5 Ways That Charitable Giving Can Improve Your Finances

by Julie Rains on 24 October 2012 5 comments

Most of us have finite resources. So giving to your favorite charity means that you have less to spend and save. But that generosity can also improve your finances.

Certainly, if you make a large donation without examining or restructuring your priorities, habits, and bank accounts, then giving depletes rather than increases your resources. But there are ways that parting with money can boost your financial status. (See also: Surprisingly Easy Ways You Can Support Charity)

Making the decision to give a significant portion of your income involves confronting your financial attitudes. This face-off can lead you to benefit from these positive actions.

1. Match Financial Habits With Personal Priorities

Giving generously (say, 5-10% of your income), requires thought for most people. You need to consider not only how to give but also how to live. Such reflection can lead to conversations about financial priorities.

You may have never had these discussions with your spouse or family, or things may have changed since your last big talk. As a newlywed couple, for example, your goals may have been to pay off student loan debt, start saving for retirement, and buy a house. Years later, perhaps now with children, these goals may have been reached. But you have not revisited priorities.

Whether you have a family or not, focus on launching and growing your career during work hours and engaging in outside pursuits in your downtime may have prevented you from contemplating what is significant to you in terms of long-term goals.

Making a conscious effort to start or increase giving often leads to establishing and ranking financial goals. After you have had a conversation about what's important to you and your family, you can align your spending habits, budgets, and pursuits with these priorities. You may also discover that by naming what you truly value, you are happier with less stuff and more meaningful (but less costly) experiences.

2. Find Ways to Trim Costs

If you earnestly want to give generously but don't have the extra cash and don’t see a bigger paycheck on the horizon, then you’ll need to lower expenses.

At first, you may not be able to think of a category that could withstand reduced spending. Eventually, though, you may find easy targets like these:

If you are like me, you can easily name areas that your spouse or children could cut to control the family budget. They may be agreeable. Or they may resist as certain items, say a gym membership or a once-a-week evening out, seem essential to their well being. They may point to one of your hobbies as an extravagance.

Hopefully, though, you can agree on expenses that can be trimmed or eliminated. Take action, ending a monthly contract or altering habits that lead to unnecessary spending. If you give a portion of the savings, your wealth can grow even though you are beginning to make or increasing monetary donations. You may also reap higher levels of family harmony as a result of these changes.

3. Enjoy Benefits That Save Money

There can be benefits associated with providing financial support to a charity, even though your motivation should not be direct gains in wealth (otherwise, you would be making a trade or investment).

If you are part of a church, temple, mosque, or non-profit community supported by gifts from members, then you may have a built-in network of friends. These relationships can facilitate regular sharing of meals, ideas, and expertise that saves you money.

4. Lower Your Tax Bill

Charitable donations can reduce your tax liability. Generous giving has financial value if you already itemize deductions or if the donations increase your deductions to a level that surpasses the standard amount. Deductions reduce your AGI (adjusted gross income) and could move you to a lower tax bracket.

5. Face Reality, and Make Changes

You can fool yourself into thinking that you are financially OK as long as you are meeting your monthly obligations, even if that means periodically cashing out your home equity, borrowing from your parents (so much that they can't afford to pay off their mortgage), raiding your Roth account, or extending yourself on credit card debt.

But if you want to give more, you have to examine your financial condition: income and earning potential, spending habits, value of investment accounts, and debt. You may have plenty of disposable income or significant wealth, and find such self-scrutiny enjoyable.

However, if you are struggling, this process may be painful. You may finally acknowledge that you can not afford private-school education for your children, your house and its upkeep is beyond your reach, you can’t take expensive and exotic vacations, you need to land a new job, or you need to find ways to generate more income.

A financial wake-up call can help you to face the truth, make difficult decisions, and take practical steps to improve your finances.

Being generous doesn't automatically or magically confer greater wealth. But evaluating your situation and motivating yourself to take actions that benefit yourself, your family, and your community can help you to make and save more.

Have you found that giving generously has had a direct or indirect benefit on your finances?

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Olivia

Planned giving off the top, makes us conscious of all the traditional "leaks" in our finances. It forces us to examine "wants" and "needs". We know what our bare bones budget looks like, even though we don't have to go there. It's forced us to be creative, to plan for and not react to every oncoming situation. So in that way it's been "good" for our finances. It allows us the freedom to give according to our consciences, without regret over missed opportunity to make a real impact while we still can. It's teaching us contentment (still in process). "Who is the rich man? He who is content with what he has."

Julie Rains's picture

Glad to know that giving has helped you to take a more thoughtful and creative look at your finances. The contentment thing is tricky and definitely a process of considering and reconsidering priorities and values, esp. if you have been giving generously for a while.

Guest's picture

It’s always nice to give back to the community so when you have the opportunity and can,… definitely do so. The par that really caught my eye was: 3. Enjoying benefits that save you money. Great read.

Julie Rains's picture

Glad you enjoyed the article. There can be benefits to the community and your family so even though those are not necessarily guaranteed or the reason to give, they can be nice byproducts of giving.

Guest's picture

This was such an interesting read. You first point, 1. Match Financial Habits With Personal Priorities, touches on the complacency that we all sometimes fall into. We get accustomed to our lifestyle but we forget that financial goals are always evolving, whether its because of a change in career, birth of a child, rising housing cost, etc. If giving helps draw attention to this, that's a great added benefit -- everyone wins!