I love giving to charity. That warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re helping others is hard to beat. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t like it as much. However, when I stopped giving to charity and put the money towards my debt, I felt guilty. Even though I had a lot of debt to pay, there are still many others that are worse off than I am.
In addition, you can’t help but feel the stigma if you do not donate to the children’s hospital at the checkout, the Girl Guide that comes to your door, the United Way drive through your work and especially your religious community or club that you belong to. Gail Vaz-Oxlade says not to feel selfish when you are digging your way out of debt and you cannot give monetary amounts to charity. You can help others in other ways, until you are ready and able to share some financial earnings in a meaningful manner. Here’s some ideas to get you started thinking generously and creatively, and drop the guilt factor – it’s not your style!
DONATE YOUR TIME
Sure financial donations are important for food cupboards, almost more than grocery donations because they can buy what is in short supply when needed and when on sale. But who’s going to do this shopping and stack the shelves and prepare boxes ahead of time? Before Christmas there is often a big demand to sort and box food to get ready for the hampers.
At your church they may be looking for volunteers for a weekend grounds cleanup in the spring. This is a great way to do a job that is sorely needed and build fellowship with your community in a meaningful way.
Cancer has touched most families and mine is not excluded, so I like to collect donations in the annual April daffodil pin campaign for the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s great to have brief chats with people who stop and some even share their stories about how cancer has touched their lives. I like to pick a time when I know it will be busy and I usually recruit my sister or my friend to do it with me. Last time my sis and I did this, we had a contest to see who would meet the most people they already knew during our shift. Silly games (!) but we had fun and felt good doing our little bit to help an important cause near and dear to our hearts.
Look up any type of organization you would like to help out, and likely there is a way for you to give your time in support.
DONATE YOUR JUNK
We’re not talking real junk that’s ready for the trash, but gently worn clothes, articles you no longer use or furnishings that have outlasted their welcome in your home can be donated to Value Village, The Salvation Army, The Canadian Diabetes Association and more. Don’t continue to hoard your stuff you no longer need and don’t attach a monetary value to it if it’s just too much trouble to get something for it on Kijiji or Ebay. Donate it benevolently, knowing you are helping out others and yourself at the same time – freeing yourself of clutter and guilt – it’s good for the psyche!
So what if you think you can squeeze out a little out of your budget or you decide to use some extra money from selling some stuff in a garage sale? Your charity dollar will only go so far so you want to use it wisely. When people come to the door or ask at the store, it’s only a few dollars here and there but it adds up. This is where you need to be diligent and stick to the plan. Put your ‘found’ money in a designated place and use only that for these types of donations. When the jar is empty, you know you’re done with your charity giving until you are able to replenish it the same way you did initially. You’ve done your bit , so kindly say ‘no’ when asked and you are not able.
Once you are able to up your financial donations, there are opportunities to have them deducted from your paycheque for organizations like the United Way through their annual campaigns. This smoothes out your cash flow and you don’t need to remember to find the money in your budget because it’s taken off your gross pay, so in effect, you don’t even need to account for it in your spending budget which is usually based off net pay. You can designate where the money is to be donated, including all or a portion to your church or any registered charity. That’s a way to ‘double-dip’ your charity dollar helping your organization meet it’s United Way targets and giving to your favourite charities at the same time. Don’t forget, your donation will be shown on your T-4 for tax purposes so you can claim the charitable donation on your tax return.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’ve got money available to buy ‘wants’, then you can afford to give to charity. But if your needs are just barely being met, deploy some strategy and make your charity giving count in other ways. It’s important not to jeopardize your debt recovery plans and keep your head held high knowing that you’ve done your part – after all, charity begins at home!