I'll be the first to admit, splurging on electronics is a weakness of mine.
If there's a deal to be had on video games, DVDs or albums, I'm often the first in line to grab it. Around the holidays, it gets worse, as these items usually end up filling my Christmas list. Movies and music are two of my main sources of entertainment, and that's the way I like it.
Obviously much of the U.S. feels the same way, as the average American household spent $1,380 on electronics from May 2009 to May 2010. We like our toys, and I'm one of the worst offenders. I'm always looking for the newest and most entertaining gadgets.
Yet, electronics are not going to be the items that ultimately bring me happiness. The things that truly leave me satisfied in life are not necessarily things I can wrap my fingers around. Family, friends and helping others should always take precedence over my newest toy or even the best of music or movies, and this is something I fail at on a regular basis.
Think about how much good could be done if just $100 of that $1,380 went to a better cause. If just 100 households opt for that choice, $10,000 has been raised. If 10,000 households - of which there are 131,704,703 according to the Census Bureau - donate $100, that's a quick million. If every household donated that $100, it would raise more than $13 billion, which is larger than the gross domestic product of most countries and could nearly solve world hunger on its own.
The problem, however, is getting that money to the right places. A boatload of money was donated to Haiti after the earthquake in January 2010, yet the country is still a mess. Hurricane Katrina cleanup is still going on seven years later. The state of the world is not a pretty one, but that doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands in despair and give up on solving any problems, as every little bit helps.
If you want to see results firsthand, there are a ton of options locally. The Salvation Army in Hancock, the Western Upper Peninsula Food Bank in Houghton, the Good Will Farm, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, the list goes on and on of places that provide vital services for those in need in the Keweenaw. At Econo Foods, they even have bags of food you can just purchase along with your groceries that The Salvation Army will pick up.
For those looking to make a more international impact, World Venture is a personal favorite of mine as well as the innovative FINCA - which provides small loans to women in developing countries to start a business that will sustain them and their families over time.
So as part of my New Year's Resolution, the next time a new gadget or CD entices me, I'm going to use that money for a better cause instead. I invite you to do the same.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.