It’s not only that time of year, but as research from Charity Navigator notes, it’s largely donations from individuals (like all of us) that are responsible for keeping not-for-profits chugging along from year to year. As you’re weighing the appeals to your inbox, how do you decide where to click and when to pull out the checkbook? We’ve written before about the importance of researching the organizations you’re supporting and how fewer, larger donations, top more, smaller ones (they allow charities to do more than recoup their marketing costs). But there are other things to think about, as well. In The New York Times, writer Courtney E. Martin lays out seven that make sense to me.
Among them: Using your social capital to make an even bigger difference with the organizations you support — she suggests emailing three people in your universe to tell them about your gift in hopes that they’ll either pile on or spread the word. Remembering that the most worthy causes may not be fronted by the jazziest websites. And that giving, if not ’til it hurts, then at least until you feel it. “According to the Internal Revenue Service, those with income between $100,000 and $200,000 contribute, on average, 2.6 percent of their income, and those with income above $200,000 give 3.1 percent,” she writes. “You know who gives the most, proportional to their income? Those who make the least.”
At this time of year — no, at all times of the year — that’s worth keeping in mind.
Let’s Be Less Wasteful, Too
It’s no secret that consumer culture drives us to go above and beyond during the holidays. Ten dollars for a roll of pretty wrapping paper that will end up in the garbage? Sure! Fifty percent off of decorations that you don’t have room for on your tree? Sounds like a deal! By one get one free on turkeys at the local market for your family of two? Why not? While some of these things may be good deals, the excessiveness is taking a hit on our environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. And it’s not just materials that go to waste. Americans throw out about 200 million pounds of turkey meat just over Thanksgiving alone, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
If these stats are making you second guess buying plastic dinnerware for the party you’re hosting this week, the good news is that you don’t have to stop there. The Washington Post’s Lindsay M. Roberts offers up a number of helpful ways to cut down on holiday excess. My favorite? Using the NRDC’s Guest-imator to help calculate how much food to make for a holiday party or dinner so that you won’t overspend or have food go to waste. You enter variables like how many guests you’ll have, if they’re big or small eaters and if you’d like some leftovers or not. For more tips, head here.
Rate Of Gift Returns
In other holiday updates: If last year was any indication, a little over a quarter of all gifts will be headed back to the stores. Our friends over at Consumer World always do a great job of updating which policies are new and noteworthy. Among this year’s changes: If you buy an item by voice using an Amazon Alexa, Amazon will cover your return shipping costs. At Walmart, customers can avoid the long return lines by going on the Walmart app, scanning the receipt and then finishing the return at the in-store express lane. And, If you bought an Apple product from Target, then you’ll only have 15 days to return it — not 30. Even if you’re not subject to these changes, the tried-and-true rules of returning still apply. Avoid making returns the day after Christmas (unless you enjoy standing in line). Save and bring all of your paperwork. And, if you know you’ll be returning something, don’t remove tags or take items out of their boxes.
Annuities, In Plain English
We know annuities can be complex, but my friend Ron Lieber did us all a solid over the weekend and explained them in plain English. He helps define immediate annuities, fixed annuities, variable annuities and index annuities. He even gives you questions to ask the salespeople. And if you are wondering if an annuity is right for you, have a listen to this episode of the HerMoney Podcast, where I sat down with drag racer Elaine Larsen to talk just that.