It may seems to the casual observer that the general stress level of the population rises dramatically with the consumption of the last morsel of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. No doubt a day with the moniker of “Black Friday” doesn’t imply joyful afterglow. This sudden thrusting of consumer obligation and manufactured joy onto the recently well-fed acts to counter the gluttony-induced lethargy which rebounds into panic for every second lost not completing the Christmas (excuse me) holiday shopping. As the seconds tick away while reading this, take comfort in the fact that I am about to impart knowledge concerning the acquisition of gifts, which means this is actually considered shopping! Just think of me as the latest colorful ad chock full of coupons and unbeatable deals.
Considering the state of the economy, one should strive to keep every lousy cent possible out of the hands of government, who is pretty much responsible for this mess (and by its “solutions,” will be responsible for the next one as well). This means redoubling efforts to contribute to the counter-economy. Know a friend or a friend of a friend that makes cookies or homemade jewelry or pottery or clothes or paintings or anything that may be gift-worthy? Why not purchase from them this Christmas? Sunni has a great page at her blog that lists some fine purveyors of counter-economic goodies. While there Christmas shopping, be sure to order some delicious caramels from Sunni; they are the very bestest caramels ever!
Besides buying and recieving gifts during this time, many also take the time to donate to charities. Maybe it is the encroachment of tax season (are they ever out of season?) and the potential for write-offs that drives this giving; or maybe it is simply the spirit of goodwill that can only stand to muster itself for a few weeks of the year before regressing back into paranoid tension. Regardless of the motivation, one must make a wise choice when giving.
I was recently alerted to some shadiness behind the obnoxious yellow PlanetAid clothing donation boxes everywhere. Apparently, only a small percentage of the money made from reselling the donated clothes actually goes to charitable programs; much much less than other typical charities. A web search for PlanetAid will yield articles detailing indictments and fraud with associated organizations in various countries. I looked at the Better Business Bureau’s website for Charities and Giving to make comparisons of PlanetAid, Goodwill Industries, St. Vincent DePaul Society, and the Salvation Army, the major charities in my area for clothing donation. The information from this site was quite helpful in deciding who to donate to based on work in my local area, percentage of overhead, and their mission statement. So be sure to do a little bit of research before giving to an organization, especially the government!
Speaking of charities and Christmas gifts, the two can be combined (if buying for the non-selfish, non-consumer-addled) via Redefine Christmas. This is a website that will link to a charity in which donations could be made in someone’s name for a Christmas gift. For the selfish and consumer-addled, this is like a gift card, only worse! Consider it an intervention.
Beyond shopping and giving advice, I can only advise to keep your head down and keep moving. This will all be over soon. Happy happy.