When I finally faced up to my debts a couple of years ago, I went through my bank statements and systematically questioned every single area of my spending. I knew that not only did I need to start living within my means, I also had to free up a huge wedge of my pay packet to pay down my debts.
But there were some things I just didn’t want to cut back on. One of these was a monthly donation to a charity. Easy as it might have been to cancel that one – it’s not like I was getting any personal benefit from it – the guilt factor was just too much.
My budget still needed help though, so I took a deep breath and sought a second opinion. A debt-themed forum on the MoneySavingExpert site offers a frankly terrifying service where fellow forum members dissect every aspect of your spending habits. And, as you might expect from a pack of frugalistas, they can dish up a fairly harsh wake-up call.
I posted my incomings and outgoings and waited. Then the comments came rushing in. People seemed horrified at three main areas of my spending – entertainment (eating out, movies etc), gift-buying and charity donations. ‘Charity begins at home’, someone pointed out. I was £15k in debt, after all.
So, just as I cut back on the cinema trips and restaurant visits, I also went ahead and cancelled my charity subscription. And I’m now ok with that. Once I’m on a firmer financial footing, I’ll be able to afford to give again, and probably give more.
Of course, I’m not boycotting charities. I still donate to various causes fairly frequently, I just decided I could no longer commit to a regular payment.
If you are in a spiral of debt, it’s ok to stop giving money to charity. But just because you don’t have money to donate, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a good cause. Here are three ways to do just that.
Give your stuff
One of my favourite pieces of mail to receive is one from a charity which tells me how much it has made from selling my old stuff at its local charity shop. It’s usually a fair bit more than I would ever have made from selling it myself, and it shows there are now happy new owners for my unwanted crap.
Give your energy
Organise a charity event. Alternatively, do something silly, something impressive or something brave, and get sponsored for it. Knowing you’re raising money for a good cause can be the motivation you need when you’re training for a big run or bike ride. One note of advice: make sure people’s sponsorship money is ALL going to charity. In my book, it’s not fair to expect others to fund your trek up a far-flung mountain or jump out of a plane.
Give your time
There are loads of volunteering opportunities out there, whether it’s on a one-off or a regular basis. This is something I’d really like to get into. I’m going to do some research and see what might work for me.