This week's Postsecret has a couple postcards about people feeling horrible about not being able to afford gifts for their kids, and people secretly giving money to people who can't afford gifts for their kids, and I never realized until today just how cynical I am. I used to have a friend, let's call her Mildred for privacy, who could never afford gifts for her kids. She worked factory and retail jobs but the sitter took a chunk, and car insurance took a chunk, and rent and bills. But, and here's the thing I always think of when I hear about the poor (and I don't like that this is what my first thought is), she smoked the most expensive brand of cigarettes, and she went to the tanning parlor, and had her hair cut every 5 weeks, and colored, and she always had make up (and make up, in case you're a dude, is NOT cheap) and nice clothes. Or at least, expensive clothes. Leather coat and Harley boots and Victoria's Secret bras. But her kids got gifts off the charity tree at the bank, assuming people pulled the ornaments with their names on them. And they couldn't join clubs because the $1 a week meetig dues was too much, and their school clothes came from yard sales.
The economy sucks, and a LOT of people who need help are actually trying to not need help. But I know more than a few who pay for themselves first and their kids second, who budget out luxuries because they know that food stamps and charity will take care of the rest.