This is the third year I’m republishing “why giving should be part of your budget” with additional thoughts in advance of Thanksgiving. As the tumultuous 2016 draws to a close, I want to share what you can do to make 2017 a better year for this world. Giving should be the center of it.
When we think about giving, we usually think about giving away something that we already have, whether it’s income, possession, or valuable assets. It’s parting with what belonged to us and it may hurt, depending on what other resources we have and how we feel about the items we are parting way with.
However, giving may also mean simply not taking what could have been yours, and letting go productivity and opportunities. In one of the five books Moses wrote to the Jewish people, he mentioned one of his God’s command as below:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.”
Translating that to the modern context, he is advocating to not be so efficient with managing your finances that you leave no room for people who are not as lucky as you. For business owners and corporate executives, this command carries even greater meaning. We run businesses to make profit for shareholders, so we “glean the field” with the highest productivity. That means cutting employee benefits or switching to automation to cut cost. It’s all in the name of progress. In the capitalist society, this is not a trend we can stop unless we realize maximizing profit shouldn’t be the only goal.
Like business owners are responsible for their company’s finances, you are responsible for your personal finance, and you have the choice to cut some slack for others at the expense of yourself. Be diligent but generous on your spending or charity to support those around you, whether you think they deserve it or not. Pay your taxes without cutting corners, not just because it’s the law but because you know some people need government’s help to get back on their feet. Count your blessings instead of the money you could have made.
At a time when people feel like they need to fend for themselves, giving is the only strategy to take our focus away from our needs and deficiencies and on the better world that we are all trying to build.
If you are still looking for some more reasons why and how you should give, read on.
3 reasons why you should five regularly
Thanksgiving has become a synonym of “spending” in recent years, even though the word “giving” should be our focus. In addition to gratitude, I would like to challenge all of you to give monetarily this holiday season, either to a charity, a friend, a family member, or a stranger in need. Furthermore, I encourage you to make regular contributions; that is, make weekly, monthly, or quarterly giving part of your budget or financial plan.
Here are a few reasons why I think making regular giving part of your budget is a good idea:
#1: You are already giving anyway
95% of the US households give to charity. That doesn’t even take into account the monetary support we give privately to people around us. Most of you will have the experience of giving small contributions on the street, online, at office fundraisers, or simply when somebody asks! (The last one is the most common reason why people give.)
Putting regular giving into your monthly budget helps you account for all the one-time contributions. It gives you a better idea of how much you are giving, and where the money is going. It also makes you more likely to give because you will no longer wonder if you can afford to give when the next person comes asking for your contribution. You know how much you have decided to give from your budget this month. If you want to donate even more, that comes from cutting two lattes from Starbucks this week.
#2: Giving helps you save
At first glance, giving and saving seem like two goals in conflict. They both require a cut of your budget you can’t spend. For people living on a small income, saving alone is difficult enough; giving just adds even more pressure into their daily lives.
Or does it? As a matter of fact, many low-income people still give, even to the detriment of not saving for themselves. It shows that as human beings, we do value helping those around us right now over possible personal need in the future.
However, if currently it’s hard to save or give, which one should you do first? I believe no matter how much you can squeeze out from your budget to save, giving a small portion of it away is a good start, even it’s just five dollars a month. Giving sends a positive signal to your brain on your financial situation: “if I still have the capacity to help others, then my situation must not be so bad.” This thought helps you get out of the scarcity mindset, which made you focus only on the problems, and allows you to see the broad picture of where you are and how you can reach your goals given current constraints. In short, it helps you get to a place where you can objectively plan for spending and saving.
#3: Giving creates a cushion in your budget
As I noted in my previous post, your values may dictate that giving has priority in your budget. This is a personal preference; however, not everyone thinks the same way. In this case, having regular giving in your budget still makes sense, especially if you are currently in a good financial situation. Because if worse comes to worst, such as if you lose your job or become disabled, you know you can cut something to make ends meet. This is an extra cushion that helps you survive unforeseen circumstances. And for some people, having given to charities in good times makes them feel better about going to these charities themselves in bad times. If you tend to think that way, your donations can be seen as an insurance premium that gives you access to help in times of need.
So how can you start making regular giving part of your budget? If you currently do not have a charity you give to regularly, think back on all the small monetary donations you’ve made in the last year, and decide on an arbitrary amount you are able to give each month, even just $10. You can then make monthly contribution to a charity in your community that supports a cause you feel strongly about. If you are currently overseas, giving locally will allow you to understand more about your adopted country and be rooted more deeply in the community. Furthermore, you will see your $10 USD a month go a long way to help people in places with low cost of living. (Contribution to overseas charity may not be tax deductible in the US, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Some employers also allow you to donate from a paycheck deduction, and even offer to match your donations to charity on a pre-approved list so your donations have more impact. If you prefer to be a Good Samaritan to people around you, you can simply use the monthly budget to give. Whenever you realize you haven’t given for a while, help somebody out on the street and know that it is part of your budget, so no worries!
Make it to one recipient
In addition to regularly giving, I’d like to again challenge all my readers to make a regular, monthly contribution to one recipient.
I recently read an interesting post touching on why many people are scared of recurring monthly charges. Even though giving is not spending, making a commitment year after year to a cause, an organization, or even a friend can seem daunting. It’s a relationship many feel they can’t cut off lightly once they start, so they never do.
In addition to commitment issue, we also tend to exhibit diversification bias toward charitable giving. That means even when we only have a small amount to give, we will still try to spread it around to different recipients. This makes it difficult for us commit to giving year after year to one most worthy recipient, and we end up evaluating annually who to give to next.
The charitable organizations don’t always give you incentives to commit either. Many only show appreciations to donors who give a large sum in one year over those who have faithfully given small amount for the past 30 years, even though the aggregate value of the latter may end up being a larger sum.
Given all the obstacles above, I still think that practicing giving regularly to one charity, one person, or one cause over the long-term is valuable, exactly because it test our commitment toward what and who we believe in. It forms a bond that is not easily broken. In an individualistic and isolated society we live in today, what we need is these long-term relationships, and what better way do we have than pledging to use our resources to form true connections this holiday season.