Plan Ahead and Plan Locally | Guest blog post by Emily Kurash

Halloween is just around the corner, which means that in less than a week the holiday season will officially begin. With these beautiful crisp fall days I'd rather think about pumpkin patches and apple orchards than about December and the snow flying, but many shoppers have already begun their gift-hunting for their loved ones. In light of our current economic situations, many of us want to make mindful shopping choices and still get awesome gifts. Last year I challenged myself to do all my holiday shopping locally. I like shopping. I'm good at shopping, but I admit, I don't do a great job of planning my shopping ahead. That means every year, a few days before Christmas I would find myself wandering through crowded malls with other non-planners, getting crabby in full parking lots and waiting for something to jump out at me. Last year I changed my game. I took several evenings and shopped our local retailers. Instead of cramming my shopping into one harrowing day and hours of driving, I spent several enjoyable days spread out over a few weeks (special holiday open houses and late night shopping hours on Thursdays made this super easy) looking for something great that people would actually love. This also meant that there was plenty of time to wrap gifts in re-purposed paper or let the stores do the gift wrapping instead of cramming them into gift bags.

For an entire week before Christmas, all my beautifully wrapped gifts stood under the tree (a first, as my gifts never made it under the tree on time) and when gift-opening day arrived, I was thrilled to see the genuine excitement and appreciation on everyone's faces, and their surprise at my "where did you find this?!" answers.

So while you're thinking about buying your Trick-or-Treat candy, think ahead a month or two. I challenge all of you to do at least half (if not more!) of your holiday shopping locally. I can guarantee you will be surprised at how easy and rewarding it actually is to keep money local. And if you really run out of ideas, there are always Chamber Dollars to do the work for you!

Plan Ahead and Plan Locally, a guest column brought to you by Emily Kurash, a Dragonfly Books regular. This was written for the Decorah Chamber Friday Focus (Oct. 2011), and is reposted with permission.