What a shit show 2020 has been. Most people feel like they’re running a race on a hamster-wheel, myself included. But there’s one thing 2020 can’t take away from us, and that’s our holiday spirit.

Imagine: Hugs from your family, holiday food, time-honored traditions (like movie marathons while you try to avoid your high school ex). Makes your heart warm just to think about it, doesn’t it?

Oh, and gifts. So. Many. Gifts.

But if you’re one of the 57.4 million Americans who filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit in mid-March (according to Forbes), the thought of buying gifts for your loved ones might seem more scary than joyful.

Let’s face it, the holidays are expensive. The U.S. is consumerism-driven and we desire for more items than we need (or can afford). According to the American Psychological Association, a large culprit driving Americans’ desire to buy comes from being surrounded by advertisements, whether they’re popping up on phones or interrupting our favorite shows.

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And you know whose advertisements I see the most?

Amazon’s.

If you’ve ever met me, you’ve no doubt heard me rail against the evil that is Amazon. Not only is it a monopoly that has crushed millions of small businesses, it’s also notorious for treating its workers inhumanely. Thousands of workers have spoken about the mental and physical toll that comes with working for Amazon. Time Magazine reported that workers were only allowed to be “off-task” for 18 minutes in a 12-hour shift. That includes bathroom breaks, getting a drink of water or even walking slower than Amazon’s algorithm wanted. Oh, and that doesn’t include workers’ 30-minute unpaid lunch break.

Conglomerates like Amazon don’t treat their employees like they’re human. And the only face we have for Amazon is Jeff Bezos, who became $48 million richer from March to June. Bezos is literally profiting off a global pandemic.

Our cold hard cash is going straight to Bezos when we buy from Amazon. Not to Amazon employees, who earn $15 an hour for a job that makes them cry. And that, my friends, does not put me in the holiday spirit.

But lucky for us consumers, there’s an alternate way to buy. And that way is small businesses.

Small businesses need our support more than ever. According to a study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 41% of small businesses had to close at some point during the pandemic. And with cases in Missoula rising, it’s likely some businesses will have to close again in order to keep their employees and customers safe.

Walking into a local shop in Missoula feels like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting, but so much better. Being able to physically see who I’m supporting is magical. When I step into Ear Candy, I know that I’ll be able to chat with employees about Nick Cave, Harry Styles or Fleetwood Mac and leave with at least three used records for my collection.

When I go to Aporta, I know I’ll leave with sustainably and ethically sourced products and be able to live out my hygge-dreams. And when I go to Betty’s, I know the employees will tell me I look cute and I’ll be able to pet Jethro, one of Missoula’s favorite pet cats. And the best part is, I know my money is going to businesses who support the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community.

It’s not enough to say we support things like fair wages, land sovereignty and ethical production. We have to use our money to say it too.

It’s more difficult to pick something out for a loved one when it’s not coming off an Amazon wishlist. But it’s worth it. And that personal touch doesn’t go unnoticed.

Buying from local businesses doesn’t need to be expensive either. A book from Shakespeare and Co. or a new tackle box from Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop costs about the same as ordering it from Amazon. That grandpa-looking sweater your cousin sent you from Urban Outfitters? I can almost guarantee you’ll find a better one from one of our many local thrift stores. And that $60 macramé wall hanging? There are artists on Etsy who will sell you a better one for half the price. Yes, Etsy may still take a cut, but at least you’ll be supporting creators individually.

When we buy from small businesses, we aren’t blindly giving our money to a trillionaire. As cheesy as it sounds, we’re supporting someone’s dream. We’re helping someone pay rent, put food on the table or send their kids to college.

If we truly want to be a collaborative and collective community, we need to support each other.

And maybe I’m a sap, but knowing I can give back in more ways than one does put me in the holiday spirit.