Perhaps one of the least discussed expenses in personal finance blogs is charity, which I define as a voluntary given amount of money to any organization to benefit others. Why is that? I think perhaps we don’t know how to categorize the expense. Is is a bill, a personal expense or something to be avoided?

Some people just consider charity an expense that just occurs regularly, like a church donation or an annual bill to support a particular fund raising campaign. They feel they are required to give it. It could have been either programed into them by their upbringing or a personal choice yet in either case in their mind it is required.

On the other side some people believe that charity starts at home. That you should look after your family and yourself first, since they are the most important charity case you can provide to and this keeps you from using a charities services yourself. You can donate time and your service to something, but they avoid donating money.

I end up in between. I consider charity a personal expense. It is something I chose to do if and when I want to. I’m not required to give anything, but I don’t avoid giving money either. So in this case we tend to choose causes that have touched us personally with amounts that tend to vary year to year depending on what we can spare. I also tend to chose things close to home. I like to help provide things to the local community, which I may need myself one day or at the very least help someone I know.

Perhaps one only rule about charity I have is I don’t donate money to feed people. Not ever. Not to the food bank, not to local charities with an annual Christmas supper and not to international organizations feeding kids in third world countries. Why? I personally believe that most of the misery in the world is from too many people trying to use to few resources, which is something that is getting worse on a daily basis. And people aren’t made of sand, moon beams or anything else but food. You limit the food, you limit the population. It’s simple way to deal with the issue.

Now for those who are thinking ‘Are you nuts? What about those kids in Africa?’. No I’m not nuts. In fact in my mind you people are nuts. If a population is undergoing a massive crop failure during a year and you send over food, yes you will save lives. Then after the crisis is forgotten those people have children so during the next crisis, which by the way was caused by trying to get too much food out of a given area, you end up with bigger problem. You see you can’t win this war. It is natural state that at some point in the world someone will go hungry.

For those truly die hard defenders of feeding people, who will ask ‘what if is was you?’ I would gladly accept my fate for me and my family if that came to it. It’s not likely going to happen here, but I would use all my resources to avoid such a fate. Yet it that was the end. So be it. We all die at some point, it’s just a matter of when.

21 thoughts on “Charity”

  1. I think that’s a pretty harsh way to look at it. I’m all for teaching people how to fish rather than give them fish sandwiches, but I don’t want to let people starve just so they won’t have to worry about starving anymore.

    Giving people food isn’t always a perfect solution but it’s not a bad one in my mind.


  2. That’s a strange rule and I’m not quite sure I understand your logic but the truth is, when it comes to charity, you have the right to your opinion. After all, it is your money, and the fact that you choose to donate it in the 1st place is the important factor.

    My husband and I donate monthly to UNICEF (Global Parents). I know that we have poverty issues and charities here at home that we can contribute to but, after our extensive travels, including a trip to Africa, we have seen first hand that the poverty in 3rd world countries is far harsher than it is here at home. One of the reasons we continue to give to UNICEF is because of their regular reports to Global Parents. Every time I read the details of where the money has gone and read specific stories I get teary-eyed. They’re good at pulling at the heart strings.

    In the end, your charity of choice is exactly that, your choice. I just think it’s important to put a few pennies or dollars aside for those that really need it. Still, I know I personally, can do better.

  3. Awkward silence. Your post started of sensibly enough, then you got on your high horse and rode off into the idiotic/preposterous sunset.

    Must be nice to be so self righteous. I don’t think you would feel the same way if your babies were starving to death. (Or sadly enough, would you?)

  4. Telly,

    Good that you found something you love to support. That perhaps is the most important thing.


    Ok, the post did take a bit of hard right towards the end of it. I totally admit that.

    As to the point I was trying to make (and on hind sight didn’t do it too well) is everyone is allowed to have their little quirks or ideals when it comes to your charities. They don’t have to match mine or even remotely agree with me in the slightest. Charity is a completely personal choice. As long as you feel you are helping someone someway it doesn’t really matter what you do or don’t do.


  5. Tim – I was over at Mike’s house for dinner last night and he mention this post (I hadn’t read it). I’m right there with you buddy, I get where you’re coming from and I agree 100%.

    Sorry Mike, thanks for feeding me last night (and for free too!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Charity begins (and ends) at the Cheap house for me.

  6. Well I think it’s a harsh way to think about people, I’m all for teaching people how to fish rather than give them fish sandwiches but not if they end up starving in the process.

    However, like Telly said – it’s up to you where your money goes!


  7. Well, I think its more logical than harsh. Food = population growth = increased need of food is Tim’s basic point (I think, please correct me if I’m mis-representing your position Tim). So by giving someone food, you’re helping them today and hurting them tomorrow. I think Tim’s just saying he doesn’t want to hurt people (even if it would seem to help them in the short term).

    I wouldn’t want someone to cut me, but if it was a surgeon who was trying to save my life, I could understand the long term gain from the short term pain.

  8. Mr. Cheap,

    I think you got the basis of my idea. The earth is large huge of rock with a finite amount of resources on it. We have 6.5 + billion people on the planet which is growing by the second. We can’t keep our population growing at its current rate. It is not sustainable in a closed system (unless you think we can start farming the moon).

    Giving out more food is just adding to the fire in my mind. Guess what happens when you stop. The population will stabilize. Not instantly, but over time we will hover around a set number if food production was frozen today.

    Will some people stave to death? Yes, but even with the extra food that still happens today. Shipments are missed and sometimes poor people have no where to turn in a war zone. They will die. It’s not very nice, but neither is disease or war, but it still happens regardless.

    It’s rather like the war on terror. It’s a hoax to think you can solve the problem. It’s can’t be solved. Some people will always end up starving every day and some nut case with a bomb will do something somewhere thinking it is right to kill others to get his point across.


    I don’t disagree about teaching people to fish. Helping people to help themselves is always best. My point is we can’t save everyone all the time.

    So in the end Telly had it right. It’s a personal choice how to help.

    Thanks for the great debate everyone,

  9. Wow – are you for real?

    “I personally believe that most of the misery in the world is from too many people trying to use to(o) few resources, which is something that is getting worse on a daily basis.”

    “We have 6.5 + billion people on the planet which is growing by the second. We canโ€™t keep our population growing at its current rate”

    Hmm.. about limiting population then? Oh wait you just joyfully announced the upcoming birth of your second child. Care to feed them the diet the average child in a developing or under-developed country receives?

    You can’t seriously believe that the resources consumed/exploited by a 3rd world individual is really causing the problem?

    Not only is your premise/logic ridiculous and ignorant, it is dangerous for what it insinuates…

  10. Phil,

    I would like to see a stable population, so I don’t have a problem with any couple having two kids anywhere.

    I agree with you that bulk of the resource problem currently is North America society, but what happens when you have the entire planet wants to live the same way? Do you have any idea how many coal fired power plants China built in the last twelve months? And how many are to be built in India?


    To quote the article “China uses more coal than the US, EU and Japan combined.” So my point is population growth is directly linked to a increase world wide use of resources. On a world wide scale we have to limit the population.

    I never said it was an easy thing to do, but what do you want to do instead? Let the population grow forever? So that in the end most of the planet is being used to produce human food. Do you have an idea how unstable of a system that would be? One little disease or crop failure would wipe out a good chunk of the population. So rather than the death of a few million you would rather have the death of a billion people as a common event?

    Just my thoughts,

  11. You must be delerious over the stories about aborted and abandoned baby girls that come out of those same countries then.

    And the hardcore who subscribe to your opinion (and I’ve run across a lot of them online) preach having ONE child, not two, in order to reduce the population. After all, your two will have two children each, who’ll have two children each and how many big macs and fuel for flights and computer parts sent to Asia for dismantling will the line consume over their lifetimes? But it’s different for Canadians, eh?

  12. J&W,

    I don’t take pleasure in anyone’s death. I feel just as bad as everyone else over anyone dying.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to hope for a population decrease. So that’s why I say two kids per couple. I don’t understand your comment about increasing the population with two kids. Yes each child will have two children of their own, but they will only be replacing themselves and their spouse in the gene pool.

    Also I don’t understand your comment about Canadians. What does that have to do with anything?

    I understand this can be an emotional topic people and I certainly don’t expect anyone to agree with me. But let’s keep the comments on the topic at hand.


  13. There was an article in Money Sense magazine (Summer 2007) and I believe it was discussed in another blog a couple months back (Canadian Capitalist I believe?), called “The war on the family”, where they discussed the fact that Canadians can no longer afford to have more than 2 children and that we actually need to have 2.1 children (I believe) per household in order to replace ourselves. The idea was that our economy would not survive if Canadians continue to only have 2 children.

    The article actually made me a bit ill. I’m with Phil on this one. How can we complain that we’re not having enough children as a whole in Canada but yet we need to discuss population control in 3rd World countries given the amount we consume compared to the average family in many 3rd World countries? The fact that there’s an article in Money Sense complaining that most families “CAN’T AFFORD” 3 children in Canada is quite sad imo. We are overconsumers.

    I just can’t bring myself to find sympathy for someone saying they can’t afford a 3rd child in NA. Sorry.

  14. CD, you state (from the article), โ€œChina uses more coal than the US, EU and Japan combined.โ€ but this is as a whole, NOT per person. If we’re going to worry about consumption due to over-population, it should be with respect to the biggest consumers – North Americans.

    And finally, we could do far better feeding the World’s hungry by sticking to vegetarian diets but that’s another topic altogether! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Telly – I agree with you about that article. The reality is that for a middle class couple (which is not everyone), having three kids should be pretty doable even though it will reduce their standard of living in terms of material goods and possibly a later retirement.

    I have no problem with middle class couples that don’t want three kids or any kids (it’s their choice after all) but don’t blame the government for not supporting them when in fact the problem is that they don’t want to change their lifestyle to pay for the extra kid(s).

    Having had one child we would love to have a second and would even go for a third however as “older” parents we are facing a definite age limit so that probably won’t happen.


  16. Mike,

    I’m not sure what is happening but you keep getting caught in the spam filters. Sorry if your comments take a while to come up, but I don’t check the comments more than once a day.


  17. Thanks Mike. I hate to come off like a brash DINK but I just wasn’t feelin’ it when they tried to make me feel pity for a young, hip couple living in a nice, trendy neighbourhood in Toronto with two healthy children. In fact, a large number of people probably envy them.

  18. CD – I had the same problem when I posted on my own blog from work. I had to keep “unspamming” them and finally my spam filter “learned” that I was ok ๐Ÿ™‚

    Telly – they could have used a better example for their article ie a family that was living frugally for example.


  19. Regarding the food issue. The way you put it sounds harsh but I do understand where you’re coming from. It may do more long-term damage.

    Another factor in giving away food is that you’re taking jobs away from the local farmers. If food is given to a country for free, how can the local farmers compete with that? What farmer can compete with free?

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