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Generosity: No Act of Kindness is Too Small

Generosity: No Act of Kindness is Too Small

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines generosity as the willingness to give more money and time than is necessary or expected. 

For decades, I struggled with the idea of acting generously and battled furiously against the desire to keep everything for myself. Rather than giving from a place of love and abundance, I was emotionally attached to money and ridiculously stingy with it.

Generosity comes easily to some, but it was a real struggle for me. I wanted to give more money to charitable causes, but my financial fears made it nearly impossible. I didn’t want to become the tight-fisted miser who saved all my cash, but I found it physically painful to give it away. So, I hoarded it, placed it in the bank, and watched it grow. 

I might’ve stayed this way, but the universe kept sending me signs to change. Everywhere I went, I found someone in need. 

One day, I encountered a little girl who couldn’t afford school supplies, a hungry man waiting outside the library, and an older mom struggling to buy new shoes for her kids.

Then I came home and stumbled upon articles and statistics that spurred me to change. 

Did you know that one in seven children in the U.S. doesn’t have access to adequate food, and sixty-one percent of low-income children don’t own a single book in their homes?

My scarcity mentality begged me to hold on to every penny I encountered, but I was tired of keeping money for myself. So, I began searching for ways to resist the urge.

Waiting For Death to Share Their Wealth

When we think of helping others, we often think of grand gestures. We hear stories about stealth-wealth secretaries and janitors who give away millions after they die. 

Leaving money for schools and charities is noble, but why wait to share the wealth? Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to help people and see the benefits of our money before we end up six feet underground? 

Death isn’t the only way to transform a tight-fisted miser into an open-handed philanthropist. There are easy ways to become more generous right now.

How to Be More Generous

Years ago, I couldn’t imagine ditching my stingy tendencies. Now I readily share my wealth.

What changed? I began challenging my assumptions and finding new ways to give. Here are a few ways to give more generously if you are afraid to do so:

1. Start with Small Gifts and Donations

When we think of donations, we often picture large sums of money, but writing big checks isn’t easy for those who struggle with generosity. 

If you find it difficult to part with cash, begin by donating small gifts. Giving away one million dollars sounds like a worthy goal, but there’s nothing wrong with starting with $5. 

When my oldest son was in preschool, his school sent out Scholastic circulars. Every month I found one or two books priced at $1. The first month, I bought five dollars worth of books and left them in free little libraries. The following month I bought $10 worth of books, then $25. 

I could’ve started with $1. One dollar was all I needed to provide a brand-new book for a child to take home.

Think about small ways you can help others—each small act will inspire you to perform another.

2. Budget for Giving

If you’re a personal finance nerd, you know the value of assigning every dollar to a specific task. One dollar pays your utility bills, and another pays your mortgage. The more intentional you are with your money, the easier it is to manage.

If you maintain a budget, add a category for donations and random acts of kindness. You’ll find it easier to give freely if you budget money for gifts and donations.

Do you put money into your retirement account or slide it to savings as soon as you get paid? In the world of personal finance, that’s known as paying yourself first. When it comes to being generous, pay yourself first, then earmark a small amount of money to “pay for someone else.” 

3. Donate with Cash

Where should you keep the money you intend to donate? I suggest placing a few dollars in a special section of your wallet. By reserving this money for a charitable cause, you are less likely to feel the need to hold on to it or spend it on something else. 

Be cautious about storing earmarked money in your bank account. If you struggle with stinginess, you might not withdraw it. Keep a small amount of cash on hand instead.

4. Cut Out One Unnecessary Purchase

If you feel strapped for cash, think about your recent purchases. Do you have a relatively inexpensive item that you repeatedly buy but don’t need?

Do you find yourself picking up fast food once a week or buying a candy bar while you stand in the checkout lane? The next time you reach for a discretionary expense, ask yourself if you could redirect that money to help someone else.

Maybe you can cut back on dessert or vow to drink water rather than soft drinks when you dine out. Perhaps you can stop buying beauty products, avoid endcaps at Target or cut a subscription you don’t use.

Calculate the amount you saved by avoiding these discretionary items and set that money aside for a charitable cause.

5. Give In Connected Ways

When we write checks to organizations, it’s often difficult to see how our dollars help those in need. Every year I provide a donation to my alma mater, but I have no idea how the university uses the money I provide. 

If you want to see the impact of your small gesture, give it directly to the person in need.

It feels good to see a young girl smiling as I hand her a new book or a mail carrier’s look of relief when I provide water bottles on a sweltering day.

If you struggle with generosity, begin with small acts of kindness where you can see the immediate impact of your gift.

6. Embrace Minimalism

There was a time when I thought I could never have enough money to fulfill my goals. A time when I wanted to buy all the things my heart craved. 

Then I discovered minimalism and realized I already had more than enough. Most of us don’t live with true scarcity. If anything, we have too much stuff, not enough space, and more than enough to give. 

When I stopped buying stuff, I found plenty of money to spend on charitable causes. Minimalism opened my heart to generosity.

We can all be kind and generous. If you struggle with generosity open your heart and try the steps above.

Mistress of Home and Finance

Saturday 24th of September 2022

I often describe giving as a skill: if you don't practise it with small gestures, you're apt to make mistakes when you try to do big gestures. It's the engineering mindset in me that says: start small, practise, find issues, and iteratively develop your giving strategy.

I wrote about the rule of rescue and its relation to giving. Basically that I give only a little while I'm in the early accumulation phase, for the same reason that first responders don't jump in harm's way to rescue someone. Don't add to the victim count!

I also can't stress enough how impactful mutual aid is, and direct giving. Especially amongst the queer community, the joke is that we're passing around the same $20 bill. Outsiders adding in their money goes a long, long way to help make rent, get meds, or fill up the car before work.