I no longer give money to poor people or even to people who have been disaster-stricken. The last time I donated a buck help the unfortunate was after the Thailand tsunami. I regret that.
My attitude is somewhat subsidized. There are plenty of people who will give to the deserving unfortunate, so I don’t need to pile on. But I now put the emphasis on the deserving–unfortunate is not alone enough to make me care.
Here’s my latest act of charity: I didn’t reduce my Netflix subscription plan. I’m on the 3-at-once plan. They solicited me to upgrade for $1.54 a month. When I went to look at the plans, I realized they were doing some funny math. Per disc or something. Thinking about it, we don’t watch more than 1 disc a week. We have a disc that’s been here for 6 weeks, and another we forgot to send back, and another we might watch tonight 8 days after we got it. I have a Blu-Ray player that does streaming, and there are 400 movies in my streaming queue. My DVR is 40% full still after we’ve watched all we could this weekend. As homo economicus, I should reduce down to 1 disc at a time and save $10 a month, not add another $10 a month (which is what the $1.54 would really turn out to be). And Neflix is a horrible popup ad offender.
But I didn’t reduce my plan. Because I love Netflix. Their site rocks, their streaming rocks, they’re swimming upstream against sharks, and not always doing the right thing, and I want to help them out some. There are plenty of other businesses where I make similar decisions. I buy software I don’t really need just to say Nice job! I shop at local stores that have great service, just to do a little something to keep that from going extinct. I tip 50% at restaurants I love that are now empty, not because I think it will keep them in business, but just trying to encourage.
The other day, I gave my first guy with a cardboard sign at a freeway exit some money. He was selling single roses for $3 and I gave him $10.
Especially now, there are so many hard-working people getting screwed by the economy. Whether it’s Netflix or a little restaurant that can’t survive a 40% drop in business or a guy begging by the freeway who leads with providing value instead of playing the pathetic card…I love these guys.
To modify a phrase, the best way to help the poor is to help only those who are trying hard not to be one of them.
UPDATE 2016: That freeway guy is still selling roses at that exit, still leading with being destitute. I got taken.