How Much Can I Afford to Give?

This spring, I came across an opportunity to help a friend. This friend of mine would be living in the slums of Manila and working with women exiting prostitution, and I hoped to help her get there. There are many cool short and long term projects like this that I would love to support, but my question was “How much can I afford to give?” I wanted to give more money away, but I never knew how far my money could go.

Shortfalls of Account Balance Budgeting

As an inexperienced budgeter, I had trouble finding a balance between excessive spending and fearful thriftiness. I used to look at my checking account balance when making financial decisions. I’d see my balance, try to estimate a needed cushion plus any known future expenses, and then be willing to spend the difference. This elementary form of budgeting kept me from going in the red, but it didn’t give me a picture of where my money was going. It also kept me from making more bold and generous choices with my money.

Creating a Budget with EEBA

In order to determine how much I could afford to give, I decided to create a budget with EEBA. With each step, I became closer to my goal—

Month one: I set up some monthly Envelopes and recorded my transactions. This gave me a better idea of what my budget actually looked like and how much I spend each month.

Month two: I adjusted my budgets –adding more to my food Envelope, taking away from my transportation Envelope, etc. At this point, I could trust that my monthly budget was accurate.

Month three: I created more Envelopes with special attention to Irregular Envelopes for the expenses that don’t happen each month. With a record of my previous monthly expenses as well as the irregular expenses that I had made, and I could see how much I had leftover from each paycheck.

Month four: Budgeting for a few months helped me know how to adjust my budget, increasing my budget where there was need, decreasing where I could cut back. Finally, I was ready to go for the goal and created a Generosity Envelope. I took the funds I had to spare each month and used it to fill my Generosity Envelope.

Let the Giving Begin…

The process of creating my EEBA budget helped me to grow in awareness of my spending and heightened my own agency in financial decision making. Since creating the Generosity Envelope, I’ve been able to give to cool and meaningful projects like the one in Manila, a leadership development project for college students in San Antonio, TX, an international relationship project between American and Chinese students in Xi’an, China, and even a shelter project for the homeless population in Chicago, IL.

Who knew how far my money would go!

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