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Charitable Donations


Just a brief reminder of the new schedule here on BAD since this is our first week with the new format: Monday = Ashley, Tuesday = Jim, Wednesday = Hope, Thursday = Stephannie, Friday/Saturday = general posts, Sunday = Weekly Question series.

Do you provide systematic charitable donations, be it to a church group, nonprofit organization, or through some other means?

As I’ve been reading about sample budgets and working toward debt repayment, I’ve noticed two prominent authors, Mary Hunt and Dave Ramsey, both recommend providing a charitable donation of 10% of one’s salary, even while working on blasting through debt.

In the past we have provided charitable donations less systematically than that (and certainly not a full 10% of our income). Also, most of our “donations” have been non tax-deductible. For example, paying for drinks for the car behind us in the line at Starbucks, helping a friend-in-need out with a Go Fund Me donation, or giving a nice bonus to our daycare provider around the holidays. Dave is a proponent of giving 10% as a tithe to one’s local church. Mary Hunt is more flexible about where the money is donated, but does stick with the 10% guideline.

My husband and I have talked about it and think it would be really good to start donating more (both in terms of monetary amount and frequency of donation), but we haven’t determined a set amount or percentage at this time…just something to think about. I’m a firm believer that anything donated comes back around and I’m excited about making this change in our monthly budget….though its a little scary at first when my sights are so set on debt repayment to the exclusion of all else.

What do you think? Did (or do) you provide charitable donations while working on debt reduction? If so, do you stick to a set percentage of your income, set dollar amount, or some other method?



  • Reply Theresa |

    We don’t have a system in place- we should. We used to give to the food shelf monthly can’t remember why we stopped. I have to say the dude in a Lexus behind me at Starbucks isn’t really a charitable organization. Look for organizations that have achieved a 501 c3 tax status with IRS. The pay it forward with coffee and your day care provider gifts are nice things to do but aren’t charities. The Food shelve, our non profit zoo, and our schools education foundation received donations from us last year.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I know – that’s what’s hard, too, because it seems like we tend to gravitate toward giving in ways that are NOT charity organizations/tax-deductable (and we enjoy these forms of giving!) We’re definitely going to have to re-think our giving strategies, particularly if we are going to make larger/more regular donations. I definitely think that while we work on paying off debt we need to be able to claim our donations as tax-exemptions.

  • Reply Walnut |

    I’ll admit that charitable deductions are the first thing on my chopping block when paying off debt. Right or wrong, that’s been a reality for me. That said, I contribute regularly to my local church (not 10%, but a decent amount), regularly contribute to United Way through my weekly paycheck, and irregularly donate to a few favorite not for profits. And I ALWAYS buy cookies from the girl scouts and popcorn from the boy scouts. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Ashley |

      YESS!!!! I second the cookie comment ; ) Gotta support the (girl scout) troops!

      • Reply Jim |

        I don’t do this all the time. But what I will do anytime is give money to kids that have the “entrepreneur” spirit. See a kid selling a lemonade for $.50 on the corner. Stop and give $5. Girl scouts, well if they have the motivation to knock on my door, will buy a few boxes, even though I know I will buy at least $20 from my daughter. If the girl scouts have a table outside, and they don’t approach me and ask me to buy from them, I won’t.

        • Reply Ashley |

          I love the idea of encouraging the young “entrepreneurs”!! We had a couple kids down the street selling lemonade one time. When I got home from a jog I went back and bought a cup. I was SO impressed! Not only had they “personalized” the cups (writing “Thank You”), they also had made up little coupons that said “Free Refill for your next purchase” – adorable!

  • Reply revdrmd |

    When I was getting out of debt, I tithed (10 percent) to my local church for the ministries we do in our community. I gave other gifts when I could. I found that it really helped me on my journey as I considered how I was going to manage my resources after I took the tithe out of my income. There is another author whose name I forget who suggests a graduate giving scheme. (5 percent this year, 6 percent next year, etc. until the 10 percent is reached. Maybe this would work better for you. Thanks for asking.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I like the idea of a graduated giving scheme. It can definitely be a bit of a shock when you go from, ahem, very little, up to a full 10%! Ouch!

      • Reply Jade |

        Just a thought that the way I do it is I increase donations every time I get a raise/promotion/etc. I increase it enough that I’m always contributing more % of my income to charity, but I still have some of the raise/promotion/etc to enjoy πŸ™‚

  • Reply Meghan |

    Hi Ashley-

    I think it is great that you are considering including donating in your budget as you pay down your debt. I also like that you are doing small things to pay it forward (some of us are only in the drive-thru at Starbucks because we received gift cards and that trip is a special treat).

    I like the idea of having a line for donations in your budget. Might I recommend, if you do this, picking one or two charities that you really believe in to receive a monthly donation. We split our monthly charitable donations like this: 80% of the total amount is split between two groups that we donate to every month, the other 20% is variable and is used toward whatever catches our fancy that month (local kids selling things for their schools, friends Go Fund Me accounts, etc.) This way, we feel like we are making a difference to the groups we really care about but are not blowing our budget with every person who comes knocking on our door.

    Another thing to consider as you are paying down debt, charities (or otherwise) do not depend just on financial donations. Volunteering your time and skills to an organization can be just as valuable. πŸ™‚



    • Reply Ashley |

      I really like the method you’ve described! That sounds like a great way to consistently contribute to organizations you believe in, and still leave a little wiggle room for whatever comes around that catches your eye.
      And you’re right about volunteering time, too. My family did a LOT of volunteer work when I was young and its definitely something I’d like my girls to be familiar with as they grow older, too.

  • Reply Shoeaholicnomore |

    I have built some charitable giving into my monthly budget since I started studing the Dave Ramsey course and beginning my journey to debt-freedom. It’s no where near 10%, but its about as much as I can swing right now. I don’t have a set place where I “give” I just choose local causes that are important to me when they arise. I am hoping to increase my charitable donation amount in my monthly budget as my debt payments go down. Just start out with giving what you can give. Build up to 10% (or whatever you choose) as you can.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I love the idea of picking different local causes that are important to me. It makes is more fun to “see” where your contributions are going, too (as opposed to maybe larger or more nationalized organizations)!

  • Reply Mary |

    Happy Friday – Our family does choose to tithe 10% to our church. We also support several other organizations regularly as well as supporting friends that participate in different endeavors, ie Relay for Life, etc. I know many people feel very strongly that these monies would be better suited going towards debt reduction and on paper, that is true. However, we personally believe that everything we have is a gift and that we are priviledged to have the opportunity to bless others, as we can.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s true. I also heard a review of the book, How to Be Rich (J. Paul Getty). I can’t remember the exact statistics, but compared to world-wide wealth, if you make over something like $32,000 annually then you are in the top 3% of earners in the world (again – stats may be off a little, but pretty close). This really “hit” me because, compared to the world, that means we are wealthy people. It doesn’t always feel that way, but if you look at it from that perspective it seems very selfish not to give back in whatever way we can.

  • Reply Cathy D. |

    Your post is hitting home with me! I have made contributions to our church every month for the past couple of years and this is the year I decided to put that money toward my debt efforts. So glad you are exploring this issue and everyone’s opinions seem to vary greatly. This is such a personal decision. In the past I used to give $25 from every paycheck because that’s what my mom used to give to our church growing up. Then I realized that wasn’t equal to a 10% tithe and started increasing it to $50 and over the years worked my way up to $200 a paycheck. It has really made a difference on our taxes to have charitable contributions to deduct! Now that money is really making a difference in our debt reduction and I plan to continue putting it toward debt until I get at least one credit card paid off this year. Thanks so much for bringing this up! I just love to hear what others are thinking and it is really motivating to know you’re not alone in these tough decisions!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks! I agree that its nice to hear what others think on this issue. I know it is very personal for a lot of people but I like being able to have these types of conversations (and seeing that everyone is being respectful of others’ beliefs is really encouraging, too!)

  • Reply Juhli |

    We are not involved in organized religion but do have a monthly donation budget. At the beginning of the year we pick the organizations we want to support and the amount we will donate is budgeted. It certainly does not at up to 10% but then we are saving madly for retirement so that we won’t need donations LOL. I also volunteer extensively and we periodically provide financial infusions to family members who really need assistance due to outliving their resources, serious medical problems or job loss.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I think volunteering time can be just as important as donating money! I am also drawn toward helping friends and family in need. It’s tough while being in debt because we would really love to donate exclusively to tax-deductible organizations (for the tax credit) but there’s a “human” element, too. I’m only 30 and I have a handful of close friends who have been struck with cancer at a young age (as an example). I am more drawn to this kind of “giving” (even though not a tax deduction) versus giving somewhere that I can’t “see” the effect of the giving. It’s tough!

  • Reply Den |

    Time – Talent – Treasure…….any of those are great charitable donations. It doesn’t always have to be money. And I LIKE that you pay for another person’s coffee (even if he’s driving a Lexus he may be struggling with something – health, job, family – and your kind gesture may have made the difference for him!)….every effort we all make to making this world a better place is worth it!

    There are so many options – glad you are thinking about it all, but don’t be guilted into the 10% – do what’s best for your family in this season of your life!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks! Yeah, I don’t think we’ll be able to just jump into charitable donating at a 10% level (still talking #s). I really like the “paying it forward” way of donating, myself. When we had our twins, we had a TON of people come out of the woodworks (for lack of better description) to bring us hand-me-down baby clothes, meals for our family, baby gifts and cards, etc. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring, especially since many of the “givers” were people we barely knew! I will never be able to repay them for their kindness at that time, but I can certainly try to pay-it-forward for others, in whatever shape that takes (i.e., time, talent, treasure)

  • Reply Scooze |

    Hi, Ashley. I’m enjoying learning about your situation. I just wanted to correct your impression about Dave Ramsey – he does NOT recommend giving while you are getting out of debt. He does “allow” those for whom tithing is very important to continue if they feel called to do so – I think he knows he can’t talk some people out of it. But he does NOT recommend it. Giving is one of his steps AFTER getting completely out of debt.

    Personally, I agree with his approach – giving to others should really only happen after one is out of debt. Then, when you are out of debt you can give at a level that you choose and will be far more than you can afford now.

    Good luck!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hey Scooze! Thanks for the info, I must have misunderstood. I thought that the last baby step was giving more/extra, but that he recommended the 10% giving all throughout the debt-repayment process. I know I’ve heard him do an interview where the speaker was discussing getting out of debt & donations and made a comment like, “Are you going to rob God forever?” (implying that people may be in debt forever), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is Dave’s opinion. Either way, obviously we haven’t been donating regularly, systematically previously in our marriage, but I do think that we will start (though definitely not at a 10% level). I really like a lot of Dave’s advice, but I also kind of pick and choose tidbits, too. For example, I believe that one can be responsible credit card users (if you pay off in full at the end of every month, for example, but continue using simply to earn free “points” or “rewards”). I’ll definitely update (probably in a couple weeks when I give our March debt update and balance revision) and let everyone know what we’ve decided in regard to donating.

  • Reply Marie |

    Get your feet wet. Arizona Department of Revenue allows taxpayers to take certain credits that help you make money off your donations when you also ask for some money back from the feds. The first is working poor tax credit. I think that’s what it’s called now. In Tucson we donate $400 a year to Aviva Children’s Services and then another $400 to the Pima County Food Bank and get it all back from the state level. You can also donate $400 to a school to help with field trips and get all that money back to. Arizona believes you should be able to choose where your tax money goes. you can only do $200 for an individual. But for couples those 3 will get you $1200 a year in credits if you owe that much to the state anyway.

    We have always done 10% to our church and are a big believer in it. We donate extra to our churches local and international programs for the poor. We are working on another 10% for issues outside church. We do about 5% more. You will ALWAYS have a reason not to donate. Someone will ALWAYS criticize who you choose to support. Don’t listen. I have donated when we were poor and starving. We’re not rich but we still give back. I am a huge believer in it. Experiment and try it for yourself. There is also nothing wrong with personal charity as you’ve described.

  • Reply Matt |

    Are you serious? I thought this was a getting out debt blog? As far as I understand you’re near bankruptcy with $145,000, partially is student loans THAT YOU’RE NOT PAYING BACK, a $30,000 gas guzzling, useless vehicle that you haven’t yet committed to selling, twin girls, work part time ( because the ‘hiring season for professors is 1-1/2 years away’, excuses, excuses) still have your kids looked after 3 times a week (because you need ‘adult time’. what? Seriously?) and still go out for beauty sessions and dinners because you don’t want to hurt your friends feelings. Give me a break. And now you want to give to charity? I suppose you can use your surplus $100 for it and go on living your debt filled life. If you were truly committed to getting out of debt you wouldn’t have these ridiculous questions. I haven’t been out to eat on my dime in 6 months and haven’t had my hair cut in a year. Sounds like you’re happy with your status quo, which is fine because 99% of this country is in the same boat, but I want to hear from somebody who is 100% serious about debt payoff.

    • Reply scarr |

      There are countless ways this could have been a more constructive comment than what you came up with.

      And I agree with Angie haha!

      • Reply Matt |

        I’m not going to sit here and blow smoke concerning this persons debt. ‘Yay team! We’ve decreased our monthly budget by $10!’ That attitude is not going to get you out debt in a timely manner. Getting out of debt is about discipline, determination,and sacrifice. You have it or you don’t. Any success story I’ve ever read has ALL those qualities, no less.

        • Reply Walnut |

          Save Time, Save Money, Save Sanity. Pick two.

          Getting out of debt will often mean you choose saving money over time and sanity. But not every time.

        • Reply Meghan |


          I understand where you are coming from in that there is a lot of room for cutting back expenses. I am also of the mindset of cutting back expenses to a bit of an extreme. Something I believe we would all do well to remember is that this debt did not accumulate over one, two, or even three years and it is not going to go away that fast either.

          I have seen it written many times on this blog that getting out of debt is a marathon, not a sprint. There is a lot of truth to this, in a sprint you give it your all (speed, energy, etc.) and it has to be short because you will burn out all of this quickly. In a marathon you move at a slower, but more sustainable pace, you take time along the route to refuel (your body, spirit, and mind).

          Is choosing to delegate 10% of income toward charity at this point in their journey a good idea, almost likely not. But I never got the feeling that is what she was asking. The question was about donating at all, in fact, it seemed like they are seeking to get better accountability for any donation they do make (instead of just throwing five bucks at the hand of any that ask).

          If you are not comfortable making any sort of contribution while working to get out of your debt, I pass no judgement on that, but for many, the opportunity to help someone else can be very beneficial; it raises the spirit, reminds them that there are others who are struggling much more, feels like a sacrifice they can justify versus eating out, etc.

          These folks who are blogging are looking for help in their journey, I think it is good that someone was willing to question the legitimacy of putting any money toward donation at this time. I feel that it could have been phrased better though, the bitter vitriol was destructive criticism and not conducive to the spirit of this blog (or humanity). I think that it is great there are people like yourself who are willing to call them out when it seems like they may be seeking approval of their justifying an expense, but I hope in the future you will consider remembering that we all make mistakes and every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.



          • Ashley |

            Slow clap, Meghan! : )
            I have to agree with everything you said!

          • Matt |


            I disagree with most of what you just said. However, I must say that I agree with you that my original post was an overload of criticism and I was very terse. That being said, I disagree with you saying the debt can’t be erased faster than it accumulated. If you put your nose to the grindstone the debt can come off very quickly, but you only pay off what you’ll willing to put in. If pick-up a second, or third job while cutting expenses- it can happen faster than you think.

            Secondly, it could be written a thousand times over on this blog, but getting out of debt is NOT a marathon. Contrary to your belief, it is indeed a sprint. Why? Because of interest accumulation. Obviously the faster you pay it off, the less your spending on interest. And in my personal experience, the faster I pay these debts off, the faster the balances go down and the more incentive I have to continue this. Not to mention the advantageous psychological effects of quick debt pay down.

            I do agree with you that we all make mistakes, but that has little to do with my original post. I was simply questioning her current actions to alleviate the ramifications of her past transgressions, but I wasn’t questioning the mistakes themselves.

            Sometimes it takes more than a little push to get somebody moving on the right path, but like I said above, I was much too aggressive and confrontational in my first post, and I will keep that in mind for all future posts.


      • Reply Meghan |

        Angie and Scarr-

        I figured he has been out to eat, notice the phrasing “on my dime.” πŸ™‚



    • Reply Mary |

      Matt – Ashley and the other bloggers are just beginning a path that you have apparently been on for quite some time. I think we owe it to them to help keep them accountable but also give them so slack on having questions, finding their own way. Congratulations to you on your achievement. That is awesome…but everyone’s path is different. I am sure all the new bloggers can learn something from your experience shared in different manner.

      • Reply Matt |

        I’m all for commenters on here being cheerleaders for these bloggers, but why is nobody filling them in on the harsh realities of being in debt? Is going out to eat, driving around an SUV and spending money on daycare when you work at home worth not being financially secure when hardships strike? Yes, they are just starting out, but to anyone who follows Dave Ramsey knows that his first step after building an emergency fund is getting out of debt with “gazelle intensity” and that’s what they should be focusing on. Nobody on here I feel has said this person needs to cut the excess IMMEDIATELY.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hey Matt, I hope you stick around! I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other!

      • Reply Ashley |

        Oh, also – see comment from Marie, above. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our “donating” could actually be just allocating where our tax-money goes (we have to pay taxes no matter what anyway). Win-Win for all!!!

      • Reply Matt |


        My plan is to stick around.

        Honestly, my original post was overly confrontational and mean spirited, but I’m not sorry for hitting ‘send’. I’ve learned a few things on my debt pay off journey and that is it only works well, if you’re all in (ALL in). If you reread my story from when I interviewed for this blog- I’ve gone through cycles where I paid hardly any attention to getting out of debt, other than the monthly payments I owed, to almost, but not quite, giving it everything I had. I finally decided to give it 100% and with this 100% effort came sustainability. 9 months into this and I can’t slow down; my only wishes being that I could pay it off faster. Others will probably disagree with me but in my short 27 years of life, that’s been my experience.

        I’ve also found with my complete devotion to debt payoff came with INCREASED clarity, sanity and overall enjoyment of life (the opposite of what someone said above about sacrificing sanity). I no longer need the things a lot of people can’t live without (eating out, watching tv, driving, gift giving, etc.) and find myself do more of the things I love because they are free- surfing, mountain biking, longboarding, playing guitar, running, cycling, body weight lifting, etc. Not to mention my financial concerns and everyday stresses about “living paycheck to paycheck” are melting away with each payment I make.

        Like dropping any bad habit, it was difficult to drop the excess spending (I cannot not lie there), but I still feel this is a band-aid best ripped off quickly.

        • Reply Maureen |


          I do agree with many things you said, but each person needs to find their own get out of debt journey. Just because you find increased sanity without driving, tv, etc. that doesn’t mean that all or nothing model is going to work for Ashley or other bloggers here. This is a journey and there is a serious learning curve for people who haven’t been held accountable to a higher standard or are still learning about this journey. I hate that too many commenters on this blog (not necessarily present company) think this has to be all about eliminating every debt they do not deem necessary themselves. If you pay a little more interest because you enjoyed one meal out with your children (preferably cheap and with coupons) those moments cannot be registered in the line of a checking account or debt repayment. Finding a few minor things that are important to the individual and/or family helps create balance even if it takes 48 months instead of 45…

        • Reply Ashley |

          Hey Matt! Thanks for the thoughtful comment and I really do appreciate you taking the time to write again. I was not being snarky when I said I think we can learn a lot from each other. I hope you will continue to comment and chime in as we delve deeper into this journey. That being said, I was initially defensive reading your first comment. We have not yet decided what to donate (if anything) and I definitely do feel committed to the debt-reduction journey. I think it will take time to get to “know” me – for example, I’ve already cut back in multiple areas and hope to write more about these as time goes on. However, looking at the big picture (without knowing the background of how I’m already cutting back and plan to cut back further), I was like, Post #1 = Monstrous Debt, Post #2 = Hey, I want to give away Money! The timing was definitely in poor taste on my part! I do appreciate readers keeping me accountable!

        • Reply scarr |

          Matt –

          Like you said, curbing excessive spending is a process it doesn’t happen over night. I paid off all of my debt in 18 months after a lot of hard work, determination and overtime. But, it didn’t come all at once in fact it wasn’t until about the 5-6 month mark that I became hyper dedicated to getting out of debt. It is awesome that you are in the zone and I hope you meet your debt-free date as soon as possible. I saved my last creditor statement as a tool to NEVER FORGET the pain and hardship I put myself through but also the amazing feeling of becoming debt free.

          I certainly know the growing pains that go along with a journey out of debt. People are here because they need the push to get out of their bad spending habits and we should push them. I just didn’t think your first post, although not necessarily wrong, was the way to get someone to seriously look at their debt AND motivate them. But you admitted you could have stated things differently and I look forward to more of your comments. Good luck on your journey!

        • Reply JD |

          I gotta agree with Matt. This blog is very interesting and I respect the blogger for putting everything out there. However, this seems more of a lifestyle blog and doesn’t seriously look at tackling debt. I read a post from 2007 and it doesn’t seem like any progress has been made. I’m not sure that helps anyone.

          • Jim |

            JD, you do realize there have been different bloggers since 2007? I mean the post you read was from someone that might have been just starting their journey, and that is where some of us are at as well.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    We tithe the 10% but across all charities, not just the church. We are debt free and have been doing this since 2010 as it is part of retirement goals. We used to give about 5% before setting this as our spending goal.

    We have a set amount deducted from our bank account for the church and then give to many other church related programs (through our national church.) The goal for that is 60% of our tithe.

    I then divide the remainder between overseas (15%), medical (10%) and social (15%) charities. Having traveled overseas, I’m convinced education is the best target for our dollars there. Medical is for pet causes. Social is for things that change society here: food banks, Habitat for Humanity and also non-deductible things like Girl Guide cookies and buying a wrist band to support a family with a medical crisis.

    In Canada, donations of goods to Goodwill, etc are not tax deductible so don’t figure into our amounts. I’m currently downsizing, and all sales of my things are being donated to one of three charities according to the wishes of the buyers. I’m literally selling our possessions and giving alms.

    As well, we donate hours and hours of our time. I work for myself and am semi-retired so I’m guessing between 10 – 20 hours per week. Every week, except when we are traveling.

    I have a spreadsheet to track the givings and make adjustments in December to ensure I’ve given enough and kept everything in balance. It is actually work, but well worth it. Freaks our financial advisor out, he’d prefer we just leave a large chunk of our estate at death because that’s easier for planning purposes. He’s getting used to it (and us) now. I let him invest, mostly where he wants (there are a few companies/industries I won’t allow) and he knows I’ll be spending it where I want.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi CanadianKate! Wow, it sounds like you do a lot of good for a lot of people! I hope that we can be in that same position someday!

  • Reply scarr |

    It is very heartwarming to read about your plans to donate more during your debt-free journey. I pulled back my monetary donations while getting out of debt, but I found other ways to keep giving: donating nice clothes and houseware goods to shelters for women and children, donating extra food and litter and blankets to animal shelters, volunteering at charity events, etc.

    What was/is important to me is to sincerely give time, belongings or money and when you are debt-free give all three regularly. You could make 5% monetary donations and find ways to make up the other 5%, like donating time or goods. I am sure you will figure something out, good luck!

  • Reply Misti |

    One way to help a variety of charities as well as improve your health is to compete in Charity 5k walks/races. The ration cost is tax deductible as it is a donation to the charity. You get a little healthier without cost of gym membership. Just a thought; also make sure the 5k is for the Charity they will generally list it on the website.

  • Reply Sarah |

    FINALLY. Someone on here says EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking. Matt could not be more right. I’m so confused on why you are on this blog. It seems like you’re much more concerned with items other than paying down your debt, and it’s difficult to even read.

  • Reply Joe |

    Let me be one of the few (or just less vocal?) to say that this is something you shouldn’t be considering right now given what you’ve told us about your financial situation. Certainly not 10%. A lesser amount perhaps, but better would be if you could do it in the form of time and energy.

    Earlier this week you were nervous about taking money out of your savings to pay off loans that were incurring huge interest charges because of the perceived impact on the safety net for your family, and now you are going to give away $500 a month? I always feel bad being critical, but I just can’t see how this is a sound decision.

    The prospect of this type of giving is something that you should be using as the reward for when you finally get out of debt, or at least have made substantial progress.

    • Reply Walnut |

      I will agree with Joe in that if I were in your shoes, I would focus on donating time and talent and use your money to pay off debt (since you’re asking for opinions!).

      Perhaps once you get your debt payoff snowball firmly rolling and start to make some good progress it would be something to think about again.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I really like the way you’ve thought of this (as a reward once getting out of debt). I CERTAINLY appreciate constructive criticism so definitely do not apologize or feel bad for being of the less vocal opinion! I am sure we would not jump in donating at a 10% rate. However, as it turns out (learned from Marie’s comment above), if we owe taxes (which we do), it may be a better idea for us to donate through a local nonprofit (501(c)(3) in Arizona) because we can get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. Basically, it allows us to pick where our tax money goes. In our income bracket, we would save more taking the tax credit than donating and taking a tax deduction (see here:http://www.kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T054-C001-S001-tax-credit-vs-deduction.html). Plus, we have to pay taxes anyway, so might as well pick where they go! I’m learning so much!!! : )

  • Reply Sara |

    I agree with Joe, in that this is not a wise decision right now. I think it’s great that you’re thinking about this, and it shows that you have a good heart and are a giving person. However, with your precarious financial situation – huge debt, twin babies, sick husband, working part-time, more car than you can afford, etc., it’s just not smart.

    Perhaps you could do something else that is still giving, but in a much less rigid and expensive way. Something that I’ve done while getting out of debt is to donate a small amount ($15 – $25, or whatever feels comfortable) every time I have a “win” in my debt journey. If I pay off a credit card, get a raise, lower my interest rate, I pay this good fortune forward by donating a small amount to a local food bank.

    Remember that saying when you get on an airplane about putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you can assist others? That applies here. Take care of your own situation first, then when you’re in the clear you can help others.

  • Reply Mary |

    I think it’s important to donate at any time, even while in debt, just at lesser amounts. Currently, I donate to two charities-my church and the local food pantry. I feel it’s important to support the local food pantry because these are people in our community that need help. Hunger is a year round problem and even though I live in one of the highest income counties in the state, there are still a lot of people that are hungry. That bothers me. I donate to the church and to the food pantry every pay day, no matter what. At Christmas time, I try to do more. It makes me feel good to know I am helping other children and adults in my community. I am very passionate about this cause. I hope to get to the point where I can donate 10% but I am not there yet. I have a small credit card balance (under $500) and don’t carry much debt however I have a limited income so I spend carefully.

    For charities, I used to donate here and there and now I just limit it to two. I hope at some point to add another charity to my list but I am focused on these. I started giving in small amounts but regular donations and when I get a raise, I increase my savings and my charitable donations, While I realize you have a lot of debt, I still think it’s important to donate something to charity, even if it’s just $10 a payday. No matter where you are at in life, there is always someone whose needs are greater than yours. I think that is important to remember as you are going through this journey. I heard the phrase that God gives you two hands, one to help yourself and one to help others. I try to remember that.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Mary, it sounds like you have a wonderful spirit of giving! I hope to be that charitable someday!

  • Reply AY |

    Hi Ashley! I like the idea of allocating your tax dollars to certain nonprofits as well as donating time and used clothes etc. I would agree that adding another line to your budget in giving is not the best idea at the moment but appreciate your desire to be generous with what you have! My husband and I support 3 different nonprofits and love doing that even though we have some school debt to pay off (no cc’s or other debt).

    Ok, so this is OFF TOPIC but I didn’t know where to post the idea/question. I did not apply or want to be a regular blogger but I often wish that I could unleash the many helpful, constructively critical and challenging commenters on my debt situation and get their advice! Is it possible that maybe every week on Sundays a reader writes in with their debt story and gets one-time advice about their situation? For instance, we just have student loans as far as debt goes and we are trying to decide how much to put toward it each month, how much to save, how much to invest, whether to start a college fund, etc. etc. I know it’s not the kind of problem that would take tons of posts and work as a regular blogger but I would love to hear everybody’s opinions. I know we’re just starting a new format and I’m not trying to take away from the 4 new writers at all, it was just a thought! If Jeffrey and you guys decide its a good idea I’ll go first! πŸ™‚ Thanks!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi Ay! I like this idea! I do think if we do something like this it probably won’t be for a little while. I think the transition of the new format + 4 new bloggers is a lot to handle so adding more people (even as guest-posts) right now may be a little much. It’s definitely something that could happen in the future though – I’ll talk to the others and get their opinions!

  • Reply Maureen |

    I think the spirit of giving needs to be what you feel comfortable and morally obligated to give. I personally don’t make a lot of monetary contributions, but I give a lot of time in other places-I volunteer at food shelves, community service organizations, and provide pro bono legal services on a regular basis. I feel like I am giving back in ways that mean more to people than a check (although I do recognize that monetary contributions are needed as well). As far as a tithe percentage I challenge Dave Ramsey as to why it has to be that way? If you can give 5% and feel good doing that give that amount. If you can give 20% and that makes you happy give that amount. I am a firm believe in debt management, but I find Dave Ramsey hypocritical and out of touch of what poverty actually is. He makes everything about religion and as a nonreligious person (by choice–not to be confused as not being spiritual) this approach just doesn’t work for me. I think he is out of touch with the masses.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I love hearing this perspective and thank you for sharing! I know I’ve already mentioned Ramsey multiple times and I don’t want it to come across as though I blindly follow everything he “preaches.” There are definitely things he says that I do not agree with and/or would not work for me. But I do like to try to pick up tidbits of advice here and there from anyone/everyone (not just the “pros”)

      • Reply Maureen |

        I think that is a great approach! I’m not saying everything he preaches is distorted or bad. I get turned off how he turns most things into a duty and religious debate.

  • Reply Alexandria |

    This is where I differ strongly from most financial gurus. Even with no debt, ever (but a reasonable mortgage), charity (cash/money) is not of importance to us. In your shoes, I’d forget about it and focus on the debt.

    It is a personal decision. I think charitable giving is quite fine if you can afford it and if you haven’t been guilted into it. (I think most people are guilted into it, and I don’t think the financial gurus help).

    In my experience, I have seen a lot of people charitably give their way into financial ruin. I don’t see this tendency with more financially responsible people. The average giving amount is more like 3% among the middle class; 10% among the poor. Statistically. I am a tax professional and I see those statistics play out. It’s nice if you want to be generous but it doesn’t help anyone if you literally go bankrupt in the process. (My perception may be unique since I think most people wouldn’t see that Mrs. Generous over there really doesn’t have any money and is in the middle of bankruptcy because she didn’t keep enough money to pay her utilities. But I see this, and you’d be surprised how common this is).

    I can’t say I would even bother giving time so much, in your shoes. You will be able to be a far more giving person if you clean up the mess first.

    My parents have never been giving as far as organizations and money and community, but they would give you the shirt off their back. I strongly believe that charity begins at home. We take it a step farther as we are very involved with our community. I don’t know if I will ever be much of a cash giver; giving of our time and talents is so much more rewarding. We are blessed to have the time to do so because we aren’t under the pressures of debt. I’ve always made donating time a priority, but I mean we are able to donate *significant* amounts of time. Mostly because my spouse does not work. We will have to re-startegize if he ever returns to work (might make more sense to give monetarily more, though I don’t expect it to feel near as useful; we’ve been in a space in the past to be more generous but writing a check just doesn’t “do it” for us). We’ve gotten infinitely more gratitude helping out single parents with childcare here and there. Which is not “charity” but is more the takeaway from my own parents. There are a million ways to be “giving” in this world.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I totally agree that “giving” can come in many different forms. That’s fascinating to me, the stats that you quoted! Fascinating, and scary/alarming! Yikes!

    • Reply Maureen |

      Alexandria-Thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and I agree! I’m a bankruptcy attorney and I see a number of people each year that can’t afford food, but still give away a substantial portion to various charities. Kudos if you want to give and can afford to donate, but you have to support yourself first, or you become part of the cyclic dysfunction.

  • Reply ND Chic |

    I think the only reason Dave Ramsey says to continue tithing is to line his pockets. You have all my these churches across the country that push Dave Ramsey courses. The churches supply the place and the volunteers to facilitate his classes. The attendees have to pay to take the course and that money goes directly to a very rich Dave Ramsey. He is a smart businessman who knows he would be kicked out of all these churches if he didn’t tell people how to give 10% to their church.

    I am thinking you can’t really afford to give much more than maybe $50 a month. Do yourself a favor and get your family’s finances squared away so you don’t become the charitable cause for somebody else.

  • Reply Lynn |

    Thank you Matt, Sarah, et all for not cheerleading but injecting some reality.

    Ashley, I think you are a kind sweet person who acts on impulse and that is something you can no longer afford to do. I am sure that all of the financial soul baring you have done here has been difficult and it is tempting to do something that will make you feel good about yourself and will help others, but you cannot afford it at this time. I love the suggestion of you giving a small donation after paying off a debt. That and planning for future giving after you conquer your debt is about all you can afford at present.

    I urge you to re-read Matt’s first post carefully because though a tad bombastic it is right on the money. You have some hard decisions ahead if you are serious about your debt. You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but you do has to start getting realistic about your situation. I wish you well, but I have to echo his words. Get serious.

  • Reply Jim |

    I don’t donate any money, and I do fill bad about that. Well I do donate money, but a few dollars here and there is nothing. But what I do is donate lots and lots of goods that I acquire through couponing. Last year I was able to donate 75 blood glucose monitors (retail value at $30.00) a piece. All of that costing me nothing. But I went to different retirement homes and donated them.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Jim – I would LOVE to hear some posts about your couponing successes!!! Our daycare provider is an avid couponer and I”m always amazed at all the things she manages to get for free! Share your ways! : )

      • Reply Jim |

        Follow me on instagram (http://instagram.com/elementalunity) to have a hint at my success. I will be talking about couponing and my new business venture in posts to come as well. There is only one picture in my instagram account I believe, joined it a while ago, but never did anything with it

  • Reply TENN |

    So many opinions. If I were in Ashley’s place, I would first confirm whether the compounding interest on the deferred loans was resulting in more debt than was being paid off every month. Next would be a budget with a line item for charity if that is what her family decides works for their family. It could be a small amount. Consider how this small amount could be used to its best potential. For example, food pantries leverage donations into more food than an individual can buy. Also consider that volunteering can also be a way to give back. There may be organizations looking for someone to help with items that can be done at home.

    On another note, charity looks different to each individual. No one has all the right answers. A tithe may be the right answer for some families. While in my opinion, ‘paying it forward’ or a Christmas bonus is not charity, it may be for some. Girl Scout cookies are part of the food or ‘fun’ budget. One thing I consider when donating is whether the organizations works with ‘the least of these.’

  • Reply Slinky |

    This is something that will vary widely depending on personal beliefs and values. I have some very strong opinions on this topic based on personal experience. Firstly, I will only ever support charity of the “hand up” vs the “hand out” variety. The second, is that charity is a luxury that many people can’t afford. I watched people I love give generously and lovingly to everyone around them all their lives. But you know what? They now have nothing left to give and worry about having enough groceries to last the month. And the people they handed out money to? They’re worse off than they were before and still grasping for anything they can get. In the end, no one really benefited from those hundreds of thousands of dollars of handouts. It’s tragic and heartrendingly depressing.

    Now, I’m not saying that charity is useless or pointless or that generosity is not a beautiful quality to have. After all, that’s just one single situation. There are millions more. But, please, give selectively and intelligently and from a place of security. Do you feel secure? Is your family taken care of? How does your future look? College? Retirement? These things don’t all have to be done and taken care of before you give, but they should be on track. I’m guessing this box isn’t checked since you’re posting on a debt blog, hmm?

    Now, that’s all my personal opinion. It’s your life and you call the shots. If you feel very strongly about giving, even with your debt, try a charity like Donor’s Choose. You could donate as little as $5 a month and still make a difference. Think kids without paper or pencils or calculators for school. I like this charity particularly because it’s very clear where your money goes and you get to see the results. Sometimes other charities feel like a black hole where a little bit doesn’t make any difference.

    And to wrap up what became a pretty long comment – consider making giving a reward for debt payoff. Start with $5/month just to get something going. Every time you pay off $x or kill a debt add another $5.

So, what do you think ?