Holiday Gifting: Forget Global, Think Local

Holiday Gifting: Forget Global, Think Local

Holiday gifting, or “How A Silly Email Makes More Sense Than The President.”

Rather listen to the audio?  Click here:

Holiday Gifting, Think Local

Good news!  You can actually make a difference.  At least you can if you enroll every one of your friends, and maybe even a few enemies.

How’s that?

Well, our manufacturing jobs have skedaddled off to Malaysia, China and Vietnam.  No need to rehash all the reasons why.  But, as someone who deals in international trade, I can tell you that all those containers that are coming across the Pacific Ocean … full … are returning empty.

To put it in perspective, in October alone, about 1.3 million 20-foot containers arrived at U.S. ports.  (That was down 2 percent from last year, because retailers are expecting a slow holiday season.  But it’s still huge!)

Thanks to all that importing, anywhere you look you can buy some useless trinket that’s made at almost slave-labor costs in some far-off giant factory.  And worst of all, those trinkets are filling the shelves of Wal-Mart and putting yet another Mom-and-Pop store out of business.

Enter the email.

I delete about 95 percent of the email that lands in my box.  Most of it is nonsense.  But one I got this week was brilliant.  This is what it proposed.

Think local.  Think out of the box.  Think “let’s pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.”

As the holidays approach, who says we need to buy things that we then wrap in glitzy paper produced in China?  (Heck, do they even know who Santa is?)

We keep hearing that we’ve become a service economy, right?  Well, why not give each other services instead of filling the coffers of foreign manufacturers and mega-retailers?  A side benefit is that we wouldn’t have to get up at 2 a.m. on Black Friday and risk life and limb outside the local Best Buy or Target to get one of the ten below-cost plasma TVs.

Let’s look at the alternatives.

Does your brother need his driveway resurfaced?  Give him a gift certificate to a local service.  Are the handrails on his porch steps shaky?  Cut a deal with a local contractor.  Does your mother live in the snow belt and have no one to shovel her walkway?  Pay a teenager enough to shovel her out all winter and tell her about it in a card.  (And get your kids to make the card, or buy one from a local artist.)

Looking for something less pricey?  Everyone loves to eat out and there are tons of local owner-run restaurants.  Give gift certificates.  Do you know someone’s favorite breakfast eatery?  Give them gift certificates for five breakfasts at the local coffee joint.  Need to gift teenagers?  What about pizzas from the local pizzeria?

What about maintaining our cars?  I know someone would love a certificate for a car detail in a local detail shop, or a book of certificates for local car washes.  Or oil changes.

What else could you do to stimulate the local economy more than the last failed attempt that cost us $787 billion?  Give certificates to the local hair salon, nail salon or barber.  What about a gym membership … a month or two with a personal trainer … or a few sessions at the local yoga place?

The list is endless:  lawn mowing, rounds of golf, house cleaning, dry cleaning, window cleaning, dog walking, baby-sitting and computer tune-ups for a start.

Local crafts people will gladly make customized gifts and local bakers will do the same.  Local theaters offer holiday plays, or season tickets.  Musicians play at local bars.

The key to finding the perfect gift is this:  what does the person most hate to do, or not have the money to do, or absolutely love to do?  Find one of those three things, get them a certificate for it and you can’t miss.

In return, your community will thrive.  They say that if you buy a string of Chinese lights for five dollars, only fifty cents stays in the community.  If you get more creative in your gifting, you can leave the majority of the money in the community.  And save some local businesses in the process.

It’s time to take back holiday giving.  It’s no longer about draining our pockets so another glittering city can be built in China.  It’s about taking care of our own, and encouraging American small businesses to keep their doors open, and maybe even hire an extra employee or two.  It’s about keeping the entrepreneurial dream alive.

It’s time for a new form of revolution:  one of caring about each other.

And we can start right now!

If you can think of any other suggestions, please share them in the comments section below.  Happy Revolution!


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.” Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Great minds think alike! Ha! My company, Awakened Parenting LLC,  is going to be offering gift certificates this Christmas for all of our e-Book products! Love it! Thanks Sharon!

  • Gailboating

    Awesome…love the idea and where it is appropriate this season, I will committ to this.


  • Sondra W.

    This is genius Sharon and I love it!! A service gift!! I would LOVE to receive a car detailing, computer tune-up or a massage. And since these are things I myself would enjoy receiving, I know I can’t go wrong in giving them away. Thanks for helping us think “outside the box”

  • Not so much thinking “outside” the box as literally thinking “inside” the box, i.e. what can we do “within” our own community, state, country to promote local enterprise and give the sluggish economy a much needed boost.

    I shall happily share your post on my fb wall Sharon~ it’s by far the soundest piece of economic advice we’ve received of late! And it applies not only to America, indeed it would be a healthy approach to take on a global basis!

    I personally also see a rebirth of the old “barter trade” in the not so distant future!

    Thank you for sharing this with us…

    Smiles, Emm 🙂

  • “Forget Global…Think Local” ! A great philosophy and it actually works in action however, it does take a concerted marketing effort between local communities, business people, and consumers. The “Buy Local” thinking has been very effective in our area…Thank you for sharing Sharon…Hughie

  • Wonderful Article Sharon! I love these ideas!  So many times we “waste” money on trinkets when we could easily spend the same amount of money helping our “neighbors” and boosting the economy!  Thanks for this!  I’m rethinking my gift giving for this year!

  • Dianedpickar

    I really appreciate your pointing out to give gifts of services, based upon what people can’t or won’t do, and what they need to have done. In fact, giving like this is based upon the idea that trinkets and tchochtkes are just that… stuff which sits on a shelf. Even books can be gotten at the library, you dont need to buy them. What you do need, however, is to clear the walkway of the neighbor whose husband is not able to do chores, to take in the mail of a neighbor who is on vacation, to bring a loaf of fresh bread to the neighbor with four kids and comes home from work frantic to figure out dinner… in other words, to lend a real hand, not a token.

    I hope you continue your bullhorn of strong advice!

  • Nancy

    I love this!!! This is brilliant! I live in a city whose economy is really struggling and this idea is just, well, as I said, brilliant! Let’s do it! Oh, and I love this suggestion: “what does the person most hate to do, or not have the money to
    do, or absolutely love to do?  Find one of those three things, get them a
    certificate for it and you can’t miss.”

  • I like your great ideas.  I got a similar email this week encouraging us in Canada to also think Canadian in our gift giving, and to support local businesses.  I think it is going to catch on!

  • Powerful ideas Sharon. Support your locals.  I shop at the Farmer’s Markets all season even if I don’t need anything. I go because they work hard for others so I want to make sure they stick around.  Take care of the locals is ideal.  I love supporting small stores that are mom/pop even if it means paying a wee bit more — it’s all worth seeing them get through another year and come back again.  Hope this “movement” spread.  Fabulous article.

  • Great ideas Sharon! Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    They say you want a revolution….brilliant, Sharon!!  I think that would work amazingly well and I think I am off to write a list……thank you for the ideas!

  • Sharon, this is brilliant!  I am using it this year… starting now… and never turning back.  What a great way to help our local economy and also give a well appreciated gift!

  • Lorrie

    Perfect advice! Thanks. Do you know this program:

    • Great resource for locating small businesses, Lorrie.  Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • I get a kick out of the news yesterday that had a shop local gift shop on the news asking everyone to shop the local stores.  Well the gift shop they featured didn’t have any gifts that were from any local artist or maybe not even from the state most of it was gifts that the gift shop had purchased from overseas and the owner was interviewed asking to buy local, she needs to take a look at what she has in her own shop!

    I think we all have our groups of online or home based business owners an we can help each other.  I think teaming up with a handful of people would be great!

  • Love this article Sharon… Thank you for sharing you wonderful and brilliant ideas! 

  • I’m in Sharon and working on my list for local gifts, now is a perfect opportunity to grow and invest in the community that we live in! A few years back now, some of my friends and I joined together and we gave ‘ourselves’, we made up ‘gift certificates’ for single moms in our community we offered babysitting, cleaning, and yard work – we did all the work, (well Mike did the yard work). My teenage kids got involved also, it was great! You post has reminded me of that time and something that I will do again. Thanks Sharon!!

  • Some wonderful points here Sharon. For years now for Christmas, my elderly mother no longer purchases my brothers and I gifts, but rather donates to not-for-profit organisations both locally and overseas. It’s wonderful to know that people less fortunate, are benefiting at a time where often, they don’t receive anything.

    A great reminder for us all!

  • Thanks Sharon for sharing your amazing ideas about supporting each other!

  • Fantastic Idea.  An idea whose time has come.  An idea to help America grow and prosper.  A revolution?  YES!  I’m in, and not just for the Christmas season.

  • Susan Preston

    I love this article, Sharon! It resonated with me, as my husband’s company works with small businesses throughout the country, helping them to have an online presence. We have always believed in supporting the local small businesses. Thank you, for sharing this 🙂