The holidays are over and as of yesterday we are back in the micro-home. After driving a lot and visiting both my parents and Mr. SS’s sister (Highlights include meeting our brand new nephew. I give that baby 5 stars!), I am ready to settle down and snuggle in with some reading and writing. As our car is in the shop, today’s morning brought on a 3.5 mile hike to the optometrist and we are currently on the way back. Walking is nice, but can also be quite cold in the great north, so we’ve stopped by the library to use wi-fi and warm up. Since we all know I love the library, I hardly view this as an obstacle, and I’m excited to give you some updates.
As you may recall, starting in February, we embarked on the eBay challenge, where each month we set a goal and tried to sell our old possession on eBay (although we have also sold some stuff on Craigslist and to acquaintances). Mr. Sweetspot acts as our eBoy, painstakingly listing our plethora of items (has anyone seen the new Wreck it Ralph movie? It’s really cute, and I had to make this reference).
As of September, we were at the grand total of $999.36. We set a combined goal of $80 for October/November… and failed to sell a single item. I believe this might be strongly linked to the fact that we failed to list a single item, but I’ll accept other theories… We got quite busy over those months, and it didn’t feel like this challenge was even in the top ten priority. Yes, we still have a few items to sell, and we will keep tracking this challenge through the end of February. However, we decided on a goal of $60 for the remaining period. If we meet it, we’ll have made a little over $1000 profit in one year, which feels like a good challenge result. Wish us luck, and of course we’ll keep you posted here.
Now for the second part of the post- the spending increase. In the June/July challenge update I committed to donating 10% of our challenge wins after reading an article on Becoming Minimalist. That felt like something, but not enough. Then I found further inspiration from Penny at shepicksuppennies. She has written quite a few articles on the topic, and they all really spoke to me. I realized that for the first time in my life I felt I could afford to give*, but I didn’t quite know how.
Mr. SS & I grew up poor. Not tragically poor, just pasta with tomato-juice, hand me down, no you can’t have that, never a name-brand, wear those shoes until you wear holes in them poor. We didn’t know hunger or homelessness, but our families were struggling, every dollar counted. Giving was not part of our upbringing, so it’s a muscle we’ve never developed. Over the past few years we’ve made it a point to volunteer more of our time, but we still hardly ever donated money.
Like everything else, giving is tied to discipline and habits, and you can build the ones you choose. I was wondering about the amount of baby-stepping this would take. How much or how little should I give? Enter “Doing Good Better” by William MacAskill. While I’m not sure where I first heard of this book, synchronistically it started popping up everywhere. The signs were clear- I had to read it. I ordered it through interlibrary loan, and it arrived a few weeks before Christmas. I finished it this morning, and to say it has made an impact would be an understatement.
If you love combining soft squishy feelings with cold hard facts (and math! And graphs!) then is this ever the book for you! In a compelling and accessible way, the author analyzes effective charities, how they work and what questions to ask to find these things out. There is also a chapter on how to choose the right career if you’re interested in doing good. The key takeaways- if you are living in the US chances are you are in the 1%, if we’re talking about a global scale. Therefore, your dollars are worth 100 times more in third world countries- that is where your money will make the most difference. You need to find charities that are underfunded, necessary and effective. Givewell.org is a great place to start. The final chapters of the text analyze causes outside of poverty, from animal welfare through global warming, so you can really find a cause that’s right for you, where the money or time spent does make a difference in the world. I am leaning towards GiveDirectly.
Armed with the inspiration, and now the knowledge, the last bit of the puzzle was to decide how much to give. There is a piece of advice that encourages one to give 10% of their income (I believe this is based on the premise of tithing, and should clarify this is internet “wisdom” not advice from the book). It did not sit well with me, as I am trying to save as much as possible. You know, FIRE! What did sit well with me though, was the idea of donating 10% of my spending. This number, what we spend, is completely under our control, and if we need to cut back, we can do so holistically, keeping in mind the 10%. Potentially this makes me a cheapskate, but keep in mind that my giving muscle is pretty flabby, maybe I’ll work up to 10% of earnings, but this makes me comfortable for now.
Therefore, once we tally our December budget, we will be giving away 10% of our spending. This first month we are donating to GiveDirectly and I’m excited to see how it goes. While we failed at the eBay challenge this time around, the increased giving feels like a step in the right direction. I’m excited to build up our giving muscles and look forward to the work outs.
Have you found a way of giving that works for you?
*I know that I could always afford to give. I should re-write that to say “for the first time I feel financially secure” but due to my weak giving muscles, this still feels like one and the same.