Does Charity Begin (and End) at Home?

Like many people out there, I’m going through my personal and household spending this week to see where DJ and I can shed a few extra pounds. Every six months or so I review our budget anyway, but it seemed particularly necessary right now with both of us watching our spending, unsure what the New Year will bring.

Fortunately I’ve found a few areas – there were one or two naughty meals out in December which we can do without now and I think I can also get the grocery bill down a bit again by more savvy shopping. Plus a club membership and the cat insurance are for the chop I think. But one thing I’m having a crisis of conscience over is a charity donation.

The question is – how far should we go to save money? Should aspiring frugalists rid themselves of charity donations altogether or make cuts elsewhere in their budget so they can continue them? After all, many charities are really struggling in the credit crunch. Big corporations which usually donate millions are axing their contributions and charities are also finding it tougher to make money from legacies, such as houses they’ve been left because they can’t sell them easily. And although business is probably good in your local charity shop, stock is falling as people donate fewer items, hoping instead to sell them on Ebay.

But charity begins at home and if you’re somebody who’s facing dire straits (thankfully not me) then how can you contribute to other people’s welfare if you don’t have the funds to look after yourself? Now I’ll admit that I’m not all heart and I’ve happily cancelled direct debit donations in the past to other charities. Somehow it’s easier to do if it’s just £5 a month to a faceless institution, even if it makes you feel a bit guilty because they are trying to cure cancer or rescue unwanted animals.

However, I now sponsor a child. It’s a completely different experience to the bog standard charity donation. Obviously I’ve never met her – she lives in Senegal – but I know her name. They send me photos of her, school reports and little pictures that she’s drawn for me. I even get a Christmas card from her and they tell me when her birthday is coming up. And while the monthly donation is not insubstantial, I’m not sure I can bring myself to cancel it. After all, this child needs the money an awful lot more than I do and what if they can’t find a replacement sponsor?

Obviously if I start having trouble finding work – something I’m preparing myself for – and find I genuinely can’t afford the donation, I will have to bite the bullet and cancel it. But for now I will continue with it, I think.

Are you still giving to charity in the credit crunch or have you cancelled your donations? Do you work for a charity that’s finding it tough to raise funds? Leave a message and let me know.

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22 Responses to Does Charity Begin (and End) at Home?

  1. maryminn says:

    I feel charity does begin at home,although here in wales there is a web site where one can give unwanted items.Brilliant way of recycling and helping others.I would like to see community spirit back again,baby sitting in return for some odd jobs etc. It worked brilliantly in the villiage i used to live in Kent.

  2. piper says:

    Brilliant idea, Mary. Maybe one way of getting around the money issue is giving time instead by volunteering or, like you suggest, helping neighbours out. I thought I\’d like to volunteer this year and visit an elderly person and thought about getting in touch with an organisation when it occurred to me that I live next door to such a lady and maybe I should just knock on her door a bit more often! Seems obvious really.

  3. Diana says:

    Don\’t cancel the child sponsorship – it\’s too important!! (unless you are out of work naturally).

  4. roger says:

    Interesting post, thank you!I got involved in Make Poverty History a few years back, and part of that campaign was \’Drop the Debt.\’ Basically the Jubilee Debt Campaign was saying we should cancel the debts of the poorest countries in response to the international debt crisis. Interesting that the debt crisis was caused by irresponsible lending from the richest countries to the poorest countries. The Government and the G8 Summit did a bit towards it which helped, but not enough. (Typical politicians for you). Crucially they didn\’t reform the international finance laws & organisations, and guess what, we now have a first world debt crisis. We didn\’t fix it for the poorest countries and it\’s now come to bite us on the bum!I think it\’s even more important to continue giving to charity and campaigning for a proper change in our world. It can\’t be business as usual, we can\’t keep running things to favour the rich, isn\’t it time for a radical re-think?

  5. Christine says:

    Same thing here in the review of budget after Christmas. I checked the present rate and then asked myself if I could still live on the single person\’s Job Seekers Allowance which is always my way of asking myself what I really need. Having reduced the spending to the minimum I then added in items which make life bearable. At that point I knew that the one charitable direct debit would stay. I\’d say to you that with a garden that will produce food to bolster your income you can always do something for yourself for necessities. I seem to remember from somewhere that you have some exotic pets (Lizard or similar). So which would you rather keep – the pets or the sponsorship of a child? Which is the genuinely more worthwhile? Could you look at the pets and live with yourself if you cancelled the charitable giving?

  6. C says:

    The problem with cancelling the sponsorship is that you will always wonder what happened to the girl afterwards. Was another sponsor found, or was her life ruined because she suddenly couldn\’t afford to go to school, or eat properly? Maybe, if you can afford it,, you could put a little money aside each month for the eventuality that you lose your job. That way you could still sponsor her if you do, especially if it proved to be a short gap between jobs.

  7. tea says:

    i still give when i can at the end of the day theirs a lot of people who have got less than me,,

  8. Julie says:

    Please please please do not cancel your pet insurance unless you can afford to pay a large vet bill if it comes in!! Animal charities (yes I admit I am a volunteer) are inundated with unwanted and abandoned animals whose owners can\’t (or won\’t) pay for their veterinary care, who have simply been left behind when their owners moved house. If you really need to cut costs, why not consider downgrading to a cheaper policy?

  9. Katie says:

    I have been having the same dilemma. I have been paying the amount of £6 per month by DD to Cancer Research for years. I always feel guilty that it is such a small amount however up to now, I have not noticed it leaving my account. But now I am trying to \’shave off\’ little amounts where I can although in reallity I cannot bring myself to cancel this. Isnt it awful that in the grand scheme of things to be worrying about £6 per month – how times have changed.

  10. marion says:

    Maron CookIt\’s not a dilemma for me. I give just £3.00 per month to the Macmillan nurses, it\’s a very small amount but I could not stop paying it as I might need cancer care myself one day. I am ,unfortunately currently unemployed and my husband is taking the minimum wage. I hope somewhere along the line perhaps God is looking down kindly on us.

  11. Kerri says:

    Firstly, to echo comments below, please DO NOT cancel your pet insurance. One of my cats was diagnosed with CRF in Nov and it was over £100 alone for intial bloodtests and a consultation. He will now need regular bloodtests for the rest of his life (however long that may be, he is 14 already) and quite possibly other vetinart care if he should take a turn for the worse. However, do shop around for pet ins. Last year my M&S policy shot up to over £30 a month for just my older cat – I now have the two of them insured with Healthy Pets on the Gold level for just under £20 in total. I myself did question whether it was worth it at one point as both cats were healthy, until I suddenly needed it and grateful I was to have it.Regarding charity donations. I guess it depends on how much it really means to you. If it\’s money that goes out each month and you never give it a second thought except when you notice the odd Direct Debit, I suggest you could give it up. If its something you regularly think about or means something specific to you, and you can afford it, then keep it going for the moment. It doesn\’t have to be a finite decision. £12 a month is a lot, but then can you do without £12 for something else you might spend the money on at the moment?I personally don\’t like being tied to direct debits but I do donate to our local hospice shop and donate to them at Christmas when they do a special dedication to loved ones lost (in my case its for my dad who we lost). I feel it is like giving him a Christmas present even though he is no longer with us – and directly helping people in similar situations. I also give on an adhoc basis during the year too. I wouldn\’t willingly choose to give this up because of what it personally means to me.

  12. David says:

    I dont give to many charities. I certainly would never give to the RSPCA because Ive heard their full time managers get thousands of pounds salary which has to come out of donations cause they get no govt funding, so no chance there. Cancer research is a good one but sponsor a sprog in Africa? Not a chance. David.

  13. Richie says:

    I have a similar issue in that I donate about £65 to 5 charities every month. The problem is that I would like to reduce this amount to about £15 a month however, how does one choose between giving to a childrens hospital and Greenpeace or cancer research and heart research or Mental Heath foundation and NSPCC? These are all dear to me and having to make a choice is not something that i am looking forward to. Not doing anything also means that I will have to continue spending a small fortune in these uncertain times.

  14. nuala says:

    I still give to charity. After all I may be not have as much money as as once had but there is ALWAYS someone much worse off than you are.

  15. nuala says:

    Hello to David, Did you know that Cancer Research spent £8million doing up their London offices some yrs back. Local childrens cancer charities are a better bet along with the mcmillan nurses who do a fantastic job.

  16. David says:

    I did not know that, No Name (!!) Why do these people need to need to surround themselves in luxurious offices?

  17. David says:

    need to duplicated………..doh

  18. Joy says:

    My main charities are for animals + NSPCC+ Cancer = I have questioned saving this money but have decided not to change anything – I have a roof over my head, food and water etc I am warm enough and if I can\’t have new clothes etc then so what? They need us now more than ever – My lovely dog came from Woodgreen animal centre at Godmanchester and now you ask me – I think it\’s time – if you can to give something you\’ve probably never given before – I appreciate that some people are really suffering – but are we living in a society where our "needs" excede our requirements? What do we need? Think seriously about this

  19. John says:

    I give £30 a month to Shelter, because I believe in the work they do. I\’ve made a simple resolution for my Charitable donation, I will not increase it until 2011 (they ring me now and again) but i will not stop it until:A: I\’ve given up smoking (I can\’t justify that luxury while others suffer)B: I eat 15p store brand noodles for every mealC: I have to ring Shelter to enquire about helpD: I can\’t blog/comment or read anything on the internet due to lack of connection, power or computer (due to financial reasons obviously!)I read the work they do for families and solo people on their emailed newsletter (cheaper than post) and I fully believe that Charity begins with a home, once everyones got one, then maybe I can move onto otherthings – call me synical but why do we need Cancer Charities in multi-million pound offices when there is an NHS who could probably use the funding to buy drugs we already know work. Animals i\’m afraid come second to all human beings.So, that\’s my financial charity work done. As for Childrens Charities, the year i don\’t humiliate myself for the enjoyment (and financial donation) of others during Children in need, well, i\’ll either be dead or ringing Shelter for a job/home.

  20. piper says:

    Thanks for all the comments. It\’s given me a lot to think about and I must say I\’m very impressed by how generous many of you are despite the miserable credit crunch! Good for you!

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