Earlier in the week, I penned a call to giving. Of course, volunteering time and talent makes a difference. I’d like to think that Mr. P and I both know that well from firsthand experience. But charitable giving matters just as much–maybe, in some ways, even more. As a result, Mr. P and I work to prioritize charitable giving as we pursue financial independence. To keep the act of giving at the forefront of our minds, we include it in our monthly budget, but we also make sure to include weekly giving when we grocery shop.
I grocery shop once or twice a week. I’d like to tell you that this is primarily because we buy a lot of fresh produce, but it’s also because sometimes I don’t have my act together nearly as much as I’d like. Whether I’m running in with a list or simply scooping up a single forgotten item, I also make sure to purchase an item or two for our local food pantry. Some days, I’ll choose non-perishable food items; other times, I pick up toiletries or paper goods. Sometimes I pay full price; sometimes I put my couponing chops to the test and see how many I can score inexpensively or for free.
Even though I know I will ultimately donate the items, I actually record those numbers within our grocery budget. And for good reason. I have never had to wonder about my next meal. In fact, sometimes poverty — true poverty — seems so unfathomable that I have to remind myself that it is a haunting reality for all too many people, some of whom live in my community. In order to stay cognizant of the issue, a most-needed food pantry item is added to the grocery list right next to Mr. P’s treat request for the week. I would never be so bold as to claim that these dozen or so items are set to save the world – but every little bit helps. In fact, I can’t help but wonder what my food pantry’s shelves would look like if every shopper did this each week*.
At the end of each month, Mr. P and I run through our spending tracker app and key those numbers into our budget spreadsheet. Then, I look to see how much money we’ve already donated that month. Though we are not particularly religious people (sorry, Mom), we do attend the occasional mass. More than that, though, since we are both teachers, there is nary a month when one of our schools is not doing a fundraiser for some organization. And then there’s my classroom library. Certainly meriting a post of its own, my library is my most prized part of my classroom and it’s funded entirely by yours truly.
After tallying up any of the giving that we’ve done throughout the month, we make sure to top off our giving at the month’s end. That’s the one budget category that I’m excited about maxing out. In case you’re curious, we currently give to a local food pantry, a local animal shelter, a low-income educational foundation that supports my district, and a literacy outreach program that we visited last summer in Akumal, Mexico on a monthly basis. We also pepper in other organizations based on local and world events and illnesses that impact loved ones. I can’t claim to be the most generous donor (not even by the wildest stretch of imagination), but knowing that I’m able to spread the wealth certainly makes balancing my budget much more satisfying.
Currently, our gifting budget is $200 per month. If you’ve read the blog for a while, you know that $200 is also our monthly grocery budget. As we slashed away at our grocery budget, we padded our savings but we also grew our gifting. That means we are currently budgeting for $2400 worth of charitable giving each year. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, but we are hoping to be able to increase this amount more each year. We do not have the largest of incomes, and we certainly are no Bill and Melinda Gates when it comes to money donated each year. But I do believe that there is real power in prioritizing charitable giving, and I refuse to settle for less.
* Maybe I should boldly claim that this grocery game would make all the difference. I live in a city with approximately 70,000 people. If the average family size in America is 2.54 (but we round to 3 because we like whole people and whole numbers), that gives us approximately 23,333 families. If every family donated four items each month for an entire year, our food pantry would receive 1.12 million donation items each year.
So Tell Me…Do you plan your charitable giving ahead of time or do you donate when the need and ability arises? Do you have any gifting goals?