’Tis the season to be careful

Filed under OPINION

Okay, I’ll admit it. I am truly the Grinch who wanted to steal Christmas.

It takes me until about Dec. 23 to get in the spirit, and I only feel obligated to find gifts for children and close family.

I like to give, which is why I share with a few charities that are close to me. I like to connect, which is why I have a greeting card ritual. But all this crazy frenzy after Thanksgiving, before Christmas sale stuff truly repels me. And while I don’t want to put a damper on anybody’s sprit, I want to say that this is the season to be careful.

After all, we live in a consumer-oriented society. When we spend, other people get paid.

When we spend other people are blessed.

The average American will spend about $900 this year on Christmas gifts and toys, but that means that half will spend more. ‘Tis the season to be careful.

Be careful of charities
Some of the biggest scams come from charities. They will reach you through email, snail mail, and even text mail. They may ask for a little or a lot.

You’ve got to ask where your money is going. Some organizations take as much as 80 percent of your gift, which means that the people you want to help get just 20 percent of your money.

Before you send a penny, ask the right questions. Too many charities lean on this time of year to make their money, but if the whole truth is told, they are really leaning on this time of year to make a living.

Another scam is the garbled name scam. You may think you are giving to a worthy program, such as the Police Athletic League, only to find that you are giving to the non-registered Police Athletic Program. You may think you are giving to an African-American cause, only to find that a garbled name takes you someplace else.

Give with head
Americans want to give, and African-Americans are among the most generous, based on the percent of income we give. But give with your head and not with your heart, and ask solicitors important questions.

One of the other scams is the sale scam. If you buy it now, you will get a sale that will never, ever, in your lifetime be replicated. Retailers are playing on your greed and your panic. If you take your time, you might find an even better deal. And if seems too good to be true, it is.

Scruffy little children will come to your door this time of year, asking for money for their church, for magazine subscriptions, for all form of causes. You may want to slip the child a few pennies, but please know they aren’t going to make more than that with the magazine subscription scam, or with the church solicitation.

I suppose I am the Grinch because I am dismayed that our holiday season that supposedly celebrates the birth of the Christ child has turned into a commercial orgy with people shopping for a full five weeks.

It has also turned into a solicitation orgy with almost every organization you have ever known asking for end of year contribution. In the middle of all this drama, the purpose of the holiday is swallowed.

I hope that we will all remember and embrace the meaning of Christmas and not the crassness of consumerism.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

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