Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 20: Saving small businesses with the 3/50 project

Megan: We need to support the local economy instead of buying stuff at big box stores and chains, even the ones that aren't Wal-Mart. Let's take part in the 3/50 project to save small businesses!

Tony: This sounds like it will cost more money. Then again, I know that Irazu Coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks, so maybe this could be a win-win.

The 3/50 project is pretty simple.

Step 1: Pick three local shops that you love.
Step 2: Spend $50 at them each month.

Easy, right? Of course, when Megan and I sat down to each pick out our three shops, it was a bit more difficult. I instantly picked Irazu Coffee, even though I had promised to give up coffee shops in an earlier post. I can get my 20-oz half-caff mocha there for the same price as Starbucks and it's better! They use chocolate syrup rather than powder so it doesn't get gritty towards the end of the drink. As a bonus, the owner Rod knows me by name and knows my typical order. Maybe someday Starbucks will deploy the technology where they detect my iPhone and know what I plan to buy, but Rod's "face recognition" scheme will still be superior. ("You look a little tired today. Want the full-caff instead?")

My second choice was also easy: Carolina String Studio. I just started there but already like it a lot.

There are two more nearby establishments that I'd hate to see go under: Simply Thai and The Fat Frogg. While I was leaning towards the latter, when I learned that Simply Thai had live music on Wednesdays and Fridays, I decided to make it my third choice.

Megan had several local businesses that she loves and wants to support, including the J&L Bicycle Shop, Mad Stylz used clothing store (in the Timberline Station with Simply Thai and The Fat Frogg), and Red Oak Brewery. However, she couldn't really come up with a way to spend $50 at each of them every month. (Seriously, how often do you need new parts for your bicycle? She's riding a refurbished 1994 bike as it is, not some fancy rig...) In picking her stores, she had thought that the project meant $50 total, not $50 per month. I'm going to suggest that she spends $50 per month total at the three stores and see how that goes.

Unfortunately, spending money at local establishments does not really fit in to my "be more frugal" resolution, and it doesn't fit into Megan's "cut down on consumption in general" ideas either. Still, I'm willing to play out this little experiment for awhile to see if there are any long-term savings.

Pocket: 4, Planet: 4, Win-Win: 12

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