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Friday, December 1, 2017

Where Does It Come From, and Where Does It Go?

Money, money, money! Wouldn’t it be great not to have to think about it? Well, we’re all thinking about it these days, as Congress flounders around in the dark on what promises to be the worst tax bill ever fobbed off on the American people, but even in sunnier times most of us are curious about other people’s financial situations. So here is my basic story.

My income derives from the sale of books old and new. In the past I’ve worked a variety of additional part-time jobs, from teaching and tutoring and freelance editing to picking apples and doing garden maintenance, but more recently I have focused exclusively on my retail business. And it is a business, not a hobby. I don’t have a trust fund or a pension from some earlier career, and if I didn’t need the income, I would stay home and garden and write and raise chickens and feeder calves.

As to where the money goes, that’s simple, too. Monthly business expenses get paid and groceries bought before money goes anywhere else, and then the Artist and I have all the usual expenses of any other household, with the exception of frills like television (we watch DVDs and listen to radio and, of course, read!), air conditioning (we have window screens), and dishwasher (washing dishes is my kitchen meditation time). If we stay home all winter, there is fuel oil and plowing the driveway to pay for; if we go elsewhere, there are frugal travel costs. 

Still, charitable giving is something I take seriously. It’s on my mind now because Facebook reminded everyone this week about “Giving Tuesday” (I give in my own way and in my own time) and because December is when I make my largest annual donations. 

I’ve made adjustments to priorities in recent years, but, as it stands now, the five organizations to which I contribute on an annual basis are the ACLU; Save the Children; the Carter Center; Foods Resource Bank; and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I started years back with the first two and added the third, fourth, and fifth more recently (and in that order). FRB and Save the Children do primarily community work (FRB focused on food security), both in the U.S. and overseas; the Carter Center focuses on do-able health projects in Africa; and ACLU and SPLC are concerned with justice and freedom here in our own country. Healthy, food-secure, and just communities are the goals I have chosen to support.

Leelanau County hosts many worthy organizations — charitable, cultural, environmental — but what I’ve finally come around to with those here at home is that, instead of sending a set amount to the same few every year and ignoring the rest, I give to whichever groups people have chosen for memorial gifts, whenever appropriate. One person’s obituary might list the Leelanau Children’s Choir and Saving Birds Through Habitat. Another might name a church or the League of Women Voters or the Leelanau Foundation. Whatever their priorities, when I send a check with a sympathy card, I honor those wishes and in that way give locally.

The Artist and I take a standard deduction (we have thus far been fortunate in not having sufficient medical expenses to make itemizing advantageous), so our income tax situation is not benefited by donations to charities and other nonprofits. Giving is simply what I decided long ago that I wanted to do, and it is my good fortune that I am able, thanks to my bookstore customers, local and visiting, who buy books on Waukazoo Street in Northport. 

So thank you for your support of Dog Ears Books, and please know that your support goes further than you may have realized. You are not only keeping a little bookstore alive in Northport but helping strangers, in very important ways, far from northern Michigan. It all adds up.

For details and to see if you want to contribute to any of the organizations I support, please follow the links up in the fifth paragraph of this post. And thanks again! Being in a position to give is one of the gifts I have received over and over again along the path of my life, and I am grateful.

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