4 Tips for Your Last-Minute Small Business Saturday Game Plan

Use the buddy system, search social media, bring cash, and remember, buying presents isn’t the only thing that stimulates the local economy

Retailers across the United States are ready for the rush: Shelves have been stocked, sales have leaked online, and salespeople have their alarms set for way earlier than usual. Last year, nearly six billion dollars were spent just on this one day. Are you ready, not for Black Friday, but Small Business Saturday?

That’s right, big box retailers have 23 million more competitors vying for your post-Thanksgiving dollars this weekend. Target and Walmart (among others) got a leg up on small businesses, luring customers in Thursday night with deals on flat screen TVs, DVDs, and—for when you pass out after all that shopping—pillows. A few of you may have perused the sites solely dedicated to posting advertisements, and a handful may be reading this while waiting in a checkout line.

For those who objected to spending Thanksgiving huddled in tents staked near store entrances, there’s another day of carefree, local spending just for you: Small Business Saturday. Started by American Express in 2010, the event recognizes the singularity, not to mention the jobs, these shops and restaurants add to the local economy.

Still with me? If the thought of shopping small sounds more comforting than sprinting for a dollar-bin display of DVDs, ponder these four things before Saturday morning rolls around.

Know where to go.

After slyly interrogating all your relatives at the Thanksgiving dinner table, type out your holiday shopping list and match each item to a local shop or two. Start with the mom-and-pop places you already frequent, then consider adding trips to another independent bookstore, toy store, or record shop around town. Snoop around social media and your chamber of commerce's website for specials and other organized events.

Not in the mood for shopping? Go get a haircut, drink a nice cup of coffee, then send your Thanksgiving dinner-stained outfit to the cleaners. Doing any or all these things would offer a good dose of small-business stimulus.

Bring a friend or a relative.

A buddy makes Black Friday a lot more bearable: two more hands to dive into the box of $2 towels, another worry-wart to check the parking meter, and someone to strategize with minutes before the malls open at 5 or 6 p.m. Thursday. (Remember when midnight openings drew controversy?)

All those reasons still apply a day later, just with an added benefit. Eat lunch with your childhood friend at the diner that used to be the Friday night high-school hotspot. Grab some hot chocolate at a cafe with in-laws overstaying their welcome. Make shopping breaks a chance to support other small businesses: restaurants and cafés.

Pay with cash.

Though American Express kicked off Small Business Saturday, leave the credit cards at home and bring cash instead. Stores lose around two percent of every credit card transaction to fees. Debit cards fare a little better, but even if you pick enough pastries to meet your donut shop’s $5 minimum, recognize that a couple cents will not get back into the community.

Stop at an ATM before shopping, and use cash everywhere you go with fewer worries about overspending (or worse, overdraft fees).

Use your hashtags.

Once you decide to hold off on using mobile payment apps around downtown this Saturday, keep your smartphone handy for tweeting, Facebook-ing, and Instagram-ing. Despite more than 352,000 tweets sent in 2013 and millions of Facebook fans, Small Business Saturday is still far from the mainstream status of Black Friday. So, let your friends know what’s happening on Main Street with #ShopSmall and #SmallBusinessSaturday, which are bound to trend.

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

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