In a recent post, I talked about staying motivated. One of the things I have realized about the power of being debt free is the freedom it gives you to change the focus of your life. If you truly follow Dave's teaching and get gazelle intense about paying off debt, you really have to get honest with yourself about what is important and what is not critical. Once you get used to living with less, you realize how pointless a lot of that stuff is. You also realize how well you really have it.
That is one of the things that has stood out the most to me through this whole process. My desire to give back to the community and help the less fortunate has really resurfaced. While we were paying down debt, we didn't really have (or make) money to do things like giving to charities. I know Dave says you should tithe first and not even count that as your income, but we've never done that. I never really grew up in that pure tithing mentality and had a hard time coming to grips with all of that when we had so much we needed/wanted to do in our own household.
I'm proud to say, now that we are debt free, we are revisiting the topic. We've both prayed about it a lot over the past several months and strongly feel the need to give back. We've revised our budget to contribute more to church next year. We also are participating in a lot of other charitable efforts. This means we'll have to continue to watch our pennies, coupon, put off a lot of "wants" and focus on our needs. And I can easily say that it will be worth every effort.
So, where do we give? Here are some of the things we've been doing this year:
* St. Jude Partner in Hope - This is a simple $20 donation every month. I believe strongly in the efforts of St. Jude and hope to continue to increase our support in the years to come.
* School Supplies - Our church partners with a local inner-city school. I put all those great back-to-school specials to good use and donated a lot of supplies to the effort. In the end, they were able to pack several back packs full of supplies for kids who can't normally afford them.
* Thanksgiving Dinner - Our church provided a shopping list that would provide every thing a family would need for Thanksgiving (minus the turkey). At first I was nervous about buying an ENTIRE list, but was surprised to find out it only cost us about $25-$30 to purchase every thing. I could have done it even cheaper if I had planned better and used more coupons. It was humbling to me to realize that the old me would have shied away from such a long list... and a family would have had to go without because I wasn't willing to sacrifice $30 and a little of my time.
* Tree of Love - Again, our church partnered with the local elementary school and families that come to their food pantry to develop a list of needy children. We chose 2 tags from the tree - a 3 year old boy and 4 month old boy. I used some of the recent coupons to get each of them a nice toy and a pair of pajamas. Troy helped me pick them out (hopefully the message will sink in to him). I was amazed this morning to see the HUGE pile of presents under the tree and touched to know that we're helping to make Christmas brighter for children in need.
* Donations - I used to give my stuff to Goodwill when we didn't sell it in a garage sale or I didn't feel like dealing with it. Just recently I've changed my giving efforts to take any clothing or children's items to the local Woman's shelter. There are a lot of struggling mom's out there that can't even afford the inexpensive Goodwill prices. Hopefully our donations can give them a couple more outfits for their little angels so they have one less thing to worry about.
* Salvation Army - I'm proud to say that Troy LOVES to give to the people ringing the bell for Salvation Army. I carry a zip-lock bag full of coins from his "DONATE" portion of his piggy bank. Again, I hope some of it is really sinking in.
This is just a small list of things we try to do to show our appreciation for what God has given us. Next year I plan on focusing on finding new ways to give back - financially and through volunteering.
Share your favorite charity. I'm always eager to find new organizations!