Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's the most expensive time in the year

Doom and gloom are everywhere. Stores keep going out of business. Unemployment is up and will be even higher soon. Detroit is about to experience pain even worse than when Michael Moore filmed it. People are pulling their kids out of daycare, and not re-enrolling in private schools for next year. Vacation spots aren't getting reservations, restaurants are half-empty, waiters aren't getting tips they can live on. It's a vicious cycle at this point, and you would hardly believe it if you walked into any retail establishment. Because Christmas has come on full force and it's got a taste of desperation this year.

Have you noticed? It's weird... layaway is back (thank God because I loves the layaway) and stores are pushing it. The ads on TV emphasize sales. The Black Friday sites are up and already buzzing. Every store is already having huge sales. If you had any money it would be a great time to shop.

Ah, there's the rub. I believe most of us know that maxing out credit cards for one single day is kinda dumb. I mean, the credit crunch is part of this huge mess we're all in. But the mindset of the past 10 or so years, where you don't need money to have good stuff because you can just charge it and pay down the bill monthly for the rest of your life is hard to break. People are already totally fixated on Christmas and let's face it, Christmas in this country means Shop till you Drop.

This is a dangerous place to be. Shopping when you can't afford it is just plain dumb. I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree when it comes to finances, but even I know credit is evil. Credit entices you to buy things you don't need. Credit lets you live above your means. Credit can bring families down. Credit is a vicious slave master. Don't fall into the trap.

Nobody has to spend thousands of dollars of gifts. Nobody. Not even Donald Trump, who has the money. Gifts are lovely. I like gifts. A lot, in fact. But I don't NEED things that are bought with little thought just because I'm on somebody's list.

I think that this is the perfect thought for Christmas gifts this year. Instead of reindeer sweaters and coffee table books, perfumes and golf accessories this year should be the year of need. I'm not advocating forgoing Christmas or Hanukkah. Heaven forbid! But I'm asking you to consider spending a lot less on silly stuff that nobody needs. And even more radical, if the person on your list is someone that doesn't NEED anything, donate the money you would spend on that person to a charity in his name.

Think how much easier this would be than agonizing over catalogs and websites. Instead of wondering what to get Dad again this year, donate the money instead to a local food pantry. They NEED that money to feed people. Dad doesn't need Red Sox golf club covers. He really doesn't. Mom doesn't need a spa day. Honestly, nobody NEEDS a spa day. Human beings got along just fine for thousands of years without spa days.

If everyone bought into this idea, think how much help would be donated to the people in need in this country. The unemployed, the sick, the disabled, and the abject poor. They need heat and food and clothing. You can, without much effort at all, help out by donating instead of purchasing things that won't or can't be used. After all, which would make you feel better?

I'm thinking that this should be a movement. The Needs Movement. This is the Christmas of Need. We know that so many in this country are in need. We know that the need is palpable. If you're able to help out, do so locally. In the past it was great to give to the poor abroad. But this year, this year of Need, we all need to help out our neighbors, our communities, our country. This is the year we are hurting, right here in the USA. Your food pantry, your fuel assistance program, your clothing exchange need your help. Don't forgo them for gifts nobody needs. Do the right thing.

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Blogger BJ said...

AGREED! I hope this idea blossoms into a nationwide .. nay, worldwide movement.

There are a couple great non-profits that do the same kind of work on a daily basis, but my favorite is Modest Needs. Started by a guy that found help from friends during a time of need, he started an organization that donates money to working families to help them maintain a productive life.

A blog doing similar work is Cory's "Didn't You Hear?" which donates a set amount to a charity for every blog comment.

At any rate, good work on your post and I hope it motivates others to make a difference right where they live.

20/11/08 10:25 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

BJ, I love Modest Needs and have been donating tiny amounts for years now. I think they are an incredible organization and they really make a difference in people's lives, a few dollars at a time!

Free free to pass this post on to anyone you want.

21/11/08 1:03 AM  

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