Friday, January 11, 2008

Try It--You'll Like It

I manage to keep in touch with some of my former students, particularly those who will use the Internet and send email. Sometimes they send me news of their personal lives; other times they send me items they think might appeal to my sometimes skewed sense of humor. Last week I got an email from one student that floored me with what she reported. Her idea was great and I pass it along to you.

The student has a small group of friends who are single just as she is. In common with many--most?--other girls, shopping seems to play a fairly large role in her life. She and her friends were joking around about how they were borderline "shopaholics." Then they stopped joking and decided to do something about it. As a group they were going to help each other break the habit of over-shopping. And they were going to benefit others by doing so.

The girls took the money they didn't spend each week on something they didn't need and pooled it together. Instead of yet another lipstick or yet another bottle of $60 perfume or yet another pair of shoes to decorate their closets, they took the money they would have spent and put it to better use. They decided on how that pooled money could be used to help someone else. They don't just send a check to some tzedaka organization, although a few times they have done that too. Mostly they shop with the money. They scour sales all over the city and buy items that are needed by most people, but they get them for almost nothing. The items are then donated to various organizations or shules or gemachs that are dealing with families in need.

Some of their best finds? 57 baby stretchies in various sizes for $115. Children's books that they got after bargaining for 2 for $1.00--and they bought almost 200 books. Men's socks that ran them about 30 cents apiece. An overstock of kitchen ware items netted them a collection of various sized pots, 38 in all, that cost them $165 and which were donated to a kallah gemach. A clearance sale of yarn at a Manhattan wholesaler got them 400 plus bundles of yarn which they donated to the crafts programs at three elder care facilities--for 50 cents a bundle. Knit hat and glove sets for kids for $2 each. Everything they bought found a welcoming home.

As the student said, they are still shopping but it's shopping with a better purpose then just spending money because some advertiser is pushing a product.

It's an idea that might work for all of us. Before you buy something ask yourself if you want it or if you need it. If you really need it, then buy it. But if all you can say is that you want it, maybe forgo the want this time and let the money do something good for someone whose needs aren't being met.

One mitzvah breeds another. The yarn the girls bought for the senior homes? A group of women in one home used the yarn to make baby blankets which were donated to a tzedaka that helps out indigent mothers who have just had babies.

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