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How We PLAN for Unexpected Charitable Giving

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This is a great way to bring more joy to giving!

There are really only three things anyone can do with money: spend it, save it, or give it away. Giving money can be a lot of fun, and I think the most fun kind of giving is the unexpected or unplanned kind. For many years, though, I struggled with how to fit unplanned giving into my budget which was planned down to the penny. I could easily budget for something expected like my monthly church giving, but how could I budget for a friend asking me to support their run for a cancer charity?

How do I put the unplanned things into my plan? I simply expect the unexpected! I introduced a new budget line item called “Other Giving”. You could also called it “Unplanned Giving” or “Spontaneous Giving” or whatever makes sense to you. The amount in that line item has varied from $25-100/month (depending on our current circumstances) and I let the money roll over to the next month if it’s not spent in one month. I just wait for good opportunities to come along and they always do! I get so excited when I hear about an opportunity to use that category because it’s sitting there just for that purpose and I get do something fun!

Here are some examples of things we’ve done with our “Other Giving” money:

  • Bought flowers from a friend’s charity flower sale
  • Supported friends in various charity races
  • Donated to my niece’s cheerleader trip fund
  • Left a $50 tip to a waitress on Christmas Eve
  • Bought toys to give to a Christmas toy drive (a great experience for my kids!)
  • Donated to international mission projects
  • Given money to a fund to help a family who had a son with serious injuries
  • Bought several bricks with our names on them for a new structure being built in our town
  • Paid $100 to a “donations only” car wash that benefited the local food pantry (you should have seen the look on the kid’s face!)

Car wash

Have you seen these kinds of opportunities in your life and wished you had some spare money to give? Budget for it! If you don’t have a lot of space in your budget, even putting aside $5/month for spontaneous giving will probably give you more joy than any other way to use $5.

Another thing to notice about this list is that some of the items on this list can count as charitable giving for tax purposes and some can not. Remember that any time you give cash, you must have a receipt (or a canceled check) from the qualified charitable organization to count it on your schedule A. Personally, when we are making a decision about whether to give, we don’t generally care if it’s tax-deductible, but we do get a receipt if it is. If the government wants to help me give more, I’ll happily take the help!

We do also have a “Gifts” category and a “Christmas” category for regular gift-giving including birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  We keep the “Other Giving” category limited to charities and helping others that are outside of our regularly scheduled charitable giving.

“Other Giving” is m my FAVORITE category in our budget!

How do you find money in your budget for giving?  Comment below!

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Cherri Fisher

Tuesday 26th of July 2016

What a great idea! It's so nice to be able to help others without feeling the pinch in the budget.

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