Give Said the Little Revenue Stream

Hawkgrrrl Asides, children, Culture, curiosity, general, Humor, Mormon, mormon, Mormons 51 Comments

Do Mormons do less charitable giving due to the commitment of paying tithing? Three months of the year, you can rest assured there will be garage sales popping up like mushrooms all over Utah. Why do Mormons enjoy selling their own castoffs and searching for “bargains” among other castoffs rather than donating these items to charity?

Anecdotally, this question came up in a work setting a few years ago. Our Salt Lake City location had a much smaller percentage of charitable contributions than our other locations. At the time, many employees stated that this was because they already donated so much time and money at church. Yet, despite our tithing and time commitments, we have been admonished repeatedly in General Conference to do more charitable work. Do members of the church feel they are off the hook? Is this part of the motivation LDS have in conducting garage sales?

So, what is the allure of selling one’s trash on the curb? Why do Mormons enjoy this past time? Here are some theories:

  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Joseph Smith was often accused of being a treasure hunter. Perhaps bargain-hunting is a modern-day equivalent. At some garage sales, it might take a seer stone to find anything of value.
  • Economic motivation. Are Mormons poor (due to having lots of kids, more single income households, and paying 10% tithing)?
  • Commitment to recycling. Mormons have been taught to “make do or do without” and to be industrious and to take care of their things.
  • Charity might not take some of these things. Seriously. That wreath you made at Homemaking? The book with the food stain on the cover? Your toddler’s used underwear?
  • Meet your neighbors. Garage sales can instill a sense of community as people sift through your occasionally too personal and sometimes disgusting cast-off possessions.
  • Kids can learn entrepeneurship. And it keeps them out of your hair for the day if they run the whole thing.

Still, every time I see a yard or garage sale, I always think that it would be better to donate those goods to charity rather than trying to make a buck by “casting your pearls before swine” (loose interpretation there). It also seems a little unsavory to me to show the world your discarded objects.

Along the lines of “good, better, best” where do garage sales fall?

  • Good – not having a surplus of goods. Teaching our kids the value of living frugally.
  • Better – “recycling” surplus goods through garage sales. Teaching our kids the value of money through a hands-on capitalist experience.
  • Best – charitable donations of surplus goods, time, and money. Teaching our kids the value of service and love.

So, what do you think? Why are garage sales so popular among Mormons? And is it better to donate to charity than to hold a garage sale? Do Mormons donate less to charity than non-Mormons? If so, why? And just for kicks, what’s the most repellent, kitschy or perplexing thing you’ve ever seen offered at a garage sale?

Comments

comments

Comments 51

  1. Why are garage sales so popular among Mormons?

    Because Mormons are human – and cheap. They are no more popular among Mormons than any other cheap people.

    And is it better to donate to charity than to hold a garage sale?

    Yes. We regularly give what we might sell at a yard sale to a homeless shelter for families in our area. They need what we clean out much more than those who drive by and just want to save money – and I want my children to learn that there are plenty of easy ways to help the less fortunate.

    Do Mormons donate less to charity than non-Mormons?

    Nope, significantly more. You can’t exempt Tithing and Fast Offerings and the PEF and Humanitarian Aid and all other contributions to the Church from this discussion. That’s making it an apples to cucumbers discussion.

    What’s the most repellent, kitschy or perplexing thing you’ve ever seen offered at a garage sale?

    I’ve seen too many to want to revisit those memories. I avoid yard sales like the plague.

  2. Because people with pioneer ancestors are largely cheapskates, skinflints, misers, etc. I think it’s genetic. Compared to my ancestors, I’m a spendthrift. Compared to other people in general, I’m a cheapskate. Even my daughter, who has never seen a pair of shoes she didn’t want, is suddenly displaying some cheapskate qualities.

    I find garage sales too much of a hassle, but do sell old computer games and movies on eBay. I then buy many computer games on eBay (and many movies from the used dealers on Amazon.com.) This has become self-funding which means I don’t have to justify to myself why I’m spending money on such frivolity. (Besides, there is a weird satisfaction knowing that someone else is getting a bargain.)

  3. Garage sales? Really? I admit that, other than BYU, I’ve never lived in Utah, but in my Southern California and New York and Virginia homes, I never saw Mormon garage sales (and I pretty much never saw non-Mormon garage sales, either). Are garage sales popular in Utah? How about other places? I’d be curious if they’re a regional or a socioeconomic phenomenon; in my experience, however, they are not a particularly Mormon one.

  4. As to your questions:

    (1) I don’t know that they are.

    (2) I’d rather donate to charity even than to sell something on Craigslist or eBay. Of course, the Salvation Army place is only about 4 blocks from my apartment, so it’s fairly easy, too.

    (3) The numbers I’ve seen suggest that Utah has one of the higher percentages of charitable giving in the nation. Of course, roughly 10-12% of that is probably to the Church, but that is, as Ray points out, still charitable giving. It may not make the United Way happy, and I do believe we should be charitable both through and outside of the church, but nonetheless, I think my people is a charitable people.

    (4) I really, honestly, haven’t been to a garage sale in the last 20 or 25 years; before that, I was younger than 10, so I don’t remember if I’ve been to one and, even if I had been, I’m not sure I’d have had the taste necessary to evaluate kitschiness.

  5. In my wife’s family, as her step-brother told me, you can get away with skipping church once in a while, but you better not try to skip out on garage sales Saturday morning!

    They have truly made an art form of buying from garage sales in my family. I married into it, and held my own Utah garage sale last week. It was nice to offload some stuff. I’ll be honest, it was the first time I had been on the selling end. Most of our street (mostly jackMormons) participated, in fact, we went along with the scheme to be neighborly. It did bring the neighborhood together in a way usually only natural disasters do, there was a lot of exchange, and our “buy local” types could feel good about themselves.

    Of course, Deseret Industries ended up with all of the stuff we couldn’t sell by the afternoon anyway. I usually donate our stuff to DI, and I assume donations in kind are pretty common around here, there’s always a line of cars to donate stuff when I drop off items.

    Two reasons Mormons love garage sales:

    1. No Sales Tax! You keep the evil gub’ment out of the transaction.

    2 You can display your commitment to Mormonism (or do missionary work) by the items you place for sale. My wife’s BYU texts on the D and C went fast, as well as my copy of B.H. Robert’s A Study of the Book of Mormon and a biography of Sterling McMurrin. I occasionally cruise garage sales looking for pre-Correlation church publications, the ones that actually list an individual author.

  6. Gar(b)age sales is what I call ’em. Would rather skim or post classifieds rather than wasting gas and time surfing sales. We hosted a multi-neighbor gar(b)age sale a few years ago, and I think putting tags on everything, organizing, posting signs, and then hanging around to waste a Saturday morning just to make back a hundred bucks I now prefer to donate useable items to charity and write off the value. Anything of high residual value I’m prone to post a Craigslist or eBay ad.

    When I volunteered in humanitarian services and heard from regional managers of DIs, they spend tens of thousands a year just to haul donations off to the junk, because that is what so many people consider “charity”: something that has no residual value. I used to do the same thing.

  7. I wonder how the gas price hike is going to affect garage sale junkies’ habits. Maybe fewer people will make the effort to ride around looking for “deals” because they’ll realize they are spending $10-20 on gas, sacrificing time with family doing more recreational sorts of activities, and all for what? knickknacks, books they’ll never read, albums they’ll never listen to, and clothes that don’t fit perfectly. Of course, garage sale-ing is an addictive habit (I know a few women in our ward who cannot stop, and who spend prodigious amounts of money each month “saving” on “deals”).

    In terms of charitable giving, I would say we are a generous people overall. I feel a twinge of guilt when I pass up contributing to the various funds and stuff that get passed around the office, or that show up in supermarkets or even at the door. I simply can’t afford to contribute more than the 11% of my income than I already am (tithing + offerings). I take heart in the recent conference talk by Bishop Burton (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-851-18,00.html) as I contemplate my charitable contributions’ effect on the world at large, and like to think that my tithing dollars are going toward humanitarian aid more than toilet bowl cleaner for the meetinghouse.

  8. I’ve often liked the concept that every person can be a philanthropist. I also like the thinking that charitable giving is a conscious and joyful stewardship.

    “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.”
    Andrew Carnegie

    “My father used to say, ‘You can spend a lot of time making money. The tough time comes when you have to give it away properly.’ How to give something back, that’s the tough part in life.”
    Lee Iacocca

    Even when LDS and other Christians practice some version of the OT principle of tithing, it becomes less useful if it doesn’t become a “serious and difficult task of wise distribution.” Charitable giving, indeed philanthropy, is very satisfying when it is something planned for, thought through, and sacrificed wisely to further causes about one is personally passionate. It is less satisfying if it becomes a tax, an obligation, a guilt-driven or thoughtless alm, or a perceived requirement for favor with God and his earthly representatives. I argue there are many people, including LDS tithing payers, who are acting charitably by giving away money, but if they are not demanding or monitoring accountability — in which the LDS church programs need some serious reporting improvement — or consciously being good stewards of their donations, then they may not be effecting the causes they care about as much as they hope.

    And, of course, one of the best ways of effecting the causes about one is most passionate is to volunteer one’s time, heart and passion.

    “Philanthropy is all about making a positive difference in the world by devoting your resources and your time to causes you believe in. In my case, I like to support causes where ‘a lot of good comes from a little bit of good,’ or, in other words, where the positive social returns vastly exceed the amount of time and money invested.”
    Jeff Skoll

  9. “Philanthropy is all about making a positive difference in the world by devoting your resources and your time to causes you believe in.”

    So, JfQ, if believing Mormons contribute to the Perpetual Education Fund and the Church’s Humanitarian Aid fund, they are true philanthropists – because they believe in those causes. Rught? 🙂

  10. Do [LDS] donate less to charity than non-[LDS]? If so, why?

    Ray is correct that it’s unfair to take tithing, fast offerings, and miscellaneous donations ad nauseum to the LDS church out of the “charity” category. I’d expect that when you duly consider all that LDS members give (or are expected to give) to the LDS church, LDS members come up near the top of the heap for charitable giving as a percentage of income.

    Your question, however, seems to address LDS giving to charities which are not sponsored by the LDS church. Aside from wealthy philanthropists such as John Huntsman, my experience is that many LDS members simply don’t trust charitable organizations which are not directly sponsored by the LDS church. They honestly expect that other charities are corrupt, and that their donations would merely enrich the pockets of those in charge. In addition to this, there have been general authority speeches which criticized LDS for choosing to direct their charitable giving outside of “the Lord’s way,” i.e. through established LDS priesthood channels. Granted, some of these statements were limited to the issue of tithing, but they still promoted (intentionally or not) that the LDS church was the “proper” way to give.

    As an example of the “exception proving the rule,” years ago the LDS church held a special fast day for Ethiopian famine relief. LDS leaders chose to direct those funds through Catholic Charities, a reliable, trustworthy charitable organization which was already well organized “on the ground” in Ethiopia. As a result, LDS leaders had to make a public statement justifying the decision to members, because at the time, it was virtually unthinkable that LDS fast offerings would be handed over to a non-LDS charity for distribution and management.

  11. Sam B.

    I live in the Kansas City area and have been on both sides of the state line, Kansas and Missouri. Garage sales are HUGE! out here, nothing Mormon-centric about it. Neighborhoods advertise and coordinate weekends so as not to compete with each other. So it’s not just a Utah or Mormon thing in my observation.

    My wife and I do both, yearly take the kids through their stuff and they pick out what they want to donate. And about every other year, we either hold our own Garage Sale, or combine a few items with another family. We try and help our kids understand about the PEF and the Church humanitarian aid but we do local stuff too like a sub-for-Santa, etc…

    I wonder if I might propose another Good Better Best
    Good – I pay my tithes and offerings… that’s all I need to do
    Better – In addition to my tithes and offerings, I contribute to the missionary fund, the humanitarian aid fund, the Perpetual Eductation Fund, etc…
    Best – In addition to the Good and Better options, I find ways in my local community for my family to contribute outside the church structure, and encourage my other ward members to do the same…

    something along those lines.

  12. Ray (10). Yes, I agree. Definitely! I’d like to see ‘philanthropy’ a word with which more ‘regular’ people personally identified.

    I do think it would be good to see LDS reporting improved — and especially for helping donors to know what percentage of donations are trickling down to ground level action(s). Nothing helps dispel the “I gave at the office,” guilt-driven, or tax mentality quite as well as getting information reported back, both financial numbers, as well as real-life stories. World Vision, for example, manages to keep overhead draw at less than 15% of total revenue. IOW, that’s 85% or more of revenue gets out to benefit people. That’s quite a good ratio. I get a yearly report of where my donations are going. Also at my local church we get an annual report of where our income and expenses are going.

    I think it would help immensely for LDS members to be able to get that kind of detailed reporting back for the resources they so generously donate, locally, corporately, program-wise, whatever. The PEF is one of the most important programs that Pres. Hinckley instituted — truly one of his changes that decades from now could be one of his most profound legacies, especially that it is reported by the PEF that 100% of donations go toward loans. Yet one of my associates, who has been a HUGE contributor to the fund, hasn’t ever received a report as to how much money the fund has, where its overhead expense values are being absorbed, what are outstanding balances to be repaid, interest income, maturites, etc. Detailed reports, for both large donors, as well as small donors, should be better available from the LDS Philanthropies programs. Instead, a general funding goal of “250 million” is reported at the PEF website and other limited data are years out of date. Don’t supporters deserve to know how well PEF, for example, is reaching its goals, if they so desire?

  13. Nick (11)–

    Excellent point. I think the results of that Ethiopian fast was a great way to break the ice for reshaping LDS church humanitarian works. Since then the church regularly uses other, larger, better established charities to distribute its aid. I’ve met many LDS who are not aware of this, but I don’t see that former stigma that they partner in this way for humanitarian causes. For example, the best effects happening in Myanmar right now are by organizations — like World Vision — missions and ministries who have been established in Myanmar/Burma for decades, and don’t have the political baggage and barriers other relief orgs are experiencing.

    Some of DI’s surplus, like clothing, for example, is actually resold to other organizations, which while seeming strange that they just don’t re-donate materials like that, makes sense to generate revenue which could be used toward other programs where the church has the resources and infrastructure to better effect an outcome.

  14. I think Latter Day Saints give less to charity on the whole because they feel they have given enought through Tithing. My gran used to teach that to me as a kid. 🙂 Nevertheless I think LDS are a very charitable people.

    I think having a garage sale is more ethical and industrious then just throwing the stuff away.

    The weirdest thing at a garage sale?? I think it was a used thobe (Saudi male dress) when I was in Saudi Arabia.

  15. OK, I will comment on the worst thing I have seen at a garage sale – and nobody will be able to top me. (If someone can, PLEASE don’t share it.) I will apologize in advance, Hawkgrrrl, but you asked.

    I once saw a box of tampons on a table at a garage sale. I didn’t bother to ask.

  16. Tampons at a garage sale. That’s pretty bad. Perhaps the homeowner had just gone through menopause.

  17. Zionssuburb (12): Ah the question of “need to do” and “best to do.”

    Then we have the example of Jesus in Matthew 19 who tells the young rich man to sell all he has and come follow him. Jesus may have just been answering in hyperbole, showing how the young man was too materially focused to commit to spiritual enlightenment. We may see an indictment by Jesus of those who think that material actions are a way to get into heaven, of those who think there is a level where material actions are required or sufficient, when it may quite be that no heavenly reward exists for material sacrifice, per se. We may see Jesus describing how great sacrifice is required to follow Him, which may differ from person to person (Matthew 19:28?); in this case for this person it was complete material sacrifice.

    A bit of a puzzler, to be sure. On the other hand, we do see the christians in Acts who were sacrificing far more in living their faith than most of us are comfortable. Jesus has given us no certainty of knowing whether what we do that is good is really good enough . . .

  18. Fwiw, I had a friend who told me once that he pays tithing to fulfill his duty; he pays fast offerings and makes other charitable contributions to participate in God’s work and further God’s glory. He does one because he feels he needs to do it; he does the other because he wants to do it.

  19. Oh geez…. Garage sales are now evidence of a lack of charity?

    What Pharisaical nonsense.

    You really see a garage sale and are disapproving?

    Talk about being judgmental.

  20. “Garage sales are now evidence of a lack of charity?”

    Just out of curiosity, who said that? I just went back and re-read every comment, and I didn’t find it.

  21. Here in southern Cali there are people (I think they’re real estate agents) who organize neighborhood/tract garage sales. They make big banners and everything. I’ve never checked out any of the garage sales because I live next to a community college that has a swap meet every weekend. You would not believe the garbage people will try to sell at a swap meet. And I mean quite literally garbage.

    I find old cameras and vinyl records there often.

    My mother-in-law, who is LDS, held a garage sale once and felt so guilty about the money she made she donated it to the church and never had one again.

    As for donating to charity, I think most Mormons feel they’d rather donate via the church, an institution they trust, than to some other organization they may not know much about.

  22. I just re-read Matthew 19. I reflected on something I’d never quite thought of this way before this thread. Maybe Jesus is endorsing garage sales. He tells the young rich man to sell all he has and give to the poor. Garage sales as stepping stone to spiritual enlightenment. . . You heard it here first. 😛

    And you have the practical benefit that cash eats up less centralized capital resources to distribute than a truck full of old stuff (even if it’s not junk) dropped off at the local DI or thrift. Maybe Mormons are on the cusp of the thrifting version of microloans. I’m imaging the next thing we see in LDS Living is a new LDS upstart called LDSgaragesales.com 😉

  23. JfQ: “Then we have the example of Jesus in Matthew 19 who tells the young rich man to sell all he has and come follow him.” I forgot about that example, but basically, Jesus was commanding him to have a garage sale. Right?

    Lisa Ray: “Perhaps the homeowner had just gone through menopause.” Hilarious.

    Cicero: “Talk about being judgmental.” Uhm, did you miss the point of blogging?

    Weirdest thing my son ever brought home from a garage sale was a phone shaped like an orange hand holding a basketball. It didn’t work and was hideous.

    I often wonder if the way we donate to the church removes us too much from the act of charity. Writing a check is not the same as serving soup in a homeless shelter, for example. I agree it would be nice to have more detailed reporting on how the donations benefited people. Charities like those for child abuse, elder neglect, the homeless, and to help impoverished nations also do important, valuable work. I sometimes worry that we are too insular in our charitable giving.

  24. Hawkgrrrl (25):

    Funny. We were having the Jesus-endorsed-garage-sale at about the same time.

    I like what you said about insular charitable giving. It definitely is inefficient to use one organization to middle-manage charitable giving where it is possible — and not at all difficult — and definitely more personally empowering and fulfilling — to research oneself to find stable, effective, and trustworthy charitable organizations. OTOH, I think you are right that the most insular thing we do is to write a check, so someone else can do the work, where taking action like serving soup locally might actually benefit more people for the act — like the Jeff Skoll quote above “a lot of good comes from a little bit of good.” Certainly supporting others who are doing good work, like Myanmar relief, is a good thing, because we can’t do the work ourselves. But often those high profile needs are more enticing to be drawn into supporting when donating effort and money to a local need just seems less grand and needed.

  25. #22 Ray: Original Post:

    “Why do Mormons enjoy selling their own castoffs and searching for “bargains” among other castoffs rather than donating these items to charity?”

    “Still, every time I see a yard or garage sale, I always think that it would be better to donate those goods to charity rather than trying to make a buck by “casting your pearls before swine” (loose interpretation there). It also seems a little unsavory to me to show the world your discarded objects.”

    The above are clearly using garage sales as evidence of a lack of charity.

  26. “I often wonder if the way we donate to the church removes us too much from the act of charity. Writing a check is not the same as serving soup in a homeless shelter, for example.”

    Amen, sister.

  27. Cicero, I don’t read those quotes as “evidence of a lack of charity”. I simply see a good question about how much we think about options and the results of our choices.

  28. Cicero – In my defense, I did consider garage sales in my “better” category in the post, ranking our charitable efforts (making them less charitable than donations but not uncharitable). In your defense, I do find them unsavory and tacky, which is judgmental on my part.

    To Ray’s point, I wonder if we, as Mormons, feel like we are all used up and have no more to give. We’ve consecrated so much time and money to the church that we don’t have time and energy left for other types of charitable giving. OR conversely, maybe we are accustomed to the type of charity that doesn’t involve getting our hands dirty (we write a check instead). OR we only help our own (e.g. church welfare is a more trustworthy institution to us than local women’s shelters).

  29. Sigh.
    Re: “So, what do you think? Why are garage sales so popular among Mormons?”
    I live in NoCal and there are 3-5 garage sales within 4 blocks my house *every Saturday* from Spring to Autumn on every clear day. How many of them are Mormons? Exactly zero. How many Mormons in my ward (a few miles wide and long) have garage sales every year? Maybe one. Not scientific, but just as reliable as the “driving around” polling method.

    Re: “Our Salt Lake City location had a much smaller percentage of charitable contributions than our other locations.”
    Again I see the SLC/Utah = Mormon presupposition here. If there were anything in the “bloggernacle” I would change, is that.
    I don’t know which charity you’re talking about, but I’ll assume it isn’t Deseret Industries.
    Were other possible factors taken into account? Like competition between charities? Maybe there are more charitable orgs per capita in SLC (due to “additional” church-run ones like DI), reducing the overall donation rate at yours.

    Re: “Still, every time I see a yard or garage sale, I always think that it would be better to donate those goods to charity rather than trying to make a buck by “casting your pearls before swine” (loose interpretation there).”

    The largest charity of this sort (that accepts donations of goods) in my area is Goodwill. I imagine they throw away 90% of what they get because it doesn’t have immediate resale value, or because it would be too expensive to refurbish for resale (not talking broken, just needing polishing, tightening, cleaning, etc). I’ve seen them filling trucks with donated goods to go to the dump.

    Let’s take this case: a shirt (that no longer fits) with a missing button.
    If I give it to goodwill, it will go to the municipal textile recycling center and broken down into component cotton fibers. They won’t take time or effort to put a button on it. I get to feel good because I gave it to a charity. I can cut out the middleman by just putting it in the recycle bin, and the city takes it away.
    If I sell it at a garage sale for $.25/pound, someone who has very little to spend on clothes may buy it, and combined with their labor (to replace the button) have a shirt that might have cost them 20x more at a low-end retailer. I spend 4 hours of my life at the garage sale and got $.25. That’s not really a “capitalist experience” worth repeating. The buyer, on the other hand, spent just as much time shopping as at a retailer, but spent 20x less money.

    So which situation is better for the most parties involved here?

    Even if the shirt had a button, and Goodwill decided to re-sell it, they’d charge $1-$2 — 4x to 8x what it would go for at a garage sale.

    Re: “And is it better to donate to charity than to hold a garage sale?”
    Better for whom?
    Better for the donater/seller’s soul? Debatable. Maybe they are learning to love God and their neighbor this way. Maybe not.
    Better for the donater/seller’s finances? Unknown, it depends on what is donated, how much the tax deduction will net at tax time. Income from the garage sale could be similar to tax savings on items (since you can deduct more item “worth” than you’d ever get at a garage sale).
    Better for the recipient’s finances? Debatable. If the goods were given via the charity, rather than purchased then probably yes. If the person had to buy the same donated item at the charity store, then maybe not. I know in my shirt example (but without missing buttons), I’d pay a lot less for a shirt at a garage sale than at the Goodwill, which is in turn less than the retailer.
    Better for people who make a living running charities? Absolutely. Without a steady stream of goods to resell or give that they haven’t had to spend money on producing or acquiring, the charity wouldn’t be around.

    Re: “Do Mormons donate less to charity than non-Mormons? If so, why?”
    I assume by that you mean, “to charities that are not church related.” Maybe. My tax software keeps telling me I donate more than 2.5x the national average for my income bracket in charitable donations, both monetary and non-monetary. I’m a data point of one, but without my church-related contribs, I would probably be close to national average. I think I’ll take a year off of church donations, but keep my others tha same, juts to see. 🙂

    If they do give a lower overall percentage to non-church charities, it could be cause everyone’s charitable giving is done by their own personal priorities, and they “believe in” the church charities’ missions, goals, and methods *more than* other orgs. For example, I know that when I give the bishop $X via fast offerings for a family in the ward who’s needy, 0% of that is administrative overhead, and it goes to the family immediately. When I give $X to UNICEF, 12-14% of that is administrative overhead, and I’m prioritizing efficiency over national name recognition.

    If in all their charitable giving, do Mormons give a greater percentage to their church-sponsored charities (perpetual ed, humanitarian, deseret industries, local fast offerings, tithes) what’s less-charitable about that? I know people who are passionate about AIDS/HIV research who don’t care a fig about diabetes. I’m not going to tell them their AIDS charities are less worthy than diabetes charities and can’t be counted as “donations to charity.” I won’t tell a Catholic that when they are giving to Catholic charities or soup kitchens, they are “donating less” than to my favorite ‘community charities.’

  30. I know that when I give the bishop $X via fast offerings for a family in the ward who’s needy, 0% of that is administrative overhead, and it goes to the family immediately.

    Not really; that’s not how fast offerings work, but that’s a story for another day. In fact, the church has quite measurable overhead, but they don’t publish it. (I believe every non-profit should publish full financial reports, so I’m not just picking on the church.)

  31. N. – Just to clarify on the example about our SLC location’s charitable donations being lower, my company does a dollar for dollar match on all charitable donations to NPOs that are submitted through a centralized tracking system. When we polled employees to ask why donations were low, many gave the “tithing” reason. It wasn’t based on a supposition that everyone in SLC is Mormon. Specific individuals said it was why they didn’t do other charitable giving. But, I’m happy to report that we really did increase “tracked” charitable donations by getting people involved in local charities such as mentoring disadvantaged kids, women’s shelter drives, etc.

    As to the donations to “Goodwill” etc. being thrown out, we have been asked in our area to make more donations to Deseret Industries (which is pretty far from where we live, so they gather them at the church, also not very close by) because one of the most important parts of what DI does is provide employment to the disabled and disadvantaged. Sorting through the good and bad donations is valuable work. I have also seen workers’ eyes light up when we’ve donated something really good (I’m pretty sure those things never hit the shelves, which is fine with me!)

  32. I’m sorry I don’t have time at the moment to read all of the comments (I’ll go back later).

    I’ve heard the argument before that Mormons (or Christians in general) should donate rather than have garage sales. I can see that point, but it seems shaky ground. Since when did selling something I no longer have use for become greedy? To take it to the extreme, should I donate my car when I’m done with it instead of donate? How about my house? Of course there’s a difference between my car and my random junk, but the principle is still the same. Thrift is a virtue usually promoted in the church. If I can buy something for $100, use it for a few years, and then sell it for $10, it really only cost me $90 (ignoring complications like inflation). So it’s like if I find something for sale 10% off. Am I greedy if I buy something on sale and fail to donate what I would have paid to charity?

  33. Ok, after reading the comments I have to agree with Cicero (#21) on this one. Although I can’t go too hard on the author because I have pet peaves of my own.

    The Good, Better, Best discussion is a good one with many useful applications, but it can be abused when we start talking about how other people should live. There are literally countless number of ways how each of us could be making a better choice than we are currently making. Do I really need a TV? Do I need a computer? Why did I buy them instead of giving that money to charity? If I buy a different car, should I sell the one i have or give it to charity? But do I really need a car at all? Should I let homeless people stay in my guest room? Why don’t I move to a 3rd world country and use my resources to help starving and sick children first-hand?

    So it’s pretty easy to drive by a garage sale and think, “Why don’t they just give it to charity? They don’t need the money.” But it’s much harder to look at our own lives and see what small (or large) things we could be doing better to help those around us.

    Again, I didn’t mean that to sound so harsh, and I know we all are judgmental about some things. I guess I’m judgmental about being judgmental about garage sales.:)

  34. I have had chats with neighbors at garage sales that I would never have met otherwise. My kids LOVE going to garage sales (passing on those cheapskate genes). One neighbor showed up at our house a YEAR later to give us a battery pack that went with a remote controlled truck that my son picked out at his yard sale. We were surprised, to say the least.

  35. I have no input on garage sales, or what they mean with relation to our giving habits at large. However, I do know that my efforts to get Mormons I know to donate to charity have been frustrating. I currently serve as the President of the Board of a small women’s shelter/outreach center in So. Cal., so I am always trying to hit folks up for dollars and time — if you’re interested, I’m more than happy to send you the info :). Too often, I get the “I gave at Church” response from my LDS friends. I can’t be too critical because they did, in fact, donate to a cause they believe in. At the same time, however, I think we too often use that as an excuse to put additional dontations out of mind (i.e., giving fast offerings “checks the box” for charity). I’ve often considered the idea of reducing my monthly fast offering, then donation that excess amount to a different organization. Anyone ever tried that?

  36. My personal belief is that whatever you donate charitably always comes back to you somehow. You never miss it anyway. That’s not so much a religious belief as it is a personal mantra, like “you never regret the calories you didn’t eat” or “if someone is pushing you to do something urgently, you should always slow it down” or “little ears have big mouths.” Just some of the things I tell myself to promote better behavior.

  37. “Could you count going to someone’s yard sale as their home teaching visit for the month?” I’ve counted a good deal less than that as VTing.

  38. My advice: Hold a New Year’s Eve party with your HT/VT families. If it goes past midnight, you’ve knocked off two months with one party.

  39. Shawn, As long as you are contributing the amount of the fasted meals, I see nothing wrong with taking the “over and above” and donating it to any charity about which you feel passionate. In my view, tithing and the minimum fast offering is the starting point for Mormons. Whatever you do with the “extra” is totally, 100%, completely and in all ways fully up to you.

  40. Rigel, now that I think about it, couldn’t you do that every other month on the last/first day of the month? If you hedged just a bit, you could do it on the last Friday night of every other month. That would be six parties per year.

    Think I should suggest that to my Stake President next Sunday when I see him?

    (Just for the record, so I don’t become an offender for a word . . .)

  41. A good alternative to yard sales, etc for stuff that’s usable but not great is freecycle:
    http://www.freecycle.org/

    My friend worked for hours on his moving sale recently– cleared $70 on it. He says everyone wanted to dicker him down, and it was totally not worth the work.

  42. FWIW: We recently participated in a neighborhood garage sale. My wife and I spent two days cleaning out closets and moving furniture, all for $30. Never again!

  43. Agree with Shawn! If someone is willing to waste two days of their time cleaning, organizing, setting out all the junk on the lawn, sitting in the hot sun all day haggling with strangers, ending up at the end of day begging people to take the leftovers for free, and then showing an end profit usually less than 2 hours at the office…I would suggest that a Yard Sale is nothing more than a sad hobby.

    In my experience, Utahns have absolutely no idea how to conduct a true yard sale. They certainly can’t hold a candle to Wisconsin and Illinois who have reached God status when it comes to organized street sales. (shut down the whole neighborhood to traffic and come complete with carnival rides, popcorn and raffles…NO JOKING). However, as a missionary, it was the ultimate dream tracting day! One could rack up all those contact and invite stats while bartering for a nice cheap skirt or blouse, and once in awhile even snag a call-back appointment. 🙂

  44. I’ve had great pleasure doing the following type of garage sale:

    – Everything’s free; please take it away.

    I’ve set out lots of things on my driveway, all labeled “Free!” and just walked away. Sometimes it takes minutes and sometimes it take a day or two, but all that stuff disappears. Playsets, TV cabinets, toys, dressers, electronics, etc.

    I spent only enough time to put it outside, and I made as much money as I would have if I’d tried to nickel and dime people for it. Someone directly benefits; I don’t have to haul, store, or babysit anything; it’s all win-win in my view.

  45. I give to DI instead of having garage sales just because I would hate to sit in front of my house and try to convince someone else to buy my cast off items. I don’t do it because it makes me feel more charitable than having a garage sale.

    Our young mens/young womens groups do a fair amount of service work that is frequently aimed at non-members. My son just completed his Eagle Scout project which was service aimed at a community and not necessarily an LDS crowd.

    Doing baptisms for the dead is initially doing service works involving time and effort instead of money for non-members…at least until the ordinance is performed. 😉

    I need to state that I don’t live in Utah and so my perception might be different from those that do; neither better nor worse than anyone else’s, just different.

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