WWYD: Shopping Across the Border


Today in “WWYD,” are you destroying your country if you shop across the border?

I noticed today, in my western Canadian hometown, that butter is $6.10/lb—I notice because for the last three years my husband and I have almost exclusively done our grocery shopping in the U.S. We’re part of a huge number of border-adjacent Canadians that travel frequently to the US to get groceries, household goods, and just basically everything. In recent months we’ve become the subject of much media focus, as Canadian businesses draw attention to the $5.2 billion that we’re leaving in the U.S. annually.

Commentators on these stories often say that this practice is basically destroying our country. Because my hubs and I take these American spending weekends every six weeks or so, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. We save thousands of dollars a year, and are able to identify ways to cut back on our consumption—it’s easy to decide to never buy paper towels again when you live without them between trips—yet I do feel guilty. I love being Canadian, but I also love being able to afford butter.

And yes, we do save thousands even when we account for gas, the use of our cars, and the time it takes. We’ve had many lovely weekends in the Pacific Northwest (but always Target adjacent!) For the record, when we do buy in Canada, I make a big effort to shop local. What would you do? — A.

A., thank you for your business! Our economy thanks you. Please continue to spend your money here—think of it as contributing to the global economy.

Okay, seriously though, I’d like people to chime in on this one. I have never considered crossing the border to save money on goods by buying them in another country. I’m also the sort of person who will occasionally do my grocery shopping at the expensive specialty food store near my apartment because it saves me time and the energy of having to walk with heavy bags for several blocks from the more affordable store, or having to protect my groceries from being trampled if I’m taking a crowded subway (though I still choose to walk to the more affordable store to do most of my grocery shopping).

I try to be a conscious consumer. I shop at the farmer’s market, and dine in local restaurants. I don’t check the tags on my clothes to see where they are made, but I try to stay away from fast fashion and buy things I know will last. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat at chain restaurants—I do sometimes. And I’m sure if I looked through my tags, I will discover that a lot of the things I own aren’t produced in the U.S. It’s a balancing act: farmer’s market one day, Chipotle burrito another day.

And it sounds to me like it’s also a balancing act for you: Saving thousands by buying goods across the border, and using some of that money you saved by shopping local. Making that effort counts for a lot. I don’t think it makes you a bad Canadian. Here’s something from the Calgary Herald I just read regarding Canada’s weak economic growth: “The Bank of Canada has counted on exports and business investment to take up the slack, but that will depend on foreign markets, particularly the U.S., becoming stronger economically.” Maybe we’re all in this together.

 

Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.

 

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