The Art and Joy of Giving

I'd just walked into a coffee shop to sit down and get some writing done (I know; coffee shops are a common theme in this book). And, while I was waiting for my order, something weird happened.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling: Buy coffee for the girl behind you.

Instantly, I thought nope, not going to do it. Look, I'm happy to buy someone coffee in the drive‐through during the holidays or make an anonymous donation. In person, though? No, thanks. Too awkward.

Buy her the coffee. The feeling seemed to come from outside me, and it was a bit alarming. As a self‐employed writer, I've spent thousands of hours doing my work in coffee shops, and not once did I ever feel like I should buy a stranger coffee in person. (It goes against the introvert code.)

So nope, I'm not doing it, I thought.

But then the girl stepped up to the register to pay and my mouth, seemingly without my consent, said, “Oh, I'll get hers too.” I handed my card over before she could take hers out. I could feel my heart pounding as I looked over and smiled at her.

“Wow,” she said, “Thank you.” And, after a brief pause, she seemed to weigh her options and decided to add, “I've actually just had the worst morning of my entire life. I didn't think nice people existed in the world anymore.”

And with that, she collected her coffee, turned around, and left.

That same day, when I opened my computer to work, I had an unexpected work opportunity arrive in my inbox after weeks of failing to get new contracts. Sure, it could have been a coincidence, but it's happened to me so many times now that I know it's not.

Throughout this book, I've given you several steps to take to improve your finances. I've shown you sample net worth calculations, a sample budget, and we've talked about emergencies and life insurance. I've shown you the nuts and bolts of how I manage cash flow and my bank accounts. We even dabbled in investing. These are all very straightforward, predictable pieces of money advice.

But, there's something I can't quite explain in words. It's so abstract and definitely not straightforward, practical, or predictable. Yet, I've experienced it many times so I want to share it with you.

Every single time you give away money, I believe you will get it back some way or another.

The key is you have to give money that's untethered, money you don't expect to get back, money that holds no hint of ownership or expectation of reciprocation.

You can't force when it happens, and you can't write a check to someone expecting to find a check of equal value in your mailbox tomorrow. When you truly give from the heart, with pure generosity, the money comes back eventually, sometimes when you least expect it.

I don't know why this works, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with your mind. When you give freely, you send a signal to your brain that you have enough. Not only do you have enough, but you have an abundance, so you don't mind giving some of it away. This opens you up for new opportunities and puts you at a different frequency.

It's when you're scared and feeling scarce, clinging to your money, that the problems arrive. When I think back to the times in my life when I was so worried about money, I see now why I felt like I couldn't get ahead. All I did in those dark times was worry about paying my bills and making sure my business grew. I used to take any freelance job I could, even if it didn't pay well, because I didn't believe other gigs were out there. I didn't want to do anything fun; I thought everything was too expensive. And, like many women, I was conditioned to believe that I should be grateful for what I had and not demand more. This kept me in a cycle of working for too little pay. It didn't help my confidence, and I wasn't sending the right signals out into the world.

I would have been stuck in that cycle for years had I not started doing more personal development, therapy, and finding mentors I admired. I realized that a scarcity mindset is connected to self‐worth. I had to start appreciating my own work ethic and recognizing my own gifts before I realized the world is an abundant place. I began to believe clients were lucky to work with someone like me. I started to believe the world will never run out of opportunities. And because opportunities for growth and wealth building will always be there, there's no reason why I shouldn't give when I feel called to do so. After all, the money will come back to me, and I can always create more of it. So, why not give some of it away when I want to, right?

I feel that giving is really similar to budgeting in a way. When you learn how to manage a small amount of money, it's a lot easier to manage a large amount of money. Similarly, I feel like when you learn how to give with small amounts of money, it trains you to incorporate giving as a part of your daily life. That way, as you grow, progress in life, and build wealth, you're going to be even more generous in the future.

I haven't given away thousands of dollars at one time yet. I don't have any buildings named after me yet. But, I still have fun giving what I can. Lots of people think they have to have a lot of money to be generous, but that's just not true. You don't have to be a multimillionaire to make a difference when it comes to giving. A simple coffee will do, as evidenced by the story at the beginning of this chapter.

You can even make giving a line item in your budget. My best friend and her husband set aside money every month for surprise giving. It's anywhere from $50–$100 every month. Sometimes they use it right away. Other times, they let the fund build up until they feel called to use it. Once, they bought another couple's Valentine's Day dinner at a restaurant just to be nice. Another time, they helped a single mom at their church who was experiencing a hard time. I love their method of including giving in their budget because it keeps the possibility in the forefront of their minds. It's not something they do for recognition or because they expect something in return. It's pure fun for them, and I love hearing how they use it.

You can do something similar today. Simply go to the ATM and pull out a $20 bill. Put it in your wallet in a different section and call it your “giving money.” You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll spot an opportunity to use it, whether the person in front of you at the grocery store forgot her wallet or you decide to give your hairdresser an extra tip. People experience such joy with the smallest gestures. Recently, my friend surprised my family with donuts one morning, and it made our day. I thought it was such a good idea, the following week I put a box of donuts on the porch of another friend who had to quarantine for Covid‐19. That made her day. That's another thing about generosity: it's infectious (the good kind of infectious, not the pandemic kind of infectious).

Small acts of kindness and surprise giving are truly my favorite form of generosity. I love how it brightens a stranger's day and impacts people I know and love right away. You can, of course, give in a multitude of ways, and giving to organizations is a part of that as well.

If you want to give to a charity organization, you might be wondering how to find one that will use your donated money wisely. You can research charities on a website called Charity Navigator, which rates 501(c)(3) public charities. These charities file an IRS form called Form 990, which Charity Navigator uses to rate them based on their financial health and financial transparency. Additionally, nonprofits have to be in operation for a minimum of seven years and generate $1 million or more in revenue for two or more years in order to be rated. So although not every charity will qualify to be rated on Charity Navigator, it's a good place to start to begin learning about organizations that might support causes you believe in.

You can even formalize your giving further and plan to regularly give to a 501(c)(3) charity by opening something called a donor‐advised fund. This is a tax‐advantaged account you can open and add money to that you want to donate. When you place money into the fund, you can get a tax deduction for that calendar year. You can then donate it to a qualified charity that year or you can invest it so it can potentially grow and allow for more giving down the road. Some DAF funds have minimums to open the account and some don't. An accountant can help you determine whether or not a DAF is right for your tax planning and philanthropic goals.

Many people want to know if they should be charitable while they are paying off debt. My answer is yes. Maybe it doesn't make sense mathematically on paper because you likely want to allocate all your available resources to destroying debt as quickly as possible. But, for those intangible reasons I listed at the beginning of the chapter, I think giving is important for how it makes you feel and for how it reinforces that you're going to be okay.

Whether it's giving a 10% tithe to your church, buying lunch for a friend, or buying gifts for a family in need during the holidays, giving—even when you're in debt—is important for your own spirit and humanity. It reinforces that even though you may have the burden of debt, there are still others less fortunate who could benefit from your help. Again, you don't have to donate thousands of dollars or set up a donor‐advised fund if you're currently focused on aggressively paying off debt. But, keep your mind open to the possibility of acts of generosity and look for ways to help others. Remember, the money and the kindness will come back to you in some way or another.

You can also incorporate giving in your money lessons for your kids. Allow them a way to earn money or to keep money gifted to them. Then, you can ask them to divide their money into three categories: spend, save, and give. When their giving jar grows, you can encourage them to choose a charity they believe in. For example, let's say your child has $10 in their giving jar. If they love dogs, you can take them to give their $10 to a local animal shelter. Or, you can take them to a pet store, buy $10 of dog treats or toys, and then take them to the shelter to donate it. It's good to show them tangible ways of giving first, where they can feel good about helping others. It keeps them aware that other people (or animals) benefit from help and generosity. You can even offer to match money in their giving jars, which can provide them with more opportunities to help in a meaningful way.

Kids are actually excellent givers. They haven't experienced financial pitfalls of friends not paying them back or recessions just yet, so they instinctively have an abundance mindset, especially if you've outlined a way for them to earn money or keep money they're gifted.

I love seeing what my kids do with their money. One of the sweetest giving moments I've witnessed happened when I finished my first draft of this book. I told my daughter I finished writing it, and she went to her money jar and brought me back several bills. She reminded me about a “MAMA” necklace I said I liked in a store several weeks earlier but didn't buy for myself. She was insistent I use her money to buy it as a reward for finishing my book. I was so touched she remembered and that she was willing to part with her own money to buy something for me. So, I did buy the “MAMA” necklace, and I wore it in my author photo for this book. It's now one of my favorite possessions. That's the fun part of teaching your kids to be generous. Sometimes, you get to experience the joy of having it reflected back on you.

Ultimately, it's good for kids, especially those with roofs over their heads and food in their bellies, to practice gratitude and to give back. Giving instills kindness in them and can help foster a sense of contentment, which is a key emotion to harness when it comes to successful money management.

Teaching your children to give will take time and effort on your part, especially if you help them earn money, organize their money, and find places to donate their money. However, it's time well spent and can help create hardworking, thoughtful children who were taught to give back from a young age.

I think what I hope the most for you, though, when it comes to generosity is that you start to become generous with yourself. And, by that I don't mean treating yourself to something new at the mall. I mean giving yourself the gift of compassion and kindness as you begin to learn more about money. Being generous with yourself means carving out the time to learn. It's doing whatever you can to ensure you protect yourself financially today and in the future.

Being generous with yourself means that every day you take a moment to feel gratitude and a deep sense of contentment for everything you've experienced thus far and everything to come. It's giving yourself peace and the courage to let go of mistakes you've been holding on to.

When you're generous with yourself, you choose kindness and make a deal with yourself that you won't chastise yourself for past decisions. You let them go, and you don't invite the negative thoughts back. Instead, you reward yourself and lavish yourself with praise for everything you're doing now to create financial peace in your life.

I want you to pursue contentment and cease comparisons with others you believe are further along than you. Soak in a feeling of contentment and love every time you get to kiss your child's head and smell their smell. As my dad once told me, “Don't get it twisted. Success isn't just about money. It's about those two little individuals you're raising.” So, have a deep belief that you're exactly where you should be. You've become the person you were meant to be until now. And, everything that's happened thus far in your life has led you to today.

I want you to love yourself and care for yourself so much that even if you're scared to talk about money, you take a seat at the table. You keep trying. You keep budgeting. You keep asking the hard questions, even if the person you're asking doesn't seem like they want to take the time to answer. If you fail, you rest and take a seat again the following day with gratitude for the lessons you've learned.

Being generous with yourself means making a call with an attorney and creating a will, gifting yourself the peace of mind you crave. It means making sure you have investments and retirement accounts in your name, showing respect and honoring future you who might need them. It's researching college savings plans for your children, even if it seems intimidating, because it makes you feel accomplished.

It's booking an appointment with a therapist, not because someone else told you to, but because it's a gift to yourself to help you unpack any past trauma. It's agreeing that you want to do the hard work and explore what might be holding you back from pursuing wealth, earning more, or accomplishing some of your biggest, most audacious goals.

Being generous with yourself means assigning the dishes to someone else so you can put your feet up and spend an evening reading and learning in your bed, surrounded by a candle and a hot cup of tea. It's recognizing that you, too, are deserving of some downtime.

When you acknowledge your own needs and desires, you're being true to yourself. When you choose to budget in a babysitter, even if others consider it superfluous, that's showing kindness to yourself and prioritizing your own needs.

You're generous to yourself when you recognize your own value, when you start to believe deep within your soul that you're worthy of your desires, of a raise, and of a packed bank account.

Be generous if an idea comes to your mind for a new product, a new business, or a new way of doing things. Try not to instantly talk yourself out of your ideas or wonder what would happen to your family or your kids if you made it big. Allow yourself a moment to imagine or dream of new possibilities. Recognize that things don't always have to be the same. Sometimes change is a welcome reprieve from a life that is not serving you.

Mostly, be generous with yourself if you make mistakes, if you flounder, or if you fail. Accept the lessons that happen along the way with grace and gratitude, knowing they are helping you to arrive at the place you were always meant to be.

And just know, even if your child woke you up five times last night, even if you showed up to a meeting wearing two different shoes, and even if you forgot to save for something big, you are a boss. You are a warrior who is powerful and influential always and forever, because you are a mom. And, if there is anyone on the planet who can figure out money, it's you.

Start today. Start now. It's you who gets to change your family legacy, to mark a new path. They'll remember you always because you took a chance, you decided to get uncomfortable, and you decided to learn.

Your new money journey starts now with the best possible woman leading the charge, rallying the troops, and saving the day.

It's you, Mama. It's always been you.

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