Online shopping may be convenient, but it also leaves a significant carbon footprint due to the environmental costs of shipping and packaging. At the same time, it affects the local economy by redirecting funds from area businesses. According to a study by Michigan-based Civic Economics for Local First, for every $100 spent at a local business, $45 of it gets reinvested in the local economy. For that same $100, only $14 stays local when it's spent at a national chain store. And when the economy is still in the midst of recovering from one of its hardest economic blows in the past century, it's important to keep your local retailers in mind when making even minor purchases.
And spending locally doesn't mean you have to pay more. In fact, there's an app for that.
From purchasing from area farmers to seeing what locally owned shops have the best deals on holiday gifts (yes, it's that time of year again!), smartphone apps can help you keep on top of deals and saving money while sustaining your local economy at the same time.
SweetJack: Created specifically for local shopping, SweetJack utilizes local radio stations to promote their Sweet Deal of the Week. From restaurants to events to retailers and local activities, SweetJack offers a new local deal every seven days as well as daily deals at more than half off. This unique local-only shopping app has been celebrated by national news organizations such as the Washington Post, Reuters, CNBC, the Huffington Post and ABC News.
Coupon Sherpa: Available on Apple and Android, Coupon Sherpa lets you leave the coupon book at home and pulls discounts and deals for local stores right when you need them. The app also includes the coupon barcode so cashiers can easily scan them at checkout. If you're still attached to paper deals, however, Coupon Sherpa also offers a print option and filters specifically for online and grocery coupons. The app has been featured in publications such as Time, Parenting and PC World and has received 4+ stars on iTunes since its release in 2009.
Valpak: There was a time when you could set your clock by how often one of those bright blue, coupon-stuffed envelopes arrived in the mail. Today, however, Valpak can be found stuffed with more local coupons than you could ever fit in an envelope, and all of them can be accessed with a few clicks from your smartphone.
The Valpak app allows you to search local businesses by store, category or name and save the coupons you want so that all you need to do is show the discount to the cashier on the way out. Valpak is also optimized to integrate with Passbook, Samsung Wallet and Windows Phone Wallet, and the app even includes a feature where you can quickly and easily share great deals with friends via social sites, email or text.
Groupon: Originally conceived of by a 26-year-old employee of InnerWorkings as a way to save money through bulk purchasing, Groupon now has more than 41 million users around the globe and is regularly handling approximately 37,000 active deals at any given time. And because of its size and notoriety, Groupon is also well known for its local deals. By specifying your location, you can filter your Groupon app results so that only deals that apply to your immediate area are visible. With so many deals coming through Groupon every day, you're sure to spot a discount that leads you to discover a new favorite local business.
LivingSocial: While arguably quite similar to Groupon in services and structure, LivingSocial has been known to have a slightly stronger grasp on higher profile retailers as well as more desirable local businesses. You can filter your LivingSocial results not only by local-only but by type as well, such as events, fitness, services and families. Along with the deal of the day, LivingSocial also features regular discounts-on-top-of-discounts as well as a weekly roundup of top-selling local deals.
By helping local stores stay in business, you're not only helping to sustain your community by keeping it alive and thriving, you're also reducing your overall carbon footprint by avoiding shipping. And shipping costs are another great reason for keeping your shopping local. A quick drive to the store – or a nearby store with a better deal – takes far less out of your pocket and out of the environment than having it shipped across the country in a cardboard box by plane, train and automobile.
What are some apps you've found that help you keep your shopping local?
Norman Fong is Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that lists reputable products from top online stores, at the best price available. By downloading the BuyVia iOS App to their iPhone or iPad, consumers can be alerted to the best deals on the most popular products, anywhere and anytime.