Massachusetts authorities pulled over a suspicious vehicle only to find 1,250 of the packets, some of them that were also stamped "Kurt Cobain."
It's the season of peace and goodwill, but President Obama may have tested the limits of both with comments at his end-of-year news conference. He suggested Republicans would be "crazy" to wage a new debt ceiling fight and seemed to question even his allies' motives on Iran sanctions.
Is your budget being blown by holiday tipping? Marketplace Money host Carmen Wong Ulrich talks to etiquette expert Thomas Farley about how you show your appreciation during the holidays without going broke
On top of charity and giving back to our communities, here's one more way we give this season: Tipping
You may be happy to show some extra gratitude for the helpful folks in your life, like those who cut your hair to taking care of your kids to walking your dog. But you have a budget, we all do.
That's why etiquette expert 'Mr. Manners' Thomas Farley shares some of his tips for holiday tipping:
What if you don’t have enough money to tip as much as you'd like?
“If you feel you can’t give anything, you are just aboslutely tapped out, you have no budget, you can still do something," Farley says. He suggests a card or something homemade. "You might want to just indicate in the card, 'This has been a really difficult year for me financially. I’d love to give to you like I have in the past, unfortunately I can't, but I hope you know that’s not a reflection of the great job you’re doing. Somebody getting a card like that is not going to have that resentment versus somebody who just gets nothing from you at all."
Find something unique
"In the case of a day-care worker, or a babysitter or a nanny, involve the child. Have the child do a homemade card too, that is something that’s really special," he says.
But don't go overboard with cutesy ideas. "What I really do hear a lot of from folks [like] teachers and dog-groomers, they don’t want any more kiddy-themed items as gifts. They don’t want cute cat calendars if they’re somoene who takes care of the cat," Farley says. They want a gift card, they want the retail gift card, they want some money.
Sharing is caring
If you need gifts for a whole team, Farley suggests catering to everyone's sweet tongue instead of individual gifts. "Maybe it's a plate of fresh-baked cookies. or chocolates," Farley says. "People are working extra hours, they need that sugar rush to keep going. They may even remember your amazing chocolate chip cookies more than they’ll remember a few dollars here and there."
John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan and three others in 1981, has been granted more time to visit his mother's home in Virginia.
Eileen Heisman is the CEO of National Philanthropic Trust and an ambassador for #givingtuesday, and joins the show to give a few tips for getting the most out of your charitable donations this holiday season.
1. Identify what is important to you and do some research: Look for a charity with a mission statement you believe in and a cause that means something to you. See if the organization has a solid background, good leadership and has produced results. If you are interested in a charity's balance sheet, GuideStar publishes US charity's Form 990. And don't be shy - contact the executive director or staff to ask about the organization's short and long-term plan for how they will meet their mission.
2. Determine your impact: It is nearly impossible for an individual to make a smaller donation directly to an international charity because of legal, tax and financial complexities - some created to protect US donors. Look for international charities that have U.S.-based "Friends of" chapters that can accept your donation. Or give to U.S. charities that have an international mission. For example, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and Oxfam America (all based in the U.S.) raised millions for relief efforts and already had a presence in the Philippines. Organizations that are on the ground before the disaster are the best equipped to assess the most critical needs in the aftermath and use your donation impactfully.
3. Numbers are important, but they're not everything: It is important to remember that the balance sheet alone does not paint the full picture of a charity and its work. From the number of people reached to the dollars raised, impact can be measured in a number of ways. How does your charity support define success? What resources does it need to succeed? If serving more people is part of their growth, then hiring more staff and training more volunteers may be a logical increase in overhead expenses.
4. Be strategic, have a vision and stay loyal: Larger gifts to fewer charities will have more impact, whether you are donating $100 or $1,000. Also, consider what type of gift you're giving: cash and checks are popular, but more and more often appreciated stock, real estate or even art can potentially provide a higher dollar value to the charity and a better tax deduction for you. A charity's cost of reaching a new donor is much higher than keeping someone who has already made a donation. To maximize your donation, try staying with a charity for a few years - three to five years. In short, be a donor your charity can rely on.
5. Check back: Leverage social media and set a calendar a reminder to check back with your favorite charitable organizations next summer. What was the impact of your gift? Is your charity meeting its goals? Do you feel there is transparency at the organization? If your charity is doing a great job, you may want to increase your gift. If your charity didn't meet its goals, ask direct questions to the executive director; for example, was there a change in leadership? There could be a good reason-or maybe not. The staff should have reasonable, detailed answers to your questions. Use this mid-year information to help guide your donation strategy for the next Giving Season, December 2014.