I welcome this new push toward giving rather than consuming at this time of year. But generosity is not just for this time of year, of course.
Yesterday, I shared seven ways to cut costs in how we eat and travel to be able to give more. Today, I want to look at some other parts of our lives.
Here are nine more ways we can give more money away.
1. Stop buying clothes. No, seriously. I did this for a year in college. Then I extended it for another year. It was in the third year, I think, that I started buying some clothes again . . . from thrift shops. If you normally spend $30 a month on clothes (think a cheap pair of jeans or a shirt or two), that’s $360 per year per person—and many of us spend a lot more than that. Rich Christians in an Age of Hungerrevolutionized how I think about clothes (and a lot of other things).
2. Enjoy the thrift shop. I am currently wearing my favorite pair of Banana Republic pants. New? $80. What did I pay? $7. Thank you, Goodwill! It might take a little more time to find what you need (though I’d argue it’s not much more than at a department store), but if you find the right shop, the selection can be incredible. I estimate that this saves me $500 per year on clothes (and that’s when I’m not buying very much).
3. Don’t cheap out. This is where we bump into the difference between “cheap” and “frugal.” Case in point—my dress shoes for work. I ripped through multiple cheaper pairs for a few years. Then, in frustration, I got a quality pair for $110. They have lasted me a full year and still look and feel great (when I clean and polish them). I’ll resole them when necessary—and then they’ll last at least three more years and maybe many beyond that.
Now, this tip might not apply to every kind of item (or even all shoes). And of course, buying a quality used item that will last a long time is the best option. But if you can’t find the right thing used but good condition, it might be worth spending more to get something that will last a very long time. This option is good for anything that has a wide range of quality and could wear out or break in a short amount of time—for example, a bike, a gas grill, a blender, a backpack. Buy things not according to their up-front (and low, low) sticker price, but rather for the lifetime utility and value they provide (and thus their resale value).
This means spending a bit more up-front (and thus having a bit less to give away in the short-term), but as you reap the long-term benefits, you’ll be able to give much more down the line. Getting the better shoes is saving me about $30 per year. Multiply that by a lot of different items, and you’d probably be able to give $1,000 more each year because of such choices.
4. Cut the cord. Someday, we’ll sit down with our grandchildren and tell them all about cable television. Their jaws will drop in wonder that we paid so much for entertainment in our homes. You can prepare for this conversation by dropping yours now (your cable, not your jaw) so they’ll admire your forethought and the generosity it enabled. Boom. You now have at least $50 more to give each month.
5. Break the contract. Save some money now so you’re able to buy the phone you need once you’re off your contract and can avoid paying too much for too long. If you’re particularly driven to give more money away, you could switch to a dumbphone and a prepaid carrier. Yes, there are inconveniences in this, but many of us could give away $50 more per month here too.
6. Get current with the times. If you are still using incandescent bulbs through your whole house, you need to get to your local hardware store and buy a bunch of compact fluorescent bulbs (get the warm color, not daylight or cool). These save something like $.60 per month each. In our small house, that adds up to $250 more that we could give away each year. While you’re at it, check out current-saving power strips—did you know stuff uses electricity even when it’s not on?!?!
7. Sell some stuff. Dumb and Dumber is one of my favorite movies, and I’ve just shared it with my kids for the first time (with a bit of fast-forwarding as we watched). You might remember Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, munching on beef sticks while cruising down the highway. His friend Harry asks where he got the money. “I sold some stuff,” Lloyd replies. It turns out he sold Harry’s headless bird, Petey, to a neighbor.
Take a lesson out of Lloyd’s book and list stuff (your own stuff!) you don’t want or need anymore on Craigslist. You’ll feel lighter and freer, and you’ll have some more money to give away. I suspect most of us could find $300 worth of stuff to sell (and many of us could find much, much more).
8. Share your home. My wife, Chrissy, and I bought our first house in our thirties after all kinds of odd living arrangements, including a camp, housesitting gigs, a Communist-era apartment, and at least one barn (for a year). So when we had three bedrooms of our own, we had the kids share one and we rented out the other. Bingo—a couple hundred dollars more that we could give away each month.
9. For parents only. I can’t believe how much Chrissy and I sometimes hear quoted for babysitting costs. So we offer to watch friends’ kids for a night, and then a couple weeks later, they return the favor. There’s a double bonus here—we get free babysitting and we probably get to go on more dates too. For one night of watching your friends’ kids each month, you get 12 nights of babysitting, which could free up $350 or more to give each year.
Altogether, these steps would free up $4,260 to give away annually. That’s a big chunk of change, which can be invested in real change.
What other ideas do you have on how to trim some expenses so that we can give more money away?