Now is prime time to turn your focus to your local community. The reason is simple. When you keep your attention and dollars in your local economy, it helps stabilize both the job market and home values. There's no reason to send your hard-earned money out of your community. You can help to build commerce in your town by buying local.

First, start by buying local produce. As the price of oil surges, the cost of transporting foods and goods will follow suite. This cost increase in turn is translated down to you, the consumer. Seek out local farmers' markets, farms, and buy "local" produce from your grocery store. The money you spend in your community has a way of being spent again in your community. And when you buy local, you take an active roll in reducing the environmental impact of your spending. Fewer fossil fuels are used to transport goods.

The next step in eating local can be to research local "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) groups. How does a CSA work? You pay a certain amount per growing season to be a part of the group, and then during each week's harvest, you stop by to pick up your "share" of the goodies! It's a great way to support a local farm, as well as get fresh vegetables all season long.

If you have a green thumb, consider adding a vegetable garden to your yard or a potted garden to your patio. Even the White House has its own garden, where the first lady grows some of her favorite treats.

The next step is to begin reading "made in" labels. Check the labels on all your products. Support your local region first, then American brands over foreign. Our economy must be reinvigorated from within. Choosing to buy American helps create jobs all across our nation, and with an unemployment rate near 10 percent, this is a great time to start label checking.

When you buy local and American, you're more likely to get better customer service. It's far easier to contact a company a state over, than to contact a country on the other side of the world. There's also more accountability when it comes to regulations and production laws.

And finally, consider keeping your vacations local. Staycations can save you big on travel costs, and those savings can in turn be spent in hotels and attraction in your own local area. Live in your city like a visitor!

Buying local and hiring local craftsman is an investment in your community. That's an investment worth making.

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