Saving and Giving

Sav­ing for ear­ly retire­ment increas­ing­ly feels like a jug­gling act. There are so many ways to uti­lize the mon­ey com­ing into my pock­ets. Way more ways, actu­al­ly, than the amount of mon­ey com­ing in. I could buy bur­ri­tos every day, sock as much as I can into every tax effi­cient account pos­si­ble, and even give it away!

I’ve got a pret­ty good han­dle on the first two options, and I think now is the time I decide how I’m han­dling giv­ing some of my mon­ey back to the com­mu­ni­ty as part of my Year of Car­ing.

The Story So Far

I haven’t been much one for char­i­ty in the past, even though I can well afford to give most of the time. I used to work retail and was forced to ask every sin­gle per­son who came through my line if they want­ed to give to ________ char­i­ty. I would much rather give my time than the mon­ey, as I feel as though my time can be mis­man­aged less eas­i­ly. I’m also sus­pi­cious of a lot of “char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions” out there, as most seem to exist sole­ly to pro­vide peo­ple with pay­checks, not to give mon­ey to the peo­ple who actu­al­ly need it.

My char­i­ta­ble efforts have been lim­it­ed to imme­di­ate fam­i­ly for the last few years. I give mon­ey to my eldest sis­ter every month in sup­port of her efforts as a mis­sion­ary. I start­ed that in 2014 when she lived in Aus­tralia and need­ed help deal­ing with an increase in rent. $150 a month to me was no big deal, but for her it was a major prob­lem. She would’ve had to find a new place to live, and find­ing rea­son­ably priced rental options in West­ern Aus­tralia is an almost insur­mount­able task. So, I start­ed to give her mon­ey each month and con­tin­ue to do so. I know she puts it to good use and I’ve been able to pig­gy­back off some of her loca­tions (stay­ing with her for 3 weeks in Aus­tralia saved me about $3.5k, and stay­ing with her in Eng­land for 10 days saved me rough­ly $2k).

I’ve been con­tent to leave it at that until just recent­ly. I ini­tial­ly wasn’t going to share the sto­ry behind a con­tri­bu­tion I made and just leave it as a line item in my Novem­ber 2016 Month­ly Sta­tus Report, but I changed my mind after talk­ing with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent blog­gers. They encour­aged me to share the sto­ry behind it, so I am. I want to be clear that I’m not brag­ging about my dona­tion. This was a deeply per­son­al dona­tion that I felt called to give. I am also shar­ing this sto­ry with you because it dove­tails nice­ly with an effort I’m more than hap­py to pro­mote!

There I was, bored out of my mind at work, mind­less­ly brows­ing Red­dit. I clicked on an AskRed­dit thread that asked what for­mer­ly home­less peo­ple want­ed oth­ers to know about being home­less. As some­one with a very brief expo­sure to being home­less after my parent’s kicked me out the sum­mer after my high school grad­u­a­tion, I was intrigued. The gen­er­al gist of the thread was treat the home­less like peo­ple. Have a con­ver­sa­tion with them. Don’t pre­tend like they don’t exist. See if they need any­thing and help them do that. Maybe give them mean­ing­ful work in exchange for things like a safe place to show­er, shave, change clothes, or a sol­id meal.

Of course, not every­one in the thread was for­mer­ly home­less. Some chim­ing in are cur­rent­ly home­less and that’s how I ran across “Mike” (name changed to pro­tect his iden­ti­ty). Mike had a series of unfor­tu­nate events hap­pen one right after the oth­er. The loss of a par­ent and their hous­ing. A bad car acci­dent that put him in the hos­pi­tal for a while and caused him to lose his job. Tak­ing the car to a shady mechan­ic who charged way too much and didn’t actu­al­ly fix the prob­lem.

All of these events, when spread out far away enough from each oth­er, wouldn’t have been such a big prob­lem. But strung up togeth­er, one right after the oth­er, caused him to lose his hous­ing. He is now liv­ing ille­gal­ly in a stor­age lock­er because he doesn’t have any­where else to go and has debt hang­ing over his head.

$2,300, in fact.

That’s it. A debt of $2,300 caused this man to live in a stor­age lock­er with no elec­tric­i­ty, no run­ning water, and def­i­nite­ly no san­i­ta­tion facil­i­ties. He’s in the North­ern half of the US, and it’s cold.

So, after chat­ting back and forth with him a bit to ver­i­fy his sto­ry, I sent him $2,500 via Pay­Pal. It’s a lot, I know. I just couldn’t stand the thought of some­one in the US sleep­ing in a stor­age lock­er because of $2,300 in debt to a title loan com­pa­ny. He said the high inter­est was killing any gains he makes on the debt.

$2,300 is rough­ly the amount of mon­ey I spend AND pay off each month. It’s not noth­ing to me, but it isn’t an over­whelm­ing prob­lem to me either. Here I am, well-fed, hap­py, and with a great job that is gave me even more mon­ey in the form of a bonus and mov­ing allowances. I didn’t real­ly need that mon­ey, but he did. So I gave it to him.

And then I saw that tweet from the love­ly Melanie. Her blog is on how to con­quer your debt. See, she used to be in debt as well. Big debt. So she knows how it feels and writes some real­ly great stuff. Once she paid off her own debt (Go Melanie!!), she reserved mon­ey in her bud­get each month to give away to those in need. Peo­ple kept email­ing her out of des­per­a­tion and need­ed help. She likes to do what I do: help­ing out one per­son at a time in a big way!

As it turns out, J. Mon­ey saw what she was doing and want­ed to help.

Thus, Debt Drop was born! They’ve been help­ing out peo­ple here and there for a while now. J liked it so much, he (with a few oth­er peo­ple) start­ed an even big­ger project: the Rock­star Com­mu­ni­ty Fund! The RCF focus­es on 3 main projects: Debt Drop, the #Giv­ing­Cards project, and Just-in-time Giv­ing. The #Giv­ing­Cards project issues a chal­lenge each month and sup­plies a $20 pre-paid gift card to help car­ry out the mis­sion (first come first serve).

Here is some­thing that dove­tails exact­ly with what I’m doing. In addi­tion to help­ing out Mike with my big gift last year, I also signed up for one of the $20 gift cards in Decem­ber and gave it away. Some­one on my Face­book feed had their car- full of Christ­mas presents and oth­er belong­ings — stolen from them while at work. I know $20 doesn’t go far when try­ing to replace a car and Christ­mas gifts for their two lit­tle kid­dos, but I hope they read the note and had some faith in human­i­ty restored.

The Just-in-time Giv­ing is ded­i­cat­ed to those in our com­mu­ni­ty who could use a boost to deal with an unex­pect­ed expense. So far, they’ve giv­en $100 to a mem­ber of the finan­cial blog­ger com­mu­ni­ty recent­ly diag­nosed with can­cer. (Who still needs help if you feel so inclined!)

Going Forward

As detailed in my 2017 Goals post, I want to turn this year into a year of car­ing. What bet­ter way to start than to get involved with the Rock­star Com­mu­ni­ty Fund!? This year, in addi­tion to sup­port­ing my sis­ter, I am donat­ing $20 a month ($240/yr) to the Rock­star Com­mu­ni­ty Fund. I will also start keep­ing my eyes peeled for those that need help around me and do what I can to help them out.

Oh, and Mike? I got an update from him:

Hey! Thanks again for your help. I had to pay some oth­er bills first so I was only able to allo­cate 2000 to the loan sharks. It will be a few weeks before I can actu­al­ly pay them com­plete­ly. Just want­ed you to know progress was made. As for the future. Once I get the title back, I can sell the car. Once I sell the car, I can pay off the rest of my debts. Once that hap­pens, I can sign up for col­lege full-time for CS and I won’t need the car. There isn’t much work near my fam­i­ly but there is a decent col­lege there, so free liv­ing and school is in the near future. That’s the plan at this point. I’ll be moved out of this place by the end of the month, which is good, because 2 days ago I very, very near­ly got caught. :\ ”

So, read­ers, ready to go out and do some good in the world!? 

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32 thoughts on “Saving and Giving

  1. You are a shin­ing light in this dark world! Giv­ing must be con­ta­gious because read­ing this has me think­ing about what I can do! I usu­al­l­ly pre­fer to give my time instead of mon­ey but your exam­ple with Mike shows how it can make a sol­id dif­fer­ence in someone’s qual­i­ty of liv­ing. Thanks for shar­ing.
    Julie @ Mil­len­ni­al Boss recent­ly post­ed…28 Sim­ple Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2017My Profile

    • Thanks Julie! We don’t have to be Bat­man or Super­man to make a dif­fer­ence in someone’s life. Although, being Bat­man would be super awe­some.…

  2. Good for you. I have nev­er been home­less, but I have had plen­ty of inter­ac­tion with peo­ple who were at the time or had been in their past. They are peo­ple. Good peo­ple. Most of the time they just want a good con­ver­sa­tion and some­one to inter­act with who does not snub or look down upon them. A sol­id meal goes very far for some­one who has not eat­en in a few days.

    The day we stop treat­ing every­one with respect is the day we lose respect for our­selves.

    Glad to hear Mike is uti­liz­ing your dona­tion and work­ing his way back.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I don’t usu­al­ly see too many vis­i­bly needy peo­ple in my day to day life, so I want­ed to help when I could. Thanks for com­ment­ing!

  3. I love see­ing this so much, Gwen! And not just because you fea­tured our projects (though beyond thrilled you did :)). I admire all of you guys where this stuff comes nat­ur­al because it’s always been a strug­gle for ME to do myself. In fact, one of the main rea­sons I keep launch­ing projects around giv­ing back is to FORCE MYSELF to do more of it! And because only cer­tain types of giv­ing bring me joy (i.e. per­son-to-per­son where you can imme­di­ate­ly see the impact you’ve made!), these projects all tend to go the more per­son­al and direct routes.

    So not only do I thank you for your gen­er­ous con­tri­bu­tions to our new project, but also for PUTTING ALL THIS OUT THERE so oth­ers can hope­ful­ly be inspired too. Oth­ers just like me who need con­stant reminders to make sure we remem­ber peo­ple out­side of our­selves 🙂

    So thank you!

    • Thanks Nate. I feel real­ly great about it. More­so than I ever thought I would about giv­ing my mon­ey away! Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing on RCF and the forums!

  4. As if I need­ed anoth­er rea­son for you to be one of my favorite peo­ple on the plan­et. I know that, for me, t’s incred­i­bly easy to put the blind­ers on with stuff like this, I don’t want to hear about the peo­ple with dire strug­gles because that makes me feel bad or sad. It sounds like you changed Mike’s life in a big way. And that’s so awe­some. You are a rock star.

    It also breaks my heart so much to learn that there was a time that you were briefly home­less. 🙁

    I ini­tial­ly tossed $100 towards the RCF and was blown away at all the good that peo­ple are doing with it.
    TJ recent­ly post­ed…Pre-Road Trip Leg 1 – The Pre­lim­i­nary RouteMy Profile

  5. Awe­some! I feel like some­times the FI com­mu­ni­ty can come across as mon­ey hoard­ers, so I always like to see posts about acknowl­edg­ing our ridicu­lous­ly good for­tune and help­ing out oth­ers. This is also not your aver­age lump-dona­tion-to-MegaChar­i­ty, which is cool. Thanks for the insight.

    • Thanks for com­ment­ing, Dylan! I got a stroke of good luck that could be shared, so I did. Can’t miss the mon­ey I nev­er had! I’m so glad I shared the sto­ry now 🙂

  6. I real­ly love that you pri­or­i­tize char­i­ta­ble giv­ing! I admit­ted­ly don’t, and that makes me feel kind of guilty. :/ Once we’re out of debt I do plan on upping the ante with help­ing out the com­mu­ni­ty, either in the form of time or mon­ey dona­tions.

    Great idea includ­ing dona­tions in your reports! It gives a lit­tle more light to such an impor­tant action. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pinch­er recent­ly post­ed…5 Ways To Live With Inten­tionMy Profile

  7. I think our sto­ries are so impor­tant. It took me a quite a few years to be com­fort­able shar­ing my sto­ries about giv­ing. But if no one talks about it, we can’t learn from each oth­er. Just like any oth­er part of per­son­al finance.
    Ms. Mon­tana recent­ly post­ed…Decem­ber Expens­esMy Profile

    • I feel like the hard­est posts to write are those that will make the biggest impact on the world. Like I said I was orig­i­nal­ly hes­i­tant to share the sto­ry about Mike but now I’m so glad I did!

  8. I love the direc­tion “our com­mu­ni­ty” is tak­ing. J$ feed­ing off a great idea, and mak­ing it hap­pen through the Rock­star net­work. The impact we’re going to make is excit­ing. I just fin­ished a post on the same top­ic, but won’t be pub­lish­ing til 124 due to biz trav­el. I’m beyond excit­ed about it.

  9. I have been fol­low­ing your blog for a while but this is my first time post­ing a com­ment. I live in the North­east and I feel very touched by this arti­cle. Some­times we nev­er know how much the lit­tle things we do mean to some­one. What you did right there for this gen­tle­man was a huge deal and some­thing that could have pos­si­bly turned his life around. You should be proud.

    I made it one of my goals to give more this year, I give away almost 10% of my take home pay to peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions I feel are in need. In addi­tion, this year I felt a need to do some­thing dear to my heart so I am vol­un­teer­ing my time on a week­ly basis at an orga­ni­za­tion that pre­pares, packs, and deliv­ers lunch­es to those who are ter­mi­nal­ly ill. I feel like I get so much more from giv­ing than I give. The feel­ing I get by help­ing some­one either direct­ly or indi­rect­ly who needs it so much is awe­some.

    • Toni, that’s an incred­i­ble sto­ry. I’m sure those that get the meals are grate­ful for more than just the food you pro­vide as well. Keep up the great work! We might get to FI a lit­tle lat­er than we oth­er­wise could, but the life we’ll have when we get there will be so much rich­er from our efforts. Thank you so much for com­ment­ing! I’m glad you’re a read­er <3

  10. I’m glad to final­ly see this final­ly being addressed on a finan­cial blog- they all seem to focus on accu­mu­lat­ing wealth just for our­selves. Vis­it­ing Guatemala in col­lege made me real­ize how blessed we are in Amer­i­ca. Sure I could be far­ther on sav­ings goals if I didn’t give away any mon­ey, but shar­ing some if one of my favorite bud­get lines- since 2013 dona­tions are the sec­ond largest spend­ing cat­e­go­ry I have. In Novem­ber 2015 I vis­it­ed a Guatemalan non-prof­it and start­ed spon­sor­ing a kid who lives in the dump com­mu­ni­ty.

    • That’s amaz­ing Josh! I could use the extra $2500 for sure, but he seemed to need it more than me. The world could use a few more peo­ple like you 🙂

  11. This is a won­der­ful thing to do. I espe­cial­ly like the per­son­al link devel­oped between indi­vid­u­als. There is so lit­tle over­head and pater­nal­ism, two things large char­i­ty orga­ni­za­tions have in bulk.

    • Thanks John! I per­son­al­ly love how much I was able to pos­i­tive­ly impact his life when that mon­ey wasn’t doing that much for me. I’ll be excit­ed to see how well he does in the future!

  12. Hi Gwen

    Good on you for bring­ing more char­i­ty into you finan­cial inde­pen­dence jour­ney. I know it’s not hard because every dol­lar is a dol­lar close to FI!!

    I rec­om­mend get­ting involved in the Effec­tive Altriusm move­ment (if you are not already). This move­ment is entire­ly ded­i­cat­ed to under­stand­ing and eval­u­at­ing how you can have the most pos­i­tive impact in the world. If that is by donat­ing mon­ey, their research focus­es on find­ing and eval­u­at­ing the most effec­tive char­i­ties in the world, and pro­vid­ing guid­ance on where your mon­ey will be best used. Check out thelifeyoucansave.org and givewell.org.

    The Against Malar­ia Foun­da­tion is my cho­sen favourite 🙂

    All the best
    Nick

    • Hey Nick thanks for com­ment­ing! I’ve heard about the Effec­tive Altru­ism move­ment! I con­fess, it’s not some­thing I’ve looked into too much but I’ll for sure check it out more in depth!

  13. I was very impressed by your action. The fact that you have helped a man to start life with a clean slate is very impor­tant. This means that good still wins in the world.

    • What is that quote? Be the good you wish to see in the world? How­ev­er it goes, that’s the good I want to be!

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