Small businesses have it tough these days trying to compete with box stores and mark-down prices. It's so difficult to get people in the door, let alone buy anything with this silly modern-day hoarding mentality we have. What do I mean by hoarding mentality?

Well, I like to call it hoarding mentality because a lot of people these days have been convinced that the more you can buy at a cheaper price, the better that item is or the better it will make them feel. Shoppers get a sense of pride in seeing how much stuff they can accumulate for the best deal. They perceive that this is what makes them happy. In reality, this hoarding mentality of more, more, more doesn't make anyone happy. It makes them miserable. After all the deals are done, you end up with a bunch of stuff that your kids, family, and friends might use once or twice but will never use again. So they do what you do - stuff it in a closet for a few years until the next big purge.

Why do people do this? Marketing, mostly. Advertisers tell you that you want something, that you need something and that it's affordable. They manipulate you into thinking you must have it when in reality you hadn't even thought about buying anything like that until you saw an ad for it.

My point is, this common hoarding mentality is hurting the process of gift giving. It's also hurting small business and the joy we get from actually participating in our local shopping communities.

If you go to a box store, yes you'll get the deals. You'll get all the stuff you could imagine at a bargain price that you won't end up being happy with or even remembering after Christmas is over. What you'll remember are the long lines you waited in, spending 10 minutes cramming the bags into your trunk, and listening to your kids cry because you've spent an entire day driving around looking for deals.

When you shop locally at small businesses, everything changes. Usually, there are only a few people in the store. There's space to breathe and browse. The unique items sold catch your eye. You find yourself captivated and delighted, like a child in a candy store. The business owner generally works there most days and may ask how you're doing. You'll find yourself discussing products and having a conversation. You connect with these small business owners and workers. The more times you return, the more people you meet and they're all local. They've invested in their business in their town - your town. They've invested in you.

I do more and more local shopping each year, but I hate to admit that it's not nearly enough. Yes, shopping locally means you spend more money. The reason you spend more money is that the product you get is superior. It's locally sourced and handcrafted. It comes with the small business atmosphere and charm that I previously described.

A lot of people try to argue that small businesses here around the area just don't have gifts for the people they're buying for. I guarantee you that they do. For example, River City Mercantile and Coffee Co. located downtown has an array of amazing gifts to choose from for women and men. Wallets, clothing, crates, mugs, pillows, tea towels, bags, notebooks, art, vinyl records, and more are just some of the things they sell. All local. You can even shop while drinking your favorite coffee.

Foodies love food gifts and there are a ton of local restaurants to choose from for gifts. Azzip pizza has gift cards for the personal pizza lover. Piece of Cake bakery has cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and more for those who adore dessert. You can even buy your favorite guy a pack of Tin Man beer!

The point is, if you just look around and engage in the community at small businesses, you'll see that they have so much more to offer for Christmas than the box stores. They have quality handcrafted products, at reasonable prices, with fantastic service. So when you think about buying a gift for someone you really care about and are wanting to get them something really special, check out your local businesses first. Chances are, you'll find them the perfect gift.

Here's a great video on why to buy local: