Thursday, November 12, 2009

The gift of cash, hard times, and The Shawshank Redemption

I saw this press release headline the other day:

"Nearly seven out of ten Americans plan to give cash or gift cards this holiday season". Press release here.

Whoa. Almost 70% of us will give money and plastic money this holiday? Wow, if that isn't a reflection of the tough times we're struggling through, I don't know what is.

Wait, you say - why does X mean Y? (X = the giving of money as a gift; Y = we're struggling financially)

Here's why:

We all know someone, sometimes many someones, who are really truly struggling with money these days. I have friends who are super well-educated and experienced and have been unemployed for months. In one case, a dear friend has been hunting for a job for more than a year. I have friends who are under-employed too. Their hours were cut back [involuntarily] or they took a salary cut [involuntarily] but are working the same hours - either way, their household incomes have dropped. I have friends who are having to sell their houses because they can't afford their mortgages. I have friends who are moving across state lines to seek work.

You know these people too, I'm sure. The recession is so wide-spread and fundamental that very few folks are unaffected.

But I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer about this. In fact, my attitude toward what we're slogging through is just the opposite. And I'm not saying that just because my Zoloft has kicked in.

I am heartened by the re-assessments people are making in light of reduced household income. I am brightened by the attitude shifts people are making in the face of on-going belt-tightening. When you have less money and you can't get more credit, your priorities change. Your sense of value sharpens. Your empathy opens up just that much wider to others in need ... because you're beginning to walk a mile in their shoes....

Or maybe I'm just a hopeful kind of fella :-)

I think people are planning to give cash and plastic cash this holiday season because they know that the best gift in these hard times is money. Your brother who lost his job doesn't really want another sweater for Christmas. Your girlfriend whose salary was cut by 15% really doesn't want another iPhone case. And your dad never wanted another necktie, ever, really :-)

So we're planning to give what they want - cash. I say, go!

And, self-servingly, I say, try for cash-giving! We enable you to give your cash gift "wrapped" like a real present, with an e-card and a message and pictures, all done through PayPal (so it's safe and secure).

However you do it, when you give money this holiday, you're along with the rest of us.

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