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Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

$75 at Bloomingdales

I just spent $75 at Bloomingdales.. and prior to this day I’ve never even set foot into that store.

It’s not even for myself. One of my friends and I each got a $75 gift card to Bloomies for our assistant, who has been a LIFESAVER in more than one situation (including one weekend where he stayed til 1 AM on Saturday and Sunday helping us finish up something). $150 is a nice way of saying “Merry Christmas / thank you / without your help we wouldn’t have been able to leave the office for three days straight”… and I’m glad to do it.

I suggested Bloomies because he mentioned that he got his cufflinks from there… so I thought that it’s a place he will definitely appreciate having a gift card to.

I know that it shouldn’t matter how much gifts cost and that it’s the thought that counts, but still. Sometimes there’s nothing that expresses that thought so well than cold, hard, spendable, cash (in the form of an artfully boxed gift card).

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Mental accounting

I just received $120 from an old friend of Mom’s for my graduation. I don’t know the old gentleman (OG) very well, although my biggest impression of him is how independent he is, as a ninetysomething. Definitely inspirational.

Anyhow, the money will go into my big pool of money (well, or not so big, depending on how you look at it). I feel the need to put the entire amount into my Emergency Fund. Even though money is money – all interchangeable here – I still feel some sort of obligation to use gift money, especially from the elderly, wisely.

I came really close to buying a $50 sweatshirt today, but finally decided that because I can find equally nice and quality pieces for half the price, I really shouldn’t spend so much money (especially not OG’s gift money) on an over-priced sweatshirt.

It’s not the most rational of feelings (I doubt that OG will descend upon my front door with a disapproving frown if I used the $120 for a big sushi blowout), but I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.

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My total charitable contributions for 2006 amounted to $0. My 2007 contribution is a $25 donation to my school. Granted, I am still in college. But I have the ability to give more, especially because all my basic living costs are covered and I could forgo a meal of $20 sushi in exchange for writing a check to a charity. For some reason (conscious or unconscious), I have chosen not to donate as much as I could.

I thought about this topic when I stumbled on this post by Miserly Bastard. Although MB doesn’t reveal his exact finances, I’d venture to say that he is one of the wealthiest pf bloggers around. Given that he is an attorney and that his wife works at a hedge fund/private equity shop in NYC, their household income probably hits the seven figures. MB reveals that he only made a $125 cash donations to charity in 2006.

Why give? I decided to read on what charitable-to-charities bloggers have to say about the issue.

1. Free Money Finance regularly writes on tithing and donates his blog’s revenue to charities. According to FMF, giving will help you get out of debt. FMF says his experience “in coaching people in their finances for 15 years or so. It seems like the givers are always better off, able to get back on track easier, etc.”

2. English Major aims to donate 5% of her income to charitable organizations. She wants to make sure that her financial decisions reflects her principles.

3. Millionaire Artist continues to donate even though her income has been reduced. She writes giving forces her to appreciate what she does have.

4. TiredButHappy’s giving plan details an annual donation of $1,500, to the political organizations that she supports.

How does this relate to MB and his contributions? Hopefully I have not misunderstood the above four posters (my apologies if I do), but it seems to me that their charity comes from the fact that they derive utility in giving. In other words, people who contribute to charity derives more gratification and happiness by giving money away. For example, I contributed $25 to my school because donating that $25 makes me happier than if that money was sitting in the bank or if I bought a new wallet with it. (I hope readers don’t think I am trivializing people who give by saying that they derive utility from giving.)

According to MB, he never found charitable giving to be particularly psychically gratifying, although he is not averse to giving. Now, what incentives would there be for MB to give? Even though he doesn’t seem to be much of a giver, MB obviously has been successful at managing his finances – he is VERY well-off by almost any standards. He is a husband and a father who care about his family’s welfare (just look at this post on emergency preparation!). Like English Major, MB’s giving DOES reflect his principles (but their principles differ) – he donated to Hurricane Katrina because of patriotism, and did not donate to the Asian tsunami crisis because he decided that he owed no moral duty to help non-Americans.

Like TiredButHappy, MB contributes cash to political organizations that he supports. In his case, he gives to the NRA every year, but that donation is not tax deductible. Still, one could argue it is no less a charitable giving than a donation to the Sierra Club.

So, why would people who derive no utility from giving still give? If giving DOESN’T make you feel better, if you feel NO sense of obligation to people outside your family or community, if you are financially successful and appreciative of what you have WITHOUT giving, if you don’t have a religious reason for being charitable, why would you give? How would someone convince you to give? SHOULD you give?

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Giving on the street

Giving to panhandlers on the street makes me feel better. That’s probably why I do it. I mean, it’s instant cash in their hands, and instant gratification for me. I stop feeling bad seeing someone living on the street because I have just handed him or her a couple of dollars. (Debt Hater’s post made me think about this issue).

But really, that dollar wouldn’t do much. In the long run, better infrastructure, more education, etc (in other words, insitutional change) can help the mentally-ill or the homeless more than a dollar here or there will.

So, does this mean that I should give to non-profit organizations, and not to the homeless on the street? I should give because it helps someone, not because it makes me feel better… right?

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Giving

After reading so many detailed giving plans from bloggers, I’m chagrined to admit that I don’t have a plan for regular charitable contributions.

One of the difficulties in setting up such a plan is that I’m not quite sure what charities to give to. Well, at least I am certain that I’ll give to my school once I graduate (even though I already owe it 19,000 George Washingtons). One could argue that donating to a school that already has hundreds of millions of dollars in endowment may not be the best use of my charitable dollars. Still, it has done well by me.

There are several political and social causes that I hold close to heart – I will do some research on them and then decide how much I can give. Several bloggers have recommended Kiva.org, so I will check that out as well. A fellow blogger that I enjoy reading, English Major, aims to contribute 5% of her income to charity. I find that extremely admirable. TBH also has a giving plan and will contribute a fair amount of her income to charities.

In addition to giving money, I also want to be involved in a non-profit whose cause I support. Since I expect my job to take most all of my waking hours, I have to be realistic how much time I will have to do non-profit work. I plan to talk to some people at my school and try to participate as an young alum on a committee. Alums have helped me tremendously during my career search, so I’d like to give back if I can.

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