I'm one of those people who gets most of my Christmas shopping done by October. It gives me such a warm, glowing feeling to know that I can watch others stress out about holiday shopping and not have to worry about it. I guess you can call it my indulgence in schadenfreude (AKA satisfaction at the misfortune of others). Of course, things do change and I inevitably end up doing some last-minute shopping. This year I ended up having about five gifts to get - and was able to buy most right in Elizabethtown, where I live. Considering many people believe that there's "nothing available" locally, it kind of surprised me. But it's the way I'd prefer to operate. I haven't been making as many trips to Plattsburgh as I used to, mainly because the price of gas makes me step back and think before just taking off. It becomes a whole project, since instead of picking up one or two things, I feel the need to justify the trip by lumping as many destinations in as possible. Since I seem to be lacking the female gene that enjoys shopping, I end the day feeling drained and tired from wasting my time. I find shopping in my hometown a lot less stressful. The thing I like best about our local shops is the customer service - business owners often take the time to help select items, and some offer exquisite wrapping. I don't feel rushed, and I don't have to worry about waiting half an hour in line. I leave the shopping experience feeling invigorated, rather than annoyed and frustrated. There's charming stores throughout the county - every town has something special. I'm luckier than most since my job has offered me the chance to get better acquainted with our communities. Sometimes it amazes me to realize what is available - arts, gift items, foods, brand-name goods and clothing. This time of year, when the population shrinks, it's especially important to support our local businesses. There's many complaints that parts of the region "shut down" over the winter, and that's certainly true in some communities - but business owners need local patrons to make it viable to remain open during the off months. By supporting local businesses, you support your local government. I'd rather see the 3.75 percent in county sales revenue go to the county I live in than another county. Also, by supporting businesses, you ensure that those options will remain here, should you need them. I'm realistic. You can't get everything locally, but it's better to get what you can in your home community. While things may cost a bit more, I think it's worth it when you factor in time and travel costs. Plus the whole experience is more enjoyable. Whitney Jackson is the editor of the Valley News. Now that the holiday season is over, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.