Today’s guest blogger is Casey Slide, who writes about lifestyle topics on Money Crashers and is particularly passionate about personal finance. Here, she offers her thoughts on what can be accomplished simply by focusing on financial stewardship.
Check out her ideas, and watch the video above to find out how far your donated dollar goes at World Vision.
* * *
One of the most practical pieces of advice ever given on the subject of making a difference in the world came from none other than Mother Teresa when she said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
While we often believe it takes an ground-breaking discovery, a life-saving cure, or a million dollars to change the world, a simple evaluation of our finances can make an enormous difference. When you examine your finances and find ways to give money to worthwhile causes, you can embrace stewardship and a lifestyle of charitable giving.
Start by making a difference in yourself
1. Educate yourself
Before you can help others, you need to help yourself. Read books, read blogs, and learn how to get organized and make a budget. This puts you in a better position to pass along knowledge and to have money available to give.
2. Be honest with yourself
There are more important things in life than having a lot of money, but we often forget this principle. Build a spirit of giving and regularly remind yourself that the most important things in life can’t be bought. To begin making a change, take some time each week to think about how you can better yourself.
3. Establish a budget
Treat money management as a high priority in your life instead of an afterthought. Take the initiative to set up a budget and live by it, rather than going into debt and having to clean up the mess later. Simply put, the more aware you are of how much money you have coming in and how much is going out, the better able you’ll be to manage it and spend according to your priorities, such as charitable giving.
Effective money management helps you succeed and sets a positive example for others, such as your friends and family members who may need inspiration to manage money more wisely.
4. Save money in your everyday life
Look for ways to save money — because every dollar saved is a dollar that can be donated. Here are some ideas:
- Use coupons when you shop for groceries.
- Replace disposable items with reusable items.
- Start your own vegetable garden to save money at the grocery store.
- Do it yourself instead of hiring a professional whenever you can.
- Utilize the dollar stores for certain products.
- Make your own household cleaners and homemade laundry detergents.
5. Save for retirement
Start a tax-advantaged retirement account so that not only will you be able to afford retirement, but so you are able to continue a lifestyle of giving. Contributing to an IRA, Roth IRA, or your company’s 401(k) is a very efficient way to save for your future, since you reduce your taxable income; it’s one of the first steps in preparing and planning for retirement. Furthermore, if you save enough, you may want to pass on your assests to charity at the end of your life.
Make a difference among your family and friends
6. Work as a team within your immediate family
Spouses often don’t discuss finances, and can find themselves on different pages when it comes to money. This may result in an overspending spouse or even financial infidelity.
Instead of avoiding talks about money, work as a team to discuss financial matters on a weekly basis. Furthermore, you may want to involve your kids in some of your financial activities, such as saving change to give to charity or choosing cost-effective meals and groceries.
7. Empower Family and Friends
When you see a friend or family member struggling financially, you may want to loan them money to pay their bills. However, it might be best to avoid lending money to friends or family members, because this could only make their problem worse. They may refuse to repay the loan or find themselves unable to repay. And when you loan people money, you enable their dependencies and poor financial choices.
Ultimately, loaning money can strain or sever a relationship. Instead, sit down with your friend or family member and discuss options to help them handle their finances.
Make a difference in your community and the world
8. Give money to a worthy cause
Give money to a worthwhile cause, and give with joy. Think about what you want to see changed in the world, and look for an organization that supports the cause. This helps you to become more enthusiastic and selfless about your giving. Also, stay connected to see the impact of your gifts — and if you give to an IRS-approved charity, you can deduct the monetary gift on your taxes.
9. Donate unwanted or unneeded possessions
If you cannot afford to give monetary donations, look for other ways to help. For example, you can donate clothing and household goods, ridding your home of clutter and simplifying your life. While you could sell your unwanted items, making the financial decision to forgo that profit makes the world a better place. Here, too, you can claim a charitable donation as a tax deduction. Just make sure you save your receipts!
10. Get involved with organizations
Involving yourself with a charitable organization can be difficult, but it’s also rewarding. You don’t have to give much of your time — perhaps only a few hours a month, or every other month. The key is if you have followed the first few tips and have your own finances under control, you’ll be less stressed and able to give more time and energy to community or world problems.
Regardless of how much time you can devote, giving your time and sharing your abilities really rounds out a true giving of yourself. Additionally, this affords you a real glimpse into an organization that you support.
Do you have other tips for promoting financial stewardship to make the world a better place? We want to hear them — please post your ideas below as comments!