How To Remain Generous In Your Giving While Getting Out Of Debt

30 06 2008

Photo courtesy of monoculaire

The title of this post is a little oxymoronic, isn’t it? For those of you who are on the debt-dumping warpath, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled with how to continue your generous ways while seemingly pinching each and every penny till it screams.

Well, below I’ve listed a few observations that I’ve learned from people I consider to be generous givers who also just happen to be turning their finances around at the same time. I’ve noticed these traits frequently enough, and across a broad enough swath of people that I thought it warranted listing them for all to see. (If you think of any that I missed, please let me hear from you in the comments!)

*Also a quick note of clarification: When I refer to ‘generosity’ here, I mean separate from Tithes and Offerings given in church. I’m talking about street-level, everyday, practical giving.

1. Generosity is a character trait – Getting out of debt is not.

Being charitable for most people cannot be turned off and on. Either you are a giving person or most likely you just aren’t. Now you can become more frugal and still maintain your generosity, but you cannot be stingy and expect to still be considered generous at the same time. Being frugal means that you are simply more considerate of getting the most value out of your money and the resources you acquire with it. Being stingy means you are miserly, or selfish with your money and usually have little regard to the true value your money holds.

2. Generosity often has little to do with just money.

Too many people equate generosity with how much money you donate to charities, and other philanthropic foundations. But I’d venture to say that financial giving is only the tip of the iceberg, not the iceberg itself. You can be generous with your time, energy and talents more easily than you can with your money. You can be generous with your faith or your spiritual gifts. You can volunteer towards causes you have a passion for.

Do me a favor and look closely at the picture at the top of this post. I chose that picture for this post because the donation box didn’t say what to donate… so the people who did give something gave freely. To me it serves as a metaphor for the many ways you can show your generosity while staying true to your mission of becoming debt free.

3. Generous people excel at assessing genuine ‘needs’.

(Brace yourself this is gonna be my ‘soapbox’ part of the post lol)

Many people in our society have formed the nasty habit of describing their ‘wants’ as desperate ‘needs’. It’s gotten to the point where the line between the two has completely faded in the minds of many people. This blurred line between wants and needs is one of the general contributors to the cycle of debt and overspending we see today.

Because of this, generous people need to be selective in who, what, when, how, and why they give of their resources. Being carelessly generous can sometimes do just as much harm as being selfish or scrooge-ish.

Years ago I was downtown for lunch and came across a homeless man begging for change. Naturally he asked me for some money so that he could get some food. I told him that I didn’t have any change but since I was on my way to lunch I would buy him anything he wanted to eat. Amazingly he turned ME down. At first I was offended, but soon realized that he didn’t ‘need’ to eat. In fact I later learned that he didn’t need the money at all. Get this – he wasn’t even homeless, he was simply too lazy to find an honest, stable job! He spent his days staking out prime pan-handling real estate — The White House, The Capitol building, Georgetown, and local tourist attractions etc.– and making about $100/day doing it!

The moral of this story — all of it true — is that people don’t always need what they say they need. The other moral is that if anything, we NEED to be careful of giving to every seemingly good cause. Again this goes back to being frugal vs. being stingy vs. being an aloof giver.

4. Generous people have a firm grasp on the concept of ‘Blessings of Increase’.

This past Sunday, I took my bike out for a ride. I didn’t want to carry much in my pockets, so I only took my driver’s license and a $20 bill. Somewhere along the way, either coming or going I dropped that $20 bill. (Which was a large chunk of my food money for the next week) Upon realizing that I dropped it, I was initially disappointed — in part because I was now in line to order some food lol — but I quickly got over it and hoped that my ‘lost’ bill would ‘find’ someone else when they needed it most.

Though I lost $20, so what! It will be replaced in the first hour of my next working day. Instead I realized that I gained a blessing (multiple actually) in the fact that the next person who finds it will be pretty hyped over it. Another blessing for me was that I was ok over losing it. It was another timely reminder of the Financial Peace that I continue to gain as we eliminate our debt. I could’ve obsessed over what a nice snowflake $20 dollars would’ve been, yada yada, blah blah. But as I said before, so what! I could’ve lost my driver’s license instead of the $20…. and then I’d really be getting some use out of my bike!

5. After you get out of debt, there’s no limit to how generous you can be!

The title of this post is “How To Remain Generous In Your Giving While Getting Out Of Debt”. Yes, you already knew this, but i just wanted to point it out again because it’s meant to be a transitional concept. You are not always going to be ‘getting’ out of debt, one day you’ll just be ‘out’! (Can I get an AMEN?)

Baby Step #7 of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is simply this: “Build Wealth & Give!”

Once you’re out of debt for good, it’s my hope that you will carry on the obligation of helping others to get out as well. It will truly be one of the most generous things you do with your new found financial freedom!

6. Generosity is a core responsibility for the Christian.

A compelling promise is given in the bible to those who chose to be generous in their giving. It is found in Luke 6:38*:

*Taken from the NIV translation:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

This is the basic formula for the blessings of increase that I mentioned in point #4. But just like bread cant be made without yeast, this recipe is useless without a loving spirit. There is no such thing as malicious giving. And although there is such a thing as indifferent giving, it’s just as pointless as not giving at all.

The recipe given in Luke 6:38 simply cant be followed by just anyone. It’s the hallmark of a seasoned chef, one who has come to understand and know the six points laid out here.

So with that I ask you, what’s cookin‘?


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One response

9 12 2009

Adrian, you are a great writer! And this is a great article :} It’s sad it took me so long to read one of yall’s posts. We’ve been missing out!

Thanks for the words of wisdom. I was honestly wondering how generosity was supposed to work when you are trying to get out of debt. It seems like we’re going to baby showers or other such events left and right, and struggling with gift-giving when our budget is already so tight.

Thanks again and we miss you guys!

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