Grandma probably doesn't want another scented candle, but she could very well use a ride to the store. Your underemployed nephew would likely prefer a little help filling the pantry instead of a jokey T-shirt. And the sister who's staying home with her kids may not be able to afford any extras just now. Instead of dropping $40 on a sweater, why not put that money toward a membership to the local museum?
You've still got a few weeks to think about Christmas gifts. Make this the year when you pick presents that actually help.
Giving gifts that help
I've put together a list of items that save the recipient money or fill a specific need. Prices range from as little as $5 to upwards of $50 or more — and some of the suggestions will cost you little except time.
For a long time, GRS readers have been requesting a list of resources for low-income families struggling to get by. I haven't put anything together because I don't know much about the subject. Fortunately, I know somebody who does. In this guest post, Donna Freedman lays out the nuts and bolts of finding help when you're in financial distress.
Plenty of people who once made a good living are joining the ranks of the poor and the working poor. They need help, but they're not getting it. Some are too proud to ask. Some don't know what kind of help is available because — you guessed it — they've never needed it before. Some are simply overwhelmed or paralyzed with anxiety or shame.
We all want to think that we can take care of ourselves. Pride is a terrific thing to have — until you're looking at a sick spouse or a utility shutoff notice.<
On Friday I visited Office Depot for school backpacks at the killer price of $2.99. Along with other loss-leader school supplies, they'll be donated to a local social services agency. At the checkout, I handed over a "20% off all backpacks" coupon from an Office Depot mailer. The cash register wouldn't accept the coupon. "These are already on sale so the coupon won't work," the sales clerk said.
I noted, politely, that the coupon did not say "not good on sale-priced items." The cashier tried again. No dice. "It's not letting it go through," she said, and waited. I got the distinct impression she wanted me to say, "Oh, that's OK." But I wasn't going to say that, because my belief is that a store should honor its published offers.
She called a manager, who told me the coupon wasn't intended for sale items. I again pointed out that nowhere on the coupon did it say that. This started off a 10-minute dance between manager and consumer over what would have been a $3 discount.