How to Give Less and Receive More

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My name is Sherry, I love the Spice Girls and set-up this site to pay homage to Baby Spice. But also I like sharing, so write the occasional. blog post here and there. This post is about giving and receiving. I hope you enjoy it.

When most people think of living in a community they usually think of people with a specific belief (fanatics), living more or less detached from the world, sharing everything, no privacy, living a life of low economic standard, sharing everything but their underwear. More or less traditional communities still exist and will keep existing more or less in the same way. The benefits that I see for living in such a community are:

  1. Sharing with others, the connection and the love that is felt when sharing is a huge stimulant;
  2. People are social beings, they need at home, others to be with;
  3. Cooperation in the economic sense.

The sharing, the social contact, the practice of specific beliefs is a very strong desire and wish for many people. People feel detached, alone in their homes (the singles market has never been bigger). At the same time we are making more money that we can spend on an individual apartment, all the stuff you need, etc. Most of us don’t believe that it is possible to combine a modern, independent life with the life in a community. But I believe that there is huge potential.

Imagine 40 people (people with similar demographics: example young, working people between 25 and 35 years old) living in a complex, located in or at the edge of a decent sized city, that offers individual suites/lofts to the residents.

Each person has a room that combines bed, living room and small kitchen (fridge, sink, microwave), plus everybody has their own bathroom. The complex offers shared services: communal kitchen were meals are prepared by a cook/made, communal dining room, a pool and or tennis court (that can also be used for other sports), sun deck, laundry service, garage, storage, extra rooms for visitors (have to be guests of people living there), a room for events, etc. This way busy people can spend less time (or none if desired) going to the supermarket, cooking, doing their laundry and cleaning and therefore can spend more time living: enjoying the company of all the people around them in the public spaces. And because of economies of scale (the sharing of facilities) it becomes very accessible in price. Think of the following benefits/things that you can save on:

  1. Don’t need a spare room for that one person a month that wants to stay over. You share the guest rooms, you can reserve it when you know someone comes over;
  2. Time saver: cleaning, cooking, buying groceries;
  3. Money saver: good cleaning equipment, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.;
  4. Money saver: you can negotiate good prices for internet, (cell) phone, grocery delivery (whole sale) and other services as you will buy them as a
  5. Money saver: share the kitchen (equipment) and living room. Most people have a full kitchen in case they want to cook, but that rarely happens;
  6. Money saver: sundeck, sports field (tennis court), pool, small cinema or TV room and all the rest is just too expensive to have on your own. And it’s useless as you don’t use it enough on your own;
  7. Being close to other, like-minded people who like each other’s company. But at the same time, you have the privacy of your home where you can retreat and do anything you want.

Of course, people will have to give something in return. It asks above average understanding, respect for others and some flexibility. But the rewards are big and I believe that if organized well it offers people a great way to live.

How I am frugal but generous at the same time

School and church fundraisers. Donation requests at every grocery store checkout line. Facebook and Twitter friends asking for support for their fundraising efforts. Tip jars at deli counters. Girl Scout cookie drives.

The pleas for my money never seem to end. And because it’s $1 here, $10 there, I’m a sucker for helping out.

I used to give to everything until I realized it was bleeding me dry. Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad, but there have been weeks where it seems anything extra that I could be putting in my savings account or throwing toward a debt that needs to be paid ends up going toward a charitable endeavour.

Yes, these are good causes and all, but just as in other areas of spending, I’ve had to make up a few rules for myself.

That way, I can still fit goodwill into my budget, but also learn how to say no without feeling guilty when I reach my limit. We all have limits and mine stretch to emergencies only. If I have a friend in dire need of borrowing money, I direct them to something like this or sit them down and run through exactly why they need that extra 20 bucks.

I just say ‘no’ at the checkout counter.

Whether it’s the grocery store, a department store, or the dollar store, every clerk during just about every transaction asks if I want to donate to a children’s hospital, cancer research, Autism awareness… the list goes on and on.

I always used to let them tack a few bucks onto my checkout receipt, but I’ve stopped.

I realized that all of the circular studying and coupon clipping I was doing was in vain if I just added those dollars back onto my total. And how do I really know if my hard-earned dollars are getting to the intended organization?

If and when I want to help these charities, I do so directly from now on, and get to claim it on my taxes (unlike all of those stray $5s and $10s that go unaccounted for).

I use my kids as an out.

There was a time when I tried to support family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues if their kids were fundraising (Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper sales, that sort of thing).

But if you do for one, then you feel obligated to do for everyone, and how many boxes of Samosas do I really need to have in my pantry?

Once I realized it wasn’t healthy for my wallet (or my waistline!), I simply began saying, “sorry, but my own children’s fundraisers have me tapped out.”
I put a cap on school fundraising.

When my oldest boy first started school, I felt obligated to contribute something for every flyer that came home, and there were times when I was stuffing an envelope two to three times per week.

Not anymore.

Now I do the mandatory fundraisers, and those that directly benefit our own school’s children in some way.

If my boys are passionate about giving to something in particular, I encourage them to take a couple of bucks from their savings jars, and many times, they do.

I still sponsor people who walk and run. But only a few.

I do sometimes make a small donation to friends and family members who are taking part in a charitable walk or run.

I feel like if they are giving their time and physical self toward an effort, I want them to know they have my support.

I draw the line, however, if it’s a Facebook friend that I don’t actually know “in real life,” or someone from my childhood that I haven’t seen in decades.

I also subscribe to the idea that “every little bit helps,” so if I can only give $5, that’s what I give.

I find other ways to help.

I clearly remember the overwhelming impulse to keep giving and giving right after Hurricane Sandy devastated neighbourhoods near where I live on Staten Island.

These were people that I knew. Friends. Relatives. Parents whose kids went to our school.

In the immediate weeks that followed, I donated to local on-the-ground groups that were helping with the clean-up, attended fundraising events, and went through my closets for lightly used clothing, toys, and pantry items for families who had lost everything.

But there came a point when I realized that I could make a bigger impact that had nothing to do with pulling out my check book.

I created a post on my blog that helped connect people (mostly older folks who had no access to real-time information) with volunteers to get them help they needed.

The information sharing that I facilitated made connections that saved a few families hundreds or even thousands of dollars – which is way more than I could have afforded to give on my own.

Along those lines, when a classmate of my youngest son tragically lost his mom to cancer, I took to social media to help raise money for the family.

Yes, I gave a little something, too, but spreading the news online helped bring in donations from people who wouldn’t have otherwise contributed. In that way, I was able to give more – even if it was indirectly.

Truth be told, giving to others is a great feeling, and I wish I could afford to do more of it.

Unfortunately, budgets do have limitations, and those retirement and college savings accounts aren’t going to fund themselves.

By setting some ground rules for myself, being more selective, and using some creativity, I’ve actually been able to give in a more meaningful way, even if I’m giving fewer dollars.