Once upon a time, I used to have nothing.
After my parents divorced, my sister and I were largely raised by a single mom. Some parts of living just became the new normal, like having “rich weeks” (the weeks after payday) and “poor weeks” (the weeks without paydays). We were able to order a pizza or get Chinese food on rich Friday twice a month, and it was cause for celebration. Our birthday cakes were from a box and dinner largely consisted of $1 Rice-A-Roni sides with baked chicken, or spaghetti. And that’s okay. Because mom worked three jobs to put whatever food she could on the table and I will always appreciate that. Even when it was frozen brussels sprouts, which were really horribly awful. She did the best she could with what she had. That is all you can ever do: your best.
One year for Christmas, we got donated presents. I don’t know how it made my mother feel to have to ask for that help, to give her children gifts on Christmas morning. I know that as a 12-year-old I really appreciated it, because when you’re 12, Christmas is about the tree and the presents, it’s excitement and wonder and glee when you open new things. NOW, I realize that Christmas is about family and appreciation, but THEN it was about a Furby. I’ve evolved!
I always remembered the Christmas of Donated Gifts, and one year in college I spent an entire $90 paycheck on Angel Tree gifts for a family who couldn’t afford presents for their kids. Ninety dollars is a lot when it’s your whole paycheck, but I knew I would get more later, and I had my parents to fall back on if I really really needed the ninety bucks for something. So I spent it on these people I didn’t know. And I never regretted it or thought, “That’s money I could have now for things for me!”
Because you do the best you can with what you have, and the best possible thing I could do with what I had at that moment was to give it away to someone who didn’t have it.
Given a few dollars, nine times out of ten I find a way to spend it on someone else instead of myself. Sister’s in town? She needs dinner out. And groceries! I will do that for her. On vacation and see something my stepdad would like? Sometimes you just need a gift for no reason other than somebody loves you. I cashed in $19 in Discover Card rewards via Amazon and had to will myself to buy something for ME and not for my sister. (Argh! But she needs things). I give my time as a volunteer and an impromptu babysitter. I love to cook things and share them with others. Give, give, give.
Why Giving Is Part of a Total Money Makeover
Line number one on Dave Ramsey’s budget sheets is for giving.
I will admit, I spent roughly eight seconds thinking, “But that’s money I could use to pay toward my debt!” And yeah, it is. I could. But it’s an amazing opportunity to have a given amount in your budget each month to spend helping someone else. Whether it’s a tithe to your church, a big tip for a server with a family to support, a donation to a charity, or buying someone FPU membership, we need to flex our giving-muscles to make them stronger.
I give because once upon a time, I couldn’t, and someone gave to me.