When I was a teen, I used to calculate the number of shopping days until Christmas for a local newspaper columnist who liked to post such bits and pieces of trivia. Back then, the calculation had to subtract Sundays and holidays because stores were closed. Today there are 270 days until Christmas, and they are all shopping days.
It is never too early to think about unusual stocking stuffers. The items below are mentioned in the April 2012 number of The Atlantic.
• A prison-cell upgrade: $90 a night. In Santa Ana, California, and some other cities, nonviolent offenders can pay for a clean, quiet jail cell, without any nonpaying prisoners to disturb them.
• The right to shoot an endangered black rhino: $250,000. South Africa has begun letting some ranchers sell hunters the right to kill a limited number of rhinos, to give the ranchers an incentive to raise and protect the endangered species.
• The right to emit a metric ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: $10.50. The European Union runs a carbon-dioxide-emissions market that enables companies to buy and sell the right to pollute.
If your budget for Christmas is a little tight, The Atlantic also has some money-making scheme that are not yet widely publicized.
• Sell space on your forehead to display commercial advertising: $10,000. A single mother in Utah who needed money for her son’s education was paid $10,000 by an online casino to install a permanent tattoo of the casino’s Web address on her forehead. Temporary tattoo ads earn less.
• Fight in Somalia or Afghanistan for a private military contractor: up to $1,000 a day. The pay varies according to qualifications, experience, and nationality.
• Stand in line overnight on Capitol Hill to hold a place for a lobbyist who wants to attend a congressional hearing: $15–$20 an hour. Lobbyists pay line-standing companies, who hire homeless people and others to queue up.
• If you are a second-grader in an underachieving Dallas school, read a book: $2. To encourage reading, schools pay kids for each book they read.
So, for standing in line for 63 minutes for a Capitol Hill lobbyist, you can earn enough money for the right to 4400 pounds of air pollution. Or you can watch a session of Congress, where they will do it for you for free.