Wednesday, October 22, 2008

PlanPutnam's Holiday Buying Guide

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the 2008 Holiday Buying Guide!

There are only 63 shopping days left until Christmas and with the economy in the tank and money short all around, you can do your part to help set things straight. It's going to be hard, but here's the deal:
  1. Spend no more than $20 on a gift.
  2. Buy nothing from China.
  3. Buy locally.
While the first is going to be tough, especially if you're a mush and give your kids whatever they demand, the second is going to be more difficult since not only do the Chinese own our personal and national debt, they also own our retail spaces, your hearts and your minds.

(And remember, you've just been saddled with another $1 TRILLION in debt, courtesy of Congress, Wall Street and the Corporations who own you.)

As to the first, now is the time to sit down with your children and explain the realities of the economy to them - no matter how young they are. Don't promise them something more "valuable" in the future in order to get over this hurdle, just let them know that you are not, under any circumstances, going to use a credit card or borrow one dime this year or put off a payment for something else, and that you must live within a budget.
Ask them: Do you want to eat? Do you want heat this winter? Then let them know that the alternative is to play with their Star-Spangled Barbie Limo or the Lego Action Set while your children are wrapped in newspaper, living in a cardboard box over a steam grate.
If they respond with a child version of a "pshaw!", take their coat, give them the Sunday Journal News and send them out into the yard for an hour or so. They'll get the idea.

If understanding is still not achieved, put them on a budget. Give them $10 on Monday and tell them that for the rest of the week they're going to have to 'pay' for whatever it is they get in the house. Fifty cents per half hour of TV Time. A dollar for a Meal. Twenty-five cents for each three minute phone call. Forty cents a day for heat and hot water. Twenty-five cents for each extra dessert. Thirty cents for each hour of Internet time. All these things cost you money that your kids never see and they should share in the decision process by deciding what's important to them. If they opt for the TV and the net, do not - under any circumstances - feed them when they run out of money on Wednesday afternoon. They can go hungry until Saturday... trust me. And if they head over to the neighbor to bum a meal, they'll at least be learning a valuable trade and a high art. Bumming is hard work. Just ask anyone who's done it.

To be sure, they'll cry and moan and say their friends have better parents and maybe even run away from home. (If they actually do the latter, you'll save the $20 bucks right off!) In the end, they will learn the value of "gifting" and the fallacy of "expensive = love". And, if they call Social Services to turn you in, just send the social worker my way. The law does not require you to pander to your children, you only need provide the basics. Bread and water. (And at the price of bread these days they'll be running a deficit by Thursday.)

Perhaps plan a "gift making party" with them in the near future where with odds and ends found around the house or at the local recycling center they can create hand-made gifts for family members and perhaps even for each other. Okay, that's just an idea, but you get the drift of where that's going...
As for not buying anything from China, aye, that's even harder. Thanks to our spending and purchasing habits, Wal*Mart, Congress, and our ineffectual unions, pretty much everything is made in China these days. However, if you buy nothing from the Chinese, we'll come in with a national surplus which can go towards paying down the hundreds of billions of dollars of our debt they own... your grand children's debt, by the way.
I really can't point you too many places where Made in China isn't going to be on the label but I can tell you this: Stay out of the malls. Especially, stay away from Kay-Bee Toys, Wal*Mart and Toys R Us. Even walking in the door supports the Chinese and worsens our collective debt. And, before you lay that American Express card down.... remember, AMEX is the devil. Honest. They will possess you. They, MBNA and the rest of the banking industry wrote the personal debt laws and you know they didn't write them with fairness or economy in mind.
Instead, what we can do is what we've done here at PlanPutnam over the past 6 holiday seasons: If you own a small business which hand crafts goods or sells locally or regionally made items, let us know and we'll advertise for you in these pages until the Holiday has come and gone. You just need to offer quality gifts for under $20 for anyone you'd buy a gift for. Children, adults, neighbors, grandparents, and me.

In this way, perhaps we can achieve several things: One, teach our children the value of money. Two, lessen our own personal debt. Three, affect in the positive the trade balance between the United States and the dictatorial regime in Communist China and, Fourth, support local, regionally based businesses that are the backbone of our national economy.

And besides, do you really want a mall in your backyard? If not, why would you encourage them?

If you need further convincing, come to the Lake Carmel Community Center on Sunday at 3PM for the Kent CAC's free showing of the movie, "What Would Jesus Buy" and join the discussion I'll be hosting afterwards.