each month. Ten or 15 years ago I bought a car on credit and after I paid it off I kept taking that same amount out of my paycheck and deposited it in a separate savings account. Since I had been able to live without it for a couple of years I figured I could keep doing that. That account is what I bought my used truck and new tractor with recently.

    I know saving is not as appealing as it once was (due to such low interest rates) and you can often buy cars with no interest loans these days but you get the point.

    1. I am appalled at some of the ads we get in the mail with, not just credit cards offers, but rent-a-center financing of Christmas gifts. Smaller ticket items financed over 18 months, so people would still be paying for long forgotten ‘stuff’ when the holidays rolled around again. A recipe for real debt slavery, as if the mortgage/car-payment varieties aren’t bad enough.

      We try to keep a good ‘escrow’ fund going to cover things like hay, firewood, vet bills, etc. but costs sure manage to keep pace with income!

      Living local, and living within ones means (as much as possible), is definitely a tough but satisfying choice, and builds great survival skills for tougher times 😉


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