Total Money Makeover, Week 2

Once upon a time, I used to have nothing.

After my parents divorced, my sister and I were largely raised by a single mom.  Some parts of living just became the new normal, like having “rich weeks” (the weeks after payday) and “poor weeks” (the weeks without paydays).  We were able to order a pizza or get Chinese food on rich Friday twice a month, and it was cause for celebration.  Our birthday cakes were from a box and dinner largely consisted of $1 Rice-A-Roni sides with baked chicken, or spaghetti.  And that’s okay.  Because mom worked three jobs to put whatever food she could on the table and I will always appreciate that.  Even when it was frozen brussels sprouts, which were really horribly awful.  She did the best she could with what she had.  That is all you can ever do: your best.

One year for Christmas, we got donated presents.  I don’t know how it made my mother feel to have to ask for that help, to give her children gifts on Christmas morning.  I know that as a 12-year-old I really appreciated it, because when you’re 12, Christmas is about the tree and the presents, it’s excitement and wonder and glee when you open new things.  NOW, I realize that Christmas is about family and appreciation, but THEN it was about a Furby.  I’ve evolved!

I always remembered the Christmas of Donated Gifts, and one year in college I spent an entire $90 paycheck on Angel Tree gifts for a family who couldn’t afford presents for their kids.  Ninety dollars is a lot when it’s your whole paycheck, but I knew I would get more later, and I had my parents to fall back on if I really really needed the ninety bucks for something.  So I spent it on these people I didn’t know.  And I never regretted it or thought, “That’s money I could have now for things for me!”

Because you do the best you can with what you have, and the best possible thing I could do with what I had at that moment was to give it away to someone who didn’t have it.

Given a few dollars, nine times out of ten I find a way to spend it on someone else instead of myself.  Sister’s in town? She needs dinner out. And groceries!  I will do that for her.  On vacation and see something my stepdad would like?  Sometimes you just need a gift for no reason other than somebody loves you.  I cashed in $19 in Discover Card rewards via Amazon and had to will myself to buy something for ME and not for my sister.  (Argh! But she needs things).  I give my time as a volunteer and an impromptu babysitter.  I love to cook things and share them with others.  Give, give, give.

Why Giving Is Part of a Total Money Makeover

Line number one on Dave Ramsey’s budget sheets is for giving.

I will admit, I spent roughly eight seconds thinking, “But that’s money I could use to pay toward my debt!” And yeah, it is.  I could.  But it’s an amazing opportunity to have a given amount in your budget each month to spend helping someone else.  Whether it’s a tithe to your church, a big tip for a server with a family to support, a donation to a charity, or buying someone FPU membership, we need to flex our giving-muscles to make them stronger.

I give because once upon a time, I couldn’t, and someone gave to me.

dave giving


11 thoughts on “Total Money Makeover, Week 2

  1. Your story brought tears to my eyes. Having gift money is important and I have a giving envelope myself. One year as a single mother Easter arrived at the wrong time and I had no extra money to be able to give my boys Easter baskets. A friend I had only known a couple of month found out and surprised me with a grocery bag of candy and 2 small stuffed animals for my boys. Since then I too find ways to help someone else who has it harder than I do. It also reminded me that no matter how hard things might be for me at that moment there was always someone else worst off. This year my eldest son is continuing the tradition by explaining to his 4 year olds how some children have little or no toys and plans to take them shopping for Christmas presents for those less fortunate. It will teach empathy, compassion and continue a circle of giving when those receiving are old enough to do the same for another.

    1. I used to love helping my mother shop for other families’ children. After that year, whenever she could she helped to give back. It is a wonderful lesson to teach a child!

      I always love your comments, Lois, they are so heartfelt and wonderful to read. Thank you for reading so faithfully.

      1. 🙂 I am glad! I enjoy your posts too, you have so many wonderful things to share. I especially am inspired by your dumpster finds and the way you restore things. Your blog is probably my favorite blog to read!

      2. Thank you, Caitlin. I have a lot of fun with the dumpster dive finds so I”m glad you enjoy them. My neighbor now has 2 end tables I found which means she passed down her old ones for me to do something with. Nothing fancy but they should be completed this weekend.

      3. I look forward to seeing them! 🙂 I keep nudging my mom to open a resale shop. She loves to find antiques and glassware at estate sales and antique malls for super cheap and then resell, and I think I could do dumpster dive refreshers to resell too.

  2. Beautiful post. Last year my boyfriend’s sister bought both sets of parents gifts in the form of a huge donation to help two families in need get Christmas gifts. It was such a great idea and now we are considering getting rid of gifts altogether and doing donations instead.

    1. That sounds wonderful! This year I am trying to just give one gift per person, and only in the immediate family. I found my sister something at an estate sale for super cheap… I am just a bargain hunter like that 😉

      I look forward to hearing about Christmas!

  3. It feels really give to give to a cause that touches your heart… I think that’s a big reason to push towards financial freedom, to be able to be in the position to be able to give when you want to, and to know that you, yourself will be ok too.

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