Is giving getting?
Anne writes a weekly column for a prominent finance publication on money and its implications for New Yorkers. As a close friend, I happen to know she also has a strong spiritual practice which incorporates prayer, meditation and Buddhist philosophy. In the spirit of this month's theme of giving, I sat down with Anne to discuss how giving manifests itself in her personal money management. "It's more about how I feel. It doesn't matter how much I have as long as I have enough. I feel flush when I give," Anne says.
Anne doesn't look for the best deal when shopping, but rather targets items she'll truly enjoy. She tries to appreciate all the handiwork that went into creating each item she purchases. "If something costs a lot, it's not because someone is trying to screw you," she says. After interviewing countless entrepreneurs and artisans, Anne says most feel embarrassed about the high cost of their goods, but when they explain the process behind their creations, they are able to justify the cost. If it cost them less to create a particular product, they would charge less to sell it.
Giving doesn't just mean being generous with your money. It can mean showing your appreciation to businesses you frequent and like. According to Anne, the best thing you can do for a small business owner that you appreciate is write a positive Yelp review. She loves her local Associated supermarket so much, she wrote the owner a thank you note. As a journalist, she understands the importance of positive feedback and writes notes to publications when she likes an article.
Anne also makes a point of giving to employees. "I put $1 in every single tip jar," she says, adding that it makes both her and others feel good. (Her pro tip: bonus points for putting the tip in when the employee's back is turned.) This is part of her "everyone gets a dollar" policy that she also applies to panhandlers, kids requesting money for potentially nonexistent basketball teams and anyone else seeking cash assistance. "It just makes life easier when I don't need to decide on a case by case basis and even if you give a dollar to every single person who asks, it's not actually that much money. It's totally worth the time and energy it saves," she explains She prefers big tips to people in service positions over "faceless nonprofits." She says that "tipping gives you more bang for your giving buck" since 100% of your contribution goes directly to the person you intend it to.
Anne even extends her spirit of generosity to paying the IRS as well as state and local taxes, something even the most altruistic of souls can find challenging. She takes time to admire the beautiful parks that spot the city landscape and the newly paved streets. She appreciates that she feels safe living in her neighborhood. The money that goes to taxes is not wasted, as many believe. After all, we have firemen, a police department, roads to drive on and garbage pickup thanks to our tax payments.
How does Anne handle the nagging fears around finances that every human experiences from time to time? She says, "If I'm worried about money, I don't have a money problem. I have a faith problem. When I'm not worried, I intuitively make good decisions. People worried about money do stupid things." She credits her parents for her positive and rational outlook on her finances, who she says "never used spending as a mood altering mechanism. I'm grateful for that example."
Instead of focusing on what we don't have or aren't getting financially, we can learn from Anne's example and try focusing on where and how we can give within our means to generate a greater sense of financial well being. Or as Anne puts it, "It's not possible for me to not get back what I've given out. If I show my gratitude, I will receive the same from others. I can't get away from all the help and kindness people show me all day long."