We hear it all the time: I don’t have enough money. Sales people hear it when trying to make a sale: I can’t afford that. Bill collectors hear it on the telephone: I don’t get paid until Friday and I can’t afford to pay anything today. But why are we always so broke? The most common answer to the question is that we are living beyond our means. If your cost of living takes 100% of every penny you earn, you need to lower your cost of living, they say. Yet for many of us, we don’t feel like we are living in extravagance at all. In fact, we more often feel like we are living in poverty. There is always more month left at the end of the money. So when we hear that the first step to financial independence is to give 10% of everything we earn away to others, shock and disbelief are our gut reactions, and understandably so. Don’t get scared away before reading the whole article. You are probably freaking out right about now. Stay calm, and read on.
The vast majority of people were not taught at home by their parents how to create and live within a budget or how to manage money. Public schools do not teach this either. Colleges only teach it to the students who are majoring in the financial sector, such as accountants. Because we aren’t learning the right way to budget and handle our finances, we learn through trial and error, or more likely many trials and lots of errors, and more often than not, we fail. Yet when we examine the habits of the wealthiest people on earth, they are all consistently known for their philanthropy. Yes, that’s right! Rich people give 10% or more of their income away.
The habit of giving to others the first of your income stems back thousands of years, and is documented in the bible as tithing. The Latin word tithe means ten percent. Back in biblical times, people were encouraged to give a tithe of all their firstfruits, whether that was gold, silver, crops, or firstborn livestock. Typically that tithe was given to the local church whose job it was to then distribute it amongst the widows and orphans of the community. As dysfunction crept into the local churches over the years, people are less and less inclined to trust the stewardship of their hard earned money to them. We hear all the time about church leaders living the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous while their church members are starving and need clothing and shelter (not all churches are corrupt). Yet the bible says in the book of Haggai, You have planted a lot, but harvested little; you eat, but are still hungry; you drink but are still thirsty; you have clothing but you are still cold; and you earn wages that are put into a bag full of holes. (Haggai 1:6, paraphrased)
If you feel like your hard earned money is going into a bag full of holes (that is, it’s leaking out everywhere beyond your control) the first step to regaining control is to start giving it away to others. There are many arguments for and against whether the 10% amount should be calculated before or after the government takes out taxes. Since taxes are controlled by the government, and not by you, feel free to calculate your 10% contribution on your after tax paycheck, but be mindful that if you get a refund during tax return season, that counts as income and you should give 10% of that away too.
This advice takes a while for most people to swallow. They think, I can’t even live on 100% of my income and now you want me to live on 90%. Well, actually, we expect you to live on 80%, but we will get to that in Step 2! For now, yes, we need to help you figure out how to give 10% of everything you earn away. As it turns out, there’s this power in the universe that says you get back what you put out there. Read more on the Law of Attraction. By giving generously to others, you will get back way more than you ever give, and you get a warm, fuzzy feeling as well.
If you’ve been struggling to live on 100%, it will take some effort to drop down to 90%. Start today by giving away just a small amount. For example, if you go through a drive through window at Starbucks or McDonalds, pay the bill for the car behind you. If it’s a minivan full of teenagers, maybe just contribute $5 to $10 toward their bill, and ask the teller to let them know they received a random act of kindness. I mean, after all teenagers are expensive to feed, as a general rule! (You don’t have to tell them. In fact, the idea is to give anonymously, however in a drive through situation, they might just think the food was cheap and they wont get to revel in the receiving of the gift!)
You could also bring your boss a cup of coffee. Or better yet, the janitor of your building where you work. You might also know someone who is struggling financially or personally. Maybe your coworker whose mom is ill, or your neighbor whose dog just died. You could leave a card with cash or a gift card inside, wishing them better times ahead. There are many ways to give away money, but it isn’t just money of which we should be tithing 10%. We should also give away 10% of our time and our talents. There are, of course, ways to combine these. For example, if you have a talent of flower arranging, you could purchase some flowers and a vase, spend your time making a beautiful arrangement, and then leave it as a surprise for someone who could use a little pick me up. Keep in mind that if you buy girl scout cookies and then eat them yourself, that isn’t giving money away. That’s making a purchase from the girl scouts. Now, you could buy the cookies and drop them off with your child’s teacher, or the local fire department! That counts. You can also count wedding, birthday, anniversary, and other holiday gifting.
As you increase your giving to the level of 10% great things are going to start happening in your financial future. Be generous with others. It pays you in dividends.