Tuesday, 9 February 2016

How to maintain a generous spirit on a tight budget (Part 4 in the Budgeting Series)

I don’t know if you find it as unpleasant as I do when you’re in the company of someone who continually lets you know how hard up they are (when they often are not).  I consciously try to avoid saying, "We can’t afford it.”  Realistically it’s more accurate to say, “We have chosen to spend our money elsewhere.”  Because we have chosen to send our kids to a private school (albeit not a very expensive one) our choices of what else we can do are limited.  Because we have chosen to have life insurance, our choices to eat out have been curtailed.  It’s good to recognise and take responsibility for our choices such as they are within our circumstances.  

Giving likewise is a choice.  I suspect most South Africans are very generous givers.  Certainly there is so much need around us. 

A recent survey has revealed that a massive 93% of the country's people support charities and other social causes, with 54% donating money, 31% giving food or goods, and 17% volunteering time to help the needy. For the first report of the State of Social Giving series, commissioned by the Centre for Civil Society, National Development Agency and SA Grantmakers' Association, researchers questioned more than 3 000 South Africans over the age of 18 in all parts of the country, including informal settlements and rural areas. The project cost of R9-million and took three years to complete. Extrapolating their results to the entire population, the researchers found that South Africans contribute an average of R920-million a month to poverty alleviation and development - a full 2.2% of the monthly income of the working age population. In addition to giving to formal charities, 45% of people donate money and/or goods directly to the poor - street children, people begging on the street and so on. "We found that a massive 93% of respondents gave (time, money or goods, to a cause or individual) in the month before being interviewed," the researchers say. "We deliberately cast the net as wide as possible: these figures include respondents who made monthly financial contributions to a charity as well as those (for example) who gave a sandwich or cold-drink to a street child begging at a traffic light." The survey found that the culture of giving cuts across race and income levels in South Africa.


Sometimes the need can be overwhelming and we can suffer from what is known as ‘donor fatigue’ which can depress and paralyse us.  One way to avoid this is by actively planning and budgeting your giving and becoming personally involved.

A great way to maintain your giving is to budget it.  We support various people and organisations by debit order, so it’s a fixed thing.  We also leave room for a discretionary amount that we can give differently each month as inspired to do so.  This also works well for those who find themselves in parking lots where you would like to ‘tip’ the parking guard, or at intersections where people beg.  If you have decided in advance you have R50 (R100 – whatever) for these occasions, then you can say with a clear conscience, ‘I am sorry, I don’t have anything to give,’ when your allotted amount has run out.

Some Christians traditionally give a tithe, or 10% to the church or to church related organisations.  Giving by percentage is a great way to give because as your income increases (or decreases) so does your giving.  For some giving 10% of your income may seem too much.  The point is not to get bogged down with a number, the point is to challenge our own selfishness.  So start wherever you need to.  If you’re giving 2% of your income, try giving 4%.  If you’re already giving 10%, try giving 12%!  And don’t stop challenging yourself!

And of course giving beyond what you have decided is allowed.  When you are moved by a particular plight you can give more, providing you are willing to make a sacrifice elsewhere in your budget.  Giving to others by placing yourself in debt is not appropriate.  Many people die leaving their debt for their children or the bank.  That’s simply stealing.

A great way to include your kids in giving is to sponsor an organisation such as, SOS Children’s villages http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/sponsor-a-child/africa/south-africa
Or Save the Children http://www.savethechildren.org.za/
Here you can sponsor a specific child for about R150/month.  You and your child can write birthday cards or notes to the child and be personally involved.

And generosity is not just about money!  Give of your time; allow others to go before you as you drive or queue; write a note or pick a flower; let your employee leave early or have a day off; do a favour for someone. 

Whenever I have been stingy, I have regretted it afterwards.  Sow generously.  I had a dear friend, who has since passed on, who was so generous with me when I had my first baby and had nothing to spend.  I always remember her as I give to younger people, knowing that she ‘paid it forward’ as I do now, and that as those I give to are blessed by my generosity, they too will bless others one day.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderfully challenging read. And v helpful to me as we begin Lent-Jesus encouraged us to 'practise our piety' -and your description of 'alms giving' as 'challenging our selfishness' speak to the nub of the matter