We all know that we need to stay inside to fight COVID-19. Unfortunately, while those orders save lives, they don't help small businesses. Around the world, thousands of restaurants and stores can't make ends meet. It's up to us to put some money back into our local economies, and we don't need to spend a lot to make a difference.
Of course, these suggestions should only be followed once your own basic needs are secured. Many of us face unemployment or underemployment, financial pressures and uncertainty — and it’s okay if you have to wait to financially contribute. However, if you’re still able to work and support others, it’s a great time to help local businesses survive.
Here are a few ways to support entrepreneurs in your community through this pandemic.
1. Order Weekly Takeout
Restaurants employ more than 15 million people, from dishwashers to waiters to managers. These individuals have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus, and many of them don't know when they'll receive a paycheck.
Although we can't sit down at our favorite dives and diners, there's always takeout. If you can spare some cash, you should consider ordering a meal to-go once a week. Many establishments are working with delivery apps, offering curbside pickup and/or building their own phone or online ordering systems. Some New York restaurants even offer alcohol to go!
Don't forget to tip your staff and delivery driver, either. After all, they have to put themselves at risk to earn an income.
2. Purchase a Gift Card
Like restaurants and bars, retail stores need our help as well. If your local shops sell through social media or a website, be sure to check out their inventory. Otherwise, why not buy a gift card? You can purchase one to use after the pandemic ends and quarantine is lifted.
You could also download a voucher to send as a gift for a birthday or anniversary. Order a variety from local coffee shops, small boutiques, day spas and more. Many of us may be missing special events with our loved ones, and nothing says “I’m thinking of you” like a thoughtful, locally-sourced gift.
3. Start a Food Subscription
These days, grocery stores run out quickly – and we need to avoid non-essential trips. Thankfully, many cities offer CSAs, or community-supported agriculture services. These companies include farms, bakeries and dairies that deliver fresh produce to your doorstep or a nearby drop-off location. Look online for CSAs near your house so that you can order a weekly supply of food.
Do you have an elderly neighbor or family member who can’t safely access fresh produce? Spread the word or even consider buying from a CSA for them as well. You can create a positive impact for everyone when you support local agriculture systems.
4. Book an Appointment
Our life-long hairdressers and barbers have taken a hit, so it's essential to remember them as well. We won't be able to visit their salons until later, but we can book and prepay for appointments now. Message your stylist to see if they use Venmo, Cash App or PayPal. Ask them about potential calendar openings and send along an advanced payment – and tip.
This suggestion works as a two-for-one. You won't need to pay later, and the businesses can access the money now. Cash flow will help them manage rent and plan for the future.
5. Donate to a Charity
If you want to assist both local and worldwide organizations, you can donate. Feel free to research your city's relief programs, or look for other foundations and efforts to resolve country-wide issues. You could contribute to help kids locate healthy meals outside of school. You may want to aid groups that focus on senior citizens – one of the most vulnerable communities.
Around three out of four Americans worry that COVID-19 could cause a recession, which can hurt local business owners in particular. Many charities work alongside small businesses to provide relief. With a donation, you can support several initiatives at once.
6. Spread the Word
Not everyone can afford to buy takeout meals, gift cards and products right now. Fortunately, you don't need to spend money to help. Instead, you can use social media to advertise and promote local businesses. If a nearby restaurant or store offers a discount, post it to your Instagram or Snapchat. It only takes a few shares for someone to discover a new shop.
Feel free to leave a stellar review on Google, Facebook or Yelp while you're at it. Did you know that 92% of customers read reviews for local businesses? Your positive input can help your favorite restaurant or retail shop reach new customers who are looking for services during the pandemic.
7. Buy From Local General Stores
A lot of cities offer family-owned general or convenience stores and local groceries. They could use support, too. When you need to pick up essentials, look up different specialty shops nearby. You can apply this same idea to local pharmacies as well. They offer the same supplies, so you won't need to forgo any products.
Be sure to take the correct precautions so that you can protect yourself, along with other shoppers and employees. Be sure to wear a mask or face covering, maintain a distance of six feet between yourself and others and always wash your hands with soap when you get home.
Boosting Local Businesses During COVID-19
Many businesses are getting creative to survive an unprecedented global crisis. They’re pivoting into curbside pickups, opening online orders or focusing on the products the community needs most. As a consumer, you can use your dollar to support the people working and living in your neighborhood.
When everyone comes together, we can make a difference. Try these tips to support local businesses during COVID-19.
Holly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor of The Estate Update. She covers real estate investment, apartment living and personal finance for publications across the web.
*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.