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Generosity

Giving for Life

Make a plan to budget for charities

Retirees Ron and Vivian Sacia don't have a lot of money. But that doesn't stop them from giving to their favorite charities each year.

The Sacias, who are Thrivent Financial members, have a generosity of spirit aided by a modest lifestyle. After 55 years of marriage and 15 years of retirement (Ron worked for an air conditioning manufacturer, and Vivian was a school teacher), the couple remains deeply involved in the community, both as volunteers and financial supporters of their local church, schools and other groups. "We live quite simply and are fortunate enough to have some savings," says Vivian.

So, how does this couple, or anyone without a large bank account, manage to give – spontaneously, annually and long-term – when family budgets are tight? Here's how you can plan with purpose at any income:

Make a plan

Think about your goals, and ask yourself these questions: Do I want to make sure I always have charitable dollars in my budget to give? Or do I simply want to give more than I already do?

Create a budget

How much can you reasonably expect to give each year, and how will it affect your overall budget? It's wonderful to give, but not so great if your family's budget gets stretched too thin. In terms of planning, "Look at the money that's available at the beginning of the month" – the "first fruits" as described in Scripture – "not whatever's left over at the end of the month," says Todd Trautmann, a Thrivent Financial representative in Holmen, Wisconsin.

Think about what's most important to you

Not all charities are created equal – at least in your mind. And that's perfectly fine. But which ones lead the pack for your donations?

Don't forget spur-of-the-moment giving

Requests for help come from all areas, so it's good to expect the unexpected: Boy Scouts knocking on your door to raise money for the homeless or the creation of a memorial fund for someone in the community who has died suddenly.

Be creative

Your budget may not be able to afford sending a child to camp, but perhaps you can pay for his or her materials, says Trautmann. And during the holidays, if you can't afford a big donation to your church's Christmas program, maybe your budget could handle paying for some supplies or food items for the performances.

Stretch your dollars

You can make your donation dollars go further by challenge-matching with friends, coworkers and members of your church. Tell them, "I'll donate $200 to this charity if each of you (10 friends) donates $50." Even if you only have a small amount to give, the donation will have even more impact, suggests Trautmann.

For the Sacias, however, planned giving (Link opens in new window) isn't about creating a legacy. "We're not concerned about getting credit – we're concerned about doing," says Vivian.

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