Most people put a considerable amount of thought into their Christmas shopping. Finding just the right gifts and staying within the budget is important, after all.
The really smart move this holiday season, for any number of reasons, is to do your Christmas shopping at local stores.
Local merchants will continue to offer great deals during the weeks ahead. Many will use special sales (we'll keep you posted with advertisements and circulars) - but their everyday prices usually are competitive.
When it comes to finding just the right gift, there is no comparison between patronizing local stores and buying on the Internet. There is a vast difference between looking at a picture of a product and reading a carefully written description and going to a store where you can pick the item up, examine it to determine whether it is made well, check the color and size and, well, get a real feel for what you are buying.
Service is another advantage of local retailers. Have a question about an item that isn't answered on the box? Lots of luck getting an answer on the Internet. At a real store, however, chances are a clerk will know or try hard to find out for you.
And if the perfect gift happens to be out of stock, most stores will find ways to get it within days.
Perhaps the "perfect" gift wasn't as good an idea as you thought. Need to return it? No problem. Just bring it back to the store, and don't worry about shipping or the uncertainty over whether you'll get a refund.
There are other very good reasons to do your business in person at local stores. Thousands of your neighbors depend upon local businesses for employment. Who would you rather help? Someone who lives in your town - or a Californian hunched over a computer terminal at an Internet "store"?
Local businesses pay taxes to support our towns and cities, our states and our schools. Your payment to an Internet business may help schools in some other state.
And local store owners and managers support worthy local causes. Need a donation to help the family burned out of their home recently? Don't bother sending an email to an Internet business in, say, New York or California. The answer will be "no." Most of the time - far more frequently than most of us know, actually - the answer at stores in our area is, "Absolutely. How can we help?"
Local store owners and their employees support our communities. In times of need, they often support us individually. They're eager to please because they depend on repeat customers, not Internet volume. They provide great service and competitive prices.
And for most of us, it requires just a few minutes' drive to get to their stores.
Again, shopping locally is the smart choice this Christmas season. So consider all the reasons that is so - then do it.