With the economy tightening and North Coast residents watching their budgets, it's a good time for a reminder that consumers should think locally when they begin considering purchasing goods and services.

We recognize there's a certain allure to shopping out of town. Just taking a trip to Portland or Longview, Wash., for something you think you can't find locally has a certain degree of excitement for a trip that often involves a meal out with the family.

People often head up or down the highway with the idea they will find a better selection, or better prices or something they can't find at home. Most of the time it's not true. If we really look, we usually can find the item or service we're looking for right in our own backyard, without spending money for costly fuel (and time) to get there.

But saving time and money are just a couple of reasons why we should shop at home. First, consider what you'd go through if your new widget went haywire. You'd have to make a long-distance call to the out-of-town merchant. Then you'd probably have to make a return trip to make arrangements or repairs, or at least, ship it off to have it fixed.

Think how much easier it is just taking your broken widget back to your local merchant who gladly will exchange it, give you a loaner or in some other way make it right.

Second, remember where you go first when you're raising money for your club or organization, or your schools' special event or your children's sports team. That's right, it's your local businesses. We often think, "They've got lots of money, and they probably have a budget for charitable giving, so they're an easy target for a $50 check, or for a discount coupon or for a giveaway for our auction." You name it, you've probably hit up your friendly local merchants for it.

If for no other reason, why, then, would you drive right past those local merchants when you're on a shopping trip and head up or down the freeway to that other city? It makes no sense.

There's absolutely no reason we should have to leave town for any purchase or service. Our local merchants support the community and we should, in turn, support them. So the next time you're looking for any goods or services, think locally first. It's the least you can do for the businesses that support your causes.

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