Support local shops, even if you’re broke and love DIY

Guest post by Cindy Whitt

I like to support local businesses over big box stores, especially during the holiday season, but I’ll admit it — it’s tough to do when you’re on a budget or you have a DIY spirit that won’t allow you to buy something you can make yourself.

I’ve visited locally-owned shops to see what kind of stuff they have, but I usually leave without buying anything. I can appreciate the work that went into a hand knitted scarf or a set of embroidered pillows, but I can’t afford to buy those things for myself or to give as gifts. When I do find something in my price range, like note cards or fridge magnets, the crafty voice in my head asks me why I’d buy it when I could make it.

I figured there had to be a way to support businesses in my community, stay within my budget and still give handmade gifts. The solution? Buy supplies locally.


During the holidays, I make tons of candy to give as gifts, plus lots of other goodies to take to parties. Instead of hitting up the grocery store for all of my ingredients, I can check out local food shops. In my town, there’s a large farmer’s market, a chocolate factory and other stores that sell things like teas and spices that I can use. I’ll pay a little more for key ingredients, but I don’t mind because I can have bragging rights that my truffles were made with local chocolate, or that the appetizer I brought was made with vegetables from a farmer down the road.


Instead of heading over to the chain craft supply store, see if there are small niche shops in your city where you can buy paper stock, beads, stamps, fabrics and other items to use when making cards or gifts. Again, you’ll probably pay more because smaller shops aren’t able to buy large quantities the way chains can, but they’re more likely to have unique items that you aren’t going to find in a big box store. You can buy specialty items locally and hit up the chain for your basics in order to stay within your budget.

As a bonus, when you shop in a locally owned store, you can ask the owners for tips on how to tackle your project.


Thrift stores, secondhand shops and your local Goodwill are great places to find items to repurpose. (Most of Goodwill’s funds go back into the area.) Not only are you supporting your community but you’re also keeping that ugly picture frame from going into a landfill. After a coat of paint, that frame is ready for a family photograph. Your grandma will love it.

If you’re a baker, you can pick up containers for your goodies instead of buying new ones. Look for jars and boxes with tops that can be covered with ribbon or fabric, or decoupaged. If you have non-edible items to give, you can use spray paint to turn a cookie tin into something more decorative.

What ideas do you have for shopping locally while keeping your DIY philosophy and your budget in check?

Comments on Support local shops, even if you’re broke and love DIY

  1. Would it be ok to use spray paint on a tin that WAS going to have edible stuff inside? Like, if I masked off the inside of the tin to make sure paint only got on the outside surfaces, that would be fine, right?

    • I wasn’t sure about spray painting cans for food items, although I’ve seen it done on other blogs. I think someone mentioned that the paint smell doesn’t go away, so that would be my biggest issue with it.

    • I nearly always line any container I fill with food for gifting with something before I put the food in there. The exception would things going into mason jars (hot cocoa mixes, bread/cake mixes, etc). for moist backed goods (muffin type things) use paper towels, for dry baked goods (cookies) use tissue paper, for candies (brittles and toffee) use wax paper. It makes me feel better about reusing containers, and could make you feel better about spray paint not coming into contact with edibles.

  2. I can’t THIS! this post enough. We have a rule in our house that all holiday shopping must be spent locally and with this year’s budget that means DIY with locally sourced supplies. So I’m knitting that awesome scarf myself, with wool from a small local yarn shop.

  3. I make most of my gifts and I can’t emphasize enough that thrift shops are great! My local one had bags with 7-8 skeins of wool blend yarn for 16 bucks, which comes down to less than 2 bucks per roll.

    • Good idea! I didn’t think to look for actual crafting supplies at thrift stores (just stuff to repurpose).
      I also see tons of crafting stuff at yard sales and estate sales. Of course, there aren’t many this time of year.

  4. Love this post! I really like the idea of supporting the local community over large, big box stores. Local thrift stores are especially awesome for finding one of a kind presents (one year, my younger sister scored a set of 15 metallic knitting needles for me from a thrift store).

    Another venue to consider is a local used book store. Most of the books that I bought “used” look pretty much new with little to no damage on the cover. Best part is, I only spent about $4 per book. Makes it a cheap, yet awesome present for the book nerd in your family.

  5. I went to college (with a nearly-zero dollar holiday budget) in a small town with TONS of cute little shops. If you’d like to buy presents but don’t have the budget to accomodate pricey artisan pieces, try looking at the smaller stuff. Some of the coolest presents I bought my family were little tchotchkes (seed flower brooches, pendants, wooden spoons, ring dishes…) If the recipient lives nearby, here’s another way you can give back to your local economy: include the store’s business card with your gift.
    Don’t be afraid to buy artist goofs, either! There was a candlemaker in town that sold candles for WICKED cheap if there was a flaw. A lot of them were “flawed” in that the scent just wasn’t strong enough. Uh, sounds perfect to me? At some shops, a “flawed” product was an odd man out–they sold all but one of a set!

    • I hadn’t thought of that. Most of the shops I’ve visited (not just in town, but in state) have been in the downtown and/or touristy areas. I bet the shops near the colleges are more affordable.

      • For me the college is near the touristy area, but maybe I can find some local shops less likely to get the tourist dollars in the city’s peripheral strip malls. Going on a hunt, now!

  6. Another great way to support local stores if they aren’t in your budget is to ask if they offer gift cards or gift certificates. Then you are supporting their business AND introducing new people to them.

    • Yes, same for local restaurants, too. There are lots of great restaurants here, but I’m mostly giving gifts to family who live out of town. Although that would be a good reason to lure them here to visit..

  7. Good list ^^ I’ve noticed that Goodwill often has “new” stuff too for cheap since our Target always overorders and seems to give boatloads of stuff to the Goodwill.
    Also Freecycle for craft supplies and such is probably useful. I bounce around too much to get attached to a particular city but I hear it’s good.

  8. Unfortunately Guildford, UK is full of mostly chain stores. grr BUY, I do frequent the monthly farmers markets and though the foods are pricer, they are also tastier.

    Also we have a couple of favourite family run restaurants that we will go to instead of the chain ones that are so much nicer, sometimes even just the personal welcome.

    • Same, where I live there are very few non-chain stores. I can’t think of any women’s clothing stores that aren’t chains, other than designer shops where a skirt is $500.

  9. In the last year I moved to Paris, Ontario. I knew nothing about this part of Ontario before moving here, but have absolutely fallen in LOVE with it. There are many, many lovely little communities surrounding us as well. Every day is filled with new discoveries. I couldn’t be happier!

    As I fall more in live with this area, my commitment to shopping local becomes stronger every day. The town I moved from, frankly, was a town full of stuck-up rich people. Even business owners were snotty/clique-y, and it made me try my damnedest NOT to spend my money there!

    Being a chronic online shopper, I have had a bit of learning to do! I still find awesome stuff on etsy, and via Offbeat tribemates, but I will happily venture into town to discover new things.

    I love finding post cards/greeting cards of local images done by local photographers or artists in shops. Putting a great postcard in a pretty frame is a good small gift idea.

    I have found service providers of all types here are just awesome, and many are absolutely affordable. I have been for acupuncture a number of times by a lovely and very skilled/knowledgeable therapist. Not sure why, but she doesn’t charge much at ALL!!! A gift of a local service is an idea.

    It was already mentioned on this thread, but cafes and restaurants in small towns are usually pretty great. Gift cards for one, or treating a loved one to coffee or lunch is a great gift. It also supports local tourism by showing off what your town has to offer.

    • Gift cards for a service are a great idea. Hair/nail salons, massages, etc. I sometimes forget that a local business is not necessarily a retail store. There are lots of other types of small businesses to support.

  10. A friend of mine did a really neat spin on the “buy local”/DIY present a few years back. She bought needle felting supplies from a local wool shop, and then had her family over to make their own needle felted ornaments. It sounds like it was a fantastic experience, and a way to give a memorable gift without giving a huge pile o’stuff. I think this idea could be easily replicated with a variety of small craft projects, depending on skills and interests: candy making, beading, mini-scrapbooks, whatever floats your boat!

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