Last month I realized that we hadn’t maxed out our charity budget for the year and I decided to bounce an idea of my good friend Penny. I was struggling to write with a newborn and wanted to make sure we donated enough this year, so I asked if she would write a guest post on the importance of giving and I would send $200 to whatever charity she wanted. Thankfully for all of us she agreed and sent over a post that is so well written you know it didn’t come from me (seriously, there were only 2 Grammarly underlines in the entire thing, I have had 7 writing this intro). Please, please, please head over to her site shepicksuppennies.com and check it out.
I don’t want to get where I’m going without giving
My tiny family and I have some ambitious goals.
We want time to travel. We want to own our house outright as soon as possible. We want to get paid for living our passions.
Dare I say it? We are chasing financial independence.
As we inch along this journey, I’ve realized one thing over and over again: I don’t know much. Plans change. Ideas evolve. Sometimes the best of intentions go straight to hell childcare, and you have to reroute entirely.
But there’s one thing that’s stuck with me from the very beginning. I don’t want to get where I’m going without giving.
Get a better plan
I hear a lot of people talking about their hopes, their dreams, their goals. They outline. They strategize. They mastermind and bullet journal and read The 4-Hour Workweek. And they use the same pronoun over and over and over again.
I will 10x my business.
I am about to optimize my life.
I plan to FIRE by 50. Or 47. Or 32.
That’s ambitious and important and worthwhile. But if the only pronoun in your plan is I, it’s time to get a better plan.
Why? Because you aren’t the center of the universe. You don’t live in a vacuum. You share a world with other people.
As much as bootstrapping is woven in the fabric of some narratives, it is scientifically and fundamentally flawed. Force up and force down cancels out. Bootstrapping is not a thing. Nobody goes it alone. No one should have to. And I sincerely believe that no one actually wants to, despite what some might say.
One of the most worthwhile exercises we’ve done along this road to financial freedom is to stop and really consider our relationships and interactions. Even people whose company we keep only virtually count. The exchange of ideas is invaluable. Other people matter.
If we’ve benefited from others—we surely have—we want to make sure that others benefit from having crossed paths with us as well.
Give what you can
Generosity is a habit. By finding ways to incorporate giving into my budget now, it will hopefully become second-nature. I’m not here to tell you how much to give. I’m also not willing to hold myself up at as the perfect example. I’ve doubted my giving practices entirely, but I’ve now come to accept that they are a work in progress, something that I am always looking to grow and improve.
But I will say one thing, and I hope to say it loud and clear: You don’t have to give. But you absolutely should.
Your giving does not have to rival the Gates Foundation to matter. Everything counts. Anything counts. It sounds trite, but it is also true. While we do elect to support our favorite charities each month, we also try to be generous with gifts (mostly experiences as I furiously work to combat clutter in my own life) and time.
I have also become increasingly aware of how little sprinkles of financial generosity can buoy someone’s day. I used to focus on percentage precision when leaving tips. Now, I remind myself that there is a very real possibility that rounding up an extra dollar or two means a lot more to a server or a hotel housekeeper than it means to me. It isn’t going to move the need much on the quest for financial independence. To someone who only earns a handful of dollars an hour, a little extra is significant.
Of course, this doesn’t qualify as charitable giving in the eyes of the IRS or my budget. Still, these little exercises remind me that as our position with money becomes increasingly comfortable, we can afford to be more generous to others.
Kindness costs nothing
If charitable donations, gift-giving, or other acts of financial generosity are not or cannot be part of your plan right now, remember one thing: kindness costs nothing more than a smile.
In today’s world, busy has become a state of being. Don’t believe me? Has anyone uttered a different word lately when you ask them how they are? Life is hectic. Everything moves at a frenetic pace.
That busyness coupled with very real hardships and conflicts and natural disasters that are playing out on a world stage would make for a bleak existence if there were no kindness to balance it out. Instead of looking to others for good in the world, be it.
Smile at a stranger. Pay a sincere compliment to someone at work. Let a driver merge ahead of you without riding their bumper or honking your horn. Stop rolling your eyes when your neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking (guilty). It’s not costly, but it does require a change in habits. But if a two-year-old is programmed to help someone pick up an item they’ve dropped, surely the grown-ups can do the same.
Giving Is Worth It
Giving is personal. It means different things to different people. There isn’t a right or wrong way to define it. The important thing is to discover what it means to you and start practicing it.
Of all the habits that I started practicing on this financial journey, this has been the one most worth cultivating. It’s changed the way that I interact with money, and it’s changed the way that I see the world.
I am not the most charitable person. I won’t ever be. But I do what I can now in hopes that I can continue to do more later. If nothing else, as someone who still has quite a ways to go on her financial journey, it’s a great reminder that my money can already make an impact.
$200 is going to Feed My Starving Children today – Thank you Penny and I couldn’t agree more with your message. I have the budget to do this a few more times this year, send me a message on Twitter if you are interested.