With big banks causing big worries and small-town economies struggling to survive, a growing number of communities around the country are trying to motivate the 'buy local' movement by printing their own money.
It's a trend that started in Ithaca, New York, in 1991. Now, over 80 communities in the U.S. have attempted printing a local currency.
But don't get rid of all your dollars just yet.
In Massachusetts, about 400 local businesses bag up goods paid for with the Berkshare.
You can buy bananas with Bay Bucks in Traverse City, Michigan, or if you're shopping in the Piedmont area of North Carolina, you can pay for everything from peanut butter to your local wireless provider with the Plenty.
"We know that money is not leaving this community; it's not going to some corporate headquarters. It's staying right here and being distributed all around this town, and it's spreading the wealth locally," says Tami Schwerin, the executive director of The Abundance Foundation.
Typically, the purpose of local currencies - like the Plenty - is to keep the money on Main Street.
It's printed locally and used only at participating local businesses.
Local currency is one way of dealing with the disappearing dollar, according to research by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and the consulting firm Civic Economics.
For every $100 spent at a locally-owned store, $45 remains in the community compared to about $13 when that $100 is spent at a big-box business.
The Plenty is proudly printed with the words 'In each other we trust,' but can you trust local currency to last? And is it legal?
Laura Ullrich is an assistant professor of economics at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
"Groups can create their own currency, but it has to follow the standards and it must be claimed as income," she says. "You can't hide your money in this currency."
Federal law prohibits private coinage, but does allow alternative paper currency, assuming it's treated as taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service.
"You don't get out of doing your taxes by using the Plenty," notes Schwerin.
Unfortunately, when using local money, you also don't get insurance against its loss like you would if your money was deposited in a bank if the non-profit or organization that administers the municipal money checks out.
That's why the foundation that sponsors the Plenty has given it more protection by holding it in a community bank.
The truth is, the U.S. dollar is backed by nothing more than the promise of the federal government that's its worth the value printed on the paper.
However, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation guarantees $250,000 worth of a deposit at any bank.
"It really is the safest place to have your money," notes Ullrich.
While it is true that banks fail and are bought out, Ullrich points to a study out of Bucknell University which found more than 80 percent of the local currency systems created since the 1990's have gone belly up.
Still, many organizations with local currency offer an exchange rate for shoppers that delivers a discount.
For example, $100 Berkshares are equivalent to $95 US dollars.
Ullrich recommends storing local currency in your wallet only when you plan to spend it, and only in small amounts.
Bridget Perry gets a portion of her paycheck in Plenties and she prefers to see it in her checkout line at the marketplace.
She says the local currency isn't just about paying for purchases -- it's a way of showing community pride.
"I guess it's another way to say we're all part of the same team," Perry says. "We all live locally. We're all looking out for each other."
Local currency is one way to show small businesses support while still using your dollars and common sense.
Most local currencies come in several denominations and have avoided counterfeiting with elaborate designs or exclusive online use.
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