Budget With a Purpose

It can be hard to be mindful about money.

It is easy to be anxious about a lack of money, anxious about debt, anxious about “keeping up” a certain lifestyle.

It is easy to be ambivalent about money when we have more than enough, to avoid the discomfort of budgets and long-term planning, and to just play it by ear when times are good.

Often we are either worried about our financial situation or just not thinking about our financial situation. Financial planning can often feel like an unnecessary burden, or an insurmountable task.

However, in both times of plenty and times of scarcity, I believe money can be approached with a sense of purpose for ourselves and our community. Financial planning should be the process of finding ways to align our spending, saving, and giving with our needs, hopes, and ambitions.

Now can be the time to shore up our financial picture, planning for risks, paying down debts, and saving for emergencies. To build a foundation for our own lives as well as foundations from which we can help others. Stable lives that then allow us to take risks with our careers and give deeply when great giving opportunities come along. Stable buffers that prevent our goals from being derailed by surprises and emergencies.

Now might also be the time to prioritize. When we have more than we need, it can be easy for money to be soaked up in expenses that do not fulfill us, or help us in our giving practice. Budgeting can help us move money the may go towards a luxury car, a larger than necessary house, or superfluous expenses and directs them to helping others, saving lives, and building skills that will help more people in the future.

So in many ways the practice of saving, budgeting, and planning personal expenses are inseparable parts of our practice of giving. We have built budgeting and reflection in to our weekly and monthly routine. Throughout the month we are mindful of our spending and earning through tracking money that comes in and out of our lives. Then we have weekly and monthly “Money Dates” were we take a moment to reflect on our recent spending, take care of routine financial tasks, and set goals for short term spending and long term saving and giving.

This is how we have begun to look at personal finance, not just as a way to get rich, or an unnecessary chore, but as an act of love that helps us to meet our deepest goals and aspirations.



Starting a Practice of Giving: Why We Give, And The Importance of Reflection

Note: This post is part 1 of a series, you may want to start with the introduction.

When Paige and I started our giving practice, we already had many reasons to give. And our reasons to give ultimately influenced how and why we gave.

We both gave our time through volunteering as teenagers and young adults. Our reason at the time was the general sense of it being good to help people. We aimed to help with the opportunities that were readily available and interesting to us at the time.

As we got older, and our giving practice developed, we began to explore and expand our reasons of giving. What in particular were we hoping to achieve with our giving? What inspired us to give deeply and often? What ethical views help us align our actions with our motivations?

Many conversations, people, classes, books, and hours of reflection have developed, and will continue to develop, our views on giving. These hours of exploration are what has grown and maintained our giving practice more than anything else.  

The important step to us was making discussion of our giving a priority in our life.

Taking time to explore our life, values, and motivations helps us better understand our giving practice and its role in our life.  We find it important, meaningful and also joyous, reflecting how we can do the most good, with our time and money.

Reflection has been so important to us, I want to focus on some of the ways reflection has improved our giving practice.

Three Ways Reflection Has Helped Our Giving Practice

1. It helped develop our motivations to give.

Reflection can reveal or develop your motivations that will support every other part of a giving practice.

Over time we have developed a deeper understanding of why we give. While we have many reasons to give, we consider our cornerstone reason: the importance of helping others.

Much of our reflection has gone into understanding what this means to help others and how to maintain this motivation. One source of inspiration in this area has been the book “Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World by Matthieu Ricard.

2. It helped us change the focus of our giving to better align with our motivation.

Reflection can change your ethical and philosophical views of the giving, possibly changing where you give.

Although we had the motivation to help others, it was through ethics and philosophy that we found a framework to improve our giving. Through considering ethics we began to ask: who should we help? How much we should help?

We have been inspired by Peter Singer’s writings on global poverty and effective altruism.  His essay Famine, Affluence, and Morality, which covers points more fully elaborated in his book The Life You Can Save, helped us steer us towards global health and poverty reduction opportunities.

We began to see our giving as a limited resource, and the importance of using this resource wisely. We began to look for the areas our money could not just do good, but do the most good, and to learn from other people looking to do the same in the Effective Altruism community. As it highlighted our privilege and relative wealth, we also started to consider giving much more than we would have otherwise.

3. It helped us understand the impact we can have on others, helping us to keep giving.

Reflection can help you see the difference you are making in the lives of others. This helps keep you motivated.

We began to learn that by using research and by targeting high need, neglected, global issues, we could make an even larger difference with our giving.  This made us even more excited to give.

The more great opportunities we learned about, the more we wanted to give. Finding resources like Givewell, which evaluates global health charities by evidence backed impact, allowed us to feel confident that our giving would likely have a large positive impact.

Also finding communities, such as Effective Altruism, exposed us to new ways to help others we may have never considered.

Some simple things you can try to reflect on giving and helping others:

  • Journal about your giving
  • Read a blog post about giving (we recommend “Can One Person Make a Difference?”)
  • Read a book about giving, (we recommend starting with Doing Good Better)
  • Talk with people who are close to you about helping others & giving


Just a few moments of reflection can be enough to spark a lasting change in your giving practice.

And when these changes can save someone’s life, it is worth finding a moment to reflect.


Starting a Practice of Giving

What if I told you that you could help more people every year– without feeling deprived, drained, or stretched beyond your limit? That with a little effort over time you could help hundreds or even thousands more people throughout your life?    

Everyday people perform amazing feats by pushing themselves further like running marathons or mastering musical instruments. Why not extend this idea of performing amazing feats to other areas of our life?

We could set amazing goals of helping other people. We could aim to run a marathon of saving lives or master a concerto of compassion.

And how do we achieve this level of helping others? Same as running a marathon or mastering a musical instrument. Practice.

One of the inspirations for this blog was the idea of philanthropic giving as a “practice.” Like a medical practice, or the practice of meditation, it is something to be developed over our lives. It can be both the act of helping others and a way of life.  

Although we can never reach perfection it is worth being inspired by the idea of improving our Personal Best year after year.

We will begin with a four-part series. It will cover ways we approach improving our personal best. It will offer specific strategies that you can use in your own practice of giving.

Part 1: Why We Give

Understanding our motivations for giving has helped us stick to our goals. It has also focused our giving priorities and our career aspirations. Reflecting on giving is a powerful step to take.

Part 2: Giving Better

If we can find organizations that do more good than others, then we can improve our impact simply by changing where we give. This is important because different organizations or “cause areas” have drastically different impacts. Some charities have been shown to even cause harm.

Part 3: Giving More

If you are giving to organizations (with time or money) that do good, finding ways to give more is a simple way to help more people.

Part 4: Career Choices & Impact

It is important to make use of one our most valuable resources: our careers. From direct service to “earning to give” there are multiple ways to make a difference with our careers.