Hitting the shops on Black Friday? Try one of Harford's many local businesses

You know those ladies at the grocery store with the giant stack of coupons who hold up the line? That's me. I'm also the annoying customer who goes to shops with "free sample" vouchers and wind up not buying anything because I'm only there for the free loot. I am the epitome of a bargain hunter.

As you can imagine, Black Friday is not only the biggest shopping day of the year, but for me, it's a sport. Every year I'm determined to get the best deals on my laundry list of Christmas presents to buy. I come armed with, of course, multiple coupons, a plan of where to go and when and will come out victorious at the end of the day. This year, however, I'm taking a slightly different approach to my weekend shopping marathon.

Recently, I visited with Jim and Janet Archer of Fawn View Manor Farms up in Pylesville for an assignment. While Mr. Archer was more of the strong, silent type, Janet and I talked a lot about teaching — a passion she and my husband share — how a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch and the importance of buying local.

My husband, Chris, and I are big into farmers markets, local restaurants and shops and, in general, putting our dollars into the local economy. That's not to say you won't find me at Kohl's or Barnes and Noble (cheap books are my kryptonite), but we absolutely realize the importance of supporting small businesses and bolstering local spending.

Our favorite — and most frequent — place to get coffee is from a local roaster, Zeke's, in the Hamilton/Lauraville neighborhood of Baltimore, Weber's Cider Mill Farm in Parkville has amazing apples and apple cider and if anyone asks me where the best ice cream is, I always point them in the direction of Broom's Bloom in Belcamp.

While buying books from a local store or checking out jewelry at boutiques, I know I'm not only supporting my neighbors, but in turn I'm helping everyone out, even if it's in the smallest way. This is what I'm going to keep in mind this weekend while I'm getting my Black Friday shopping on.

I'll most likely head to the mall with the rest of the crazies at some point. I will diligently watch amazon.com to see the prices for DVDs get cut in half on Cyber Monday. Between the shopping frenzy and adrenaline high of getting my Christmas shopping nearly finished, however, I'm going to have lunch at a local spot instead of eating at the mall, or go to a toyshop on Main Street to buy my friend's baby a gift instead of shopping at Toys "R" Us. It's all about balance and doing tiny things that wind up making a big difference.

Apparently American Express had the same idea, as Saturday is the 2nd Small Business Saturday.

It's really as easy as going to a candy store, such as Bomboy's in Havre de Grace or Log Cabin Candies in Fallston, for Christmas treats. Even checking out etsy.com to see what local crafters are offering for the holiday season.

Make an effort to show your favorite local business some love on Saturday. And if you go out and about today, good luck, wear comfortable shoes and remember to bring those coupons!

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