11/16/2011 5:26 PM ET|
7 biggest holiday money wasters
7. Donations to random charities
December is a big month for charitable giving. Scam artists and sketchy outfits posing as charities take advantage of our warm feelings during the holidays to fill their coffers.
If you want your hard-earned money to go to a good cause -- rather than to a criminal or a for-profit fundraiser, or the overpaid CEO of a not-really-nonprofit -- then you need to regard appeals for your help with some suspicion.
Here are some situations where you should really raise your guard:
- The cold call. Some legitimate charities use call centers to contact potential donors (charities are excepted from the federal Do-Not-Call list, which means they can contact you even if you signed up to end other telemarketing calls). But cold calls are also a hallmark of scammers and charities that hire expensive third-party fundraisers. Don't give your credit card number, bank account number or any other financial information to a cold caller, even if you think you recognize the charity. If you think you want to give, check out the charity on a watchdog site like Charity Navigator or GuideStar, and use its links to get to the charity's site.
- Firefighter or police "charities." If you want to benefit public servants, call your local fire or police department and ask how to do so. The departments will direct you to legitimate charities. Too many of the direct appeals you get that supposedly benefit firefighters or police are in reality scams, because the bad guys know people are a soft touch for these causes.
- Door-to-door or sidewalk appeals. There's really no way to tell if these folks are raising money for a cause or for themselves. Give them a check or your credit card number and your financial information can be misused. Besides, scattershot giving in response to these appeals isn't the best way to deploy your charitable dollars. Instead, pick a few areas where you want to concentrate your giving: the arts, say, or children's charities. Consider setting up a series of automatic payments so you'll be giving throughout the year, rather than trying to squeeze it in at the end when there are so many competing demands for your dollars.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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THE BIGGEST MONEY WASTERS IS CONGRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Liz is assuming that everyone has a family that has so much fun when they are together. My family needs a great meal with neatly wrapped packages!
I will always "over spend " on my holiday meals. Even if its the difference between 50 and 100 dollars, i would rather spend the extra 50 on a great meal with everyone's favorites. In the long run the 50 bucks isn't that much (although if you don't have it, you don't have it). We don't drink alcohol so the only real expense is the meat (turkey or ham). I buy a lot of my stuff at Costco so even the nuts are reasonable. Mash potatoes, stuffing, gravy and a lot of other things are dirty cheap if you make them from scratch and cutting up your own veggies saves a lot of money too.
I do agree with staying out of Xmas pools, secret santas and the like. My family had gone with a gifts only for those in high school or younger. I am an adult, if i need something i will buy it myself.
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