When journalist Melody Warnick relocated to Blacksburg, Virginia--her family's fifth move in 13 years--she embarked on a program to fall in love with her new home. Local businesses contribute mightily to a town's charm and personality, so Warnick became a loyal customer. Buying local should be a year-round habit--not just something to do on designated "Small Business Saturdays," says Warnick. In this excerpt from This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, she offers seven suggestions for supporting your neighborhood Mas and Pas.

1. Find the one item that you can commmit to buying from a locally owned business, then stick with it.

2. Every month, spend a total of $50 among three locally owned businesses. Your town's Independent Business Alliance can point you in the direction of qualifying shops--or ask locals for their recommendations.

3. Before you decide that buying local costs too much, consider the unexpected benefits, like advice, free gift-wrapping, or tie-in promotions that support other local organizations. At RunAbout Sports, a shoe store a half mile from my house, a trained salesperson helped fit [my daughter] with new Nikes for her track season, and I received a gift card worth 15 percent of the purchase price because the store sponsors Blacksburg school sports.

4. Local businesses are far more likely to give to place-based charities than chain stores. Shopping at an indie business in your town on the Tuesday night it's giving 10 percent back to the local elementary school or the animal shelter is a two-fer.

5. Attend a cash mob or start one in your own town. Andrew Samtoy's website Cash-mobs.com has details about how to do it.

6. Don't showroom. If you find a product you love at a local business, buy it in the store, not on the Internet. It can be more expensive, but you get the benefit of turning weak ties into strong connections, especially if you attend store-sponsored events, like wine and cheese night at the art gallery or Ticket to Ride night at the game store.

 7. Invest locally. Amy Cortese, author of "Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It," suggests a simple step to get started: Open a savings account at a community-owned bank or credit union. Or join a Local Investing Opportuntities Network (LION), whose members pool their money to bankroll hand-chosen businesses. Since the 2006 organization of the first LION in Port Townsend, Washington, a half dozen others have formed in cities like Portland, Oregan and Madison, Wisconsin.

 Excerpted from "This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live," by Melody Warnick. (Viking, June 2016)

Published on: May 2, 2016