Your dollars may be worth more than you realize.

By Lindsay Tigar
May 11, 2020
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As the United States navigates the highest rate of unemployment in our history, it can feel scary—and even impossible—to find financial hope. Even if your job hasn’t been directly impacted, you likely feel for friends or family members who are left without work and struggling local businesses you know and love.

Normal as we know it will continue to shift and change in the coming months, but if you have the funds to do so, there are effective ways to help stimulate the economy (even locally) as an individual. All too often, regular consumers are unaware of the impact their everyday spending and contributions have on the overall economic health of the nation. Here, financial experts and entrepreneurs recommend easy ways we can all give the dollar a fighting chance.

1

Though it may feel counterintuitive to take a significant risk when everything feels unstable, financial advisor Jill Van Nostrand says starting a business is a fast way to contribute to local economies: It creates employment opportunities, provides a service for those who need your expertise, supercharges the real estate market, and could potentially create cash flow in your industry.

“A thriving economy can boost a town’s image and make it an attractive place to live and work. Think about what your community is lacking and start a business that meets that need. By improving your town or city, you are improving people’s lives and wellbeing,” Nostrand says.

2

Though it’s easy to hop online and buy what you need from a big-box retailer, taking the extra time to shop for what you need from local vendors taking online orders can boost your neighbor’s bottom line. According to Michelle Loretta, a chief strategist within the wedding industry, small businesses make up 99 percent of the United States business landscape, and they hire 47.5 percent of the country’s total employee workforce.

“These small businesses buy services from other small businesses. That cycle continues, stimulating the economy, on and on,” she says.

While it may seem like nothing to buy that $30 book from the local bookstore instead of purchasing it for $25 from a national retailer, that single decision goes into supporting employees and other small businesses in countless ways.

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3

Spending more time at home means you have more hours in the day to take note of the areas of your home that need improvement. You know, like that leaky faucet, that backyard that could use a major landscaping job, or maybe that bedroom accent wall you’ve always wanted to paint.

Whatever the task, Lars Helgeson, the CEO of GreenRope, says updating your home can improve the economic minefield with little to no risk to you.

“Your home is an appreciating asset, one that you will get a return on your investment for modernizing and fixing up. If you’ve had something that’s been bothering you, now is the time to take care of it,” he says.

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If you are currently struggling financially and don’t have the means to donate, it’s OK. You don’t need to. But if you have a strong financial footing and you want to contribute to the greater good, Loretta says education is a smart place to donate your hard-earned dollars. Someone’s ability to spend—and contribute to the economy—relies on their ability to earn.

“The best way for someone to increase earning power is to have a solid education,” she says. “By contributing to scholarship funds and educational grants, you are providing someone with the foundation to earn long into their life. This has exponential power on feeding our economy in ways that are win-win-win for everyone.”

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5

For most individuals and families, ordering takeout for every meal isn’t a realistic option. But takeout once a week? That’s something most can manage. (And nearly everyone will appreciate the break from chopping, cleaning, and cooking.) Since the restaurant industry has been among the hardest-hit during the pandemic, allowing the experts to whip up your dinner makes a difference in the economy.

As Thyme Sullivan, a small business owner, entrepreneur, and co-founder of TOP Organic Project, puts it, restaurants represent more than just food to families; they are a source of connection and community.

“In our house, we have takeout Tuesday and rotate local restaurants. We do other nights as well, but Tuesday is a rallying cry. We spread the word so that our favorite restaurants can welcome us into their amazing smelling kitchens with open arms on the other side of this,” she says.

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Have a birthday coming up? A quarantine graduation? Or did you recently get promoted? If you think you should skip celebrations because you’re worried about the economy, think again. Alina Morse, the youngest member of INC 5000 CEO as a 15-year-old CEO and inventor, says it’s better to live life in the now. This doesn’t mean going on a shopping spree daily and going into debt; simply taking time to pause and honor important moments of life through thoughtful gifts, great meals, and so on stimulates our economy.

“Treat your family and yourself to something to make life easier or more productive, or that just makes you feel good. It could be a nice dinner, dessert out, a new outfit, a new phone, maybe a new car if you have the funds,” Morse says. “Those expenditures put cash into the economy that can help that business invest into its future growth, pay its employees, and contribute to the economy.”

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7

If you’re not sure how to do this, don’t sweat it: It may not be something you’ve considered until the pandemic, but now’s your chance to pay more attention to where your purchases come from. Purchasing a product trickles down through a supply chain, with effects on everyone who had a hand in producing, transporting, and selling that product.

Take the food industry. “With restaurants, school cafeterias, and office kitchens closed, there is a chain of many people that are negatively impacted by the closing of that final transaction,” Loretta says. “All of those growers and distributors in the chain are cut off from revenue, translating to lost wages for all the people employed down the chain.”

In addition to buying that book from a community bookstore, consider other ways to get the supplies you need from alternate sources (and likely alternate supply chains). Is there a farm share you could join? A butcher shop that has started to sell directly to customers in the wake of COVID-19? Find local businesses around your town that could benefit from your purchases.

8

If you’re among those drowning in work, like Meghan Ely, the founder of OFD Consulting, you likely feel grateful for the influx of business. But for everyone who is thriving, there is someone else (and likely, many others) who are barely surviving. If you have extra work that could be outsourced, consider hiring a remote freelancer to assist.

“I’ve been keeping a careful watch on our cash flow with our financial consultant, which allowed me to make the recent decision to bring on more part-time help,” Ely says. “If you are in a position to employ people, then this is one of the top ways to stimulate the economy.”

RELATED: 15 Brands to Shop to Help Support Coronavirus Relief Efforts

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No, you may not be able to charge for an Instagram post or have a brand send you a product to unbox on YouTube. Hey, you may not even fully understand the purpose of TikTok. But, as Sullivan points out, everyone is an influencer in their own circle of people. Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool of all, and the more you share about the products, experts, and must-haves you love, the more you encourage people to shop smartly.

“If I’m looking for a suggestion for a book or a meal or a movie, I look to my friends and people I follow on social media. We do not have Kardashian influence, but we all have more power to promote than we realize,” she says. “Give a shout out each day to one business that you love, because love and kindness are contagious.”

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From sales and income taxes to payroll taxes and wealth taxes, there is plenty of fine print to weed through on paystubs and receipts. And though taxes may not be the happiest of topics, Todd Jones, a mortgage expert and president of Paramount Bank, says the simple act of paying what you owe is a significant source of revenue for the economy.

“Without taxes, the government cannot invest in infrastructure and social programs. We can’t afford to dig ourselves into a deeper hole,” he says.

11

Yes, the stock market is experiencing unprecedented swings, but if you have the means to do so, Morse says it’s a smart time to invest in your beliefs. Think video conferencing isn’t going anywhere soon? Consider purchasing stock. What about at-home fitness? Whatever inkling you have, it’s worth putting some money toward areas where you predict growth.

“Invest in your passion and put your resources to work in growth opportunities that you are interested in, that are important to you, that you can impact, and that you believe in,” Morse says.