Friday, May 7, 2010

When Frugality Trumps Neighborliness

I read a lot of other blogs, both financial and not. There are often posts that get me to thinking, such as this one from Betty at Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy on the demise of her higher-priced-but-still-convenient local market.

I always feel badly when local, independent stores go out of business.

And guilty, too.

I'm one of those shoppers who says they support the independents, then goes to the mass marketers in the name of frugality and in search of bargains.

I, too, have a small neighborhood market that I go to only occasionally. If I'm running out of milk, it's easier to walk two blocks to what my kids call "The Chinese Store," (never mind that the owners are actually Korean) even if I do spend $1.50 more for the milk. And if the summer heat demands popsicles, it's much easier to drop into that little store than to get in the car and go off in search of cheaper treats.

But I never do any major shopping there.

So who do I blame if the store is in financial trouble? And to whom will I complain if it goes out of business?

I see this all the time in the bookstore world. I love to go into small, independent bookstores. But when I buy, it's most often from That helps my pocketbook, but not the local booksellers.

I don't have any answers to these questions.

Just a lot of guilt brought on by frugality.


Anonymous said...

The local place charges more because all convenience stores charge more for items for which there is an inelastic demand. That's the marketing model-- they charge more for the things you need (like milk) because you buy the things you need there and won't make a special trip to a cheaper store for them. In a way you're *supposed* to buy milk there but other items elsewhere.

With the local booksellers, I got nothing though. I'm guilty of it too, and maybe the local book places will just end up going out of business, or themselves selling through Amazon. (Buy used!)

Jerry said...

Argh. I suffer from the same affliction. I also feel bad when I don't support local businesses but my budget leads me to the major retailers. I don't know any answers, either. I do know that my only insurance for staying within my budget is to try and find the lowest prices possible and they just aren't at the local shops very often. I don't know...

MasterPo said...

"Convenient" for a 1-2-3 item quick in/out. But not "convenient" for a full shopping trip.

Reality is time, effort and gas don't allow for going to the local corner store for a handful of items and the supermarket for the rest.

So the supermarket usual wins.

Carol said...

I know what you're saying. Our town has two grocery stores--one regional chain and one is family owned. Of course the regional chain is cheaper, so if I do need spur-of-the-moment groceries I go there. Even though there's never a line at the family-owned one, because their prices are a little higher.

But what's even worse is, that I will drive 30 miles to Wal Mart or 60 miles to Aldi.

When you're on a shoestring budget, you just have to count every penny.

I do, however, take my mom to the family-owned store--it's a good place to "remember" how to shop. We go with a list of about three things, she pushes the cart and I steer, and we look at everything and put a few things in the cart, then I hand her the money so that she can "pay" and we leave. She loves it, and it's much less stressful to go there than to go to the "big" store and try the same thing.

So I really should shop there more, if only to ensure that my mom and I can keep doing this. Thanks for the reminder.

CT Mom said...

Our town pharmacy and supermarket were forced out by the big box stores. Our town supermarket had the best meats around, and were well worth the price. The big box store has good meats, but they are so overpriced. We loved our local supermarket, and it was our go-to for small shopping trips, but didn't have all the selection. We only to our local big box supermarket for small trips, because they are expensive.

Ironic, isn't it?

Rhea said...

I try to buy local whenever possible. I don't think everyone can. It depends on your own financial situation. But when I got to a certain income level I decided that I could pay the bit more you pay when you buy local. For example, just last week I bought a blender at the local hardware store instead of driving to a mall and buying from a big-box place.