Picture of Hand with Money

Philanthropic efforts have exploded in recent years and more households than ever are digging deep to help others in need. The award winning 2011 documentary Happy examines the connection people have between giving and their sense of well-being. Yet, with the increased awareness in causes at every juncture, it can also feel overwhelming for those on a budget. Not to mention the cost that adds up with every office/Christmas/birthday gift that people ask you to chip in on.

Like most things, saying no takes a plan and a bit of practice. By taking a few key steps, you can ease the initial discomfort that comes with declining offers to give and learn how to save money by saying no. After all, as Mother Teresa once stated, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

Be Organized

Take the time to get organized on how you feel about giving. Putting those thoughts into an outline or at least on paper gives insight into what causes are truly important to you. If this category is already part of your budget, prioritize your contributions and how much you allot to them. Will you give 10% to one cause or split it among multiple ones?

Be Honest

Once you have your donation plan in place, tell the solicitor that you’ve already made your commitments for this year. Let them know “I only donate to my church” or “We make our donations once a year.”

Perhaps the rest of the office wants to get a gift for the boss that you think is far too extravagant. Again, be up front and explain that you’ve already got something in mind or even that you prefer to stick with a card this year.

Be Gracious

Smile politely and thank the person for asking you. You can leave it at that if this is the person at the check-out counter asking for an additional $1 to a relief fund.

You can go a step further if this is a friend or co-worker that you don’t want to offend. Thank them for thinking of you and wish them good luck. You can even tell them to check with you the following year if it’s a cause worth adding to your plan.

Picture of Lemonade SignWhen You Should Never Say No

Having your plan in place and the practice to turn down requests will help save you money and prevent the burnout of overextending yourself. However, there are a few times when it just makes sense to participate:

  • Lemonade stands – It will cost you no more than a $1 usually, but the reward of their joy at your purchase will go much further.
  • Cleanout – Any time you can purge from your own closet or pantry to donate to a cause is a win-win for all. You will inevitable feel lighter and can make a difference for someone else.
  • Crisis – It will always be worth it to help any family going through a devastating event such as the loss of a child, fire or horrific accident.

The act of giving is a selfless one, one which should be commended, but always remember to take of yourself, too. Lending a helping hand means a lot more when you have the strength to help that person up. Apply these same tips to other aspects of your personal budget, and you’ll be saving like a pro in no time!