Most of what consumers buy all year is based on necessity school supplies for the kids, snow tires for the car and parts for the kitchen sink. But beginning the day after Thanksgiving and ending Christmas Eve, normally frugal customers suddenly find themselves engaged in wild spending sprees based on random holiday giving and whimsy. The downside, of course, is that family budgets are blown and there are mile-long lines at the checkout counters. But on the upside, shoppers have a lot more variety in where they go and what they buy.

With that in mind, we would like to suggest taking a moment to think about the power of your wallet. Before dashing off to the nearest Black Friday mosh pit, take a quick inventory of your politics, your favorite causes and what's best for your community. Whether you are a high roller or small-potatoes shopper, your discretionary spending can have an impact.

Some questions to ask before handing over your hard-earned cash include: Where was this item made? Does the company engage in fair-labor practices, or does it undermine American workers by exploiting foreign laborers? Do the owners support local charities? Does this purchase in any way harm or support the environment? Will my purchase add to the bottom line of a giant corporation or will it help to support a small local business?

It may be helpful to do a little homework before grabbing your reusable shopping bags and heading to Main Street or the mall. Look at the list of corporate donors to your favorite nonprofit and support those who support them. Check out fairlabor.org for lists of companies that adhere to their standards and franchises that require their licensees to screen vendors for fair-labor practices. Think about the emphasis on the middle class and on small businesses during the last election. Their success is not just dependent on federal taxes; it depends on you too.

Vice President Joe Biden puts it this way: "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value."

We would venture to take that one step further think about where you shopped and what you bought this holiday season, and that will tell you what you value.