As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the U.S., and the globe, small business owners are growing increasingly concerned. Retail stores are seeing less foot traffic, and some are seeing none at all. And with restaurants in many cities being forced to shut down or limit their services, countless small business owners and employees are no doubt in for a financial shock -- one many will ultimately struggle to recover from.

So what can you do to support local businesses during these trying times? These moves on your part could really make a difference.

Smiling woman in front of bookstore


1. Buy gift cards

Maybe you're not looking to visit your favorite salon in the midst of a major health outbreak, since your haircut or manicure can clearly wait. But what you can do is buy a gift card to that salon and use it in the future, once things calm down. That way, the business gets some money in immediately that it can use to pay its vendors and bills, and you'll have the benefit of having pre-paid a service you know you'll need eventually, thereby carving out wiggle room in your budget later on.

2. Order takeout or delivery from restaurants

Many restaurants have been ordered to not offer dine-in service as the country grapples with COVID-19. And chances are, you'd rather not eat out at a restaurant anyway. But if your local go-to food establishments are still offering takeout and delivery service, you can support them by placing orders. If you're concerned about food safety, call and ask what measures are being taken to ensure that sick workers aren't handling food, and that surfaces and containers are being kept clean.

3. Help advertise

Many small businesses struggle to get the word out that they even exist, so now's the time to help drive more customers to them -- especially businesses that can move their models online temporarily to maintain cash flow. For example, if you have a local toy store that's shifting to delivery mode, tell people about it. Chances are, parents with bored kids stuck at home will bite.

4. Tip generously

The people who deliver your takeout meals? They may be waiters who are seeing their income slashed. The person who drops off goods at your door from a local shop? That could be a store clerk whose only option right now is to use his or her vehicle to make home deliveries in the hopes of still getting paid. These are trying times for the people who work for small businesses, and many risk future wage cuts if things continue this way much longer. You can help, therefore, by being a bit more generous on the tipping front.

Right now, millions of Americans are in a financially precarious spot as COVID-19 destroys all semblance of normality. If you're in a position where you're not losing your income during this madness, consider paying it forward to the best of your ability. The frustrating thing about the current situation is that we don't have much control over it, but one thing you can control is the way you step up and help others who may be in need.