How to Give to Charity While Still Saving

Chris Durheim

In our family, we’re constantly trying to save money. We want to set money aside for vacations, for paying down debt, and for our future. At times, we can get hyper-obsessive about pinching every penny, but there’s one thing we’ve always tried to keep in our budget — giving.

We want giving to be a part of our family values; it’s something we feel is important in society - to help support those who are less fortunate than us and to help with causes we feel are important. But when a flurry of bills or an unexpected expense comes in, we have to be prepared if we are going to keep charitable giving as a priority.

Here are three ways we keep on giving while we’re saving:

1. Take it off the top

One of the best ways to make anything a priority is to budget for it — and charitable giving is no exception. Over the years, we’ve worked to make giving a fixed percentage of our budget - first 10% of our after-tax income and over time we’ve grown that to 10% of our before-tax income.

Regardless of the amount that works for you (every little bit counts), the critical piece is consistency. Providing consistent, ongoing donations gives charitable organizations the ability to build plans around an expected budget. This also helps protect your giving funds from “disappearing” month-to-month by being spent on other items.

I recommend setting up a separate savings account just for your charitable giving and, if your work system allows it, having a portion of every paycheck direct-deposited into that account.

If you make this transfer percentage-based, you can feel good knowing that every time your pay increases, your giving will increase right along with it!

2. Make sure your money is being used well

If you want your giving to make the biggest impact, it’s worth spending some time doing your research. Some organizations are more efficient than others at utilizing the donations they are given. Others are dedicated to causes that simply make a bigger impact.

Knowing where and how your dollars are used can give you the peace of mind that your money is making a difference. If you have a charitable cause in mind, research other charities in the same area to see how they compare. You might find one that does a better job than the first one on your list. If you don’t yet have a cause picked out, consider using a site like GiveWell to guide you with organizations that utilize their money well.

3. Donate your time when you can’t donate your money

Just because money is tight doesn’t mean you can’t give. Giving your time can be even more effective than giving your money. You’ll get the benefit of being hands-on in work that’s important to you. You’ll get a chance to provide your unique skills and talents, which may be skills the cause you’re passionate about is in desperate need of.

Plus, you’ll get to see your work in action - seeing results more directly, which can help you feel even better about your giving!