It seems like tough times are going viral these days. The recovery never really happened, pay for the working and middle class has been stagnant, and the price of everything has gone up. At my house, (and we can't be alone) the usual money stress (let's be real, every house has money stress) has been increased by an onslaught of medical bills (we are on track to meet two individual deductibles this year) and some urgent household repairs (the pipes backed up, the washer broke and had to be replaced, and a gutter cracked and must be replaced before winter), we need to save for my upcoming, unpaid maternity leave, and the holidays are coming. But still, we are the lucky ones. We have more than most.
While I could sit here in my warm bed, in my warm house, (that I am damn lucky to own) next to my employed husband, with my delightful son and my big pregnant belly and count my many blessings, I can't help but to feel a bit sad.
One of our holiday traditions, no matter what is in the bank account, is to donate to those less fortunate. We add a little to the gas payment for the home heating fund. We add a dollar at checkout for the food bank or the toy drive or the Salvation Army. We get a gift for the toy drive, hats for the homeless clothing drive, canned goods for the food bank, school supplies in a shoe box for poor kids in some hot, far off country somewhere. We share our blessings and hope that it does some good for someone somewhere, not because we are Christians, not because we are generous or wealthy, not even because we exceptional people (we're not), but because there is so much NEED in the world, there is so much MORE NEED in the cold winter months, and because in the face of all that need, we simply can't ignore it and go shopping for more gifts and stuff that frankly we don't need, without at first doing SOMETHING.
But this year, our donations will be a bit less as we tackle our financial obligations. And that's ok. I have no guilt about that. BUT, this year, the need is greater than ever. There are more children on food stamps now, during the recovery, than there were before the recession. The WIC program was suspended during the government shut down, and pay for government employees suspended, putting more strain on food banks. SNAP food stamp benefits have been cut, and the food stamp program faces even more cuts, all while food banks are still struggling to meet demand created by the recession. Many food banks will be facing increased demand as the holidays and cuts hit at the same time. If all of that were not enough, our toxic politics have politized poverty and threaten to undo so much of the good work done by past generations to fight poverty and hunger.
So this year, my donation means more than it has in years past, and I am saddened that it will not be as much.
This week I ran to the store to get supplies for my son's latest elimination diet and pick up some pasta sauce that was listed as a stock up deal on a couponing site I follow and it hit me...I could double my donation!
This year, instead of giving cash, or a check, or whatever I can grab out of the pantry on the way to church on food drive day, I am going to change things up. Instead of a dollar here and there, to this and that, I am going to pick one food bank, plan a budget for my donation, which I will then double, not by disrupting my family's budget, but by shoping smart, and using coupons to double the value of my donation. And the best part? You are going to do it with me!
That's right. I am double-dog-daring you to take up the double your donation challenge with me.
The Double Your Donation Challenge
Step 1: Set a Budget.Talk to your family about what you normally give and where. Discuss just how important donations to the food bank are this year, and set a budget for your donation. Make a commitment to the challenge by commenting here or on our Facebook page. You don't have to tell us your number, just tell us you're in.
Step 2: Double it.Follow me here on the blog now through Christmas as I give you all the tips, tools and advice you will need to double your donation, whether you are a seasoned pro at couponing, or you have never used a coupon before in your life.
Step 3: Make it Fun! (AKA: Challenge your friends!)You can't have fun in a bet against yourself, (you will always loose) but you can have fun in a bet against your friends and family! Invite your friends, family and neighbors to take the challenge with you. Bet something fun, like a dozen cookies, or a night of baby sitting, or snow shoveling. Who ever increases the value of their donation by the greatest percent wins! (You don't have to swap donation figures, just percent.) You could make it family feud style (us vs. them) and involve your kids (I have lots of ideas to involve your kids). You could take the challenge to our office and pick teams, or your school and challenge the next classroom. Or you could just give your hubby half the budget and set him loose in the grocery store and see what happens. However you do it, make it fun and get someone else involved.
We may not be able to fix the situation, but together we can make a bigger impact than if we act alone.