The Brand-Name Giving Plan

I've been having a running discussion with one of my students about what he should put on his Christmas list. He has all the basics covered-- the ipod, the video game chair with built-in speakers, a new belt, but mostly, he says, "I just want people to give me money."

By now he should have figured out that I'm not going to help in the way he thinks I should. I keep giving him alternative ideas. "Why do you have to have more than three things on the list?" I asked.

"Well, I have a lot of people to send it to," he told me.

"So tell them to surprise you."

"That wouldn't work out very well." (in my mind, I replaced this with "Then I'd never get what I really wanted.")

"So tell them to give the money they would have spent on your gift to give medical care to orphans in the Third World."

"I don't think that's a very good idea." (He'd debated against it at a tournament, he told me, and won.) "Besides, how much are you giving to the orphans?"

He had me there, actually. My Christmas list at that point did not include medical care for Third World orphans. But I wanted to see if there was a way to make that kind of a gift. For me, it would be simple enough to budget the roughly $20 it costs for that kind of care through World Vision, but I had another goal in mind. I wanted to develop a way to challenge my students to raise that support as well.

This is the basic outline. Make a list of all the things you buy every month that are brand-name or designer-made. Search diligently, with Magi-like intensity, for a generic brand of the same product you can live with, and figure out the difference between the two. Each time you make a purchase, substituting the non-brand item, put the money you save in an envelope and at the end of the month, or whenever it adds up to the right amount, send it in.

Can anyone see refinements that need making to this idea or similar plans that might catch students' attention?

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

That's really interesting, and just as valid and challenging for the whole church as for the youth!
I don't know how this would go over, but it could be an interesting modification to encourage them to go even a step further than just substituting generic. There are plenty of resources out there regarding teenagers and how they are courted by marketing agencies because they have the most disposable income of any demographic. (Coming to mind right now is a PBS documentary called "The Merchants of Cool" that we watched in my communications class at Hope a couple years back. They've actually uploaded it to their website for free. Still fairly freshly out of that demographic, it made me rather angry to see how advertising aggresively goes about trying to make me want things I couldn't've cared less about before!)

On that vein, it could be interesting to talk to them about using their disposable income (including Christmas gifts!) in a countercultural fashion. For those students who liked the idea of switching to generic, what about encouraging them to step back the next time they're thinking about a luxury purchase, take a couple days to decide, and then if they realize they didn't really want or need it, to donate that money as well? It wouldn't be for the purpose of villifying all spending, but for the purpose of breaking the hold that money and things can have on you.