Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Spread the Wealth

Last year I donated a hundred dollars to a charity in the Miami Herald- Wish Book. Each day there is a story about a person or family that needs a donation. This year I donated, but instead of $100 to one charity, I donated $10 to 10 charities. This was inspired by hearing about a politician who got elected in a grass roots effort, with mostly small donations. I decided to spread the wealth around a little bit. I collected donation envelopes from charities I wanted to give to in the last month or so. I ended up giving to FIU (alma mater), the Tropical Audubon Society, the USO, Habitat for Humanity, Fairchild Tropical Garden, as well as the Herald Wish Book again. I had given to Adopt a Classroom, Water.org and St. Jude's in earlier months. Some of the charities were local, some national. All were causes I care about. I meant to do it before Christmas, but just sent the bulk of them out today. As an added bonus, I get a tax deduction. Next year, I'm going to try and keep a running list of charities I want to donate to so I'm not scrambling around at the last minute. But whether you do one bigger check, or several smaller ones- Donate! It does a body good.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Make a Plan for Christmas Shopping

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, if you are like some people who didn't participate in either event (moi), it's time to get busy Christmas shopping. According to reports, the first week of December still offers some very good deals and that is NOW! I went to Micheal's today to get a few items to trim the tree (photo above) and it was a nightmare! Shoppers were cramming the aisles, pushing to get into the bargain $1 bins and there was a long line to check out. I gave up and went home. This was partly my fault as I went at 11:30 am, prime time for late risers and people on their lunch break. The ideal time to shop is between 5 and 8 PM, dinner time. Most people avoid shopping at that time. Here are some other shopping hints to make your bargain hunting a little merrier.

  • Make a list (and check it twice). Write down everyone you need to buy for and possible gift ideas. If you are stumped ask them directly (or ask the parents for kids). Make sure if you are buying clothes, make sure you have written down the correct size. My secret weapon is a little notebook I keep in my purse. Besides my lists (one for ideas and one for items I end up purchasing), there is even a spot to hold coupons and receipts.

  • Make a budget- of how much you want to spend total and how much on each gift. Add it up and see if it works. If it doesn't, you may need to cut back. While giving is great, having to pay for the generosity for the next year will not be.

  • Go online and compare prices to find the best deals, especially on big ticket items. Sites like Shopzilla will do this.

  • Cut out or print coupons for stores or items. Bed, Bath and Beyond typically offers 20% off one item and they honor expired coupons. I keep coupons in the car, just in case. And gather your recyclable bags, unless you want a bunch of plastic ones cluttering your house.

  • Make a plan of where you are going to shop and hit stores in the same general area. Walking through the mall waiting for inspiration to strike is rarely a good idea, so know what you want and where to get it.

  • Bring your energy. Take your vitamins, get enough rest, eat well. Shopping takes it out of me like nothing else and you need to bring your A game when you shop. Take an energy bar and a bottle (reusable of course) of water so you have something to refuel.

  • Plan for the unexpected. I always buy a couple of nice, but generic items, to have on hand for people who surprise you with a gift. Candles, bath salts or soaps are good options.

  • Try to enjoy it. Play holiday tunes in your car, smile, be nice to fellow shoppers. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll finish and can enjoy a nice beverage in front of the tree.