What Makes You Give Or Donate?

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Thoughty Thursday is late this week because NaNoWriMo is ending today and it’s just been that kind of week. I saw the picture above on my pal Glynnis Campbell’s Pinterest board and it made me think about what makes people open their wallet.

Kristen Lamb did a hilarious post a few weeks back called, “Why Settle For Your Reader’s Wallet When You Can Get In Her PANTS?” She talked about how tired people are of the “me-me-me”/ “buy-buy-buy” messages that we’re bombarded with everywhere. Especially this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the holidays…but I hate the focus on buying “stuff.” I don’t want “stuff” – I’m having a garage sale in a few weeks because “stuff” multiplies.

From the people I love, I want a card they personalized, something they made, even a phone call some afternoon. If their love language is gifts, I understand…feel free to give me something that made them think of me.

[Pssst… Tell my guy, I’m an absolute HO for Amazon cards. Oh, and Reese’s Pieces.]

But buying me something because this is the season of buying? Or you got a great deal? Don’t do it. Times are way too hard. Save that money for your own rainy day.

If people are struggling, get them a practical gift like a gift card to a store where they can buy food. The writers in your life are sluts for Amazon cards, just like me. But really, they’d probably be just as happy if you bought their book or subscribed to their blog.

I have a friend that has everyone give to her favorite charity or to the Red Cross. If you’re interested in obtaining writing services for your donation, there’s a great auction going on at Publishing Gives Back where agents and editors are auctioning off their services for Hurricane Sandy Relief.

Though I rarely give to panhandlers, I’ll nearly always give at least a buck if someone entertains me or makes me laugh. Take this guy on a street corner in Seattle, for example…

Homeless Surfboard

In case you can’t read his board…it says, “Need Money for WEED!”

What are your buying habits this time of year? What gift item turns you into a HO? Do you have a favorite charity? If you shop, do you hit the mall or go online? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Bonus Question: In honor of Mark Twain’s birthday today…which of his stories/novels is your favorite?


In the mood to read more? There’s a great WriterStrong post on using details to evoke emotion in your readers over at Writers In The Storm today.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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22 Responses to What Makes You Give Or Donate?

  1. Hubby and I are really cutting back this year. We did a new “live on cash” budget for 2013 and when I totalled up all the birthday and Xmas present budgets…it came to $260/month that I’d need to put aside. That really caused me to take pause. That’s a small car payment?!?! Is this how I want to spend my money? Sure, I love to shower everyone in beautiful, luxurious gifts but at the same time, we are far from rich. I figure the two most amazing gifts I can give those that I love are my time and authenticity.

    I love gift giving…when I can afford it. Right now I can’t. We took a hard look at the list and made some tough calls. But at the same time, I feel liberated and I know that the people who love us will respect us and hopefully will feel “lightened” themselves. 🙂

    The one gift I do love to buy for everyone in my life is “a night at the shelter”. For $10 you can buy a homeless person a night at the shelter. You get a little gift certificate that you can fill in your loved ones name so it says that “Hubby…you just bought a night at the shelter for someone who needs it…” The thought of a homeless person sleeping on our cold city streets (it’s get down to -30 to -40 degrees Celsius here…that’s like -22 fahrenheit) breaks my heart. That is one gift I can always afford….

    I love the idea of giving to charities in the name of someone. In year’s past, my father has taken all the money he’d spend on the kids and bought a village in Africa a goat…and one year a water pump/filtration system….LOVE IT!

    Great post Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, $260/month would be way too steep for me too. But you bought a roof for Christmas, right? I say, invite everyone over for a cookie party so they can see how nice and warm and dry your house is. Then just say, Merry Christmas everybody!!


    • Natalie – I’m going to check out “night at the shelter” right now. You may have just solve some of my Christmas gift dilemmas! Thanks!


  2. K.B. Owen says:

    Great topic, Jenny! Your Thoughty Thursdays/Fridays are the best. Hubs and I have several favorite charities, and they are based on what they do and how well they spend their money. If it’s going to telemarketer calls and glitzy promos, forget it.

    I really value handmade gifts. Yes, it takes a lot of time and planning ahead, but it’s very satisfying – and budget-friendly. I enjoy giving the dear neighbors and friends in our lives cookies/brownies/fudges at Christmas time. Our next door neighbor is a fab baker and really shares the wealth all year long.

    Now that the boys are older and the “toys” have gotten more expensive, that part is a challenge to cut back on, but we’ve cut back on a lot of other things around the holiday.

    Congrats on NaNo, Jenny, and enjoy your December!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m absolutely excited for December because, between shingles and hosting the holidays, November was kind of hard this year! I plan to wallow the entire first week and then kick things into gear. 🙂


  3. Throughout the year, each Friday night (Shabbat) our family puts coins in a container. Several times a year, the container fills and we put the money in the bank — designated for end of year donations. We sit down as a family and discuss which charities/organizations we’d like to assist each December.

    This year TechSupport will offer some of his own money to an organization of his choice. Right now, he’s leaning toward our local hospital, as he spent time there in the NICU as an infant.

    Jewish people are commanded to do mitzvot and one is to perform tikun olam (heal the world). Obviously, money is not the only way to help, but this is when we take our saved money from throughout the year and use it to help others. It’s amazing how spare coins can add up.


  4. I love giving and it’s never limited to the holidays. I hate getting and it’s never limited to the holidays.
    When I give to charity, it’s usually for childhood cancer. My brother’s girlfriend’s son passed away at the age of eight due to DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma). Ever since his diagnosis, I’ve given when I can to whatever charity wants to make childhood cancer disappear.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I didn’t know about DIPG. It sounds like a dreadful disease. One thing on your “hate getting” front – someone else is making themselves happy giving to YOU. 🙂


  5. Catie Rhodes says:

    As for donating, like Kathy, we are pretty picky who we donate to. I am not one who will add a $1 to my bill at Petsmart or the grocery store for an undefined “charity.”

    We donate to a boy’s ranch here in Texas, to the local Library, and to the local Zoo, and to the local food bank. When I start earning on my writing, I’d like to donate some of my earnings to Black Beauty Ranch: http://blackbeautyranch.org.

    We don’t give many Christmas gifts. I try to avoid the holiday spending frenzy. Often we buy each other meaningless junk that ends up being thrown away or re-gifted. I do love it when people bring me a creatively wrapped box of fudge or other homemade goodies. Every year, I say that I’m going to make up a huge batch of that southern tang tea and mail it to all my friends. But i haven’t managed to do it yet.

    As for Mark Twain, I was always more of a fan of his non-fiction writings. This is my favorite quote of his:

    “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.”


  6. Jane Sadek says:

    I’m stuck in the middle of two extremes. My mother was the sponsor of the most obscene Christmas-giving known to mankind. It was a lot of fun, but it was also sort of embarrassing. My husband, on the other hand, is the anti-gifter. He doesn’t begrudge me buying myself whatever I want, whenever I want it (within reason, I don’t show up with new Maserati’s or diamond tiaras), but he stubbornly refuses to give me Christmas, birthday or any other holiday gift. About every third year he bowls me over on our anniversary with some amazing piece of jewelry, but outside that – forget it. Finding a balance between these two is somewhat of a challenge – but who wants a boring life – right?


  7. Julie Glover says:

    I recently texted a family member about Christmas shopping: “God bless gifts cards & cybershopping!” I also don’t like the focus on getting stuff. In fact, the best present my hubby ever gave me was a love letter. That said, if anyone wants to wire me some cash, just let me know!

    Mark Twain: My fave is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.


  8. tomwisk says:

    I give on a whim. If I pass a Boy Scout troop selling candy I’ll drop a bill and tell them no thanks to the candy. Mark Twain: Innocents Abroad.


  9. I never give to anyone on the street. If they say they are hungry I will offer to buy them a meal. I prefer to donate to organizations and that is after taking the time to do a little research on how they spend their donations.

    At Christmas I will only gift to Children under 10 and when people ask why? I have only two questions: Who’s Birthday is it ? and what are you getting him?


  10. Hmmm, what makes me give? Sincerity. Someone coming to my door because they ‘live just up the street and need to earn money for college’ won’t get any money from me, but a sweet guy living under the bench at the beach, he’ll get some cash and a hot cup of coffee from me every time. Especially if he (or she) has a dog. Then I’ll usually go to the store and buy some dog food for them. For bigger donations, I like to keep it local to our food bank or I have a favorite women’s shelter I help out. Usually it’s about helping the kids.


  11. S. J. Maylee says:

    Thoughtful gifts, yes, this is my goal. For the adults in my life, that I still want to do something for, I pick a charity that is close to their heart, like http://www.seedlings.org – they make braille books for children. Each of our donations goes into making a book that we have dedicated to my hubs great aunt. She may no longer be with us, but this wonderful organization was always held close to her heart. For me, I always give to my in-laws library. They live in a small community and their little library is an impressive place I love to support. There is also toys for tots and our church’s giving tree which benefits local families. Wish I could do so much more.


  12. I set aside a sum at the beginning of the year and that’s it for the entire 12 months. Usually it goes to support people who are doing something amazing for themselves and a charity – the ride for cancer, or the walk for the cure…it varies from year to year. and I usually buy a gift for each of my grandchildren so that they know they’ve given something to someone in Africa. And I have to admit I spoil my kids and grandchidren, although this year, I’m cutting way back. trying to simplify.


  13. Like many, we focus our Christmas gifts on the little darlings who are truly caught up in the magic of Christmas/Hannukah. For several years, we’ve have asked our kids (all 7 plus spouses) to donate to a charity for us … makes for a lot less wrapping mess! I don’t give cash to people on the street but I carry Tim Horton’s coupons for coffee and a sandwich and give those out. A friend gave me that tip a few years ago and I’m still thanking her.
    And Mark Twain? Tom and Huck will always be my favourites!
    Great post, Jenny! You always generate such fab comments.


  14. Great Thoughty Thursday topic. I love giving gifts but this year my presents will be more modest out of necessity. I get just one gift for everyone (I have a big extended family) but put a lot of thought into who gets what, and start buying gifts early.
    I got some gifts from a friend who is moving and giving away all her things. I also love shopping from second hand markets. You can make great discoveries very cheaply.

    As for charities, we donate monthly to two international organizations, and I give all our old children’s clothes and toys to a local org who passes them to poor families. I also work as a volunteer pregnancy coach for twin parents to-be four times a year.


  15. I tend to donate more to the charities this time of year… everytime I walk by a Salvation Army bell, I drop in whatever change I have. St. Jude Children’s Hospital always gets a monetary donation as well. Even though our budgets are tight this year, and have been since I quit working an 8-5 office job, I still feel blessed and the need to give. Even if I’m eating Ramen soup for lunch, there are others that need things more than I do.


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