By Adam Jeske

7 Ways to Give More Money Away, Part 1

You may have heard that tomorrow is Giving Tuesday.

You may have also heard that if you want to be happy, you should give money away.

Well, that’s all well and good, but what if you’re a bit short on money to give?

I’m glad you asked.

My wife, Chrissy, and I are careful with money (well, she’s careful and I’m complicit). We are always looking for ways to save. Maybe it’s our Midwestern, Scandinavian roots. Or maybe we just like living more simply.

We also enjoy having more money available to give away. Being careful with our cash allows us to practice generosity and model it for our kids. We haven’t dropped our last two copper coins in the bucket yet, but we’ve been able to give to some pretty fun things throughout the years.

Anyone can learn to save—and then give away—more money. Here are seven ways Chrissy and I have freed up some money in the areas of eating and transportation. (Come back tomorrow for tips in other areas.) With these ideas, you can give more away, do more good in the world, and maybe even be happier, both in the next few weeks and on through 2015.

1. Give up breakfast cereal. Four dollars a box? Just have an egg and toast. Or make a bowl of oatmeal. Or learn to make a pancake. We actually did, to help our kids understand what it means to give up something in order to give more (in our case it was for a well for a village overseas that needed one). Saving $2 per week means over $100 more to give away each year.

2. Learn to cook from scratch. Our family of four budgets $360 per month for groceries (and the kids are 9 and 11, so they actually eat about the same amount as Chrissy and me now). We don’t always hit that, and we do have some meat and vegetables given to us from farmer friends. But that’s $1 per meal per person.

We may be particularly thrifty, as the USDA says it costs a frugal family of four $650-$1200 per month to eat. But by eating non-cereal breakfast options, making our own sandwiches and chopping our own vegetables for lunch, buying generic, and looking for bulk deals, we eat well for a lot less. And we’ve got $100-$200 per month per person more to potentially give.

3. Eat less meat. I know that this is bordering on sacrilegious for some of you, but do you realize how cheap beans, lentils, and chickpeas are? They’re virtually free compared to meat. I estimate we save about $100 per person per year from this tip alone.

4. Stop eating out. This could be for a week if you eat out a lot, or a month if it’s not quite so often, or it could be a year if you want to be hardcore. If you eat fast food, you’re looking at about $5 per meal (if not more). If that’s just twice a week, that’s over $500 per year per person that you could be giving away. (And this savings could be more than $1,000 per person, if this study is true.)

5. Just make your own coffee. Seriously. I love coffee. So I make my own. There’s a satisfaction that comes with this, but the savings are also significant—about $600 per year to give away.

6. Pay for car insurance up front. Did you know Geico can save you up to 15 percent or more on car insurance? OK, seriously, most carriers have a discount if you pay the whole premium up front. And then you can give away that $100 (or whatever) each year.

7. Get rid of your car. This isn’t possible for everyone due to long-term choices about where to work and where to live. But I’ve been thinking about becoming a “bike, bus, and carpool” kind of guy, instead of a “drive myself everywhere alone” kind of guy. I’ll be in better shape and get in some extra social time when I carpool.

Plus, I figure my savings—accounting for miles driven, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, bike and related expenses, carpool contribution, etc.—would be about $1,800 per year. (Yes, I know there would be some hassle from not having a vehicle. But then again, I would probably benefit from a simpler life and have the added satisfaction from giving that much more.)

There you have it—seven ways you can trim your expenses so you can give more in the coming weeks and years. If you do all of these at once, you could give away $4,400 (or even more) in 2015. Why not get started now?

And come back tomorrow for more tips on saving money, from clothes to electricity to parenting.

Find out more about Giving Tuesday.


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Adam Jeske has served in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa.

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