Originally posted in the Monadnock Shopper News
A few weeks ago, after making a purchase at an independent business in Keene, I noticed something different about the change I received. A one-dollar bill was marked “Build Our Community – Spend Me Locally!” Excellent advice, President Washington!
Imagine more and more of us seeing this message over and over again as we make our daily purchases. A simple reminder that who you hand this bill off to next determines how long it recirculates in our community — building jobs, increasing charitable giving and bettering our quality of life.
I first learned about this money-stamping project at the American Independent Business Alliance’s (AMIBA) Conference this past May in Minneapolis, a national gathering of organizations like Monadnock Buy Local. AMIBA shares on their website, “Almost every day, most of us exchange pieces of paper with other people to buy or sell products or services. So what better place to insert messages about the importance of doing business locally at a cost of nearly zero per impression?”
After the conference, our own Board of Directors discussed starting this project in the Monadnock Region — but the project is already here! Now it’s our job to amplify this project’s reach. We’re planning events during this year’s Shift Your Shopping season and Plaid Friday event to build awareness and increase the number of stamped bills circulating through our region. Have an idea? Share it with email@example.com.
Now you may be thinking, is this legal? Money stamping is legal. What is illegal is to intentionally destroy a bill, but that’s definitely not the intention of this project. We want our stamped bills to stay in circulation, so we’ll keep the stamp from covering the serial numbers and seals on the front of these bills.
This money-stamping project can also be a tool to remind more of us to choose cash over credit cards when making purchases at locally owned businesses. When you use your credit card, local merchants pay fees to banks usually in far away places. Using cash means independent businesses make more from each transaction, at no extra cost to you.
“For independent businesses, credit card fees can rival or even exceed their profits,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Kathy Miller, fifth-generation owner of a general store in Elmore, Vermont, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that, on a $10 gasoline sale, she makes 49 cents in profit and pays 47 cents in credit card fees.”
Stamped or not, how long does a bill recirculate in our local economy? That’s a question Monadnock Buy Local is working on answering right now through our Indie Impact Study with Civic Economics, an organization that conducts studies measuring the “local multiplier effect” in communities. These studies found that independents return between 44 to 71 cents of every dollar in revenues back to their local economy. Our study will provide baseline data on how money recirculates through our local economy when spent at independent businesses compared to national chains. Also, this data will help guide future policy work in our region and measure the success of our efforts. Learn more about Indie Impact Studies.
“Other studies across the country, from Austin to San Francisco to Chicago have been very helpful to all of us in our efforts to further the local movement,” said Betsy Burton, co-chair of Local First Utah. “But having the actual figures from our home city is compelling to the public and to local government officials in a whole different way.”
So look down when you receive your change. Look to see if a reminder to buy local is there. Even if you’re handed bills without a stamp, just by looking you’ll be thinking local first and reminding yourself to spend more of your dollars at independent businesses.