How to say no to a Girl Scout
The cookie sale is the most visible youth fundraiser, but kids sell stuff all year. What if you can't afford to buy, or disagree on principle?
"Cookies?" she said, smiling winsomely.
"Not today, thanks," I said. "Good luck with your sale."
Her adorable face fell. Maybe it was her first "no" of the day. Or ever: Could be that no one else in the world has been able to resist that smile.
Although not completely immune (more on that below), I generally have a hard time with youth fundraisers. But not as hard a time as Kristen Daukas, who posted a pixel-blistering rant at BlogHer called "If you don't buy from my kid, I won't buy from yours."
Seems that a neighbor's kids sold Daukas $75 worth of stuff one year. Their mom reciprocated with . . . a single, $4 purchase from a Daukas daughter.
"The next year they came a knockin', I delighted in telling them that I had already bought from another Scout that year and that no, I don't need a tumbler from a high school that we won't be at for another four years," Daukas writes.
"I'm not saying you have to buy every little thing from every little kid, but if I'm buying from yours, you better buy from mine at least once or twice."
The blogger and some of those who commented on her post pretty much nailed the reasons I dislike fundraisers. Too often they're for junky products -- Daukas freely admits that she's sold "a lot of crap" -- and they're always overpriced.
Kids are urged to meet sales minimums; top salespeople get prizes like stuffed animals, pizza parties or limo rides. (Really?) Friends, family and co-workers are strong-armed into buying, particularly when there's an order sheet on display. Who wants to feel like the office Grinch?
If such sales aren't in your budget, prepare to be Grinch-y over and over: Sales, sponsorships and other money grabs flow through the workplace all year long. Embarrassing enough to admit you're so strapped, but to have to do it over and over?
Potentially the most stressful embarrassing of all: Suppose the fundraiser is for an organization with which you have some philosophical differences? It's not easy to tell a sweet-faced pre-adolescent that you can't help him because you don't like the group's policies on inclusion.
One or more of these tips may help:
Don't buy what you can't afford. Yep, it's hard to say no. Say it anyway. But say it like this: "Wish I could help, but that's just not in my budget right now. Good luck with your sale." You might be ale to avoid this if you . . .
Spread out your "giving" budget. Don't blow the whole thing on Thin Mints or the soccer league's microwave popcorn. Figure out how much you can afford to spend per year and divide by 12. If you don't use any of the money one month, move it ahead to the next. No room in your budget for fundraisers? You can soften the "no" if you . . .
Make a small cash donation. Your entire $2 will go to the school, versus a small percentage of the price for that costly gift wrap. Most of us can find $2 to $5 somewhere (even those of us who don't drink lattes). Again, though: What if you object to gift wrap in general, or to the made-in-China tchotchkes the kids get as prizes? You can always . . .
Say, "I've bought all I can afford to buy." And if you haven't? Make the fib a truth by donating to a cause you believe in.
Stopping the salesmanship?Other people probably feel the same way you do: that they're being nickel-and-dimed to death and/or stressed about feeling like the office curmudgeon. If sales are causing tension in the workplace, maybe they shouldn't be there.
Talk to the big boss or the human resources director about banning such sales, or at least setting a few ground rules. For example, band parents and den mothers could post price sheets and their email addresses but refrain from direct sales.
Before you write me off as an incurable meanie, let me say that last year I bought virtual Girl Scout cookies. That is, I sent money to a friend who dropped off the sweets at a local fire station. Her daughter got credit for the sale, and I got to avoid temptation.
This year I've done two other virtual purchases, choosing things that the sellers (my nephews) like to eat and telling their mom to keep the stuff when it arrived.
Were any of those things frugal? Nope -- just community service. In fact, I tried to make a cash donation to my nephews' cause but was told that wasn't possible -- that the school had an agreement with the sales company. Grrrr.
Some fundraisers are easier to bear than others. I do like the car washes, since they're usually "pay what you can" and you wind up with something you actually want: cleaner wheels. Last year a friend and I dropped $10 to have a high school drama/debate/forensics team give the vehicle a once-over. My own kid lettered in DDF; it was considered a sport.
Readers: What's your policy on youth fundraisers? Got any strategies to share?
More on MSN Money:
I hate these parents that set up shop outside my grocery store just about every day with thier cute little kids trying to guilt us into buying crap we dont want, it's sad and pathetic that parents exploit their own kids in that way....
I came to the store to get a steak and a few beers, dont ask me if i want cookies !
what I usually do if I run into one of these Girl Scouts is give the price of two boxes ($8) and tell her and the adults with her to give them to the mext two customers that she has... I don't need them (diabetic) and my own daughter was a Girl Scout long, long ago... Helps out a good organization, sets a good example to the girls and makes me feel good inside... a 3-fer, if you will...
I have seen little girls shivering out in the cold selling those damned cookies...and I always want to tell them to go inside. On the other hand, I am able to run past them into the store while yelling, "I'm cold...cold...COLD!"
As for selling the junk inside the office...one very enlightened manager had one simple rule about that: Don't.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
An annual cap on flexible spending accounts is increasing medical costs.