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Why You Should Give Some Money Away

Hello readers of So Over This! I’m Kathleen and my corner of the internet is Frugal Portland, where I talk about my journey toward financial freedom in the lovely city of Portland, Oregon! I’m here today because Andrea’s brain fell out last week, and I always seem to have something to say. So, while she’s recovering from back-to-school-brain-fallout, I’m here to discuss why we shouldn’t be so precious with our money.

Norah Jones sang, “Money’s just something you throw, off the back of a train,” and while I don’t think we should be that carefree, I do think that there’s a great deal of joy associated with selfless giving.

Letting Worry In

Those of us who write on a blog with the word “frugal” in the URL know that money doesn’t come easy. We worry and fret and give ourselves ulcers when we run out of money before we run out of month. And that, my friends, is the problem. Not that 30 days is too long for one dang paycheck to last (because, oh, it is) but the worry. Worrying about something is thinking about it all the time. It keeps us up at night.

But there’s a flaw in worry, one that they don’t teach us. And that’s the power of visualization. If you believe it, it comes true! So if you believe that you do not have enough money, and your thoughts are, “I don’t have, I don’t have, there isn’t enough,” then you are right. You will keep proving yourself right, and that kind of sucks. Because on the one hand, it’s nice to be right. But it sucks to be broke.

Abundance is all around us

Let’s rephrase it — think to yourself, “Goodness gracious I have all this money! I am doing everything right and I have more than enough for myself, my family, and my future.” Then, take four five-dollar-bills out of your wallet (or the ATM!), and put them in the cupholder of your car, the lining of your purse, the extra pocket in your fanny pack, or that weird zipper pocket on your cargo pants. Remind yourself that cargo pants will never go out of style, as you’re ferreting your fives away.

Now, give a five to the next four people you see. I live in an urban area, so I typically only give to people with cardboard signs. But you don’t have to. You can give a five to anyone who looks down on their luck. Not comfortable with that? Pay for the person behind you in line’s groceries. Bonus points if you’re able to sneak away before she knows what you did.

I promise, if you do this exercise, you will feel happy and light. You don’t have to do it often, and you don’t have to use that much if money’s tight enough that you won’t eat if you lose that cash. But a funny thing will happen. If you visualize yourself having so much money that you have extra to give away, you’ll start finding money in odd places. Maybe some cash will be on the sidewalk. Or a freelance opportunity will come your way.

You’ll feel like a good person, that’s for sure!

Andrea’s note: Thanks so much to Kathleen for allowing me some time to hunt down my remaining brain cells! This post reminds me of one I wrote quite awhile back about altruism, as well as a more recent one about signs. I love helping people in need, though sometimes I let it get in the way of my own goals. Like right now – I should probably just post about it on Friday, but there is a ton of giving money away (indirectly) going on in my life at the moment. Still, I want to try Kathleen’s experiment! What about you?


  1. This is a cool idea and I totally agree. As hard up as I usually am, if there's a charity or fundraiser going on, I always find $10 or so to give. Sure I'll miss it, but it's going to a good cause.

  2. bluecollarworkman says

    So wait, cargo pants are out of style? Cargo pants are awesome. I can keep all sortsa tools and random stuff in there. I give a few bucks to the cardboard sign folks too; even if they're making more than me by standing there, they've got balls asking like that, and so I"ll hand over a few.

  3. I love giving money away. My spouse has to expend effort to stop me, haha.
    I dream of being able to have tons of money so I can give it away…. *sigh*

  4. I don't think I would try this strategy.

    1) I'd rather give money to organizations I know need it (or would do well with it).

    2) I'm not that into talking to strangers – I guess I'm a bit shy.

    3) If someone tried to give $5 to me randomly, I would be super suspicious and wouldn't take it. I'd think they were trying to scam me somehow. I would think other people would react that way too, unless they are actively soliciting.

    But I totally agree that giving away money helps you realize how much you have and can alleviate money worries – I have given away money specifically because I feel money is tight to help the feeling go away. That's part of the reason we maintain a giving fund on top of our monthly auto-giving so that we can give as opportunities to come up.

  5. A homeless man in our town came to a small convenience store where I was in line making a purchase and pulled out a wad of what looked like $500+ dollars. From that moment on I would never feel bad about not giving any of my money to the homeless. I know this isn't always the case and there are people out there that need help but something changed my perspective that day entirely. I have however on many occasions (and still do) offer free services – but people sometimes find it really strange that I would help them for no reason. Also, I learned the hard way from donating some money to a green organization. Little did I know I would not see an end from them constantly calling me and sending aggressive emails asking for more. I mean… if you're going to ask for a donation, at least be decent enough to accept it and never beg for more. So.. I guess you could say I have a totally different perspective on giving to others. I'm all for helping through services and volunteering, but never with cash.

  6. I would feel really weird paying for a random person's stuff, but I've seen that done on some show and it looked really neat. I try to give to local charities. That way I can see what my donation is for. We didn't donate much last year while trying to pay down bills and it felt pretty selfish. We're doing better this year.

  7. I've been contemplating doing that for a little while, so thanks for the kick in the butt 🙂 Next time I'm at the coffee shop I'm going to pay for the person in line behind me 😀

  8. seedebtrun says

    I once pulled up at a Starbucks and the woman ahead of me had already paid for my drink! I was so happy and filled with warm fuzzies that I paid for the guy behind me! Why not? I already had the $5 out and ready to go. I have no idea how long the folks in line did that, but I just loved that feeling, both the getting a surprise kind gesture from a stranger, and then knowing that I was paying forward that same fuzzy feeling to the guy behind me. Bliss.

  9. aww I like this post. I've become more generous with my money and feel richer than ever =) it's awesome to be able to help out. It's only $5 to you but it can mean a lot more for someone else.

  10. I have been really wanting to pay for the person behind me for awhile now, but I have never have! I just really love the idea of people doing little things that might brighten up everyone else around you, no matter how small the act might be.

  11. A person who is generous in spirit AND action is someone who will likely live a happier life in my view. Have to say, I've given on occasion to homeless people on the street in Chicago, and it's felt good to give and make a difference. Though it's really hard for me to do this daily. But occasionally, I'll stop.

  12. Canadianbudgetbinder says

    I had someone do this to me once while I was in drive thru at Tim Horton's. When I got up to the window to pay she said the lady in front of me paid for my coffee. I don't know if I looked needy or that was her way of simply being nice and paying it forward to the next person. I think what you are suggesting is something we all need to do once in a while even if it is a cup of coffee. Cheers Mr.CBB

  13. thefrugaltoad says

    I find giving my time is much more rewarding and meaningful than giving money. It's as easy as asking someone can I help you?

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