Dear Mrs. Riches:
Every time I turn around, someone's kid is asking me to buy something -- frozen pizzas, chocolates, gift wrap, cookies, mulch, or whatever. I get hit up at work by colleagues (including my boss) on behalf of their kids, at my home by the neighbors, and outside the grocery store. I typically buy the smallest thing in the catalog just to avoid saying no, but the selling efforts just seem to escalate. All these small purchases are beginning to add up, and I'm getting resentful. When did schools and other kid organizations turn into selling machines? I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon, but I don't need or want any of the stuff. Help!
Dear Feeling Miserly:
Don't feel like the only sucker out there. I, too, have bought the set of four plastic cups for $15 just to make the little neighborhood dears go away. I've also chowed down on more Girl Scout cookies than one self-respecting mom should ever admit to eating. You're right: The costs (and the calories) go up. The reason for all the selling? Schools and clubs always need money, of course, especially for "extras" like band uniforms and trips to Colonial Williamsburg. Who better to beg for cash than cute little kids?
But just because they ask doesn't mean that you have to be the one to give. Try coming up with your own policy for which organizations you'll help, what you'll buy, and how much you can afford to give. For example, perhaps you're an animal lover who wants to spend the $50 you've budgeted for philanthropic giving to causes of benefit to four-legged friends. When the high school lacrosse team comes knocking, you can be prepared to say, "I don't have anything to give, but I wish you the best of luck!" You're not being miserly; you're exercising your right to choose where your own money goes. When you think of it that way, it seems like a smart and responsible decision, doesn't it?
The other way you can limit the onslaught is by choosing to sponsor a particular child in your life. If you have a niece, for example, you might decide to participate in her school fundraisers to the exclusion of others. When asked at the office, politely decline and say with a rueful laugh, "Sorry, my niece Matilda has a lock on all of my fundraising dollars!"
If all of the collegial selling is interfering with work, then approach your boss or human resources department to lodge a complaint. It's likely that you're not the only one who feels the pressure, as well as the resounding crunch on your wallet. Perhaps your company will respond with a policy that limits such solicitations or puts an end to them altogether.
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