Illustrations by STEVEN WEISSMAN

You don't have to get pepper-sprayed in a human dog-pile at a Walmart while fighting over a plastic piece of shit made in China to know that money drives people to do strange things over the holidays. It drives huge, ugly corporations to lie to you even more than usual, packaging products as if they're independent and local, and airing festive ads that make you think that letting them take advantage of you is going to feel like a candy-cane carnival. And in the flurry of messaging from the 1 percent about what you should be doing with your money, the local businesses who give this city its character—and who need your support—get lost.

Holiday shopping guides can really suck, too, especially the ones full of bullshit promotional copy and zero information about where products are made, which corporations profit from them, and what those corporations do with those profits. That's why this 99-percent holiday edition of The Stranger focuses entirely on those issues. JEN GRAVES uses census data to find the least-well-off neighborhoods in the city and then does her holiday shopping there. ELI SANDERS unravels the complicated ownership structure of major local malls and figures out which mall's owners are more friendly to the 99 percent than any of the others (you'd never guess). ANNA MINARD goes toy shopping and compares pieces of crap (all made in China) to pieces of craft (made by hand locally). BRENDAN KILEY investigates the conglomerates that make and sell your favorite booze—specifically, he finds out where their profits end up (rhymes with "Newt Gingrich")—and then visits a couple local distilleries supporting local crop-growers. PAUL CONSTANT has a few words to say about who your money is supporting when you shop for books at Amazon.com versus one of our local bookstores. Plus, MARTI JONJAK directs your wallet away from Urban Outfitters and toward the handmade garments of four local designers, CHARLES MUDEDE writes about the murky "fair trade" status on chocolate bars (and why Theo Chocolate is worth your business), DOMINIC HOLDEN has some ideas about brands to avoid in the grocery store, and The Stranger's music staff suggests a bunch of locally made albums that make far better gifts than the same old mainstream garbage.

As for Walmart...

• Don't shop at Walmart. Everyone knows many independent businesses thrive or die based on what happens over the holidays. No matter how cheap the Walton family makes those fucking waffle makers, just don't do it. "Every dollar you spend with a locally owned business generates two to four times more income, jobs, and wealth for our community than a dollar spent elsewhere," says Christine Hanna of the Seattle Good Business Network. "When you spend $100 with a local, independent business, most of that money stays here, paying for local services, supplies, staff, and sometimes inventory. Those businesses then spend most of that money with other local businesses, which spend most of it with other local businesses, and so on. Your $100 has just multiplied, each transaction creating income, jobs, and wealth for your community. Spend it with a multinational, and most of that money flies out of here, spins around the globe a bit, and quickly lands in the lap of the 1 percent. And yet, even the more conscious of us haven't really committed to buying locally. Many of us can still be found at Target, QFC, Walgreens, and Bank of America. Meanwhile, we continue to bitch about the squeeze we're feeling." Listen to Hanna. And speaking of Bank of America...

• Don't bank at big banks. If you missed that big national moment last month when everyone was ditching their bank and moving to a credit union, at least make it a goal to do it by the end of the year. Let 2011 be a year of comeuppance for the banks that sent our economy into the shitter (and left millions of Americans homeless). Pretty much any credit union is better than a major bank—BECU, SMCU, Sound Credit Union, and Verity Credit Union are all available to residents of Seattle. If you're a state employee (or related to one), you can join WSECU. If you have credit issues or are low-income, try Express Credit Union. Because credit unions are designed to give back to their members, you will notice you're making money just by depositing it with them. Every time I look at my ATM receipt now, it's like someone just handed me a little gift. recommended