Tuesday 8 December 2009

Tight Fist Approved Christmas Presents: Charitable Gifts

But I Wanted A Zhu Zhu Goat!

In my last two posts (here and here), I lamented the entire institution of gift exchange, especially on Christmas. Please note that the easiest way to solve your gift-giving problem is to simply announce to all your family and friends that you are giving up the practice and will not be giving gifts nor expect to receive them. Done. Problem Solved.

But no, you're not going to do that, are you? You're going to be weak and guilt-stricken and feel obligated to participate in the crass consumerism of Christmas for no better reason than you think opting out would cause other pathetic idiots to stop liking you. So fine, I'll help you out, but it is against my better judgment.

In order to devise some Tight Fist approved gifts, we have to start by getting inside the head of an irrational gift-purchaser. For instance, you might say, "Can't we just give cash?". But no, that would be too easy! Even though most gift giving is just a competition to see who can buy more useless crap, the gift giver needs to be deluded into thinking that whatever they are buying is thoughtful, and totally proves how incredibly well they know and care about the recipient. "Oh, I know Mary is really into baking! I'll show that I remembered this minute fact by buying her an oven mitt. Because there is no way that someone who is soooo into baking could possibly have a sufficient amount of oven mitts!"
This Christmas, Help
Those Truly In Need

I know Tight Fisters hate spending money, but in order to satisfy that 'Christmas is all about giving' hoopla, we're going to have to spend a little money. However, it is important that we don't have to use this money to buy into the cycle of useless consumption. Instead, why not give the money to someone who really needs it by making a donation to charity in the name of the friend/relative for whom you need to get a gift. The great thing about this is that it allows you to satisfy the 'prove how much I know about you' necessity of gift giving, and also allows you to spend exactly your desired amount. Basically, you just need to find a charity that support some cause that your friend really cares about. Still scratching your head? Here are some specific examples for friend types:

The Bleeding Heart Liberal Hippie
: Help them fight for the most important social cause of all- LEGALIZE IT! (http://norml.org/)

The Rich Right Wing Conservative: Keep the government out of their bank accounts, and hide the guilt with 'economics'. (http://www.clubforgrowth.org/)

The Tech Nerd: Holy Crap, they don't have Blackberries in Africa? (http://www.lifelineforafrica.com/)

The Sports Fan: Make their fantasy league a reality. (http://www.righttoplay.com/site/PageServer)

The Pet Lover: Show you love your dog by chopping off its weiner! (http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/why_spay_neuter.html)

Your Creepy Pervy Neighbor: Set His Desires Free! (http://www.nambla.org/)

The Development Economist: Slay middle class guilt with statistically signficant interventions. (http://www.savethechildren.org/gifts/?WT.mc_id=1109_hp_gifts_index, http://www.developmenttrust.com/sendagift.html)**

And so forth. If the spirit of Christmas is all about giving, we may as well give to people who really need it rather than giving another rich person some piece of molded plastic they don't need. And also, this avoids the horrendous experience of having to go to a mall during December, which is about at fun as gouging out your eyes with a rusty spoon.

Merry Christmas!

**As a development economist myself, I am embarrassed to say that I actually don't know which charities do programs with useful, measurable, statistically tested programs. The two links I gave above were just random. Does anyone know some good ones?


  1. Well hurry up and find some before the end of the year, or some small child in Africa is gettin' nothin' and you're getting moulded plastic!

  2. Do not give money to the club for growth.

  3. He is obviously too self-effacing to suggest a donation to the Tight Fist Foundation. Now that is money well spent.

    Barring that, www.charitynavigator.org seems good.

  4. how about that Self-Employed Women's whatever? I hear they use the statistix

  5. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/opinion/24kristof.html?_r=1

  6. There's also Oxfam Unwrapped: http://www.oxfamamericaunwrapped.com/home.php

    though I don't know how much of that goes to overhead/ making cards to send to people to make them feel good about donating.

    and a shameless plug for my aunt's org in Northern India: