Tag Archives: Black Friday

For “Giving Tuesday,” Can I Give Back All My Free Address Labels?

Black Friday – the biggest shopping day of the year for the brick & mortar establishments – is followed three days later by Cyber Monday – the most popular online shopping day. And since you already have your credit cards out and are floating on that high that only comes from the combination of spending a lot of money and getting a really great deal, some brilliant philanthropists (and of course some savvy marketers) came up with today’s Giving Tuesday. They figure that we have one day for giving thanks and two for getting deals, so why not balance it out and create another day for giving back? And by “giving back,” they don’t mean the return line at Wal-Mart after you’ve developed buyer’s remorse.

I think Giving Tuesday is a great idea and I hope it catches on like wildfire. Especially for those people who don’t really think about charities until the end of the year tax write-off, I think it’s a wonderful way to initiate the recognition of worthy charities and hopefully start instilling a desire to help those in need, without expecting a fancy meal and a door prize in return.

Even though I completely encourage Giving Tuesday, today won’t necessarily be a special day for me. I try to be a giver year-round, not just on some new cyber-Hallmark holiday akin to Secretary’s Day. My kids will probably joke that I like to give them crap (although they wouldn’t actually the word “crap” or I’d really give them crap), but I wouldn’t hesitate a second to donate a kidney, a lung, or even half a brain if I could spare it. I enjoy volunteering my time in the community, and I even get a kick out of donating blood. And I don’t do it for the free carbs and a sticker.

I’ve never had a garage sale. I prefer to donate my gently-used items to charities, although one organization that I’ll just call Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came to pick up my bags of goods one day and instead left a note that said “Landfills are expensive.” Apparently the jacket good enough for me to wear the day before was unfit for a homeless person living in a box on a freeway offramp.

Ever since I started making enough money to eat something more extravagant than air-popped popcorn and off-brand macaroni and cheese, I’ve been giving to charities. Whether it was a Girl Scout selling over-priced cookies outside the market, a friend participating in a walk, jog, run or jump-a-thon, or some tear-jerker infomercial, my checkbook was always out. In the early 1990’s I was doing quite well financially and probably donated to 40 different charities annually. I’d send $25 to anything that came in the mail and more if the request was solicited by a friend.

But for the past few years we have been in financial dire straits, and I now have to be more choosey about charities.

The problem is, like pesky gum on your shoe that you just can’t scrape off, I seem to be in these charity databases for life. To them I’m still a potential donor left over from previous flush years, and I still might have sympathy and disposable income left to burn.

They don’t just send a form letter. What really irks me are the gilt-ridden gifts I don’t need or ask for that are smuggled along with the letter. I receive glossy photos of a malnourished child in Africa, a sad-eyed pup that’s about to be euthanized, or baby seals stuck in muck. They send calendars filled with 12 months of those plighted children, puppies, and baby seals. I get incredibly cheap-looking Christmas or greeting cards that I just pass on to some other charity. And if I had a dime for every time I got a dime from the March of Dimes… wait! I do have a lot of dimes!

Even though they may be attempting to stretch that donated dollar as tightly as possible by paying bargain basement prices on these presents, I’m concerned that they might be manufacturing these gifts in 3rd World Countries with the same horrible conditions they’re hoping to wipe out from the lives of plighted children, puppies, and baby seals.

But the most prevalent gifts are the ubiquitous address labels. I have probably received a billion of them in a variety of “Miss,” “Ms.” and “Mrs.,” “Cathy” or “Catherine,” and even some with the married names I never took.

Even though I didn’t ask for them, I’ll keep the labels and these days I probably won’t end up donating to their charity. I used to feel guilty about it, but it’s not like anyone else has any use for them. I can’t fill up a donation box of “Cathy Flynn – Valley Village, CA” labels for Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and hope that Mr. Homeless Man in a Box can find them constructive, with the exception of using them to tape up leaky holes in his habitat.

I like to use the labels for as my contact information on charity raffle tickets rather than handwrite the same lines 100 times. The money may not be going to the optimistic organization that printed and mailed those address labels, but at least it’s still going to a good cause.

Two weeks ago I donated about 20 bags of clothing to the Superstorm Sandy victims, and then gave literally a truckload of household items to our local public middle school during their Goodwill drive. We have a monthly credit card payment to our public elementary school as well as my local public radio station since I’d be a complete thief to listen to NPR as often as I do without paying something for it. And since I don’t really know today how I’m going to pay for those credit card charges next month, I’m praying that even if I’m a contributor this year, it won’t tip me over the financial cliff so far that I’ll be one of those charity recipients next year.

I guess the bright side is – if we lose the house I won’t need to worry about what to do with all those return address labels. I doubt those charities will be able to find me at my new home next door to the Homeless Guy in a Box.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Fundraising, Humor, Public Schools, Volunteering

This Black Friday I Got Everything I Wanted

At 4:00 on Thanksgiving afternoon, while the Black Friday shoppers were obsessively pouring through their newspaper ads searching for the best doorbuster deals of 2012, I was sitting down to a delicious turkey dinner perfectly prepared by my gourmet husband and eating, laughing, and shooting the breeze with 22 members of my family who I love and adore.

At 6:00 on Thanksgiving evening, while the Black Friday shoppers were mapping out their strategies on how to attack each superstore as it opened so they could scoop up the best toy or electronic product before they ran out of stock, my family and I were entertained by my 12-year old daughter who serenaded us with her beautiful voice and a Dixie cup, imitating Lulu and the Lampshade’s viral video You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.

At 8:00 on Thanksgiving evening, as Wal-Marts and Sears were opening their doors historically early, Black Friday shoppers were racing to buy $688 Vizio 60” LED Smart TVs and $39.99 Nook Simple Touches, just as I was lounging on the sofa, savoring pecan pie and watching the last two hours of one of my all-time favorite movies – Gone With the Wind – with my mom & stepdad who were staying with us over the holiday.

At 10:00 pm on Thanksgiving evening, while the Black Friday shoppers were waiting in line at Target to purchase their Xbox 360 4gb Kinect Bundles for $199.99 and Nikon L310 digital cameras for $99.99, I was cuddling next to my 16-year old daughter and her laptop, watching BBC’s Sherlock – a show she’s been dying to share with me for months.

At midnight, while Black Friday shoppers were impatiently waiting for Best Buy to open their doors so they could nab the Complete 5th Season of Big Bang Theory for just $8.99, I was crawling into bed and spent an insanely long time staring at my beautiful 6-year cherub son who, because of our houseguests, was peacefully sleeping in our bed for the evening.

At 6:00 in the morning, as Black Friday shoppers at a Sacramento K-Mart were rushing to buy half price Christmas trees, a man shouted “Calm the f**k down! Push one of my kids and I will stab one of you motherf**kers!” In the meantime, I experienced the rare luxury of sleeping in late on a Friday.

At noon, as Black Friday shoppers were driving to Sears to purchase their 32″ LCD HDTVs, for just $97, I started an 8-hours stint of raking and weeding our unruly backyard – a chore I hadn’t found time to do since this summer.

At 8:00 pm, as Black Friday shoppers were stuffing their Old Navy, Kohl’s, Gap, and other half-off clothing from the mall into their last few square inches of trunk space, I put away the garden tools, wrestled a bit with our dogs, took a long hot shower, dished out a slice of leftover pie, and sat down with my husband to watch episodes of The Good Wife and Covert Affairs that had been recorded weeks ago.

At 11:00 pm, as Black Friday shoppers were unpacking the last of their loot and adding up how much damage had been wrecked on their credit cards, I crawled into bed, read for a few minutes on my first generation iPad, and drifted off to sleep giving thanks that I truly have a wonderful life.

This Black Friday I got everything I wanted, and it didn’t cost me a dime. What I wanted was time – time with my family, time to myself, time to sleep in, time to sit back and watch a little tv, and time to do absolutely nothing. It’s a luxury I can’t usually afford.

Today I give thanks for the time (Friday), and the time (moments) after Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Humor, Kids