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I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my wallet. A dress shirt that didn’t quite fit – mistake. A monthly subscription I hardly used – mistake. A toy that my daughter is not (and probably never will be) interested in – mistake. Extra queso at Qdoba – nah that was worth it, never mind. As I was recently reflecting on all of my regrettable financial decisions – I came to an important realization: I have never regretted spending money on a gift for someone. Never. Ever. While every other area of financial decisions has its share of regrets (I’ve even regretted saving vs. investing and vis-a-vis at times), this has never happened when my wife and I decided to step up our generosity towards a person or cause we believed in.
The cons in a pros/cons list are non-existent. But what are the pros? A couple obvious ones came to mind:
- Joy. How many financial decisions allow you AND somebody else to smile as an overflow of joy? Now, I’m even guilty of having a weird fixation of paying bills because it makes me happy – but nothing compares to the joy of giving!
- Perspective. Anybody who has been alive on God’s green earth for more than a few years knows the most important things in life aren’t things (not sure who to give credit for that idea. When in doubt Benjamin Franklin probably said it, right?). Being able to spend hard-earned money to see another face light up or help somebody’s circumstances improve is good for the soul.
- Expression. I have plenty of people in my life that I feel indebted to, and it’s funny that the root word of debt is applicable here. Giving a small or large gift helps me express thankfulness that I might forget (I’ve found that nothing says “you’re valuable” like a hand-written note with a small, thoughtful gift).
There’s a plethora of other reasons for giving. That’s the why. What about the what? What do examples of giving look like? I started a list – you should help me keep going and comment below with more ideas!
- Buying meals for law enforcement or military personnel
- Paying it forward to buy an item for the person behind you in the check-out line
- Donating to a local church or mission organization
- Gift cards for teachers (from personal experience it won’t guarantee an A, but it will lift the spirits!!)
- Giving an old car away instead of trading it in
The why of giving is obvious. There is no shortage of what we can give. How is the last word I want to chime in on.
Going 12 for 12 instead of 1 for 12
December brings giving to center stage with year-end donation requests, holiday assistance, and gift giving all being prevalent. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s crazy that we as people don’t catch on that giving isn’t limited to 1/12 of the year! One habit that my wife and I got hooked on the past few years was including a category in our monthly budget called the generosity fund. It’s 100% open to the needs or ideas we have that month.
We love that our bank – First National Bank – supports this very same idea through their holiday Give Joy campaign. They encourage others to spread joy during the holiday season, whether by simple acts of kindness or donating to a nonprofit, the options are endless. They even spread joy with their billboards and on their downtown Omaha location as a reminder to passers-by during the holiday season.
Taking a family member out for a surprise meal? Write it off to the generosity fund. Coffee for a coworker? Paid for. Flour and chocolate chips to make cookies for the neighbors? Done. If there’s one category on our monthly budget we don’t feel guilty about, it’s the monthly generosity line item. We keep this separate from monthly giving to nonprofits. The best thing we’ve found about this is how it keeps our eyes and ears open to how we might be able to give joy whenever the need presents itself.
What about you – why is giving important to you? What are your favorite things to give? How do you make giving a lifestyle and not an event?
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