5 Ways to Be More Generous (When You Can)
In the past, I’ve covered all kinds of what I call “money milestones” on this site. These range from having an emergency fund to starting investing, to buying a house and beyond. However, perhaps one of the biggest money milestones is having the means to be generous.
Given the rough year that nearly all of us have had in 2020, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be generous and charitable. As it turns out, it doesn’t require you to donate a hospital wing or fund a scholarship. Instead, there are small ways that you can make a difference in someone’s life with just a few extra dollars. With that, here are five ways you can be more charitable once you’re financially able to do so.
With the winter holidays approaching, plenty of people will soon find themselves exchanging gifts. However, you can also give gifts just because — and at any time during the year! These don’t need to be lavish or extreme but, instead, can just show someone that you care.
A really simple example of this is offering to pick up the tab at dinner (once, ya know, we get to dine out with friends again). Another winning idea is that, if a friend mentions something they need, you can surprise them with it a short time later — why wait for a birthday or holiday? Of course, you can also gift total strangers with random acts of kindness that are only limited by your imagination.
I’ll admit that there have been plenty of times where I’ve opted not to dine in at a restaurant because I knew that doing so would mean needing to tip. However, when I do tip, I try to do it right. While I may not know how to handle interactions with valets or bellmen given my limited experience, when it comes to wait staff, I always try to give 20% to 25%. And, although many of us aren’t currently enjoying table service meals, there are still plenty of opportunities to tip.
One of the first examples that comes to my mind is delivery people — not just those bringing you food but delivering your presumably numerous packages. Even as many businesses shut down earlier this year, USPS, UPS, and FedEx never did. Plus, all three have their work cut out for them as online shopping seems poised to be more popular than ever this season. Therefore, it may be worth considering ways to share some cheer with these essential workers as the year nears an end.
There’s no doubt that there are plenty of great and worthy non-profits in the United States and around the world. Yet, throughout the pandemic, even more worthy causes have emerged. As a result, if you have funds to spare, it’s definitely worth looking at how you can help those in your community and beyond.
Whether you want to discover a charity that specializes in a cause that’s close to you or take a closer look at an organization, Charity Navigator is a great resource. However, as I mentioned, several smaller efforts have popped up as of late and may directly benefit those in your area. So, while looking for national non-profits to support is great, I’d personally recommend looking to your local newspapers, television affiliates, and social media to see if there may be opportunities to help out.
Being generous doesn’t mean that you can’t get anything in return. With that in mind, now’s a great time to support small businesses simply by shopping from them. Given the tough year that many businesses have endured, making an effort to patronize local and small establishments this holiday season could make a big difference. That said, it’s worth noting that you can also support these businesses without spending anything. For example, you can leave a good review on Yelp or other sites, promote them on your social media accounts, or just find other ways to show them some love.
Elsewhere, one of my favorite ways to spend my money is by supporting creators, artists, and others. Often this is done by subscribing to them on Patreon or similar platforms. In many cases, this subscription will result in you getting bonus content and other perks but, even if that doesn’t happen, the fact is that your financial support — regardless of how minor — will likely help ensure that the art or services you love will continue to be produced.
Finally, another option for generosity is offering it retroactively. If you have someone who owes you money or other things of value, you might consider letting them off the hook. This can either be done by informing them of your decision or just quietly letting it go.
Not only can such acts be a blessing for the debtor but may also have benefits for you. Since owed funds can bring about bad feelings between friends and family, allowing these issues to subside may just be the ultimate holiday gift. It’s just something to think about.
During a challenging year such as 2020, there’s a lot we can learn about being charitable and generous with our hard-earned money. While some of us may not be able to help lift someone else’s burden due to dealing with our own, others may be able to turn just a small piece of their income into a blessing for a friend, family member, or complete stranger. So, while the holidays may have you thinking about being more charitable, hopefully these ideas can help inspire you to practice greater generosity year-round.
Also published on Medium.