The time has come again to start thinking about where to spend your hard earned dollars this holiday season. I know, I know — this whole capitalism thing has us really screwed up sometimes. And sure, you should support local businesses and organizations all year round, but in particular, this time of the year is crucial to helping get into the black for the year.
Don't spend your money just anywhere. Support the community and the humans that help make it all possible. We're all invested here, and should continue to do so throughout the year. We've done this a few years in a row now, so here's a quick guide that could help you out, or not, I suppose.
While this guide is by no means meant to be comprehensive, there are plenty of ways to spread the love around in the coming weekend and weeks.
FOOD + DRINK
WHAT: support local grocers, buy someone a co-op membership, take a educational course, invest in farms
While there are plenty of options in Champaign-Urbana for buying groceries and other various items you'll be using for holiday meals, these are few things that might go the extra mile this holiday season. There are plenty of opportunities to invest in a local grocers that continue to exist here, whether that is actually buying your next round of groceries there, or buying an ownership for someone, taking a class to teach you a new skill in the kitchen, help some dough get back to local farms. Also, pies.
WHAT TO BUY: bags of coffee beans, tea, gift cards, mugs, coffee presses
We all have that person in our lives that is absolutely addicted to coffee. I'm one of them in a lot of capacities, and personally if someone purchased these things for me, I'd be excited about receiving them. Pretty much any local coffee shop you hit, you can find some locally roasted beans, or at least some way to contribute your share. Buy someone a gift card — hell, $20 in coffee goes a pretty long way, honestly.
Columbia Street Roastery is a great place to start for bags of coffee, plus they have plenty of accessories for your home as well (presses, mugs, etc).
WHAT TO BUY: growlers/package beer, whiskey tasting or beer tasting classes, bottle(s) of wine
Let's be honest: 2016 was the fucking worst. Alcohol is a good solution to drowing out that pain from the year, and there are plenty of local options to helping you achieve that goal of not just drowning out 2016, but perhaps your in-laws if you have to spend time with them. Pick up a growler from Triptych; take a whiskey tasting class at Seven Saints (whiskey passport is $5, plus you can throw a hoodie in as well); buy a few bottles of wine from bacaro; treat a friend to a beer class at Barrelhouse 34 (Hall Pass for Beer Class is $10).
Just don't drive this holiday season if this is in the discussion, you fool. Take MTD.
What to buy: a meal or drinks at any restaurant in Downtown Champaign or Urbana
The Cities of Champaign and Urbana have made accessing Downtown(s) even easier this holiday season. You really have no excuse to not getting out at least one point this November, December, or January even. Invest some of your money into local restaurants that not only serve really damn good food, but also employ hundreds of local people as their employees this year. Tip your bartender, or your server, in addition to that.
Even if you can't go yourself, buy a friend or a loved one a gift card to spend at one of these establishments.
A few local options: Champaign: Watson's, Miga, bacaro, Big Grove, Farren's, Seven Saints, Pizzeria Antica, Papa Del's. Urbana: Black Dog (Champaign, too), Sitara, Crane Alley, Bread Company, Endless other local restaurants, I won't apologize for not listing all of them.
MUSIC + MEDIA
WHAT TO BUY: records, video games, tapes, gear or equipment, instrument lessons
If you're like me, sometimes you have a hard time justifying buying records or music for a long stretch of time. There are certain times of the year where you should push yourself a little bit more to pick up something you've been putting off. Record Store Day is one of them, and Black Friday + the holiday season is another time.
Exile on Main Street has absolutely tons of records and even video games for you to pick up. Nostalgia is the best form of gift giving, so that's an option for that person in your life that longs for the past. The Upper Bout provides mad discounts during the holiday season, and not only that, perhaps you can buy a lesson for someone that's been wanting to take them for a while (or better yet, yourself!).
The holiday sale at Polyvinyl's online store is always a solid option. Plus, there's that American Football LP I know you've been meaning to pick up.
DECOR + DRESS
WHAT TO BUY: floral arrangements, accessories, clothing, misc. items around the house, biking gear
Whether you need to update the seat on your bike (or store it over the winter), or buy a new pair of shoes on the cheap, or floral arrangements, and things of the like, keep your eyes on this component of the article. if you're looking for physical goods or decor this year, keep up with local outlets for those items. Retail is falling by the wayside in a lot of ways, so waltz into a local joint and take a look around.
OTHER FUN EXPERIENTIAL STUFF
WHAT TO BUY: experiences, kid-friendly stuff, learning opportunities
There are tons of options for family friendly experiences this holiday season. Whether you're buying a pool pass at a discount rate or registering for a program, or spending an evening at Allerton Park's various mini-getaway opportunities, or even learning how to screenprint, those are pretty fun opportunities that are less tangible and more experiential.
SUPPORT SOMETHING ARTS-RELATED, OR ANYTHING FOR THAT MATTER
WHAT TO BUY: Tickets to a show, donate to a cause, prop up a non-profit organization
You can't really support the arts enough — there are plenty of options around C-U that help move the dial forward with local culture and arts. Buy a ticket to a show at Krannert Center or The Virginia Theatre or The Accord. Donate some money to support local media like WILL or WEFT. Go see a play at the Station Theatre. Check out an exhibition at Krannert Art Museum. Things like that are easy.
Without support of the community, this is another thing that can be gone in a hurry.
DONATE TO A CAUSE
WHAT TO BUY: Literally give money to these organizations, or donate your time
If there is any time to donate to an organization you feel strongly about, now is the goddamn time, people. The following really explains itself without me stressing the importance of such. They could be gone without your support. Your heart will feel a little bigger after doing so.
A few local options: Habitat for Humanity, R.A.C.E.S., The UP Center of Champaign County, Planned Parenthood of Champaign-Urbana, Muslim American Society of C-U, Eastern Illinois Foodbank, NAACP of Champaign County, Champaign County Humane Society
Top photos by Sam Logan.