little girl looking store window holiday display

I have special memories of holiday window shopping when I was growing up in Brooklyn. Our main street, Fulton Street, was packed with shops selling all kinds of wares. And they decorated their windows brightly for the holidays. It was fun just strolling down the avenue to look around, even if we didn’t buy anything. When we got hungry, we could stop at the ice cream parlor for an egg creme or the pizza parlor for a slice and a soda. It was a terrific way to spend an afternoon.

After my family moved to Queens, our new main street, Jamaica Avenue, enchanted us during the holidays. Lights strung up beneath the elevated train lit up the long nights of the season and tempted us to walk along the avenue. And just like Fulton Street back in Brooklyn, we could get anything we needed for the holidays on Jamaica Avenue — from food and baked goods to jewelry, toys, clothes, wrapping paper, and even Christmas trees. We didn’t even need to worry about parking; we could walk to the shops from home.

There was no alternative to shopping locally: Our purchases helped employ the cashiers, stock persons, managers, and others who worked in the shops. And those people were more likely to spend money in the area, helping our local economy. The local restaurants and pizzerias also benefited from our patronage — especially at this time of year when lots of people were shopping.

Recently, I realized how convenient it is to do my holiday shopping in my local supermarket. I can find gifts like an assortment of gourmet coffee or tea, a selection of dried fruits and nuts, paperback books, wine, or even a poinsettia — as well as holiday greeting cards. By combining this with my grocery shopping, I don’t use extra gasoline; it’s really not a lot of extra effort. I can bundle my gifts in reusable totes in seasonal colors instead of wrapping paper, and I’m done!

For me, this is an easy, low key, and eco-friendly way to shop. But I’ll never forget the fun of walking down the avenue and holiday window shopping years ago.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.