Working Dollars & The Helping Fund

I don’t budget, but I really love the rules behind the You Need  A Budget program, also known as YNAB. One of the four rules of the YNAB is to give every dollar a job. I’ve taken the rule to heart, but it may be hurting me.

The first plan for my dollars was to put everything on my student loans. Every dollar’s job was to pay off my student loans, unless given specific permission to work elsewhere. Some dollars worked to pay rent, some kept the lights on. With one priority and specific diversions, my dollars accomplished a lot.

After paying off my loans, I’ve been redeploying dollars. Some were asked to make friends in our retirement accounts. Most of my redeployed dollars went to the house fund.

My dollars are working here. Don’t disturb them.

This is where my problem comes in.  My dollars are working for my own good. What about any other good? Where does giving fit in?

For the past several years, I’ve addressed my need to give back by volunteering my time. I was a broke student. Money was tight but I had time. I gave my time a lot.

Now that I’m working, my time to give is greatly diminished. I don’t have much time. It’s especially difficult to give scheduled blocks of time.

Even worse is that my dollars are deployed. My dollars have jobs. They are working hard. I don’t feel like I have money to give. I haven’t reached my own financial goals. I’m supposed to put my own mask on before helping others, right? Reassigning dollars away from my financial goals is incredibly frustrating as I strive to catch up where I feel behind.

For the last few years, this hasn’t been much of a problem. We haven’t been drawn to give. We aren’t religious. We don’t tithe. We don’t have any causes we are particularly passionate about, so we don’t give there either. I justify my non-action by telling myself that its better for me to manage the money and give it all when I die. But what if that’s too late?

Quite frankly, I didn’t care that I wasn’t giving until recently. See, my sister is having financial problems. Some of the problems are short term in nature but others are deep seeded money management issues. I’m supporting her as best I can, both emotionally and with all my personal finance knowledge.

But what about the money?

I don’t want to become the family bank. It happened to my uncle and it has been really hard on him. I’ve had my own taste of it and boy is it bitter. 0/10. Would not recommend. I don’t want to throw money at a problem if money isn’t the answer. But what if money is the answer?

I wouldn’t mind being more comfortable with giving. I want to help. But how?

To start my giving journey, I’m starting small. I’m starting a Helping Fund.

To fund the Helping Fund, I’m using one of my neurotic money management tendencies. I like my emergency fund to sit at a clean, round number. So I’m skimming the interest off my emergency fund and depositing it into the Helping Fund. When I find a cause or someone I want to help, whether it be a happy or sad occasion, I’ll have a designated pool of money to pull from. I can add to it whatever I want, but I hope that having a Helping Fund will be a nice reminder that I should give.

It is going to take a while to accumulate any money. That gives me plenty of time to figure out where I should help.

This won’t amount to much, but it’s something. That’s more than I’m giving today.

Do you give? How? When?


22 thoughts on “Working Dollars & The Helping Fund

  1. This is such a cool example of how to fund a Helping Fund!

    Giving and I have a weird history, where for a long time I would donate to *anything*. The only qualifier was “did someone ask me to give to this?” and if the answer was yes, here, have $20. (This was part of a larger people pleasing problem, but that part was obvious, right?) It was only when I a) got my dog and b) started paying more attention to my money that I got the focus and clarity to actually have a “giving strategy.” Now, my donations of time and money are directed towards my big issue – animal rescue – and I’ve been slowly learning to say a polite “No, thank you” to requests to donate to other causes.

    OK, minus work bake sales, because I work with some amazing bakers and have no self-control. I barely count those though, because if you don’t count them, the calories don’t count, right?

    • I love that you found a cause you are passionate about. I don’t have that, not even a little bit. It’s a weird feeling to want to give but not having a channel for that giving. Hopefully, this fund will help.

      Ha! Bake sales. You are lucky. Everyone at my work is meh or horrible. The most active/vocal baker is the worst. So salty, I can’t even. At least its helped me knock it off with the work sweets!

  2. I feel your conflict! I felt it too when our means were much smaller but the bills were large. It’s still important to me to give back though, to things I think would make the world a better place. (reasons here: Always animal rescue, disaster relief because someday long ago that was us and someday in the future that could be us, clean water efforts because can you imagine not having clean water? (That we don’t have to imagine it is an indicator of our relative wealth and privilege in the world. My family once lived in an area where we had to boil all the water we ingested.) I focus on health and safety, and I don’t donate to the arts but I do support them by buying from small businesses and artists directly. We may not need art for food or shelter but we need beauty and creativity for our souls. And I’m not a creative person at *all* so I appreciate the talent in others.

    Every year I give at least one quarter of my annual allowance (we have a joint budget that includes a budget for each each of us to spend on whatever we want) to causes I believe in. Another quarter or half goes to shoring up unbudgeted bills that pop up as a result of Dad’s refusal to communicate. :/

    It’ll become part of our household budget when I can sit down and rework the numbers to make sure that we are meeting our savings and investing goals and spending less, therefore freeing up some cash for a formal charity budget.

    • Thanks for the link! I loved the quote in the post! I only need one piece of cake! Reading through your comment and the comments on that post make me think I need to tally up where my money, effort and things are going for good. Perhaps that will make for a smoother transition.

  3. I am a big proponent of starting a giving fund or starting to give early. Otherwise I think we get so selfish in our acquiring stages that we have a hard time defining when we get “enough” and when we’ll feel “okay” giving. I don’t think there’s ever a time that makes sense. Start early and then you have a giving vibe the whole time and it’s easier to find a balance.

  4. i’m just getting on the donating kick, and starting slow too. Each month, I look at our past month’s income and then donate 1% of that to some charity (any charity). Right now, we don’t have a favorite – we are feeling out several, a new one each month. if we find one we really like, we won’t skip around (or at least not as much). Then each year going forward, we’re going to double the percentage until we get up to 25%…so 1% this year, 2% next year, 4%, 8%, 16%, 25%. This way we’re forming a habit, and as we pay more off and income increases, we’ll have more money available to meet the “ultimate goal budget” – 25/25/25/25 – 25% monthly expenses/25% savings/25% retirement/25% donate.

  5. I haven’t been donating any money to charity in recent years, as I’ve been in training and had a huge student loan. I reached a positive net worth a few months ago (yay!), and I’m now looking to donate on a regular basis. I’ll likely start with $100 per month to a program for pregnant women with addictions issues, and as my income and savings go up I will gradually increase it and expand the number of charities to which I give. I spend far more than $100 per month on eating out, so it seems totally reasonable to start with that amount for charitable giving.

  6. I used to give $50 whenever someone was doing something charitable. In the last few years, I finally started giving a % of my gross income after reading this post:

    Right now, I give 1% of my gross income. I plan to double that once my mortgage is paid off. I have a few annual donations that I make and otherwise, have a list of charities I distribute the rest of my budget to, usually in the fall.

    • Thanks for the link! It makes sense to give a percent of your income. 1% seems like a reoccurring goal.

      It’s crazy that you say that you’ll double it when your mortgage is paid off. To most people that would translate to “I’m not going to double my donation.” But for you it will happen soon! You saver, you!

      • One of my other goals with charity is to donate our marriage tax “penalty” before we get married, so we’re prepared to be giving it away rather than spending it. I think we’re a solid 2-3 years away from BF having the net worth he wants to buy into my condo in cash (which is one of my requirements to getting married) and so we have some time to get there with the donations too.

  7. I love that you’re thinking about this, and I love the Helping Fund idea. Though I’d push you and say that, as a well paid person with a net worth well above average, you have a responsibility to do a little more than you’re doing now. Though you may not feel passionate about particular causes, surely you witness some things in your life that would be worthy of your help (A local homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter? The local public radio station? Groups that conserve areas you like to visit? Friends of your local library? Etc.) I think the “secure your mask before helping others” idea definitely applied while you were paying off your loans, but now that you’re financially secure, you have a permanent mask secured to your face. 😉 Keep thinking in this great direction, as well as finding ways to ramp up your giving.

  8. This is great that you are starting this. You’ll find something you are passionate about eventually, I’m sure.

    We don’t have a set amount that we give each year or month or anything… but we have a couple charities that we give to every month (automatic monthly contributions), and then I like to keep a category in our budget so that we can support any charities that our friends are fundraising for. I don’t feel like we give enough yet, but it comes and goes in waves, depending on who is participating in what each year. I like the ideas in the comments here about designating a percentage of our income. I may have to work on that.

    • It will be interesting to see what we settle on. I hope it doesn’t get eaten up by the weddings we have coming up. That’s giving too, I suppose!

      I like that you do automatic monthly contributions. That’s a big step! I must not have very charitable friends. I don’t get hit up for donations. Or worse… I’m known for not donating, so they don’t ask! I must investigate!

      • Weddings will be eating up a lot of our gift giving budget this fall…

        As for the monthly contributions… I’d like to take credit, but really it is my husband that did that. It does make it quite easy though. 🙂

  9. Oh, I love this post!

    I have no real causes close to my heart, until this year when I adopted two dogs – now I think SPCA might become a regular. I try to donate maybe $20-50 a month, to causes (often disaster relief to whatever is topical) or other causes I come across that seem worthy, or friends raising money for charity.

    Also relate to being the family bank (on his side). We used to help them more – but ultimately we can’t really help, they need to make big changes if they want to really improve their financial situation. Will do things like take the kids out though once in a while, and pay for that.

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  11. I’m late to the party, but I figured I’d chime in anyway in case somebody stopped by! 🙂

    I used to buy raffle tickets from sports teams, and donate a few bucks here and there to whatever cause was going. I stopped. A) I couldn’t really afford to support EVERYTHING B) I found a better way. I joined 100 Women Who Care. (

    We are a rag-tag bunch of women who get together once a quarter with nothing but a commitment to donate $100 to a local charity–whichever charity we all decide on together.

    Three charities present 5 minute speeches explaining what they do and why they do it. We all vote. While they count the votes, the group that received the donation last quarter gives us all an update. Once we figure out which group ‘wins’ this quarter, we all write a cheque directly to the charity for $100. We put the cheque in a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and we drop it off at the door on the way out. The only catch? You PROMISE to write your cheque to the group that wins, no matter what your personal vote was.

    End result? We each donate $100 to a carefully selected local charity. We each get a charitable donation tax receipt for our donation. The charity that gets selected walks away with at least a $10,000 donation. The groups that didn’t ‘win’, get to be put back in the hat to present again the next quarter. The ‘winner’ cannot present again for a year.

    I decided that my $5 here and $10 there would be better used in one place. Especially if it had 99 other donations to go with it. Also, this way I get a tax receipt…and I budget for it. I figure I MUST be able to come up with what amounts to $1/day in order to help make a $10,000 donation 4 times a year, no matter WHAT my personal debt circumstances are.

    There are groups cropping up all over Canada–if this is interesting to you, check go.ogle or F*cebo.ok for a group near you!

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