Letting It Rain for a Good Cause

It’s not like we have never donated to charities before. We’ve sent the Red Cross the odd donation, and we’ve donated on behalf of coworkers running for charity. We’ve even pitched in for a couple Go Fund Me’s for friends in tough situations. It was just never a lot – $200-$300 a year at the most.

This year, we’re 10Xing that.

I’m not going to beat around the bush; the political climate right now is scaring me, and the most effective way for Fergus and me to fight back with is with money. Of course it always comes back to money with us.

One of the interesting things about being a financial blogger is knowing that you’re a little weird. Most people don’t spend days or weeks researching new cell phones or low-cost cell phone plans or actually calculating the total cost of a meal (apparently most people don’t draw faces on eggs, either? Who knew?).

These are the kinds of actions that can lead others to think maybe you’re a little cheap, or, a little obsessive. And, yes, a little. Not about numbers on a bank account, though, but about what those numbers can do. Those numbers mean freedom, security, and now, #resist (& contributions to awesome places in general that we’ve always meant to contribute to).

Fergus and I are both engineers and make good money. Realistically speaking, donating to causes we believe in is going to result in the most benefit. It’s like how the money spent on “voluntourism” travel would be better spent directly in the target area; it might feel good to get your hands dirty, but direct contributions make the most impact. Now, since resisting unconstitutional practices does not require expensive travel, we absolutely can and will both donate and be active in local groups.

For far too long, I’ve been more of a “Facebook activist,” and not even a very good one at that. I care about a lot of things. I have opinions. I’ve just never done much about any of my views beyond complain to friends and Fergus about how messed up the world is. Not anymore.

For some context, we have a pseudo-budget – in that we have general categories like “groceries” or “entertainment” budgeted out, and every once in a while we compare our spending to this budget. When we realize we’re spending a lot of money on something we don’t even care about, we adjust accordingly. Essentially, we try to tie our spending to our values and adjust as needed, as priorities change.

We said no to most dinners out in order to cut our spending by instead going to fancier places less frequently. We live in a reasonably-priced 1-bedroom apartment since a lot of space is not important to us, and we value flexibility. We own one teenaged car as it’s still reliable and we’re able to carpool to work together.

Before now, it’s mostly been cutting back (though not always), and for fairly selfish reasons – to be able to quit work, travel, and spend more time on creative pursuits – but this is us adjusting our budget to re-align with our values.

Like pretty much all of our finances, we’ve set up monthly, automatic contributions. Allocation as follows:

Organization Monthly Contribution
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) $50
GiveWell $40
Planned Parenthood $35
American Refugee Committee (ARC) $30
Planned Parenthood Action Fund $25
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) $25
National Public Radio (NPR) – WBUR Local Station $10

And every year we also give $100 to the rescue that Fluffster came from. I mean, come on, that face is priceless:

Fluffster with money on snout

Adorable *and* fiscally responsible – what more can we ask for?

Now, for those of you doing the math at home, that comes out to $2,680 a year. In order to “retire,” that means adding $67k to our end goal (using the 4% rule), as we expect to keep up these donations.

Make Your Voice Heard

If you too cannot yet utter the words “President Trump,” some great resources that don’t require any money are the Indivisible Guide and the Women’s March website. The Indivisible Guide was put together by formal congressional staffers and is a wonderful read that is very easy to understand. They’re currently forming a nonprofit with the aims of demystifying congressional action and supporting local groups using their guide.

If you also find yourself with an excess of money, of course, donate as you see fit. I’ve never liked soliciting donations from others, or even selling cookies as a Girl Scout. I don’t know you or your financial situation, and I’m not going to say everyone should donate, because not everyone can. I will encourage you to think of money as power, and to use that power to best align with your own values.

If you don’t already, I’d highly recommend simply tracking your money. It’s frightening how much money we can spend without fully realizing it, even if we think we’re fiscally responsible and aware. Numbers don’t lie, my friends. Fergus and I were shocked when we first started tracking our spending and realized $400 was frittered away monthly on Chipotle and pad thai.

Ongoing Charitable Mission

If this blog ever does make us money, we will be donating >=50% of profits to either GiveWell, or charities chosen by readership polls. If you would like to help us out with this mission, head over to our recommendations page. We never recommend or market anything we haven’t personally used, and there is no cost to you to go through an affiliate link.

In fact, you can track your spending, manage your net worth, and give the blog $100 by signing up and linking an account to Personal Capital. Alternatively, Mint is a popular choice as well, or good ol’ pen and paper if you’re old fashioned. We’ve also heard good things about gnu cash.

Let us know in the comments how you’re using your power. What do you value, and how does your spending align?

Follow

4 thoughts on “Letting It Rain for a Good Cause

  1. Great post. Up until today (when I’ve started a new job) I’ve been giving my “talents” to a local charity and have been able to secure much more money than I could donate from grant making bodies. I know from that experience just how valuable individual donations are. Very often, grants come with stipulations about how the money must be used, whereas individual contributions can be used for the greatest area of need. We had been able to maintain some charitable giving, bur now I’m also working, I’ll be looking at other causes that need financial support to donate to 🙂

    • That’s so great, Sarah!

      Grant writing is a fantastic boon to charities. numbskulls like Fergus and me wouldn’t know the first thing about writing a great grant proposal. That’s definitely an example of a highly sought after skill in the world of charities. It’s true it comes with stipulations and such, but many individual donations do too. :-/

  2. I’ve always been a pretty realistic person and recognize that right now, I’m really just a nobody. Sure I could volunteer or donate money, but that would only amount to a few thousand dollars every year!
    Instead, I reinvest every penny into my business. Maybe one day I’ll be able to donate millions to worthy causes.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Make sure you don’t discount the benefit of smaller donations, though — a few thousand a year could be of huge benefit to many people. 🙂
      It definitely depends on the exact situation, but it can be easy to put off donations indefinitely. Also, in some ways, donating can make you more frugal/focused, and I would assume also open more doors for a burgeoning business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.