Budget-Friendly Ways to Support Small Businesses

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Consumers and businesses alike are familiar with the post-holidays sales slump; after weeks of higher-than-usual spending on gifts, parties and food, most of us are ready to reel in our budgets for the new year. For business owners, however, this lull in sales can make the early months of winter financially tight.

While there’s nothing wrong with being careful with your finances, some of us might feel guilty or worry about the impact when we no longer regularly shop at our favourite establishments. The good news is that you don’t need to break your budget to support Nova Scotian-owned businesses. After the holidays, there are plenty of ways to show love to the businesses you care about, without spending money.

Leaving reviews

One of the best ways to show support to a business is to leave a positive review. Nearly 70% of online shoppers read between one to six reviews before purchasing something, which indicates how important positive (and current) reviews are to a small business’s success. Leaving a review can boost a business’s reputation when it comes to the quality of their products or services. Whether you share your comments directly to a review page like Google or Yelp, or post about your experience on social media (such as through Facebook business page reviews), your words build trust, and might inspire others to also support the business. It costs nothing to promote a business by sharing your positive experience with them, which makes it a top budget-friendly way to support Nova Scotian-owned businesses this winter.

Engaging with social media content

Another way to support the businesses you love is to engage with them on social media. Businesses will often rely on social media to reach both current and future customers. Following a business on social media is an easy way to tell others that you endorse and support them. Even doing something as simple as liking or commenting on a post could actually help a business gain visibility through the social media algorithm, as this gives the post more opportunities to be seen by others. Sharing posts from the business can contribute to their content being seen by the people you know, and you can also create a post of your own about how much you love a certain product or service. Remember to tag the business’s profile to give them more exposure, since this directs others to visit their page.

You may sometimes see posts from business owners promoting giveaway contests. These giveaways often involve asking customers to like and share the post, and sometimes to tag a friend in the comments in order to be entered in a draw. Participating in these contests is another way to positively impact a business’s exposure on social media. Once you confirm that the account promoting the contest is legitimate, you’ll have a chance to create awareness and encourage engagement from others you know, and maybe even win a great prize!


The tried-and-true method of supporting businesses you love is to recommend them to friends and family through word-of-mouth. In fact, one survey of 7,500 small-business owners in North America found that 85 percent rely on word-of-mouth referrals to acquire customers. You may know the perfect new restaurant to try over the weekend, a great photographer for your friend’s wedding, or a specialty store to suggest. You can also request that your birthday or holiday gifts be purchased from your favourite businesses. Gift cards are a great source of income for small businesses, so putting one on your wish list is an easy way to show support.

Additionally, if your workplace, team or club is looking for a vendor for an upcoming event, you can recommend a small business you like that you know is reliable. This will help the business secure work while also exposing others at your organization to their products or services.

Skip the fees

If you have more flexibility in your budget, try spending intentionally to make your dollars count. You can start with your favourite local restaurants. If you’re familiar with food delivery services, you know that extra fees can increase the cost of your order from anywhere between 7% to 91% compared to what you would pay when ordering from the restaurant directly. In fact, restaurants themselves pay additional fees for these services, such that they can even lose money on some orders. While we may assume that increased visibility on delivery platforms is beneficial, for some independently owned establishments, they would fare better if customers ordered through more traditional channels. So, if you’re looking for a way to save money while also supporting a local business, try picking up your meal directly or make use of a restaurant’s in-house delivery service when possible.

A helping hand

Our last recommendation for supporting small businesses on a budget is to lend them your services. While you may not have the ability to support your favourite establishments in the traditional way of making a purchase, offering your time and services, either as a volunteer or by providing discounted rates for your own services, could help a local business owner in more ways than one. If you notice that a small business in your community needs some repairs and you’re skilled in a trade such as carpentry, volunteering your labour is a very generous and meaningful way to make a difference. The same is true of tax specialists, graphic designers and other professionals looking to extend a helping hand, or perhaps gain experience in their field. In fact, many fitness establishments such as yoga, Pilates and spin studios have official programs for just this purpose. Usually called a “karma exchange,” individuals can volunteer a couple of hours a week doing basic tasks such as checking in members or cleaning in exchange for free attendance in classes.

Staying on track

Even though your budget might be tight over the coming weeks, we hope we gave you plenty of ideas to keep supporting the businesses in your community. Looking for help keeping your budget on track this winter? Or have a question about one of our products and services? Reach out to a member of our team at 902.492.6500 or info@cua.com.

Published Jan. 9, 2022

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