Should You Give to Charity if You’re In Debt?
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Since my family has six figures of debt, our ability to give to charity around the holidays is a stretch. It seems everywhere I go, people are asking for donations to their causes. I know I can’t donate to every cause, and sometimes I wonder if donations are even a good idea given the high payments I have to make on my student loans. Still, every holiday season, the question (and the struggle that accompanies it) comes to mind – should I, should you, give to charity if you’re in debt?
Should People in Debt Donate?
This is a controversial question. Some people believe that if you’re in debt, all of your extra funds should go to paying off that debt. No excuses. Others believe that in a time of giving, it’s nice to give a little something here or there, even if it’s only $5.
I think most of us can agree that although our budgets get tight, there’s always some place we can trim them. Whether we eat vegetarian for two weeks straight or decide to forgo something for ourselves, I’m sure we can all find $5 to spare.
And, if you really, truly can’t find something to spare, there’s an even more valuable thing to give to others, something you can’t ever get back: time.
Giving Your Time
If you are in debt and can’t justify finding something to give to charity at this time in your life, there are many ways to give your time. Whether it’s helping your parents, an elderly neighbor, or even your own spouse, sometimes doing something nice for something else is the greatest gift you can give during the holiday season.
If you need some ideas for charitable acts, here are a few:
1. Clean up your church.
2. Walk an elderly neighbor’s dog.
3. Serve food at a soup kitchen.
4. Pick up a friend’s child from school.
5. Buy groceries for a new mom.
6. Cook dinner for someone who is sick.
7. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway when it snows.
8. Read to kids at a local school.
9. Help your parents clean out their basement.
10. Babysit your friend’s kids for free so they can have a date night.
I’m sure there are many more ways you can think of to give to charity (whether it be volunteering or donating your time) that would make someone else’s life a little better this holiday season. Sometimes it’s not about the dollar amount or the tax deduction but about helping someone you know to have a better day.
I know that I personally will be donating to two places this year. I am going to send a small amount of money to my high school, which is a state-funded public boarding school. They exist off of tax dollars and donations, and it’s an amazing school that I’m happy to regularly support. I’ll also be selecting a teacher to help from Donors Choose, which is a website where teachers can go and ask for extra supplies for their classroom. Last year I paid $20 so a teacher could have some printer cartridges so kids could print out the stories they wrote to bring home to their parents. I like to find teachers who are art teachers or English teachers to help since that’s what interests me.
In my opinion, you really don’t have to give a lot to make a difference, even if you’re in debt up to your eyeballs.
What do you think? Is donating while you’re in debt a bad idea? Should you give to charity even when it means cutting something else from your budget to be able to do so?