Ways and means

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Danny Williams' government delivered what I affectionately dubbed "The Fudge-It Budget" this week - a Tory blueprint (pardon the pun) that increased spending on programs, services, transportation and infrastructure while dragging along a deficit of $194 million.

It contains plenty of gain, but still some pain - somehow managing to achieve a sort of balance in fiscally iffy times.

Danny Williams' government delivered what I affectionately dubbed "The Fudge-It Budget" this week - a Tory blueprint (pardon the pun) that increased spending on programs, services, transportation and infrastructure while dragging along a deficit of $194 million.

It contains plenty of gain, but still some pain - somehow managing to achieve a sort of balance in fiscally iffy times.

Of course, there are people who were disappointed by it. There always are.

If you were hoping for a break on cigarette prices or a drop in the payroll tax or public service pensions indexed to the cost of living, you were among those disappointed on Monday afternoon.

But if you didn't like the places where the government was tight-fisted, you'd be hard-pressed to criticize where it did lay out the cash - education, health, child services, tax breaks.

It can't be easy deciding how to spend nearly $7 billion, or deciding how much, if any, debt is acceptable to carry. I guess that's why the government has all those number-crunchers on the payroll.

If we all suddenly had that much money to play with, we'd hope to have the wisdom of Solomon and make the right choices.

Some of us might decide to increase taxes or decrease program spending instead of running a deficit.

But perhaps that's not always the right thing to do, and perhaps the government is on the right track in increasing spending in an attempt to spark the kind of economic recovery that will help wipe out the debt in the longer-term.

And that makes me think about how households approach their own individual budgets, and what would happen if we all decided to put clamps on our pocketbooks and padlocks on our piggy banks. In such straitened times, one of the first casualties, unfortunately, might be charitable giving.

Now, we can't all be major philanthropists like Paul Johnson or Elinor Gill Radcliffe - though I'd like to think that if most of us achieved that level of success, we would follow their fine example.

And no one - rich or otherwise - is obliged to give.

But just as all those empty bottles and cans you save in a bin at home can add up to a sizable recycling refund at the end of the month, just think of the impact on non-profit groups if we all focused strictly on paying our bills instead of finding $10 here and there for a raffle ticket or a walkathon pledge or a few items for the food bank.

Perhaps the government is right to keep on spending, even though the bills have piled up, just as we can find ways to keep on giving even in times when money is tight.

There are plenty of ways to lend a hand, and every community has a group or project that can benefit from your time, talents, donated goods or cold, hard cash. You may not have $7 billion kicking around to hand out to those who need it, but you might have some extra cans of soup in the cupboard, or a computer you no longer want that some community group might benefit from.

In fact, budget time seems like a great time to talk to kids about charitable giving.

After all, coming up with a budget is nothing more than looking at the money you have and trying to use it to its maximum benefit, always keeping in mind that there are people who have less and need more.

Here are 10 simple ways to make a difference:

Every time you go to the supermarket, pick up one extra item for the food bank or animal shelter.

Donate books you no longer need to your local library. Some of them even offer tax receipts for newer books.

Give blood, if you can.

Small change can bring big change. Save your coins for a specific period of time and then donate the savings to your favourite charity.

Places like The Gathering Place in St. John's are always looking for cash donations, food items like tinned milk, biscuits and sugar, but also good quality used clothing, new underwear and socks, footwear, feminine hygiene products and toiletries.

Encourage children who receive an allowance to set aside a dollar or two each time for charitable giving, and let them decide where the money goes.

Give decent used sports gear you no longer need or that you've outgrown to someone who can't afford to buy their own.

Help kids sort through the clothes they no longer wear and give them to a thrift store.

Start now for September, and buy school supply items here and there. By the end of summer, you could have enough to fill a schoolbag for some student who badly needs it.

Donate no-longer-needed kids' books, movies and games to the children's hospital.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at pframpton@thetelegram.com. Read her columns online at www.thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: St. John's

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  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    These are all wonderful ideas to instill in our children . Now, if only people could apply the same logic when it comes time to elect politicians .

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    These are all wonderful ideas to instill in our children . Now, if only people could apply the same logic when it comes time to elect politicians .