My New Years resolution was to eat at more independently owned food joints. Originally, I opted to do this to get a better taste for DC cuisine, but there is a reason that benefits everyone to seek local fare from locally owned restaurants. That money comes flowing back to you by keeping the money in the place where you live. And this goes for everything, not just food.
I purchase some pork tenderloin at the Wal-Mart in Maryland City, the money goes a lot of places. New York investors, Chinese suppliers, various distributors, and of course the fat cats in Benton, AR where Wal-Mart started. But where doesn't it go? Laurel. Prince George's County. And for the most part, the State of Maryland. My hard earned cash is going to support gated communities like Hot Springs Village, AR, the largest gated community in the United States and not surprisingly convenient to Benton.
If I purchase the same pork tenderloin at the Laurel meat market on Main Street, my money is not going through all the corporate filters of a Wal-Mart. The product is more likely to come from the state of Maryland and will probably be fresher. A larger percentage of the taxed monies will go to the city of Laurel, Prince George's County, and Maryland. And a retailer that depends on the community. Those taxes will go towards investment in my city, not a segregated community halfway across the country with a disproportionate lack of minority population.
River East Idealist had a great article last week on how River East residents can keep their money in River East and break the debt cycle in which many less fortunate River East residents are mired. Her first point was to stop attending colleges you can't afford. I like to think I'm living proof that this works. I have an Associates of Applied Science from Montgomery College. I educated myself where I lived, and I now have what could be considered a decent paying job and a rather prestigious position in Federal Government. Of course, if you can find a way afford a degree from a better more expensive school, go for it. But educating yourself outside your means is not necessary. I believe I am doing much better than most of my friends with bachelors degrees from more prestigious institutions because I do not have six figure student loan debt. My six figure debt is a mortgage on the house I own.
Another observation she made: stop financing cars. If the money Americans spent on the interest alone of financed cars were instead spent on public transportation infrastructure, I wonder how much better our systems would be. If that were the case, I speculate many Americans would not even bother to own a car. At the very least, I bet Metro would not be facing such a tremendous budget gap.
There are a plethora of ways we can keep our money in the community continuing to benefit us. But it is important that those methods be accessible to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status. Policy ought to be enacted promoting locally owned businesses over chains, mass transit over car ownership, and better investment in local schools to create sharp minds and keep them nearby. The status quo will continue to send money to out of touch corporations and Wall Street investors while siphoning investment away from our own communities.