I stopped at my local dollar store yesterday to pick up sandwich bags (yes, that’s about the only reason I go in there, and yes, I always end up buying more than that) and just beyond the garish Halloween displays right at the front there were… there were…
I can hardly say it, it’s so awful.
There were Christmas decorations. Stop it. STOP IT. It’s not even November yet!
Is it my imagination, or is the “Christmas season” sneaking ever-further backward? By the time my kids are grown, the season will be starting right after Memorial Day.
Anyway, it reminded me that I wanted to talk a little bit about the upcoming Season O’ Frenzy.
If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to get sucked into the whole “I must shop and shop and money is tight and rather than a joy this season is making me want to slit my wrists, right here amongst these bills” mindset. I’ve spoken here before about spreading out your gift-buying throughout the year so that you don’t end up feeling the crunch right when you’re wishing for a bit of extra cash.
I’ve also spoken before about making charity a part of your everyday life; not because it makes you a sainted person, but because it makes you a better person in your own life while helping the lives of others. I do tend to start twitching, just a little, when people talk about charity as if it’s just a holiday activity. Making it part of your everyday life is the ideal. But I can’t overlook the fact that many people find it easiest to think about (or start) in the holiday season.
My favorite holiday charity project is coming up, and I love to recommend it to others because it’s a very doable way to start giving. Stuffing a shoebox? That’s not expensive, or particularly hard, and I promise you that it’s surprisingly fun, particularly if it’s something you do with your kids. But again—there is no “one size fits all” approach to charity, and if that’s not something that appeals to you, find something else that does.
I also want to mention this deal again, both because it’s a great way to accumulate toys for donation and because Amazon keeps adding new stuff to the sale area. Whatever your favorite avenue of donation—whether it be Toys for Tots, children in Iraq, or a local organization working to provide for the needy kids in your area—there is unfortunately never a shortage of kids who don’t have any toys.
Here’s where I will try to squelch my urge to break out into a round of Kumbaya: Everyone thinks about kids during the holiday season, which is great. But most of them have parents who are lacking as well. Other adults are out there needing help, too. There are hundreds of little ways to keep charity in mind over the next few months, and I promise that it will help keep you from getting stressed out over things like whether or not you have enough cranberry sauce. Pinky swear.
Every time I post a free sample here? Order it. I don’t care if it’s not something you can use. Heck, if you won’t use it, all the better; donate it to someone who can.
Remember this coupon? It doesn’t expire until the end of January. Print out a pile of them. Every time I go for groceries or to Target, now, I pick up a free tube of toothpaste or a toothbrush. I got a few for my family, and now I’m getting extras—for shoeboxes, for my local soup kitchen, for the battered women’s shelter.
When shelf-stable foods are on deep discount at the store, stock up. You know the food drives will be starting up, soon, and no one wants the 6-year-old cans of beets in the back of your pantry. If you clip coupons, chances are that between those and store specials, you can be picking up sacks of food for pennies on the dollar.
Live in a cold climate? Our dollar stores are starting to stock hats and gloves. What if you spent your coffee money once a week on some of those, to donate? Most dollar stores also carry socks and underwear. Again, the cost to you is negligible, but it could be a bounty to someone else.
Lastly, I offer all of you a challenge, and I’ll post about it again next month: Get out there, this season. Pick a way to volunteer at least one day between now and Christmas. Come back and tell me about it, too. Last year my daughter and I rang the bell for Salvation Army one day and I have to tell you, I was prepared to hate every second of it. It was a surprisingly wonderful experience. (And a fabulous people-watching exercise, to boot, as some obviously wealthy people walked past pretending not to see us, while some people I would’ve guessed to be quite poor would stuff $20 bills into the bucket.) Soup kitchens need volunteers. Retirement homes need visitors. Hospitals need… well, I know they need people for various things. Get creative. There is the right opportunity out there for you.
Be mindful. You cannot get all worked up over everything being “just perfect” when your focus is on giving of yourself rather than on stuff. How will you help others this year?