Alright, with January coming to a close, we’re approaching the end of our guide to improving your success with your resolutions. This is not to say that you should be calling it quits with your resolutions; the whole goal of resolutions should be to start new habits that can last through the entire year, and ideally, for the rest of your life. But I’m limited in my ability to cover suggestions on keeping your resolutions; there’s only so many resolutions that are appropriate for a personal finance blog, after all, and even taking that into consideration, I can only cover so many resolutions before, well, most people have completely given up on their resolutions. Here’s one, I hope you definitely don’t give up on:
Giving More to Charity
Most resolutions that we make are intended to improve ourselves in some way, from increasing our financial standing to getting in shape to graduating and finding a good job. There are few things we can do that will do more to not only make ourselves better, but also help out others than if make the strongest effort possible to give more to charity throughout the year. I’m sure you know plenty of reasons to give to charity already (but here are some from Sweating the Big Stuff if you need some help), so our focus is on how to keep up your donations when there seem to be so many other things in your life that require your money. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure that you give what you can, when you can:
1. Start Small and Build Gradually: If you try to give thousands and thousands of dollars right away, you’re likely to run into trouble pretty quickly. Trying to put a large amount of money towards any new goal, whether it’s investing, saving, or charity, will likely throw off your normal spending so much that you end up quitting after only a few months and going back to not donating anything. Instead, start with a relatively small portion of your income, a few percentage points or so, and once you have adapted your budget to your new charitable spending, then slowly increase until you reach your desired giving level. On that note:
2. Make it Automatic: You might think that this suggestion takes away some of the fun of charitable giving; if you simply go to a site like Just Give, enter an automated investment schedule, and then sit back as your money is taken on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, it might not feel as if you’re really contributing. But you’ll still be giving, and you won’t have to worry that issues in your personal life (from distractions that keep you from making your next contribution to other expenses that seem to have a greater pull on your money) will keep you from giving what you can to charity.
3. Do Your Due Diligence Before You Give: It’s tempting, as you try to give more, to open up your wallet to any charity that pulls on your heart strings. But giving more doesn’t mean that you have to give recklessly. Make sure you do research into any new charity to which you want to give, and make to follow up on the charities you are currently giving to, as well. I’ve written before on researching charities, and the same rules still apply: with how easy the Internet has made it to find out money about any organization, there’s really no excuse to give to frauds.
4. Consider Non-Monetary Contributions: So, you want to do more to help your favorite charities this year, but money is incredibly tight. By the time you put money towards paying down your debts, building up your savings, and investing toward your future, you’ve barely got enough left to keep food in the refrigerator and the lights on in the house; if you try to give any money to charity, you’d quickly need charity yourself just to make it through each month. Well, don’t worry, you do have options: most charities are just as happy (if not moreso) to get people volunteering to help them in their work, rather than simply monetary contributions. If you have special skills, from accounting expertise to cooking abilities, it shouldn’t be hard to find a charity in your area that could use your help. Even if you lack such skills, many charities simply need able-bodied individuals to handle any number of tasks that would otherwise require paid help; by offering up your time, you can save them money, and possibly end up contributing more than if you simply gave money