Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Move your money, pay cash and buy local

Frustrated Americans are bankrolling bank bailouts and funding bonus checks for CEOs with poor performance appraisals, but what can we do about it? How can we voice our anger and frustration? The federal government thinks these banks are "too big to fail."

Arianna Huffington and her cohorts have given us a way to demonstrate our frustrations. If these non-performing banks are "too big to fail," make them smaller by moving our money out. The Move Your Money campaign began in December 2009 and has taken off through social media and the Internet. At least two Examiners have encouraged their audiences in Newark and LA to move their money.

For Tucson, I'd encourage people to not only move their money to sound local banks or credit unions but also to buy local and pay cash. These three simple strategies can help us invest in our community and our local businesses.

More money stays in your community if you bank locally and buy locally. The Local First movement has been progressing across the country, with chapters in many state and cities. Yes, Tucson has Starbucks, Target, Safeway, and national chain retail stores, but we also has Epic Cafe, Yikes Toys, several farmers' markets, and Bohemia. Shopping and dining locally makes economic sense. The Local First Tucson website lists locally owned businesses in every service category. Forty-five cents of every dollar you spend stays in Arizona, when you buy from Arizona businesses.

Pay cash is my third piece of advice. Why pay cash? Because it costs you and the retailer money when you pay with a debit or credit card. Retailers pay 2-5% of the purchase price to the card company when you use a VISA, MasterCard, American Express or other debit or credit card. Two percent of a $10 purchase is only 20 cents. Multiply 2% by millions of transactions each day across the world, and you realize that card companies are making truckloads of money-- even before they start charging you interest, annual fees, late fees, or ATM fees for the convenience of using cards. Check out the New York Times video that opened my eyes the insane amounts of money that are being made by cards companies-- particularly VISA, the industry leader. Cards are much more convenient than checks or cash, but we are paying dearly for that convenience.

How do we survive in tough economic times and still foster growth locally? Pull money out of those free-loading banks that are "too big to fail", cancel the credit cards with those mega-banks, and open up an account with a local community bank or credit union. Buy local, pay cash, and live within your means.

This article originally appeared in my Progressive Examiner column.

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