We know Thanksgiving hasn’t even arrived yet, but as usual, many minds (and television commercials) are already skipping over the day of thanks to what they will buy as Christmas gifts.

And if, as we at The Chronicle hope, those thoughts turn in a local direction, you’ll be giving a gift to more than just the recipient.

Your dollars will not only provide a pleasing present to someone you care for, they’ll also help please a whole host of other people in the community.

If we make sure our dollars get recycled here, they can be spent over and over again to the benefit of many people in the community, rather than leaving our home that much poorer after a single purchase.

That only works if local residents commit to spending as much of their money as they can locally — the more local you get, the better.

Buying produce from a chain store in town is good, but buying produce grown in the area from a farmer's market or fruit stand is even better. But even buying from local chains is better than ordering things off the Internet or shopping in Portland, because that money helps pay the wages of people who live here.

Spending locally also invests in the community in other ways, too. Studies have shown small, independent businesses give much more support to local charities than national chains. Your money is also supporting people who contribute to the community with more than money — they live here, they send their children to our schools, they volunteer their time for local nonprofits and serve on boards and committees.

Keeping more dollars in circulation in our area is not the only reason to stop shopping away from home. It's better for the environment too, because it uses less fuel for transportation and generally involves less packaging too.

There are also less-tangible benefits. Supporting independent businesses encourages entrepreneurship and fosters creativity. It promotes competition and diversity in retail, encouraging niche markets that better tailor to our needs.

Local mom-and-pop stores contribute to the unique flavor of our community and help make us a “destination” rather than just a place to stop and buy gas.

Going Christmas shopping in Portland may save you a few dollars on your actual purchases, but by the time you add up gas money, the lunch and the extra things you bought because you were offered so many tempting sales, it’s actually a pretty expensive way to shop.

Shopping on the Internet may be cheaper, but you never know what you’re actually going to get. Photography tricks can be used to make things look much bigger or higher quality than they actually are, and good luck trying to get anywhere with customer service.

You also may not be able to rely on when it will arrive. Remember a few years ago when a big regional blizzard delayed many package deliveries by more than a week?

The people who say there aren't enough options in town often haven’t looked beyond the big chains. Take a walk downtown or a look in the yellow pages and expand your horizons a little bit before logging onto e-Bay and you might be surprised how many small local businesses sell things (perhaps the exact thing you need) that can't be found at the big box stores.

You’ll be helping to assure we continue to have the option to shop locally, by helping small businesses thrive.

So make the commitment now to shop locally as much as possible throughout the holidays and then make it a New Year's Resolution for 2014. It may necessitate some effort on your part as far as planning ahead, changing some of your habitual purchases, exploring new shopping places or spending a little more. Just remember that what goes around comes around when everyone shops locally.

This year offers an added incentive to stay home: The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce will launch the Shop Local and Win contest starting on Black Friday, Nov. 29. People who bring in their receipts get a chance to get one entry into a weekly drawing for prizes for every $100 purchased. There’s also a grand prize available at the end of the contest Dec. 31.

Purchases don’t have to be Christmas gifts, either. Any goods and services qualify and shopping from chamber members nets double entries.

As if you need any more incentive.

Tammy Tripp is with the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District.

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