This is fourth in a five part guest post series by Kari Patterson. You can catch up by reading the first, second and third installment.
We all visit this site with a common goal, right? To save money. We check the site and cut the coupons and shop the sales and roll the Cat to reduce our overall spending and save the money we’ve worked so hard to earn.
But then what? We save money, but what exactly is the purpose of that goal? There are many lofty goals with regard to saving, but perhaps the greatest goal, and the essence of Frugal Living NW, is to save our dollars so we are freed to give generously.
Why give? In short, if you have a computer and are reading this blog, chances are you are among the top 1% of the world’s richest. That’s right, if you make $45,000/year or more, you are among the richest 1% on the planet. So, we’re filthy rich. All of us.
Now moms, what is the most important lesson to teach little Johnny before he marches off to kindergarten? We’ve all been there. Johnny has three toy trucks and little Jimmy comes over and doesn’t have any. Moms, what do we say? Now Johnny, please remember to… what is it? Share.
Friends, we all have three toy trucks. There are billions of people around the world who have none. The goal of our penny-pinching? So we might have some extra—to share.
So how do we give generously? I believe there is one essential habit and four key ways to put it into practice.
Expose yourself to real need.
Many Americans live in a bubble, and sometimes even our coupon-clipping can narrow our focus to such an extent that a HOT deal becomes all-consuming. I have to remind myself that the Sunday paper actually houses the news, not just the Albertson’s doubles. And the news is what reminds us that we are surrounded by a world in desperate need.
No one likes to see pictures of starving children. I don’t. But we must choose to expose ourselves to real need in such a way that it makes us uncomfortable. That is the only way we will be inspired to change the way we live.
Consider this: In 2006, Americans alone spent $3 BILLION on chewing gum. Yes, gum. A non-nutritive substance. Now approximately 15 million people die each year from starvation in our world. The amount of money that Americans spend chewing Trident could feed these people ($200 a year per person) completely. Certainly it is not that simple, but the point is clear. We have so much. We simply need to share.
So here are some practical ways to jumpstart your generosity:
:: Give first
To give what is leftover is not to give at all. We all know that the bottom priority on our budget usually doesn’t get a cent. We can always find more pressing “needs” in the moment, so if giving is truly a priority in your life, it must be reflected in your budget. For my family, giving is the very first check we write. No matter what. The amazing truth is that the rest tends to go farther when we’ve made the choice to give first. Try it. You’ll be amazed.
:: Give regularly and increasingly
As with any monthly bill, make a goal to give some minimum amount every paycheck. It’ll become a habit and you’ll never miss the money. It’s also fun to challenge yourself by always giving in increasing amounts. For example, we try to give 1% more each year. It becomes a fun challenge to see how much you can give.
:: Give wisely
Always do your research before contributing to a cause or organization. There is no merit in throwing money away to a shady institution or enabling someone’s destructive behaviors. Be sure you are supporting something that is in line with your values, and be sure they are financially accountable and have a history of handling money well. Instead of giving cash to individuals, buy meal and bus tickets or fill ziplock bags with nutritious food and helpful hygiene items. Store them in your car and always be ready when you see someone in need. Always give in such a way that people are bettered as a result.
:: Give what you save
Don’t you love looking at the bottom of your Albertson’s or Safeway receipt and seeing that amount you saved because of coupons and sales? Fun challenge — give that amount away. Did you score that great $15 for $7 Groupon at Rice Thai Cookery? Give the $8 you saved away. I find that these little amounts are fun to just stash in an envelope and keep tucked away. When a need arises, it’s so fun to already have the cash set aside and ready to give. It’s a game!
There are hundreds of ways to make giving into a fun and infinitely rewarding activity. The real secret is that those who give get so much more back in return. The joy of giving is greater than anything we could ever buy. And that, dear friends, is the goal of Frugal Living.
Do you have a practical tip that helps you to give generously? Share your thoughts; we’d love to hear!
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I so enjoy Kari’s writing. I became unemployed at the start of the summer, so immediately went into a sort of hoarding mode-natural I guess, considering the situation. Since then I’ve realized just how much I DO have, and have loosened up, while watching the budget pretty carefully. A friend of mine works with at-risk youth, and sent me a wish list. Going through my pantry and cupboards, I can fill a lot of her list, with products that I purchased for next to nothing…just how much Crest toothpaste can one girl use in a year anyway? I’m having a great time “shopping” for my friend, knowing how much more others will be appreciating the “stuff” than I would have.
Kelleigh @ Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs says
Love this post! Thank you for the reminders!
One of the practical ways that we can be sure to “Give First” is that we set up automatic bill pay for our tithe check and our missionary support. I pay all of our bills online, so setting up an auto-check was really easy. Now, we don’t need to remember to bring our checkbook to church or mail in our support payment. It’s all taken care of! And, you are SO right when you say that the rest goes further. God really blesses us when we give him our first fruits.