How to Use Your Tax Return to Support Small Businesses
Ah, tax season. This time of year is a wonderful mix of “Ugh, I can’t believe I have to fill out these forms again”, “Wait, where did I leave my W-2?”, and “Oh, I’m getting that much back this year? Drinks on me!”
While unrealistic visions of nights out, vacations, dream cars, and an entirely new wardrobe may be dancing in your head, have you pondered using your tax return to support small businesses? Think about it. Even using just a portion of your return to purchase the things that you’ve been meaning to buy from local small businesses could have a huge impact, both for you and for the business owner.
In this post, we’ll give you the reasons why you should consider supporting a small business with your tax return, and a few ways that you can put your dollars to work for your community.
Why Supporting Small Business Matters
When you Google “how to support a small business”, the search engine autofills the phrase “how to support a small business without buying anything”. As a smaller shop ourselves, the popularity of that search is pretty disheartening, but one glimmer of optimism flickers around the edges of the gloom: people are at least searching for ways to support small companies.
That commitment to becoming a conscious consumer lights us up. Of course, the best way to support businesses like us is to contribute to the bottom line in some way, by purchasing a product, booking a service, or referring a friend. Like larger corporations, our businesses won’t survive without revenue. Unlike larger corporations, you can see exactly where your dollar is going when you spend it with a small business.
To makers, creators, and entrepreneurs, the loyalty and support of our customers is everything. The relationships we build with each and every person who walks through our doors, places an order, or books a service with us are defined by a special connection. We definitely don’t look at our customers as just a number in a spreadsheet - you are the people who are allowing us to live our dreams. We couldn’t do any of this without your support.
We also know that the revenue that is generated by our businesses goes back into our local community. Supporting small businesses is key to maintaining a healthy local economy, and encourages growth within the neighborhood instead of giving in to the threat of being overtaken by big box and stores. When you decide to spend with a small business, your money is reinvested in the community you live in through tax dollars and the business owner’s personal spending (trust us, we spend our fair share at local shops too!), not tucked away in a billionaire’s bank account.
How to Support Small Businesses with Your Tax Return
Hey! You just got your tax return! (*cue happy dance*) Now that you have a better understanding of how shopping locally can impact your community, it might be time to finally pick up that item you’ve been eyeing up for months in your local boutique’s window. We may be a little biased.
Stumped on other ways to spend your return? Here are a few other ideas for how to use your tax return to support small businesses.
Buy tickets to local events
Shop owners team up with makers and creatives all the time to host interesting, once-in-a-lifetime events. While many of them are free, others come with a price tag, but those events tend to hold a ton of value. Your price of admission could go to any number of things, from the supplies that you’ll need in order to make a flower crown out of freshly picked stems, to ingredients that you’ll use to create your very own craft cocktail.
You can count on small business owners to ensure that your experience is anything but generic. By using your tax return to purchase a ticket to an event like this, you’re pouring money back into your community and creating memories that you wouldn’t have otherwise. These events are also great opportunities to network with others within your area who have similar interests. If you’re new to town, even better! Maximize your tax return by jumping straight into the deep end and making a name for yourself as someone who has a vested interest in their new community.
Visit local boutiques that carry products from other small business owners
Instead of heading to the mall with your recently-refreshed bank account, keep it closer to home and check out your local boutiques, stores, and specialty shops. Often owned by local entrepreneurs themselves, these smaller emporiums typically boast a curated selection of goods created by small business owners. Treasures are tucked away in the shelves of shops on your town’s main drag, both vintage and handmade. You just won’t find such unique items and oddities like these in a mall.
If you’re going to use your tax return to make a purchase, wouldn’t you rather it be meaningful? When you choose to seek out local stores over chain offerings, you’re giving yourself a chance to find something new, something with a story that has the power to captivate you. Visiting a local boutique in your neighborhood could result in you finding a piece of pottery, handmade by a nearby artisan, that will be passed down in your family for generations. Perhaps you’ll take a liking to a hand poured candle, or a thick woven blanket that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Choosing small and slow over mass and fast is the way to go when it comes to your tax return.
Consider a small business for your next big project
Maybe you’re not in the mood to purchase a product with your tax return. Maybe you’re on a simplicity kick, working to remove extra clutter for your life, and you’ve put yourself on a shopping freeze. (We’ve been there… and then we started sourcing items for Dune and fell off the bandwagon. Oops!) Maybe you’ve been saving up for a renovation instead, and this tax return put you safely in the “can afford” zone.
If you want to use your lump sum to take on a project, think about hiring a local contractor or a small business owner. While there are many big name companies across the country that would love your business, local builders, painters, and electricians rely on work from their neighbors to stay in business. Though their prices may be a bit higher than you’re used to because they’re not a part of a large corporation, they’re also likely to have connections in town that allow them to source the best materials and labor for your project. Check Yelp reviews, or ask around town for a recommendation. You might just find a contractor that you’ll want to keep on speed dial for life!
Splurge on a date night at a local restaurant
Tax returns don’t have to be used in one fell swoop. If you want to support small businesses throughout the year with your return, make a pact with your partner to use it to splurge on a date night once in awhile at a local eatery. Spoiler alert: restaurants are small businesses too if they’re not a part of a larger chain. Usually, local restaurants are owned and operated by entrepreneurs who are mainstays in your community - trying their food is a great way to support small businesses while treating yourself.
How many times do you play the back-and-forth game of “Where do you want to eat?”, “I don’t know. Wherever you want to”? Squash that indecisiveness by putting your tax return to use at spots that you’ve never dined in before. Try that farm-to-table option that you’ve heard so much about, or take a trip to the diner that is iconic in your town, but that you’ve never given much thought to. This mindset not only gives you the possibility to discover something new, it makes supporting small businesses a priority throughout the year.
Buy products from small businesses!
Last but not least, (do we really have to say it?), buy products from small business owners! Though the Google search for “how to support a small business without buying anything” is mighty popular, the one true way to support a small business is to purchase their products and services.
If you’re having a hard time locating a small business that you want to support, there are a few things you can do to find a new favorite.
First, try a different Google search. “Small businesses in [insert your town here]” should do the trick! Look through local directories, see which businesses are featured in articles about Small Business Saturday, and use an online map to discover shops on your town’s main street that you’ve never noticed.
Next, head to Instagram. Many small business owners rely on the viral buzz that comes from social media, so use hashtags like #smallbusiness, #smallbusinessowner, #handmade, and #maker to find someone whose energy calls out to you.
Finally, Etsy can be a great resource to find small business owners who are just starting to make their mark in their respective industries. Etsy’s search function lets you get specific about what you’re looking for and discover new makers and creatives who are producing items that you’ll love.
Supporting small businesses with your tax return doesn’t need to take a lot of thought or effort. The answer to your conscious consumerism is often right around the corner, in your neighborhood, on your town’s main street, or in your Instagram feed. This tax season, use the tips above to put your tax return to use - and feel good about it.