How we spend and save our money is influential in how we plan for and manage our homes. That’s why we’re featuring a series...

Nickel for your thoughts on charity and personal finance

How we spend and save our money is influential in how we plan for and manage our homes. That’s why we’re featuring a series of guest posts from popular personal finance bloggers. Today’s post comes from the blogger at who writes about deciding when and how to give money to charities.

So you’re going through your mail and one of the letters feels a little heavy. You look inside and find a REAL nickel that someone has sent you. Why would they do that? You look closer and read that the nickel is from a charity and it’s supposed to represent your support for children in desperate need around the world. A quote next to the nickel says, “Even a nickel could save a child’s life. Would you consider donating? ”

Umm, excuse me? If EVERY nickel counts, why the H-E-Double-Hockey-sticks are you mailing me one? Couldn’t you use it to go save a life? Seems pretty silly to me. And to further fuel the fire, if you decide not to donate, some of the “nickel” charities ask that you at least return said nickel. There’s one problem though, the return envelope doesn’t come with a stamp. Let me get this right, I have to pay 44 cents to mail back the nickel you sent me? Yeah. Freaking. Right.

Have you ever donated out of guilt? I have. Most of the cashiers at the grocery stores in my area ask “Would you like to donate a dollar to XYZ disability today” when they finish ringing up all my items. I felt way to awkward saying “No I don’t want to help dying people”, so I frequently let them add an extra $1 to my grocery bill. But now I realize what I was doing was pretty dumb. It’s not like I did my research on that charity. What if only $0.10 of my dollar contribution directly supported the cause? What if I was donating to a sketchy company? What if that dollar have been better used with a different organization? Needless to say, I now politely decline any donation solicitations at the cash register.

Please don’t misread what I’m trying to communicate. Most charities really do need the help (and deserve it too). I personally believe one of the most important aspects of money management is giving some of that money away. Those that follow my blog are aware Wife Ninja and I made a decision to give 10% of our gross income away each month. Is it ‘easy’ giving over $700/month away? No. But is it worth it? You bet your sweet bottom it is. Nothing is more rewarding than contributing to something bigger than yourself.

I believe everyone should donate to someone or something (yes, even if you are in debt or saving to buy a home), but I also think we need to do our research before making that donation. After all, you wouldn’t invest in a company’s stock without knowing a little bit about them first…right? There are several Internet resources that can help you think through your charitable contributions (Charity Navigator, Check a Charity, and GuideStar to name a few). They have a plethora of information about virtually every charity in existence and will tell you if your contributions are working effectively.

It would be sweet if we all shared, in the comments below, what charities we are fans of – and what makes you want to give money to them, whether it’s a nickel or $500. I love Young Life and Invisible Children. How ’bout you?

Graphic: Provided by

About the blogger: uses wry humor and stick figures to elaborate on personal finance issues. The founder and blogger of PDITF, who writes anonymously but goes by the name “Ninja,” paid off $28,000 in debt in two years and is now debt free.

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  • Karen, the Small Town Runner

    We contribute to charities that we have personal connections to. That might mean that we have personal experience with them (like Operation Mobilisation, the mission organization hubby grew up in) or we know someone (and know them well) who works with the organization. Right now we support missionaries in Kenya who work with Africa Inland Mission and a organization in India that works to impact society with beauty and truth through art. The individuals we support are people we know personally. I find that it’s more of a joy to give when I know the people impacted by my giving.

  • Lola

    The hubs and I give a lot through our church – there’s a special collection at least once a month and it’s a broad assortment of good causes. We also donate to our high schools and colleges; we both had generous scholarships to help our education, and we are happy to give back. I also have a couple of friends on the boards of local organizations who ask for a holiday time donation once a year, and again, I’m happy to give $25 to each to help out. I also like to support Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts too – love the popcorn and cookies!

  • David

    I too find donating to be of utmost importance. It’s a way for mr to humble myself and remember how blessed we are. Great post!!

  • Ninja

    @Karen- I love that you support people/groups you know on a personal level. Nothing better than getting to see your contributions go to work!

    @Lola- I’ve been getting harassed by my alma mater to donate. I’ve always avoided their phone call, but maybe I should think twice next time since I was on scholarship.