Could you actually feel richer when you give? You sure could! Not only will giving make you feel richer, but it can make you financially richer too. Giving has also been shown to increase happiness and improve physical health.
Even with so many benefits, giving can lose its sparkle and no longer feel fun sometimes. Find out how to bring the spark back, feel richer, and make giving fun again.
There many reasons to give and the motivation behind giving is different for everyone. Some people do it because that’s what they’re supposed to do, others do it because it makes them feel good. Someone might give because it’s fun, and others give in memory of a loved one. There are infinite wonderful reasons people choose to give.
Here are some of my favorite reasons. Study after study has shown that giving makes people happier. Giving has been shown to improve physical health and increase lifespan. Being in a position where you are able to share your good fortune can be fun. And finally, giving actually makes you richer.
In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant shared a study conducted by economist Arthur Brooks in the year 2000. In this study, Brooks found that “higher income led to higher giving. For every $1 in extra income, charitable giving went up by $0.14. But something much more interesting happened. For every $1 in extra charitable giving, income was $3.75 higher. Giving actually seemed to make people richer. For example, imagine that you and I are both earning $60,000 a year. I give $1,600 to charity; you give $2,500 to charity. Although you gave away $900 more than I did, according to the evidence, you’ll be on track to earn $3,375 more than I will in the coming year.”
If you want to learn more about the benefits of giving, I highly recommend checking out Grant’s book below.
Our Journey to Giving
My husband, Jer, and I have been generous here and there throughout our lives. But we didn’t give consistently until 2012. And to be perfectly honest here’s why I did it. At the time we were diligently working to create financial freedom by paying off our mortgage and becoming completely debt-free. I read over and over again about the financial benefits of giving. But there was one idea in particular that resonated with me.
I don’t know if you’ve ever buckled down to focus on a financial goal like paying off student loans or saving for a down payment to buy a home. If you have there’s a good chance you became obsessed with frugality. If you’re anything like we were, you only ate at restaurants during happy hour if you even ate out at all. If you bought new clothes, they probably came from the clearance rack or a thrift shop. When you’re focused on a big financial goal, you think a lot about ways to save and cut spending.
I can’t remember where I first heard about this idea, and if it’s a quote I’m probably getting it wrong. Here’s the gist of it. When your fist is clenched so tight holding on to your last dollar, there’s no room for another dollar to slip in. I don’t know why, but that idea really resonated with me so we decided to give regular giving a try.
We started by setting aside a specific amount each month to give to charitable organizations. Eventually, I got sick of keeping track of it so I automated our giving and gave the same amount to the same charity each and every month. When we earned large bonuses, we’d take 10 percent and give it to something else. But for the most part, our giving became very bland.
I started to wonder if I was benefitting from giving any more. Not to sound selfish. I believe almost everything in life can, and should be, a win-win. If I’m giving money joyfully, the positive energy along with my donation can surely do more good than giving to something I feel no connection too.
As the tax laws changed over the last several years, it seemed like as good of a time as any to experiment with new ways to give. I stopped all of our automated contributions but maintained the same dollar amount of monthly giving. We decided that we were no longer concerned about giving to an actual charity to receive a tax write off. So we started to give however much we wanted to whomever we wanted and we’ve been having a lot more fun since. Here are some ways we’ve made giving fun again.
5 Fun Ways to Give that Will Make You Feel Richer
Help someone freely and unexpectedly.
I’m going to be honest here because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Giving out of obligation or expectation is the worst! For example, buying a little something for someone just because you know they’ll love it is super fun. Buying something for someone because you’re supposed to and you know that you’ll never hear the end of it if you don’t is the opposite of fun.
Giving should be done freely and without obligation and expectations. Here are a few fun ways we’ve been able to do that this year.
A guy who works for one of Jer’s customers had an accident at work and was limited to the number of hours and the work he could do. As an hourly employee with a large family, Jer wanted to help him make ends meet while he recovered. Jer purchased a grocery store gift card that was enough for a month’s worth of groceries. The employee was touched by the gesture and thanked Jer profusely telling him how much that meant to him and his family.
Can you imagine what it would feel like to be able to help someone like that? Just because you wanted to? To be able to keep a family going while they worked their way through a challenging time? If that’s not a fun and meaningful way to give, I don’t know what is.
One small thing I like to do is to pay for people’s groceries. Have you ever been behind someone in the grocery store and they realize they don’t have enough to cover their entire bill? I simply tell the cashier to add it all to my bill and cover the cost of anything they didn’t have cash for. It’s a very humbling experience because it’s usually a small amount of money for things I would never buy. It reminds me how blessed I’ve been in life and I feel honored to be able to share that with others.
Be ridiculously generous.
This is my favorite way to give!
A fun way to be ridiculously generous is to fund an entire Go Fund Me campaign when it’s a smaller amount. It’s a blast to blow people’s minds when they start a fundraising campaign and you can meet their entire goal within the first hour. And while you’re at it, try doing it anonymously next time. I find being anonymous much more enjoyable than blasting my name and the amount I gave all over the internet.
Another thing we love to do is to leave really large tips when we receive exceptional service. I’ve been known to leave $25 on a $7 lunch tab or a $50 tip for a pizza and two beers. We never let them see the tip before we leave. I want them to be able to experience the reward without feeling obligated to thank us. They earned the tip and should enjoy it however they want.
Create a giving challenge.
While I don’t have the budget to do this often, this was an exciting and eye-opening experiment in giving. I set a budget and divided that into 30 days. Then for 30 days, I gave away that dollar amount every single day.
I tested how different forms of giving made me feel, like that time I handed a big wad of cash to panhandlers in the co-op parking lot. I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel any strong emotions after. That said, I’ll probably never do that again.
It was also interesting to see the different responses I received from organizations. Some organizations said nothing, which is really too bad because I would have loved to have sent them more. Others sent very heartfelt notes of gratitude and of course I can’t help but think of them when it’s time to give. For me, it wasn’t about getting recognition, but the value of my generosity to them.
Micro-lending is the gift that keeps on giving.
What is micro-lending? Microloans are small loans issued by individuals and not banks. These loans are common in third world countries where traditional financing is less abundant than what we’re used to here in the United States. These loans are most commonly used to start businesses, pay for education, and for surgeries or dental care.
One of the best ways to participate is through an organization like Kiva. Kiva uses crowdfunding to provide capital to the underserved. 100 percent of every dollar loaned goes to funding loans. Kiva boasts 1.8 million lenders serving 3.4 million borrowers in 78 countries with a 97% repayment rate.
I discovered Kiva during my 30-day giving challenge and I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience. As a lender, I get to choose who I fund and how much. I love that it’s a loan and not a donation. When I’m repaid, I can use that money to bless someone else to empower themselves and their family. It’s fun to follow their stories and watch their diligent repayments. Kiva is an excellent way to share your abundance in a way that keeps giving back indefinitely.
Think beyond monetary donations.
Even if you’re in a season of life where there’s not much to spare, a tiny amount of generosity will go a long way for both you and the recipient. Whether you’re giving away one dollar or 100,000, I encourage you not to stop there.
There are many wonderful ways I’ve seen people give back that are rewarding and meaningful to both the giver and the receiver. Little things like the family who set up a water station along a bike route where there are no water fountains. This is a simple and thoughtful way to give back.
Think of your unique gifts and talents that you could share with others. For example, I love hiking, feel passionate about connecting people and building building healthy habits. And I just so happen to excel at research, planning, and organizing. I used these passions and superpowers to create a monthly hiking meetup in my local community.
How about being a mentor? I believe that we all do better when we mentor AND are mentored. There’s no greater act of generosity than empowering someone with your knowledge and experience.
Consider these other ways to be generous.
- Pick up trash on the sidewalk and side of the road.
- Support a friend’s business by liking, sharing, commenting, and sending referrals.
- Give genuine compliments daily.
- Lend a listening ear.
- Invite someone who’s been going through a tough time over for dinner.
- Let someone cut in front of you during rush-hour traffic.
- Shovel your neighbor’s walk before they get home from work.
- Simply be friendly, smile, and say “hello” to everyone you meet.
Bonus Tip – Make it a family affair!
While I love being generous on my own, it’s more fun when Jer and I do it together. And if you’re lucky enough to still have kids at home, think of all the fun you could have giving as a family. I bet your little ones will be so inspired that they’ll offer up their own savings without you having to prompt them. Find something you care about, create a plan, schedule it, and then have a blast giving together!
How to find the money to give.
As I mentioned, everyone benefits from giving. Whether you have a dollar or $100,000 to spare, your life will be richer when you give. Here are some tips to get started.
We budget giving every month after paying ourselves first. We pay ourselves, then we pay it forward, all before paying any bills.
10 percent is a good standard for giving, but if you’re just starting out, begin with $10. Pay the bill for the car behind you at the Starbucks drive-through. Pick up a $25 gift card for the single dad at work who’s going through a difficult divorce. Just do one small thing and when you’re ready, do another.
You know that weekly trip to the specialty grocer that costs you $50 when you don’t feel like making dinner? Or that $100 trip to Target to get toothpaste that turned into retail therapy? Or maybe it’s a daily trip to the Starbucks drive-through because you’re too rushed to prepare your morning coffee at home? It’s safe to say that most of us have something we could cut and wouldn’t really miss. And let’s be honest, using that money to bless others would be more rewarding than that trip to Target for retail therapy.
The beauty is that you don’t have to do any of this forever. Give it a 30-day test run and see how it feels. If you like it, keep it going, if not, try something new.
Sharing our time, talents, and financial resources with others can be immensely rewarding. And I believe that the better we feel about our generosity, the more valuable it is for everyone. So the next time you give, why not have fun doing it.