A new year is a great time to evaluate your life and make new goals, but you don't have to wait until traditional resolution time rolls around to create changes. One of your ongoing goals may be to increase your ability to give more to charity or support nonprofits and causes that are important to you. For most people, this is a change that requires clear planning and may necessitate some adjustments. If you want to boost your donations to your church or other worthwhile causes in the upcoming months, start with these four steps.
1. Assess Your Spending Habits
Most people spend more money in some areas than they think they do. Even if you have a budget and generally stick to it, you may be surprised to find out just how much you are spending in certain places, particularly if you pay with a credit card. Make a list of all the things you think you spend money on:
- Necessities (e.g., mortgage, utilities, etc.)
- Luxury services
Next, go through your bank and credit card statements from the last four months item by item. List each expenditure in one of the categories you have come up with, and add new categories as necessary. When you are finished, tally the total for each group. This is more likely to give you a clearer picture of where you actually spend money than your general budget does.
2. Identify Areas To Cut Back
Once you have a better idea of where your money goes, the next step is to figure out where you want to reduce your spending. If, for example, you discover that your family is spending $300 a month eating out in restaurants, eating a few more meals at home can easily cut that expenditure in half, freeing up an extra $150. You may decide, of course, that treating your family or yourself to certain small luxuries is necessary self-care, and that's ok. The point of this step is to identify areas where you can reduce spending without lowering your quality of life.
3. Create a Values-Based Budget
The next thing you need to do is make another list. This time, however, you are listing the things that you value, such as security, meeting all your family's needs and helping the less fortunate. Once you identify your overall values, try to narrow them down to specific actions. What initiatives do you want to support in your community? What groups make your community a better place to live for everyone? When you have a list of values and the specific ways you want to support them, it is easier to revise your budget to reflect those desires. It is also possible that your overall budget may not change that much. For example, if you have two credit cards, you may still budget the same amount to pay on each one every month while designating one for entertainment or shopping and the other for charitable giving.
4. Seek Additional Funding
You may not think your small donation can make much of a difference, but there are ways to amplify it. Share links to the contribution pages of groups you support on social media. If you have a credit card that earns rewards, you can probably choose a reward that supports your favorite charity. If you shop frequently at Amazon, you can designate an organization to receive a percentage of the money you spend there. Ask the company where you work if it would be willing to match your donations. By thinking outside the box a little, you can turn a small amount into a significant contribution.
Many people wish they could give more to charity, but turning that desire into reality takes specific action. Once you assess and adjust your spending habits, you may find that this goal is more easily attainable than you realize.