Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Giving

Giving is one of those super hot topics in Christian circles. Should we tithe and give 10%? What about the story in the gospel of Jesus saying give what you can? There are so many edicts and declarations across many denominations that frankly in the days when I did not think for myself, was left feeling dizzy and very sick. For me, when trying to dissect how much should be given to a specific cause, what’s left out of the equation is that 100% of our money allocated to be spent is a reflection of the values we hold within our heart. Giving a tithe for me would mean absolutely nothing if I’m paying 18% APR to a creditor every month because of a material addiction to: clothes, shoes, boats, being the life of the party, cars, and the list goes on and on.

Once I formalized a written budget I was efficiently able to take a pullback view on what my priorities and values were in life. Living below my means and keeping a low clothing budget was my tell-tale sign that I cared more about my financial security than a perceived social status. Planning short, medium and long term goals are important to me, and using sinking funds and long term investment vehicles take up plenty of space and numbers in my monthly budget spreadsheets. So without question financial security, retiring with dignity, and saving for my future children’s college are all huge priorities to me.

I genuinely feel that in getting my financial house in order and taking actionable steps to make my goals happen, that I am actively living and pursuing a life that bring me the most fulfillment by utilizing the resources available to their fullest potential. I can’t imagine trying to pursue these goals nor take as much solace in my 6 month emergency fund if I were still weighed down by debt. In the crudest way that I can phrase it from a Christian perspective, would God want me to keep my student loan while paying Sallie Mae the super-low amazingly unbelievable interest rate of 2%, or pay off the debt and invest the money I would pay monthly and earn 12% so that I could set up a scholarship fund to help someone go to school debt free? Hmmmm.

But back to specific giving. Every month my wife and I allocate 10% of our gross income to be given away in gift form. We divide up the total amount between our home church, three children we sponsor to attend school in South America and Africa (charity is approved via charity navigator so we KNOW our money reaches the kids) and the remainder we let accumulate for specific friends and family in need and for special contributions we feel called to give to throughout the year.

I have found that the most effective giving comes from the heart, not rules. 10% of gross or net, who cares!? The best advice that I can give is get out of debt, now! It’s a lot easier to make the call and evaluate what you want to give out of your budget to the causes that mean the most to you, when Sallie Mae and American Excess aren’t eating up your monthly income.

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