Saturday, December 31, 2011

Buying Locally in 2012

Perhaps the most interesting idea for thoughtful consumers to ponder for the new year is buying locally. Not only farmers markets, but small local businesses benefit from this. Consumers benefit by having access to special items that aren't available in every mall or supermarket across the country. The community benefits not only economically but also by forging links that bond neighbors together. Linton Weeks, who wrote an NPR post about the "new American localism," suggests that it may provide a new (revised from the 1960s) slogan for a bumper sticker: "Think Locally, Act Locally." Seems very thoughtful to me.

Happy New Year and thank you, readers, for your continued interest in and support of this blog!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Secret Santas

In the middle of all the usual holiday season advertising that encourages us to spend with wild abandon, and the attendant nervous speculation about whether or not we will, it was refreshing to read the following post from one of my favorite blogs, Cool Chicks from History. It's about Secret Santas:

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a nice little trend going on where people are going to Kmart and other retailers to pay off other people’s Christmas layaway. (Layaway is a program where people put aside items and pay for them a little bit at a time through the store).

In Grand Rapids, MI 20 Kmart layaways have been paid off in the last three days.

More than a dozen people have visited Bismark, ND Walmarts to anonymously pay off someone’s layaway.

An anonymous donor in Davenport, IA paid off four Kmart layaways.

Secret Santas have paid off layaways in Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, and Montana.

The phenomena seems to have started in Michigan and most of the incidents so far have happened in the Midwest. Donors have mostly asked to see lists that include Christmas toys and left a small balance, asking that the person who put the items on layaway be told that the bulk of their balance has been paid off.

Kmart, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, and Babies R Us all have layaway programs if you are inspired to play Secret Santa yourself.

If you have a little extra cash, this is a great idea for how to spend it wisely. It also reminded me of another Secret Santa opportunity which I've enjoyed in the past. The Post Office collects letters to Santa Claus from needy kids for Operation Santa Claus. Here's the scoop from their website:

We hope that you will participate in Operation Santa Claus and become a Santa's helper this year by answering one letter or multiple letters from needy children. These are children who are not asking for toys, but for articles of clothing, for school supplies, for a toothbrush or other personal care items. While toys are a lot of fun, the items on these children's "Dear Santa" list are much more basic. Please help!

Here's a link to the list of participating Post Office locations, but you might also check with your own local Post Office. After you sign up, you'll be given a letter (or a bunch of letters to chose from), then all you have to do is purchase the items on the child's list, wrap them up and drop the box in the mail (I gave the return address of Santa Claus, North Pole, of course). There's still time to give a child -- and the child's family -- a great surprise Christmas!