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There’s Always An Excuse Not To Give

in Give Back

ExcuseNotToGive

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared this concept with you, but I feel it’s important to spotlight again.

Courtney and I still aren’t giving like we want to. We aren’t giving almost anything financially, nor are we volunteering time or skills to a worthy cause.  The lack of monetary giving isn’t really a secret, though.  If one wanted they can view the public tracking of our finances and clearly see this absence.

Part of me wants to blame traveling and being mobile.  After all, it’s much easier to give time when you are part of an active, local community.

Part of me wants to point to the fact that we don’t have any money to give.  Which, like the traveling excuse above, is a load of crap.

We have the money to travel, to bungie jump, to fly to Bangkok, and to go to a Pearl Jam concert this Friday.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do these things, but that it’s obvious that if giving was a priority then we would find the money to give.

Give less now, in order to give more later.

This is the number one justification I employ in order to convince myself that it’s o.k. not to give right now.  There’s only one problem with this…  I think it’s a dumb concept.  A really dumb concept.  Somehow, I still allow myself to hide behind it.

The basic premise is simple:  If rather than giving, we took that money and time and invested it…  we’ll be able to give so much more in the future.

  • For example, we could use it to pay down debt and thus become debt-free more quickly.  Once debt-free we’d be able to make an even larger difference with our freedom and our full income.
  • Or instead of volunteering our time, what if we used that to further build our income opportunities.  Eventually, in theory, this would result in much more income and possibilities down the road.

It sounds good.  And to be honest, I really believe in it.  I believe that Courtney and I are going to find ways to give back on a large scale in the coming 5, 10, 20 years.  Maybe that’s why it works so well for me…  I’ve really bought into the concept.

Why I’m scared this concept will blow up in our faces…

There are two big reasons why hiding behind this concept sucks.

First, it’s an insanely slippery slope. Right now, it may seem paying off our debt or investing in income opportunities is a much better (long-term) use of our time.  But let’s assume we accomplish those things?  Are we sure we’ll start giving?

Milligan will be older…  we may even have more kids down the road.  What about college funding?  Isn’t it more important to enabled our own children the possibility to go to college before we give?

But wait… what about retirement?  It doesn’t make “mathematical” sense to give and give if we don’t take care of our own future.  Heck, we might have the tables flipped on us if we ignore the cost of living in old age.

Maybe we could focus our time on building a sustainable charity, like TOMS Shoes.  This seems better than just giving a percentage of our…  blah, blah, blah.  I hope you see my point.

Who is to say that we ever get to the perfect time to give. I hope we get out of debt, save for college and retirement, create a business we can be proud of, etc…  But why should giving wait?

And that’s the second big reason…  giving shouldn’t have to wait. The point of giving is that it, like everything else, is a journey in life.  Finding ways to give back despite your circumstances is beautiful.  It’s so simple.  Everyone can do something, yet Courtney and I choose to neglect this.

Treating giving as a journey…

You don’t have to have some life altering idea or concept to make a difference.  That’s where my perfectionism comes back and bites me in the butt.  I have friends who are perfect examples of this:

  • Cody McKibben lives, travels, and blogs from Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia.  Despite being just as busy, he is constantly finding ways to give back and has begun targeting non-profits for his design and consulting work.
  • My pf-buddy Matt Jabs still manages to regularly tithe 12%, despite being on a very similar, passionate anti-debt crusade in his own life.
  • Another great example, is Greg Rollett, who is aggressively pounding the pavement on his own online ventures, yet still finds time to juggle his passion to give back through his creative Rock For Hunger campaign.

None of these examples are unrealistic.  They haven’t founded something on the scale of Kiva.org or CharityWater.org (yet), but they are extraordinary in my book.  Extraordinary because they are normal people on similiar journeys, who simply choose to step-up in an area that I neglect to.

And whatever your situation, I guarantee there are everyday examples of people in similiar circumstances who are walking-the-walk.  People who are treating giving as a journey and not some tangible end goal. Maybe you’re that example.  If so, keep rockin’!

I want to change the world…

I’ll share something with you guys…  I see my future in social entrepreneurship.  My future isn’t as a money guru or a lifestyle guru.  Thinking of that path makes me want to vomit.

What I love doing is… I love connecting. I love networking and meeting people.  I love representing an idea.  I love branding, actually.

My current dream is to dedicate myself to a cause that I would be proud to let everyone I meet know about.  I have a bit of this with Man Vs. Debt, because I really believe in what I’m doing.  But at the same time, MvD isn’t bigger than me…  it is me.

I want something bigger… a CharityWater or a Kiva.  I don’t have to be a founder or anything (consider this an open invitation to e-mail me you two), but rather just part of a passionate team.  I want something I can dedicate myself to fully and that allows me to use every ounce of my talents to help build a legacy.

But I can’t let this vision keep me from giving back now.  Sure being 100% debt-free with a mobile income would allow me many possibilities.  But I’m not satisfied with putting everything off until this perfect storm.

After I hit publish, I’m going to e-mail out to a handful of charities, non-profits, and philanthropic groups that I respect.  I’m going to offer to volunteer a portion of my time and efforts starting today.

I’d make a great part-time blogger outreach intern.  Maybe I could help brainstorm concepts and plans to better use social media.  Maybe I could help spread the message to a group in Thailand while we are there.  I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that it’s time to at least try.

By the way, if you are part of a group, whose message you think I would connect with e-mail me:  Baker (at) ManVsDebt.com.

I don’t want to live my whole life and look back and say, “Man…  I was just too busy to contribute…”

Are you currently satisfied with your giving?

Have you felt this same ‘slippery slope’ I mention in the post?  In what creative ways are you giving back?  Please let me know of any resources or people that I would like and that are making a difference… I’m always up for some more inspiration!

photo by pedrosimoes7

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff @ Sustainablelife blog November 23, 2009 at 6:41 PM

Great post.
Personal giving for me has been non existent since I left high school (6 years ago), with the 2 exception of attending a political dinner a few months back and giving to an environmental group a few years ago. Im not really sure how to deal with this, either. I really am not overly religious, and therefore dont really have a church or similar place to donate, like Matt Jabs does. I really dont have any cause or movement that im so tied to that I feel the need to part with my hard earned dollars.
Im not trying to be selfish or anything like that, I think that working now to eliminate debt will make me in a better position to give in the long run. Another reason (read:excuse) I tell myself is that I’d much rather give my time because now I’ve got plenty of energy and can lift heavy things/do physical activity easier than some people. This IS true, although I havent really put much action to it.
I would prefer to do something within my community as a way to give back to the community and assist those in need. Maybe I can think of something (or start something) of my own to do.
.-= Jeff @ Sustainablelife blog´s last blog ..Who’s Talking to Whom =-.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 8:47 PM

Jeff, I understand your hurdle here. I’ve also struggle to identity something that ‘drives’ me to give. But like you pointed out, at some point I (maybe you too) could do a better job of seeking that out.

There are plenty of passionate causes that truly help people in positive ways. Some of those may be global, some may be organized by a guy down the street. Ultimately, I’d like to help a little on different levels. :-)

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Sean November 23, 2009 at 6:56 PM

Baker this one really hit me. I have been in a point for awhile now, where I have just been giving other things priority over giving (whether it be time or money). I’m not really happy with this. While sure, I have been on a journey to transform my own life, I also should be using a portion of my new free time to do something that will benefit others.

Reading this, it just kind of struck me that I need to consider reprioritizing a few things in my life to do something to better the situation of others, rather than just myself. Keep us posted on your journey.
.-= Sean´s last blog ..21 Things I Have Learned From Unemployment =-.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 8:52 PM

Yeah, for me right now I’m not going to make it THE priority (maybe later in life), but I certainly feel a desire to make it A priority.

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Mike November 23, 2009 at 6:58 PM

Great post man. definitely with you on this one. in his commencement speech Steve Jobs said a quote: “if you live every day as if it was your last, someday you’ll be right!” and then he goes on to say how great “death” is as a motivating factor…see full video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc

the reason why I really have started trying to give right now, while I am still in debt, still building for retirement, still trying to accumulate capital (maybe for a social ent. etc ) is because what IF today is my last day! i just can’t live with that… ;)

for me and my brother over at mintingpennies.com, we are trying to integrate “giving” with personal finances. so far, we’ve found that the best way to do this is through microlending with Kiva.org.

We have been contributing $25/month to Kiva and since we will get 99% of our money back eventually, we can definitely “afford” it. Now if my financial situation was a little bit better and I had more cash flow, I would definitely be giving at least 5% to charities along with loaning at Kiva.

The way that I see it, the cash that accumulates in my Kiva account is almost like a “social savings account”. While it does not gain me any interest, the 1%-2% that I would gain from an online savings account is negligible because my money is actually helping people in non-developed countries. This fires me up and actually makes me want to save more!

And who knows, maybe one day once I’ve accumulated enough cash in my account I can take all of it or a portion of it and donate in a “big” way or maybe even use that money to fund my own version of Kiva. :)
.-= Mike´s last blog ..Sponsored Kiva Entrepreneurs: Mr. Oeurn San Village Bank Group, 11/20/09 =-.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 8:56 PM

First, I love that Steve Jobs commencement speech, although it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it!

Second, I’ve given a lot of thought to using Kiva like you do. Right now, we have some savings, but I keep telling myself it needs to be extremely liquid (because of our traveling). That’s probably true, but once we get to the point where it’s a more long-term savings, I’d love to tie up a % of that into Kiva.

Also, picking people to lend to seem fun, or at the very least interesting. That is probably the most rewarding part of the experience! :-)

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Larry November 23, 2009 at 7:17 PM

I will go out on a limb and say that you need to start NOW. Giving, like saving and much of the rest of life, is a habit. If you can’t save $10 when you make $100, what makes you think you can save $1000 when you make $10,000? The same thing is true for giving. Start small and give every month – setup an autodraft and put it right into your budget.

Political causes are fine, but those are mostly ways to get something WE want – better environmental laws, our favorite candidates, whatever. If you pick one or two small, local causes, you can make a real difference – a senior center, a home for foster kids, whatever floats you boat – a place where you can visit, take a tour, and really see what your gifts are doing. In Denver, I support http://www.msvhome.org, and they send me monthly letters telling me what’s going on and how kids are being helped. This can be an incredible experience.

We don’t always have to change THE world – in fact, usually that’s such a big goal that we don’t even want to get started. We just need to change SOMEONE’s world to help and give back.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 8:59 PM

Great point, Larry. I don’t think I’ll ever be a big political supporter (maybe occasionally), I’d more like to design a way to make a tangible difference with my daily actions. That’s why working in, for, or founding a social company or charity of some sort appeals to me.

I *definitely* hear your big goals point, too. That’s a big hurdle for me in a lot of things. I call it analysis paralysis. :-)

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Nancy L. November 23, 2009 at 7:20 PM

I find myself jaded and cynical about most charities these days. For example, my husband wanted to donate to Greenpeace. His one request was that they not waste money or stamps on mailing him to request more funds. After two years of trying to arrange this, and still being inundated every month with more and more mailings, he finally stopped donating to them. If an organization is too large and cumbersome to be able to allow for a request like that, then chances are they are wasting most of the donations they receive just trying to keep the large system running.

I prefer to donate at a grassroots level. Every year my son and I take a donation to the local animal shelter, because we know that almost all the money goes towards the goal of helping those animals. I like to support local food banks because they put almost all their money into food to hand out. I will not support large national charities that spend their money on useless mailings full of address labels or other garbage trying to guilt me into donating money.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 9:05 PM

Yeah, you bring up a common issue with a lot of larger charities, Nancy.

This is why I love the future of social media (and small to medium charities that use it well). There is a lot of potential for charity to be ultra-transparent and to show with new forms of media EXACT where the money is going and who is impacted.

For example, I was blown away by Charity Water’s part of the site that uses Google Maps to show you exactly where your well was drilled. That’s very low cost for them and very rewarding and tangible for people who give. It’s a much more sincere way to gain my loyalty than another monthly letter! :-)

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Chrysula Winegar November 23, 2009 at 7:24 PM

Adam. My giving is motivated from religious tradition. We tithe 10% and probably close to that in time also. We also work with an orphange in Nepal taking the kids through to some kind of post high school qualification. Like you, there are the other competing priorities – debt elimination, 4 kids(!) and the usual. But here’s what I have learned.

I cannot afford NOT to give. The tangible blessings, both material and spiritual are so profound and noticeable. And time is just as critical as your money. It may sound corny but I always get more than I contribute from my giving. Always.

I’m cheering you and Courtney on. Who sounds like quite a woman.
.-= Chrysula Winegar´s last blog ..Got Friends? =-.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 9:08 PM

She is!

It’s awesome that you’ve found a system that encourages you to give despite juggling so many other things. Right now, that won’t be a religious motivation for me, but I could still have it (especially in time).

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Al November 23, 2009 at 7:36 PM

This reminds me of another post I read today on commitment. When you commit to something, the excuses melt away. There are always excuses, if you want them. Retirement, debt, college funds are valid places to put your money. For me, so is giving.
I’ve been “tithing” for a few years. I give to a couple of charities, not religious groups since I don’t have an affinity with any particular group. As a self employed contractor my income varies so a percentage works well. I started after reading the book “Richest Man in Babylon” but when I reread it a second time, I didn’t see the section on tithing. Somewhere along the line, I decided it was a good practice. When I started I had a small income, it’s been satisfying to see my contributions increase as my income has. Before I started I struggled with “can I afford this?”. It’s rarely been a struggle and now I treat it as non-negotiable.
Giving money makes it easier for me to give less time. I do a bit here and there, but think that’s the next area for me to improve on. Thanks for the reminder.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 9:10 PM

I haven’t made that ‘commitment’ to make it ‘non-negotiable’. I thought this was an awesome point you bring up. Making the mental switch would definitely melt away the excuses. I think finding a cause you are passionate about helps greatly with this!

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Amy November 23, 2009 at 7:40 PM

I’m w/Nancy: nearly every time I donate, I get put on some mailing list. It drives me crazy (not only because they are wasting my funds on admin but also from the environmental/resource impact of printing/mailing) and has stopped me from giving at places I otherwise find to be wonderful.

I’m very involved with a local animal rescue and in years past I put in more time, having less money, but now that I have more money than time, I donate more. When I’m so involved with a group at the leadership level I see that the vet bills don’t get paid (and we have to refuse the next foster animals since we won’t be able to afford to treat them) unless I pay out of my pocket–most times general donations are not enough to run the show. So I have a direct impact here, I get no junk mail (I’d have to create and mail it myself!), and it’s easy to give throughout the year.

When I started expanding to support other charities, I started getting their solicitation mail, and now I’m soured. The worst this year was participating in charity events (walks and rides) and being inundated with mail from the orgs afterward.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 9:19 PM

Yeah, like Nancy I hear ya. I think this was a negative side effect old the old way of running a big charity. There seems to be a lot of young guns doing really cool things with this. Maybe it’s just gone from mail to e-mail, but even if that’s the case it’s still a step in the right direction! (lower cost, more environmental friendly, more scalable/adaptable)

I’m excited about the future possibility with these issues, which encourages me to get involved even more! :-)

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Tyler Karaszewski November 23, 2009 at 8:12 PM

Read this:
http://www.43folders.com/2009/04/28/priorities

Maybe charity *isn’t something you care about*, no matter how good it makes you look to others. Donate if you want to donate, not because you want to appear to be the type of person who donates to charity.

I donate essentially nothing to charity. I don’t feel obligated. I’m not going to let an internet community guilt me into changing my life to support their values.

We all help each other in our own ways. I just spent all weekend driving up and down the length of California to help my father-in-law move. I don’t feel I need to give money to some NPO or a website that ends in “.org” to be a good person.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 8:44 PM

Haha, your snide reference that I only want to give in order to have the appearance of someone that gives is offensive. But obviously that was your objective.

It’s absolutely true that giving isn’t a priority right NOW. But it’s also absolutely true that I would like giving to be a higher priority in the near future. Recognizing the difference between what my actual prioritizes are and what I want them to be is important. It’s important so that if and when I like to make a change I can.

I don’t need an internet community to guilt me into anything. However, I’ll certainly use one to if it helps me align my priorities. That may be through inspiration, motivation, or through setting an example.

For example, in this area you are not someone I want to model. While you may be o.k. looking at your life knowing that you only helped your father-in-law, that’s not the vision I have for mine.

I agree noone should give money to a NPO or .org in order to be a ‘good’ person. But the attitude that people give in order to be considered a ‘good person’ is jaded at best.

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Tyler Karaszewski November 23, 2009 at 10:57 PM

My intention wasn’t to be offensive, although I can see how I’d come across that way. My intention was to get you to ask yourself a difficult question. You know as well as I do how many people will pretend to want things they really don’t, simply because it’s easier or it gives the right impression. And yes, I was suggesting that you may be doing this, the same way some people pretend that they’re perfectly happy in a stable job with a mortgage, because their friends and family understand and approve, when they’d really rather be traveling around Australia or New Zealand or Thailand or wherever.

You don’t have to want to emulate me, but you should be honest with yourself at least, and it looked questionable from here as to whether you really were doing that. As you’ve pointed out, it seems that if you really cared, you’d be putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Maybe starting today, you’re actually doing that. And maybe my suggestion (accusation?) is completely off base — if so I apologize, but I still think it’s valuable question to ask yourself when you come face-to-face with a lack of dedication to something you tell yourself you believe in.

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Baker November 24, 2009 at 12:11 AM

It’s certainly a valuable question. My approach would be the money is never going to spew from my mouth all at once. It’s not an on/off switch. I’d like to shout TODAY IS THE DAY!!!!!! But it’ll be a process.

Right now, it’s *not* a priority, but I *want* it to be one! (and not just to ‘look’ good) :-)

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Tucker Bradford November 23, 2009 at 8:47 PM

I totally hear you! I wrote this post http://www.forgeover.com/articles/2009/06/03/personal-philanthropy a few months ago when I was feeling particularly ambitious and have been disappointed by my follow through. Having just returned from India, the fire is rekindled but I’m having trouble finding direction.

One thing that I’ve observed about myself is that my business experience has instilled a healthy static barrier between my money and potential “opportunities.” This serves me well in business (where opportunities are in constant supply), but in giving, there os am expectation that those with willingness will attach themselves to their cause and be self motivated.

I guess my problem is a deficit of philanthropic motivation. Sad really.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 10:35 PM

I don’t think it’s sad really. It’s natural, right? I mean there’s a constant ebb and flow, it seems like the power comes in finding some sort of ‘consistent’ motivation. Some people struggle with this in business, health, relationship, w/e…

If it’s something you really are willing to work for, I don’t have any doubts you’ll find the sweet spot. But I’ve found that the different areas of my life take a bunch of effort up front (aka why I’m not giving now!)… :-)

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Dustin | Engaged Marriage November 23, 2009 at 8:55 PM

I can totally relate with your perspective and procrastination on the giving issue. My wife and I have struggled with this throughout our marriage as well. Here’s my best analogy:

Giving is like having children. There will NEVER be a perfect time, and there will always seem to be more productive ways to spend your resources. But, once you take the leap and do it, there is nothing more rewarding in life.

So, my advice is to take the leap of faith. Start giving off the top of your income and see what you experience. You can always stop giving if you hate it!

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 10:38 PM

Yeah, after having Milligan I completely agree with your analogy. We were so worried about that and now it just is. Can’t imagine it any other way!

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Jason @ MyMoneyMinute November 23, 2009 at 9:09 PM

I agree with Larry. Giving is a habit. If you want to give later when you have money, you should give some now. Delaying giving is probably similar to saying “I’ll work on getting out of debt once I make more money. Giving is another financial muscle that needs to be worked out now, so you can flex it later.

Well played on the response to Tyler. I don’t give to become a better person or out of fear that God won’t love or financially bless me (whatever that means). I give because externally I believe in causes greater than myself, and internally I know it develops personal & financial character.

Good luck working out your giving. Whatever you decide, I suggest you address it very soon, make it intentional & part of your personal finance plan.
.-= Jason @ MyMoneyMinute´s last blog ..Your Financial Goals: Review & Renew! =-.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 10:40 PM

I *will* be addressing it soon. Both monetarily and time-based. I’ll have to decide with Courtney what to do (we haven’t decided 100%). I think it’ll be a portion of MvD’s income and also 5-10 hours a week at a social cause I believe in (online work of course)!

This also has the benefit of getting me exploring and accustomed to the possibility of doing more serious work down the road. Getting familiar with the ins and outs of the nfp world.

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Kai November 23, 2009 at 9:15 PM

I think it’s an important habit like saving. If you want to save, you have to start putting away ten percent when it’s only $10 of $100 (Or whatever amount you decide on). You could argue that if you put that $10 into your business it would go to better use for you, but if the saving is important, you need to start at whatever level you find yourself.

I don’t see a problem with choosing to donate time and services instead of money, but if you do want to donate money, then I believe you must start that right away as well. Sure, your few dollars aren’t going to change the world, but it makes a little difference, and it puts you in the habit of giving that you can keep up without thinking as your income rises.

I would prefer to do more donating of time and abilities, but don’t actually have a lot of time these days, and have few skills that are needed. I also know that many charities can do a lot more with money than with anything else. Sending products is never as good as sending money that can be spent on specific needs. So for the time being, I do look at it from a monetary perspective.

I have decided (a few years ago) to donate 5% of my income to others. This is in addition to my donation of 10% of my income to my future self. So every month, I just remove that 15%, and I don’t even think of it when I’m splitting up the other portions of my budget with the remaining money.
Out of that 5% for others, I actually split it into two parts. Half goes into a savings account I have. I am putting it away to someday do a hands-on charity project. I don’t know what form that will take, but it would mean something to me, so I’m putting money in that account, and will spend it when it gets to a workable level. The other half I donate directly to something. I decide each month what I want to support. I tend towards a lot of international aid (feeling that people in danger of starvation need money more than those who just don’t have Christmas presents), but also may look at what’s going on in the community, or if there is a recent issue. Sometimes when the amount is really low (and 2.5% of my income is frequently less than $20), I’ll leave it in my budget book and donate it with the next month’s so I’m not making organisations process really small donations.

I too know that someday I might be able to do much more, and that $10 isn’t going to make a huge difference in the world. But I also know that the habit is important, and that it’s of value to give whatever is reasonably possible for me, even if that is far far less than from other people.

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Baker November 23, 2009 at 10:44 PM

I like the idea of starting to fund a ‘hands on charity project’ through a savings account. You could even invest that account into Kiva if it was still a few years off.

What I got most from your system is that… again… you are making it a priority. You *have* some system that allows to you give/save for giving at least a little bit each payment period. That’s what we don’t have! :-)

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Kai November 24, 2009 at 2:10 AM

I figured that explaining my system could be a useful for people looking for a system. i often find other people’s methods to be useful, either as ideas, or as obvious ‘that’s not how I would do it’ considerations. For me, there are some tight months where I’m really not making much money, but by considering all my things in percentages, I can say, in a bad month, that parting with $20 isn’t exactly going to be too difficult, so off goes the predetermined percentages.

The Kiva idea is something I hadn’t considered. Could be a very neat way to get double use out of that money. I’ll have to take a look at what is in that account – I figure it’s probably still a good while off, and especially with interest rates as useless as they are now, I could probably get a lot more use out of that money if I could help something in the meantime. Not like it’s making money from the bank. :) Thanks for the idea!

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Patrenia November 23, 2009 at 10:53 PM

It’s ironic that I wrote about the same topic (giving) on my site today. It didn’t really focus on monetary giving because there are so many other ways to give, BUT I do believe that giving monetarily is important. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. As another commenter stated above about tithing (10%), it’s something I’ve done faithfully for years. I have also recently extended giving to other charities as well. Small, but it’s a start. As I make more, I’ll increase it. I think you are off to a good start:-)!

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Wojciech November 23, 2009 at 10:56 PM

My view on giving has always been about balance–like everything else in my life. There’s no reason to eliminate giving all together, with the purpose to divert money to another cause (there will always be “another cause”), and no reason to give up a large percentage of what you make when you’re clearly hurting your future ability to make bigger contributions by being more financially successful (again, if that’s your personal case).

I like your approach too, because “giving” in the purest sense doesn’t have to be all about money.

I’m currently reading Gary Vee’s Crush It, which I was fortunate enough to win from Own The Dollar (thanks, Hank). One of the points that Gary keep reiterating that really hits home for me is this–you don’t need a lot of money to start a profitable online business, just a lot of time.

I think the same can apply to charities–but again in balance–after all, we could be using time we spend volunteering to generate more income streams and have even more financial resources to contribute…

Ahh…this stuff makes your head spin if you think about it too much. :)
.-= Wojciech´s last blog ..A New Way to Experience Fiscal Fizzle =-.

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Baker November 24, 2009 at 12:12 AM

Stop spinning my head! Your suppose to be telling me how to make it all better with minimal effort! ;-) (a.k.a. I hear you)…

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Mike November 23, 2009 at 11:25 PM

also forgot to say that if it’s any consolation, your little blog here is a form of giving. it might not be direct, but you have committed your time and passion into this and I, along with others are constantly inspired to fight that good fight against debt and against a non-frugal lifestyle. In effect, your are giving by enabling others to give or to be able to give down the line once they have their financial house in order.

i really do believe, if more people were financially free/stable, more people would give. that’s why i really think giving is a part of personal finances (at least for those who care to give). the more ‘wealthy’ a person is the more their financial powers magnify their generosity.

so with that, keep the articles, passion and inspiration coming. we could always use this in our journey to financial independence. :)

oh btw, here’s a cool little community that you might enjoy:
http://www.changemakers.com/
.-= Mike´s last blog ..Sponsored Kiva Entrepreneurs: Mr. Oeurn San Village Bank Group, 11/20/09 =-.

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Baker November 24, 2009 at 12:13 AM

Thanks for the kind words and for the link! I’ll definitely be checking them out! :-)

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Foxie | CarsxGirl November 24, 2009 at 1:40 AM

Best of luck! I’m sure you won’t have too much trouble getting a bite. :)

I’m hoping to be able to help out with Tire Rack’s Street Survival Schools someday… Driver’s education is certainly something I can see myself making a difference in, and hopefully also showing people that there’s a fairly cheap and easily accessible way to legally and safely race. :P I suppose that leads in to where I’d love to get involved in some of the drifting groups and help promote them and such… Hmmm, does it sound to you like I should change from a finance degree to a marketing one? (Serious question, actually, lol. I like the idea of promotion, advertising, branding and the like, would marketing be worth the pursuit then? Since I could earn a living with it AND volunteer the skills if I so chose to. Plus I figured it wouldn’t hurt when I turn entrepreneur to have that skill set.)

For now, I help out with the local SCCA and pay my club dues. (Does that sort of count as supporting what I believe in? I like to think so!) Funny enough, I swear it doesn’t count for a whole lot because I enjoy every minute of it, and have made tons of friends doing so… People know me who I thought I’d never get to talk to, haha!
.-= Foxie | CarsxGirl´s last blog ..Yay, I’m not alone!! =-.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:21 AM

Megan, you bring up some great points about how aligning your giving with your passions (in your case cars) make it not only easier to give money, but time too!

I don’t have much advice on that degree question, though. Depends on how close you are to finishing probably. I’d say whatever you pursue, if it’s not in alignment with what you’d LOVE to be doing, at least focus on taking small steps to have that align too!

Lots of aligning in this comment.

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Jacob November 24, 2009 at 2:39 AM

I used to sort of scoff at giving money to charities. It really bothered me that committing $20 to something I believe in would just get me on a mailing list for the next two years. I personally have found it more fulfilling to commit time and skill to projects (especially being in college and essentially broke). I decided to join a student organization at school that fulfilled this. Not only can I change someone’s life, I also get to travel and experience in ways I had never imagined.

I hope you all do not mind a shameless plug, but I feel that it cannot hurt. Engineers Without Borders, my student organization, designs and implements (build/construct) bridges, water systems, and electric systems. We are one of the few chapters in the national organization that is able to implement a project every year (from beginning to end). This year we are hoping to implement two separate projects seen here: http://ewb.groups.msoe.edu/index.php/projects/2010 .

We would *love* and gratefully accept any donations individuals (or corporations) are willing to give. Donations can be tax-deductible and given directly to our student chapter. Also those willing to give more than $500 can donate through the national chapter, have the funds doubled by Google, and forwarded directly to our local chapter. If you have an questions (or would like to donate and have Google match), please feel free to contact me.

~Jacob
.-= Jacob´s last blog ..Front Page Intro =-.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:30 AM

Jacob, I don’t mind the plug at all!

It sounds like you are doing awesome work. In fact, how you are involved in this first-hand is just the inspiration we need to tackle something like this ourselves. Thanks for being part of the solution!

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Jacob November 29, 2009 at 4:54 AM

I forgot to mention my email address! –> jbolda@gmail.com

Anyways, the thing that really draws me to this type of work? It is not just minimal/temporary change. The bridges we build are designed to last for generations. We make a change not only for the whole community, but future generations. You really feel like you are making a difference when a mother brings her baby and asks for a picture with you because she wants her child to remember/know the people that constructed the bridge that changed the community.

~Jacob

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Cath Duncan November 24, 2009 at 4:30 AM

I totally agree with you – if you wait until you have “enough” money/ time/ people/ resources, etc it’ll never happen. That’s been our motivator for getting on with doing small projects that make a small difference in South Africa.

In January we’ll be building some accommodation for doctors at a rural hospital in the eastern cape, SA (more about that plus photos of the area in my post in the commentluv box below, if you’re interested). In an area where the unemployment rate is 77% and the HIV rate is estimated between 12% and 35%, and families of 5 to 12 people live on $100 a month, our little contribution is just a drop in the ocean, but it’ll make it possible to add 2 to 4 new doctors to the hospital staff and that will begin to make a difference (the government is willing to pay for their salaries but they can’t get people out there because there’s no suitable accommodation and its unsustainable for doctors working under such demanding conditions to live in a tent.)

Giving feels so good and it’s one of the big things that creates a meaningful life, so good on you for getting out there and finding a way to get involved and give. Every small bit does make a difference – not just to the people you’re giving to, but it’ll make a big difference in your own life.

Go for it!
.-= Cath Duncan´s last blog ..Extreme African Adventures and How to Create More Meaning in Your Life =-.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:31 AM

Cath, like Jacob right above you, I’m definitely inspired by your own willingness to jump in and make a difference. Even just a “drop in the ocean” must be felt very deeply by those directly affected.

Btw, I e-mailed you about potentially helping. We’ll talk soon!

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Cody McKibben November 24, 2009 at 6:32 AM

Dude, thanks for the mention! The only reason I’m so fortunate to be able to volunteer and give back the way I do is I was lucky enough to have a friend like Dwight Turner from In Search Of Sanuk. Dwight has made it easy for anyone to give or to volunteer their time here in Bangkok, Thailand—and I think we’ve made a lot of difference in this small corner of the world, working with orphans, refugees, & other needy demographics. I hope we get to collaborate on something together while you’re here!

Also, if anyone wants to make a contribution, he’s finally put up a donation page here.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:32 AM

For sure man. We’ll talk about it soon in early January!

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Ash November 24, 2009 at 7:36 AM

I really enjoyed reading your post, and I gotta say that I have strong feelings regarding charity. I’ve lived for many years in Bangladesh, a “developing” nation, and there are people so far below the poverty line and in such hardship that they really need a helping hand. I’ve also witnessed what an amazing difference in a family’s life microfinance can create.

Since I blog about personal I’m keenly aware of the “time value of money” ie money today has a much higher value that money you’ll get tomorrow. So people who are starving would much rather have food today than tomorrow. Add to the fact that some charities are time-dependent (eg helping out flood victims), and I think it’s a strong case for donating today rather than later. I know I sound like a shill, but I’ve witnessed so much poverty up close that I believe that charity (and microfinance organizations) are essential.

Is it the Bible that says “Give and you shall receive?” (I’m not religious). But this turned out to be my case – I signed up for a monthly donation, even though I had almost zero disposable income, and soon afterwards I obtained a better-paying job. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many others have had similar experiences.

Things seem to turn up when we really want/need them to, so I’m sure that if you really want to start a charity habit you’ll find an opportunity soon. And I’m guessing quite a few people will email you about this. I really admire your goal of social entrepreneurship (let me know if you’re ever interested in working with any Bangladeshi charities/microfinance organizations and I’ll introduce you to my social/microcredit worker friends.)
.-= Ash´s last blog ..Why is it so Hard to Lose Weight? My Giant List of Weight-Loss Tips =-.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:35 AM

Ash, the biggest part of your comment that hit me was your in depth experience with different situations/needs. I currently don’t have that yet.

I hope to get a small glimpse of things in Thailand when we go (visit some of the orphanages, etc…). I think right now, I am still a little bit out of touch with things.

It seems like your experiences have given you a deep perspective. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

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Financial Samurai November 24, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Giving is really a personal decision, and one shouldn’t feel bad they don’t give X amount.

Giving money sometimes just feels wrong, b/c you don’t know where it’s going. It’s really about giving your own time and effort that really makes a difference.

Good luck Baker!
.-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..Book Review & Giveaway: The New Rules For Mortgages =-.

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Kai November 30, 2009 at 12:08 AM

It’s always about giving your time and effort, just in different ways. Someone who has free time but little disposable income might be better able to give labour directly. Someone with little free time, but some free disposable income might be better off giving the money which they’ve earned through prior effort.
If you are worried about not knowing where your money is going, look more closely, request a report, or pick a different place to donate. It’s a concern to fix, not an excuse to avoid.

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Amber November 24, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Dave Ramsey’s reason for tithing through debt repayment is that it helps to teach you that money isn’t everything. As people have said, there will *always* be another thing that needs your money right now and you’ll get to giving…later. When is it going to be later? If you can’t live on 90% of your income, you probably can’t live on 100%! How much is your life really going to be impacted by giving up $10 or $20 each month? Probably not much! But look at what an impact that $20 could have on someone in a third world country. How many pairs of TOMS shoes could your concert tickets have given to someone who has no shoes??!!

Another commenter above said “I’m not trying to be selfish”, but I think that even if selfishness isn’t your stated goal, there is some inherent selfishness is making a conscious decision to give nothing. Is your debt repayment really more urgent than somebody else’s need for clean drinking water? As others have said you don’t have the change the entire world in order to change one person’s world! How grateful would you be as a parent if you had no money for shoes for Milligan and somebody provided that for you?

You mentioned the importance of saving for Milligan’s college education. I’d encourage you to think about Milligan and giving from a different angle. What will it teach Milligan to see you giving of your time and money to people who are less fortunate? Do you want her to grow up having compassion for the less fortunate in the world? Or to be wrapped in her own needs? My oldest child is 5 and he is beginning to understand that not everybody has all of the things that we have. He helps me pick out things to give to our local food pantry. He knows that we donate things to our local thrift store which supports my town’s Lay Clergy Council’s Love Fund which provides financial assistance to people in our town that have some sort of need. We’ve raised money for various charities at church and he knows that some people in Africa have to walk a mile to get fresh water. He’s starting to get it!

I will admit that I’m a bleeding heart. Even the picture at the top of your post makes me want to cry. It pains me inside to see other people desperately in need for some of the basic comforts in life that many of us totally take for granted. If I were not tithing and giving to other organizations, I probably could have paid off our non-mortgage debt more than 6 months sooner. But…to what end? It didn’t hurt me to delay my debt-free status. I had plenty of food and shoes and a nice big house the entire time! And because of my gifts, other people had food on their tables as well.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:38 AM

I totally agree with many of your points, which (of course) is the reason I wrote the post.

I do think that it’s a slippery slope, though. Meaning that few things in life will EVER be more important than clean drinking water is somewhere on the planet. Does that you mean you shouldn’t do anything? Ever?

Obviously, the answer isn’t to NOT give. But, I’m not sure the “bleeding heart” trait is a positive one. I think each person has to find a balance between making the most of their own life (which DOES help others too) and making the most of the lives of the ones who struggle the most, etc…

We certainly haven’t found that balance, yet. :-)

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Kai November 30, 2009 at 12:12 AM

As long as you’re living in a nice big house that you could sell to provide clean drinking water for people, your argument has no leg to stand on. If you choose to have children instead of supporting people already out there without clean water, you’re not doing as much as you could. If you have more than one pair of shoes, you could have given the other to someone with none.

I’m not saying you should do any of those things, but if you take your argument to its logical conclusion, I suspect you no longer support it. You simply can’t say that clean water is more important, or you should be devoting so much more to it. It’s necessary to accept that you like to give to help others, but no-one will ever quite be doing ‘enough’.

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Robert November 24, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Provocative take on giving. I can’t say I haven’t had the same conversation over and over with myself. There’s the logic of paying off everything else first vs. the unknown or quantifiable impact of giving.

I can’t help but to believe that giving now offers so many more rewards than saving for later. The dollars get stretched and used and people get stretched and used (in a good way) far beyond the 1 to 1 of paying off a credit card. It’s so hard to do though…and I completely agree with wanting to save and build to being in the place to take on saturating yourself with a cause and fighting for it tooth and nail…not just giving blood every few months of spending a few dollars…I just wouldn’t ever get there if I approached it like that..the “someday” mentality would get me. Thanks for making me think….keep on growing.
.-= Robert´s last blog ..Preparing a Platform for Freedom =-.

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Thirtysomething Finance November 24, 2009 at 1:22 PM

The fact that you’re even thinking about this is awesome, Baker. My girlfriend works in non-profit, and while many at her company are focused on the monetary contributions people make, she focuses more on the personal contributions. After all, the money is useless without volunteers to help put various plans in action. Personally, I think contributing time is as important as, if not more important than contributing money. I endeavor to do both — I sit on the board of directors of two smallish non-profits, and especially in the early stages, legwork is as important as money. So I applaud you on your efforts — I think you will find it very rewarding, and I also think you’re setting a great example for Milligan.

You could also do something like J. Money over at Budgets are Sexy did with his scratch-off project…
.-= Thirtysomething Finance´s last blog ..Nouriel Roubini Profiled in GQ Magazine December 2009 Issue =-.

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Baker November 28, 2009 at 3:40 AM

I will be instituting several ways to get this blog directly into the giving areas. I’m not sure what ways that looks like yet. But a similar project or association is extremely likely.

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Jill MacGregor November 24, 2009 at 1:23 PM

I so connected with your post on feeling like you weren’t doing your part with giving. I think its great that you’re reaching out to organization to volunteer your time.
On a smaller scale, but no less significant, every interaction you have with people, strangers or otherwise, can be fueld by giving. Your offers of help, a kind word or smile, the introduction of politness/consideration when its unexpected—it can change the people it touches. It may be short term–they may remember it long enough to pass it forward.
*It’s the little things that make a difference.* Giving is at your fingertips any moment of the day, whether you’re working through an organization or not.
Happy Thanksgiving, ex-pat.
Take care,
Jill
.-= Jill MacGregor´s last blog ..Making Your WHEN Happen NOW =-.

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Kate November 24, 2009 at 1:49 PM

You hit the nail on the head with your title. There’s always an excuse not to give. So just buckle down and do it. Do it with time, money, skills, whatever. But start now, and make it a habit.

Take a few minutes and make a plan for your donations. Although it might sound hokey, try this:

Close your eyes. Picture your ideal world. What would it look like? What in the world would you most like to see change or stay the same?

For us, access to health care and food security are our priorities. We give to MSF/Doctors Without Borders, a local community health care centre that focuses on providing services to the poor, and our local food bank (both food and cash).

The Food Bank has been a particualrly interesting case study of how and why people donate, as well as what works and what doesn’t. They are certainly not hurting for labour- every scout troop, community group, church/mosque/synagogue seems to send a contingent to sort. They get so many volunteers they have to turn them away. Food is also a challenge- it’s a lot of work to transport, sort through, weed out the spoiled stuff, etc. Cash actually works the best for them. They have negotiated deals with the local grocery stores wherein they get 4-for-1 donations with cash (buy 40 dollars worth of stuff for 10 dollars), and the grocery stores provide the transportation.

We don’t donate for religious reasons, and we actually make a policy of not donating to explicitly religious charities. While they have an important role to play, it’s just not for us.

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Bradley November 24, 2009 at 2:55 PM

excellent post. i have given money to charities in the past, but have not been doing that for the past few years while i was trying to get my finances in order. i have no excuse for not doing it, or at least for not volunteering my time to something.

lots to work on personally.

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Hunniebun November 24, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Excellent post! And very timely for the holiday season. I think many people feel the same way the “I’ll give more when…”, but that is kind of like the “I’ll be happy when…” and the sad truth is that “when” never seems to arrive, or at least not in the way that you think it should. I think that statistics for my country (Canada) routinely show that those in lower income brackets tend to give more both % wise and in actual dollar values than their wealthier counterparts. How sad. My brother and mom are both accountants are each year at tax season are shocked when people earning 250,000/year or more have contributed less than 100$ to charity. For shame.

Right now, I donate bi-weekly to my three favorite charities. Each new year, I review and revise which charities I want to give to and start the automation process. Then you don’t have to think about it, or try to scrap together lump sum amount at the holidays. Where I fall short and feel like I could be doing more is volunteering my time. Time is money as they say, and many charities are short on (wo)man-hours…but with a young baby at home, time seems to be in short supply. But, now you’ve got me thinking of different ways to volunteer…it can even be from home, making calls, stuffing envelopes or whatever. Smart thinking! There is no time like the present…

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Thailand Musings November 24, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Baker,

Thanks for writing this post, it really struck a chord with me. Like you I’ve often thought about my lack of giving and had the idea that “one day” I would give more.

With my deep connection to Thailand I want to find (or start) a charity there that I can feel good supporting. Kiva.org would be great, but in looking through their site it doesn’t appear as if they lend in Thailand. I am now off to do some research and find a place where I can help, even if only $10 a week to start.
.-= Thailand Musings´s last blog ..1st Thailand Musings Survey =-.

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karl November 24, 2009 at 7:02 PM

thailand musings,

i was there 2 years ago and am still riding high to this day because of the wonderful experience i had. the food was AWESOME and the people always had a ready smile. what did not escape my attention though was the squalor and abject poverty some people lived in. it made me sad. it is true that Kiva does not have any MFI partners yet in Thailand but there is a direct way for you to help with an MFI. This link: http://www.mixmarket.org/mfi/sed should take you to Thailand-based MFI. Their contact info is there so you can get started right away. Keep the community posted on your progress in helping the Thai people. Good luck.
.-= karl´s last blog ..Money Talks–CHAPTER 4 (HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT, TOO) =-.

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Casey November 24, 2009 at 3:10 PM

That is what I am working on right now. I came across Charity: Water and started my current project to fund a well. I have reached out to family & friends and then tried to take it viral and have received quite some help from different people. I am going to start pushing it in person on Black Friday after volunteering at a Shelter on Thanksgiving. I figure people will have relatively open check books on BF when they are raiding the shopping malls. I am past 10% now and hoping to hit 50% with some in person work in the next week. Cross your fingers!

This is my first step in moving towards giving more and learning what it takes to start my own concept, or help take somebody else’s even further.

If you don’t mind, here is the link to my site: http://mycharitywater.org/the-gift-of-life
.-= Casey´s last blog ..Photo of the Week: Paddling Along the Mekong in Vietnam =-.

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chacha1 November 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I gave nothing last year due to a major pay cut and then complete disemployment. Now that I am happily re-employed I have queued up the letters from charities I support and am looking forward to writing those checks.

I choose to support my state parks, Nature Conservancy, Planned Parenthood, Heifer, Habitat for Humanity, and Alley Cat Allies. You can probably see a theme there … help for those who *will* help themselves, or for those who absolutely *can’t.* (Am looking forward to getting started with Kiva.)

I haven’t had a single religious impulse in my adulthood, but I have seen enough to value the “golden rule” above pretty much all others, and I think there’s value in the concept of karma as well. Regardless of how, when, where, and to whom we choose to give, I believe most people have an altruistic impulse (it’s necessary for living in a society) and when we don’t indulge it, we can feel worry or anxiety or guilt (eh, Baker?).

So one could argue that giving is of benefit to us, because our mental and emotional health is key to our prosperity. That does not, by any measure, take away from the benefit our giving provides to others.
.-= chacha1´s last blog ..a few days away =-.

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Craig November 24, 2009 at 4:00 PM

It took a long time to get to the comment form on this post!

Good on you, Baker, for raising awareness and discussion of such an important part of our finances. We have committed to a baseline of giving each year, which disappears as part of regular payments then at the end of each year — normally in January — we see if we can improve on that. For the last two years, things have been too tight as we’ve been working little but there’s always room to look and stretch.

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Toby Martini November 24, 2009 at 5:48 PM

As a couple of folks above alluded to… Consider the scaling.

You don’t have much now and it feels hard to give away 10% of what you make.

So, for example if you make $3000 a month, giving away $300 sounds like a good chunk. That pays the electricity and the water, etc.

But then, think about when you’re making $20,000 per month. Do you think you’ll find it much easier to give $2000 away? “$2000! That’s almost as much as I used to make each month and I have all these bills to pay and… blah blah blah.”

Learn to give when it’s small and you’ll find it easier to give when it’s a larger absolute dollar amount.

Cheers!
Toby Martini
.-= Toby Martini´s last blog ..Who will end the “recession”? =-.

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B Kinch November 24, 2009 at 9:56 PM

“If I ever get real rich, I hope I’m not mean to poor people, like I am now.” -Jack Handey

One of my favorite quotes! Straight out of high school I worked at a homeless shelter. I was getting paid, but not much. In fact, I made less money than some of the homeless folks I worked with. There have been lots of times when I was volunteering to help people who were in a situation a lot like mine and for me, it’s better that way. It’s more of a “hey, we’re all in this together” kind of feeling, rather than yeah, now I’ve reached financial stability and I will help those less fortunate than myself.
.-= B Kinch´s last blog ..oh Nellie =-.

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LeanLifeCoach November 25, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Baker, I would have to second Mike’s point above. You give every time you post a thought provoking article. You help people work through their issues and see that there are options to make their lives better.

Who says giving has to be in the form of money or labor?

One of the core reasons I began blogging was to “give”. We donate money, supplies and “stuff” every year to charity but my situation limits how much we can give in total. Another way to give, as I see it, is to share knowledge or expertise with others. If you or I can help one other person get a handle on their financial lives we have broken even, if we can touch two lives we have make a “profit” for society!
.-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..To Tip Or Not To Tip? =-.

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Writers Coin November 25, 2009 at 9:04 AM

Ummm…nope. Definitely not happy with my giving. Though I think I’m in the same boat you are: I keep making silly excuses instead of just pulling the trigger. It’s hard to squeeze this into the personal finance plan when the return is such a fuzzy, non-numeric return. But I keep telling myself that when I have more I’ll get to it. We shall see…
.-= Writers Coin´s last blog ..Why I’m Better Than 87% of You =-.

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Amber November 25, 2009 at 10:10 AM

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
The man was struck by the apparent futility of the task. “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

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Bobby November 25, 2009 at 1:56 PM

Fantastic post, and great comments. It’s the season for reflection.

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Jason of Kim & Jason November 25, 2009 at 7:08 PM

Funny you should mention Pearl Jam. I love them! I am literally listening to the Into the Wild soundtrack by Eddie Vedder right now. (My brother is actually a crazy big fan, but I got into PJ after a brief rap fascination while in high school.)

On a related note (related to the actual content of this post, that is), I love the idea I once heard that money only makes you more of who you already are. If you’re a jerk, money will make you a rich jerk. If you’re generous, money will make you a philanthropist.

I often fall into the trap of, “Once I make millions, I’ll be able to REALLY be generous.” The scary part of it is, if we’re not generous when we have little, what makes us think we’ll be so generous when we have much?

A long time ago, Kim and I decided to build giving into our business. Lots of companies donate to charities out of their profits. Well, it was taking a lot longer for us to be PROFITABLE than I was hoping. So we decided that we’d build the giving in as a cost of the products we sell. We donate a portion of every single product we sell to six different charities that help kids. Now, it’s not like we’ve given away millions or anything, but over the years it starts to add up. It’s hard sometimes when cash flow is tough, but I’m so glad we started this practice because I am certain we wouldn’t have made nearly the contributions we’ve been able to at this point.

Good luck to you in your search to find your place of greatest contribution!
.-= Jason of Kim & Jason´s last blog ..A First-Year Father’s 13 Things to Be Thankful For =-.

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Credit Card Chaser November 26, 2009 at 3:18 AM

As a Christian I can certainly point back to times where the Lord has blessed me when I have first made it a priority to tithe and give back to God for all the blessings that He has given me. It was always a temptation to give only when I felt like it but I know from personal experience that the times when I gave first rather before thinking of myself then those have been the times that have been the most freeing and where I have received the most blessings. – Joel
.-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Credit Cards & Bankruptcy: A Visual Tragedy =-.

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Rick Vaughn November 27, 2009 at 11:11 PM

“The best thing you can do for the world is make the most of yourself”

Wallace Wattles

Giving to charity is great and something that you should do if you feel impelled to. However, as long as your not a charity yourself you are making the world a better place. Good post!
.-= Rick Vaughn´s last blog ..If You Have a 400 Credit Score! =-.

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brooklynchick November 28, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Great post and great comments. I agree that supporting local orgs usually cuts down on useless mail – although I *have* had success in emailing charities and asking them to stop mailing me paper. I give to my local library, park association, public radio station, homeless org, animal shelter but also international orgs like Heifer and Doctors without Borders.

There is *no good time* as others have said, but I think starting small is great. With Heifer you can sign up to be a monthly donor for only $10/month. Their magazine is AWESOME and I love giving to them. Over time many of my gifts have moved to this monthly model. It makes it painless and easy to budget for.

One small group I give to that almost never sends paper mail is One Acre Fund http://www.oneacrefund.org/ They help small African farmers grow more and gain self-sufficiency for their families. They are the only small nonprofit I know that focuses heavily on measuring their results – success AND failure – very transparent which I really like.

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rebecca November 28, 2009 at 1:14 PM

I have struggled with this for years. I give a great deal of time, but money is needed too. I have always given cash, though in embarrassingly small amounts. Thanks for your unvarnished admission as it hits awfully close to home.

Those things that I participate in on a routine basis, the kids’ schools for example, provides the best opportunities for giving of time and money. You can give a school a tax credit donation. This is a painless, cost-free way to make sure schools get money. I haven’t done it in the past five years I’ve known about it. So, uh, yup. That’s pretty much the sort of reason why I take this post personally.
.-= rebecca´s last blog ..Christmas Giving =-.

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Holme November 28, 2009 at 2:27 PM

I highly recommend spending money on micro-loans to people in poor regions. It is fun and you know that your money is put to good use. In theory you can even earn a bit on your investment though I never got a profit, but some people do. That profit can be used to lending more money to more people who need capital for their business.

Take a look at http://www.myc4.com (I’m not affiliated with MY4C except for one account there)
.-= Holme´s last blog ..Hent blogindlæg som PDF =-.

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Jessica November 28, 2009 at 3:41 PM

I wanted to take the time to share this story. I’ve had it on my “To Give List” for the last THREE YEARS… Around Xmas time, there’s an organization that gives childrens books to kids in need. So I walked into the bookstore and found a helpful clerk to talk to, who turned out to be a little TOO helpful and tried to lead me down the garden path of donating to a specific Jewish foundation (these same books). Though I appreciate the thought, I didn’t appreciate what felt like manipulation, so I walked out of the store (politely) after getting all of my questions answered.

On the corner of the street, was a homeless fellow with a sketch book full of what could aptly be described as one liners, cute, catchy reasons to give him money. I asked to see all of them and he flipped through them. I appreciated the humour in them (beer fund, alien fund, wife’s implants fund, etc…) and talked for a couple of minutes. He told me about where he was staying, where he was from, why he liked the city. I gave him a five at towards the beginning of the conversation and another 10$ at the end.

I went into the store with the intent to give, walked out and found a better reason.
.-= Jessica´s last blog ..jesscyn: @hekainteractive @aral @havi I tend to find the following site more effective ;) http://justfuckinggoogleit.com/ =-.

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Daniel DiGriz November 30, 2009 at 2:11 AM

I went over this question at once point, also. For me, it’s settled by one thing. The poor. If one were to describe the life of the poor, it is one of hand to mouth. They are in debt up to their eyeballs, if they every had anything they could use to borrow. They are late on their bills and owe everyone. But more than that, they die every day in droves, for lack of food, lack of basic necessities. Hand to mouth. Moment to moment. I can’t look at them and say, ‘I’m going to plant this pile of seed for you. Rest assured that, while you will starve to death as it grows, it will at least one day feed future generations. Not related to you, of course, but some other future generations.’ Relating giving to specifically the poor helped me solve this issue. Also, in my Faith, we are forbidden to save to give, because what belongs in the gift is not the fruit of my own investment decisions, but to give also those decisions, the ability to make them, to let go of those things in favor of someone else’s uses for my wealth. It is not fully a gift if you are specifying how it will be used for the next several years. It is a gift when you let go of it. Lastly, too, my people say that at least a portion of our wealth *belongs* to the poor, that it’s not actually ours at all, and that to withhold it is robbery, even if the justification is that we are investing it, or that we know how to use it better, or that we’re subjecting it to our own plans. That’s the language of control and ownership, and it means we think there is no purpose or meaning to why some of us have wealth – as tho it were arbitrary, for mere existence, momentary comfort, to be snuffed out in say 45 years, when we keel over with the last of it. To give is to confess that meaning transcends mere existence.

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Broke by Choice November 30, 2009 at 7:18 PM

Fantastic article and very timely.

I was once faced with the same way of thinking, but then I realized how fortunate I was compared to others. So, I started off small by giving $20 per month and slowly increased it over a year or so until I reached 10% of my gross income (14.97% of my net). It is a tough thought to swallow at times, when I am thinking about paying off down the remainder of my $105K.

In September a friend of mine accepted a job with a non-profit that would place in a middle eastern country where she will be teaching kindergarten and working on educational reform. This job required her to raise her salary, but getting sponsors. When I received the request from her, I was so grateful to know that I could commit to donating $7000 to her dream to help those with the greatest need. I could be closer to being debt free, but my heart wouldn’t be nearly as happy.

Whenever I stuggle with excuse I keep this quote in mind:
“Excuses are tools of the weak and incompetent that build monuments of nothingness and those who specialize in them seldom accomplish anything especially __________” (Fill in the blank with what you are trying to do. In this case it would be “a generous giver”)

Good Luck!

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MH November 30, 2009 at 7:20 PM

I like this article. I try to focus on one time volunteer opportunities since my schedule is a little hectic. I try to commit to one activity per month.

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5 Girls Ditching Debt November 30, 2009 at 11:42 PM

Just commit to something. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you give as long as you do it and are a peace with your decision.

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Tina December 2, 2009 at 4:58 PM

I must say that I was surprised to read this post. I’m a fairly new Believer and I just automatically assumed that you were a tither since this was a blog with Christian values. I have been learning more and more about giving. A few years ago, a close Christian friend sat me down and asked if he and his wife could review my budget. Before I agreed, I asked him a number of questions. He was debt free, they lived in a home with no mortgage, they had 5 kids and he was making six figures in his current position (we worked together for a number of years). I’d even been to their home a few times. So, I agreed. Four years ago, on a gross salary of $33k a year I was giving more than $8k of it away in tithes and offering. I’m embarrassed to say that I was wearing shoes where I had glued on the soles and my kids and I were in need of clothes. We had little furniture and I was extremely frugal. My friend and his wife politely informed me that I was neglecting my family. I walked away crying because I knew that I was yet I couldn’t resist everytime I walked into church to give. In 2004, when I accepted the Lord, I had a radical life change. I just wanted to give and we were with our time and money. Yet, it was way too much. Now, I have chosen instead to give our tithe and offerings when we have extra. In fact, I halted our offerings until all our cc’s were paid off and I was able to save 10% each month for our savings. My salary has more than doubled over the past 4 years and as a single mom of 3 (no child support from the ex) I must say that I have seen the benefits of giving. I do work FT in Corporate American and I founded a non-profit for Single Parents. Even for non-believers, I believe the principle of giving that tenth is so effective because it causes our faith to be increased for more. Adam, whatever you do, I encourage you to start with the Kingdom first.
.-= Tina´s last blog ..Why I Decided to Stop Using Deodorant =-.

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Tina December 2, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Just wanted to clarify. Although we are regular tithers, we only give offering when it is truly extra.
.-= Tina´s last blog ..Why I Decided to Stop Using Deodorant =-.

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Daniel DiGriz December 2, 2009 at 5:10 PM

I just wanted to exclude myself from the “Christian values” thing. I hadn’t intended with my post to contribute to it being a comfortable place to tell each other how much we ought to give. Perhaps I didn’t but, if my post did lead to that, I’m sorry. Incidentally, Israel tithed multiple tithes of multiple things to give to specific multiple persons. There was at tithe given to the priests. A tithe given to the poor. A tithe given to strangers. The notion of taking a straight 10% of your income and giving it to brother Bob the self-appointed pastor at the corner storefront prayer center who heard the call of God in his head telling him to open a storefront, stick a steeple on top, put an ad in the paper, and start taking your money – that’s a more recent invention and, even when it’s 10%, isn’t even remotely related to what a tithe was. It’s not to whom it was given, not what it was for, not what it was given out of, and certainly not how often it was given. In fact, to take a mere 10% off the top of your income, which is less than what a middle class household should be saving in its 401K is relatively light compared to an actual tithe by any reference that can be called “Christian tradition”. So, I’ll just say that anything I had to say about it, wasn’t related to assumptions about tithing or the notion that there’s a monolithic set of “Christian values” to which we all must adhere – those again, were invented relatively recently, and have nothing to do with me. Though if they’re what anyone else wants to follow, it’s no skin off my nose.
.-= Daniel DiGriz´s last blog .. =-.

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Daniel DiGriz December 2, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Source data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tithe
.-= Daniel DiGriz´s last blog .. =-.

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Tina December 2, 2009 at 5:30 PM

Oh boy…I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone (especially you Adam) so please see past the “Christian Values” and see what I’m saying about the idea of giving. Even before I was a Christian, I gave which is what all of the personal finance gurus I’ve read suggest. I do not want to use religion as a mask to hide behind and hurt people or make them feel condemned. Giving the 10% is best for me because as a single mom of 3 with no support, I have to trust God as my sole provider. Faith+Action=Results I truly believe that the faith in giving is where the power lies.
.-= Tina´s last blog ..Why I Decided to Stop Using Deodorant =-.

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Baker December 2, 2009 at 6:16 PM

Woah, I’m not sure what’s going on with the last few comments… I’m lost… haha.

Tina, first, you certainly haven’t offended me, although Daniel may have thought the comment was directed at his recent comment (I didn’t pick that up). :-)

I will say that I don’t intentionally set out to have the blog reflect Christian values like many of my good personal finance friends (Matt, Bob, Peter, etc…). On the other hand, I don’t intentional set out to reflect opposite values either. The values that come out are just related to my life experience (which currently isn’t heavily influenced by any religion), but I’m certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if someone related those to Christian values (as I respect those values). :-)

I find the relationship (or lack of relationship) between people’s concept of ‘giving’, ‘tithing’ and ‘doing good’ to be fascinating. So I welcome the comments from both of you! (I always enjoy comments from personal perspectives, I think they add a lot).

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Daniel DiGriz December 2, 2009 at 6:28 PM

Nah. Sorry if it came off that way. You too, Tina. My bluntness can be… well, like a fart in a church. I was concerned that *I* had inadvertently turned the topic into a religious one which, in almost any blog, seems to end up inviting a big discussion on what this or that religious group thinks we should do. And that’s the worst kind of sabotage you can do to someone’s blog. Seems the discussion is civilized enough. But if someone were to hire me as the hatchet man to ‘get’ some political candidate or other, for instance, one of the many things I’d do is go to their blog and post provocative religious questions related to their topics, bending everything that way. Nothing ensures an embarrassing scene more quickly. :) Was worried I’d inadvertently hosed this thread in that way by using a religious metaphor, and that someone that was starting. False alarm.
.-= Daniel DiGriz´s last blog .. =-.

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Dragos Roua December 4, 2009 at 4:24 AM

Giving should be an extra. You can’t give something that you don’t have, this is hilarious. Focusing on living a fulfilling life it’s actually the FIRST step in starting to give. I am honestly pissed off every time I see a guy who wants to give something but he can’t pay his rent. How valuable would be his contribution if he, on the larger scale, creates more imbalance?

So, just focus on having first and giving later. :-)
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..100 Ways To Screw Up Your Life =-.

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Larry December 4, 2009 at 12:02 PM

I couldn’t disagree more.

Saving and giving have to be off the top, or they will never get done – we will always find something to buy, a restaurant to try, or a daily habit (from cigarettes to lattes) to waste that money before we get to the “leftovers” of saving and giving.

When I save and give first, I’m making a statement that I will live on the rest. My giving is a statement of trust to God that I will be able to make it on the rest, and He has always come through for me. I’m not asking those without faith to do the same, but it also can be a mental game – When you take $300 out of your $3000 budget each month, your mind understands that there is only $2700 left, so you think a little harder about each purchase. Do I buy cans of Bud to host my family this weekend, or bottles of my favorite microbrew? Do I spend $4 @ Starbucks daily, or is the coffee @ work OK?

I’ve found that since I went to a cash basis six months ago, I’ve had the same feelings – it’s the same type of mental game. The average cash sale @ McDonalds is $4.75 cash or $7.00 for credit card purchases, because it’s so much easier to spend when using a card.

As a landlord with over 30 renters, your example is hysterical. People who can’t pay their rent are mismanaging their money in a hundred different ways, but none of them is charity.

Whether you give out of love, out of faith, or to help your own spending discipline, giving must come FIRST, not LAST.

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