How to Build Generosity Into Your Budget

Note from Bob: I love Jason’s idea in this article. Linda and I took a similar approach by budgeting for giving and it has allowed us to give more and have so much more fun doing it! I highly recommend adding a budgeting category for miscellaneous giving.

You’re out to eat with your loved one and you two strike up a conversation with the server. You come to find out that she’s a single mom, works two jobs to make ends meet and is trying to go to school so she can get ahead.

Your heart goes out to her, but what do you do? You’d love to help, but your budget is so tight that you can’t afford to. You leave the restaurant hoping that she “makes it”.

Now imagine if you had $25, $50 or even $100 extra for the month that was set aside specifically for times just like this where you spot a need and would like to help financially. Imagine the feeling you’d get when you plop down an extra $25 for the tip with a note that says, “We’re praying for you!”

Doesn’t that sound exciting? It does to me. It sounds like True Wealth. But how do you do that without going further into debt or taking an IRA withdrawal to make that happen!?

So here are a few things to think about when building generosity into your budget.

1. Build a Budget First!

Do I need to expand here? In order to have generosity in your budget, you would first need to have a budget!

Makes sense.

2. Planned Giving

This is the equivalent of your tithe. The point isn’t “You must give 10%” – the point is that you have a specific percentage planned out and is given to your local church first. How much should you tithe or give? That’s a good question.

More importantly, planned giving means you’re doing this regularly and faithfully.

This is also helpful with the budget because you know exactly what’s going out for your giving every month. You can count on it in the budget.

Above and Beyond

So you have a planned amount you are giving to your church, now it’s time to work generosity money into the budget.

What this means is you have an amount each month that allows you to be a blessing to others from a financial standpoint.

It doesn’t have to be a large amount. The challenge is finding that figure and sticking to it. This money should be a non-negotiable (just like you’d treat your savings).

If you hear of a coworker struggling to meet bills this month because of some unforeseen circumstances, now you’re able to help.

Get a card, write a quick note – leave it anonomous if you want and slip the card on their desk.

Agree on the Details

This is extremely important. If you’re married, you should work out the details with your spouse. Both of you should be on the same page.

If you’re not, then one of you will end up being upset that money that should go towards goals, savings, debt etc is being used for others when you “just don’t have the money”.

It doens’t have to be a lot. Just make sure you set the rules. Here are some guidelines my wife and I follow:

  • Set amount – we decided on an amount up front and both of us get the same amount.
  • Used in that month – the money must be used in that particular month (this keeps us active in looking for opportunities)
  • Autonomy – we are not allowed to tell each other whom to give to or what to use the money for – we each make our own decisions.

The Benefits Far Outweigh the “Cost”

My wife and I have found a tremendous amount of joy in doing our giving this way.

The feeling you get when you’ve helped someone, or given them a gift unexpectedly is a great feeling! Plus, I believe that you are storing up Treasure in Heaven when you do these types of things.

Sounds Good, But Who Do We Give To?

Here are a few examples of things you can do:

  • Grocery gift cards for a family who just lost their jobs
  • Gas cards for single mom who is trying to make ends meet
  • Leave an extra tip for a server
  • Support local charities that are doing good things in the community

Now it’s your turn…what are some things you have done or would like to do with your budgeted generosity money?

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8 Comments
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  1. Giving to charity makes tax refund day a Christmas for adults as well!

  2. I had to learn to love others as I was loving myself and budget to give a similar amount to what I was giving myself (not saving, just spending money) because at one point I found I was over-giving without a plan and living a life of deficit. So it is good to plan in advance what you will give so that you do not “over-give” or “under-give”.

  3. In the case of the server, do not give your donation as part of the tip. Give a separate gift. That way it will not be taxable income and subject to withholding.

  4. Stephanie

    Love the idea! My husband and I have this category built into our budget as well. It makes it so much easier to give on a whim without having to go back to the budget to try to make room for “extra giving”. Hope others adopt this idea as well! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Miriam, that’s a good point. You definitely need to plan a little for this. Like Bob said at the beginning, what you find is that you end up giving more and having a lot more fun too!!

  6. Alan, that’s a good point – hadn’t thought about that.

  7. We do something similar only with groceries. Because I save so much money using coupons I am able to more food than we need. I use some of the money we save to shop for another family each month.

    We have had instances where a family was without income and we put together bags of groceries to give them. In addition, we donate pounds of food to our church pantry each month. This grocery expense is built into our grocery budget.

  8. A good Christian teaching to put into our lives is that “we have been blessed to be a blessing” Consider that when you get a job that pays 10% more, the people you serve will be getting a raise as well.

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