Living Below Your Means
Why I pay More

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By GritsGuru
November 14, 2002

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I was born and raised in a small southern city in the 1950s. This was when the pharmacist who filled our prescriptions owned the drug store and the sign out front bore his name. At the grocery store, sometimes the guy who bagged our groceries was the owner. His wife, three sons and two daughters worked there, too. There were dozens and dozens of laundries in our town, each bearing a different name, and each one was owner operated. And if there was such a thing as a chain bookstore, we didn't have one.

This is not to say that we didn't shop at J.C. Penney, Belk's, Western Auto, Woolworth's and the like, because we did. But in the '50s and '60s there were far more independent businesses than there are today. And I miss the Mom & Pop shops, I really do.

People who know me, and know how frugal I am, are often surprised when they find out I buy books at The Happy Bookseller, an independent bookstore. "But they charge full price!" my friends say, "And I thought you never paid full price! You could get that same book from Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble for 20-40% less. And don't you use the computer a lot? Why don't you buy your stuff from Amazon?"

And this is what I tell them: The Happy Bookseller sponsors Dick Estelle's Radio Reader on my state's educational radio network. They donate books to local schools. They give graciously to local charities. The money they make stays in the community. The people they hire actually read the books they sell. So while I will sometimes buy used books online or in other stores, and I am a great patron of the library, if I am purchasing a new book, I'm going to buy it from The Happy Bookseller.

The same holds true for a number of other purchases I make, and for similar reasons. There are three large chain laundries in town. I don't use the national chain; I use one of the local ones. So I pay 11 cents more per shirt. They do a better job, stand by their work, and keep the money in the area.

Piggly Wiggly (don't you love the name?) is a small, regional grocery chain. I use them because they pour hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the community. They have the best produce, meat, and seafood. They hire the handicapped. They sponsor a run for breast cancer. They are the number one donator to the regional Harvest Home Food Bank. These folks care about the communities in which they are located, and so they are getting my business every time.

The most important financial consideration I have is spending less than I earn. And I do. How I spend that money is what determines my quality of life. Perhaps I can only afford 11 books a year from The Happy Bookseller instead of 12 books from a national chain, but that is a trade off I willing to make. When I support local businesses, I feel like I am supporting my community, and I gotta tell you, that makes me feel good.


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