Online shopping is easy. I can shop in my pajamas, using my phone in the comfort of my bed, when my house is quiet and everyone - even the dogs - is sleeping. I like to buy, not shop. I don’t like perusing stores to price compare. I usually set out knowing what I’m looking for, so I want to buy it as quickly and easily as possible. Online shopping is convenient because I live 85 miles from a big-box store or shopping mall.

But there are ramifications if you and I only spend our money shopping via the ever-so-easy Amazon or Walmart apps.

No tax dollars go back into our local economies.

The employees working in any retail business, independently owned or big-box store, might not retain their jobs. Businesses won’t stay in your community.

This holiday season, I challenge you to be intentional in your shopping. Most of us have enough stuff, well beyond our first-world comforts. Rather than buying presents by the volume, shop small, shop intentional.

Resist the urge to buy everything on Amazon or Walmart apps. Shop your friends’ small businesses online or search Etsy for handmade items. Bundle up and shop the storefronts lining the streets of your town, or, if you’re driving to a bigger town, find the independent businesses and intentionally choose to spend money with them.

According to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, we’re off to our best start yet for shopping small. Consumers spent $17.8 billion in independent restaurants and stores on Small Business Saturday. And 96 percent of consumers who shopped on Small Business Saturday and answered the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey said Small Business Saturday makes them want to shop independent, small businesses year-round, not only during the holiday season.

Independent We Stand shares a collection of national statistics on its website that highlight why shopping small truly matters to you, your neighbors, your community and our country’s economy:

  • Small businesses accounted for 65 percent of all net new jobs the past 17 years.
  • Small businesses employ 77 million Americans.
  • 89 percent of consumers agree independent businesses contribute positively to local economies.
  • Residential neighborhoods served by a successful independent business district gained, on average, 50 percent more in home values than their citywide markets.
  • Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors. Independent restaurants return more than two times as much money per dollar of sales than national restaurant chains.
  • If independent businesses regained their 1990 market shares, it would create 200,000 new small businesses, generate nearly $300 billion in revenue and employ more than 1.6 million American workers.
  • If just half the U.S. employed population spent $50 each month in locally-owned, independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.
  • For every square foot a local firm occupies, the local economy gains $179 versus $105 for a chain store.

My husband, in-laws and I shopped near our Minnesota lake home on Small Business Saturday. I spent money in Dent and Perham, Minn. This week, I shopped in my small town of Wishek N.D. I will purchase from friends who have online businesses and storefronts in my town as well as across my state and region. And a few of my purchases will be from Amazon or big-box stores for specific items, primarily for my kids. Overall, I spend 70 percent to 80 percent of our holiday shopping budget with independent businesses.

Yes, it’s more work than shopping from the comfort of my bed, in my pajamas. My husband and I own a small business. I know firsthand that shopping small puts food on the table for families. It helps independent businesses pay health insurance premiums for employees.

Let’s be in the 96 percent who want to shop and support small businesses year-round. But rather than simply say it, do it. Where you shop this season matters for your community’s vitality. Shopping needs to be intentional for all of us this season and throughout the year.