Like it or not, ready or not, Christmas is here. The Saturday before Christmas is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest money day of the year but Christmas weekend is the busiest. Look for longer lines at checkout, further parks from your destination and many items you thought would be plentiful gone from the shelves. Everyone who got that last minute tip will be out to get that last stocking stuffer to make Christmas morning more memorable.

Its Too Late for Online

No matter how great the online bargain, there’s no guarantee it will be here by Christmas. So it’s time to shop locally. You should have been doing this all along but if not, now’s your chance. The good news — you can still get all the info you might need on a product so you can make a quicker decision at your local merchant.

Advantages of Buying Local

You can talk directly to the storeowner regarding guarantees, return policies, and even price negotiations on those last minute purchases. The owner not only needs your business during the Christmas shopping season, they need your business throughout the year. The owner has a great opportunity to develop a new customer and the customer has a great opportunity to find a new source of products and services.

Other advantages include being able to see and touch the item. There’s a big difference as to how it looks in a catalog or web site and how it looks in real life. If it’s a coat or other item of clothing, you can try it on. You can get an idea of the weight and how warm it might be in our Montana temperatures.

Pricing Might Surprise You

I know there is a perception that things in downtown Bozeman, Belgrade or Livingston are going to cost more than the same items at Wal-Mart, Target or other big box stores. In most cases I have not found this to be true across the board. Yes, I admit that some large retailers might has a slight price advantage on some items. In my case I must satisfy myself that the price difference is enough to justify buying either online or from a major retailer. By the time I factor in the cost of shipping and other costs I rarely find that much of a savings. Particularly on name brand products.

Some Final Thoughts

We all want to save money. We are very fortunate here in Bozeman. In most cities around the US, a super Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Target, Costco, and K-Mart, would put most main street locals out of business. Not happening in Bozeman. Owenhouse Ace Hardware and Kenyon Nobel have both been in business over one hundred years. Yet both expanded as Lowe’s and Home Depot were building on North 19th Street and years later both are still in business.

Local merchants have the same challenges you do. They pay the same taxes, send their kids to the same schools, and attend the same churches. In some cases they have risked everything they have to open and run a successful business. Right now we are experiencing some tough economic times. But consider what you would do without these local merchants. How much more would it cost you in property taxes to maintain our schools, how many local jobs would be lost? Local businesses need your support, not only during the Christmas shopping season, but throughout the rest of the year as well. If you truly shop, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how great they are to work with and the quality you’ll find.