Greasing the Wheels

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Scrap Exchange Retail Store

Enough stuff for everyone -- The Scrap Exchange Creative Reuse Center

One of the few blogs I read fairly regularly is Get Rich Slowly. Unlike many blogs that have posts that sound like they’d be good when you see the title but in fact have almost nothing to them when you actually read them (a problem I also have with most magazine articles), Get Rich Slowly tends to have very thorough articles, usually on interesting topics. It also has tens of thousands of readers so most posts get between fifty and 150 comments, which offers an interesting range of perspectives on the post.

There was a guest post a while back that I liked a lot called “A Crash Course in Financial Freedom.” The author was giving a rundown of what she’d say about financial freedom if she had only ten minutes to talk. (Random aside: I have to say that after giving a Pecha Kucha presentation, ten minutes seems like a great luxury!)

Item one on the list was “Save” and item two was “Give.”

As I said, I liked the post, and I decided to check the comments to see what other people thought, and was interested to note that many of the comments dealt with the “give” admonition, with quite a number of commenters saying that people who are in debt shouldn’t be giving any money away, that anything they give away moves them further away from achieving their financial goals. Some people saw the advice as coming out of the author’s own religious beliefs and felt it was inappropriate for an article purportedly dealing with personal finance.

I didn’t find the advice at all inappropriate, and in fact that was one of the reasons I liked the post so much.

The post was not about how to have as much money as you possibly can, it was about how to achieve “financial freedom.” People who think those are the same thing are missing the boat.

In my opinion, unless you can freely give money away, without any expectation of receiving something in return, you have not achieved financial freedom. Because if you are not able to let go of your money, it is exerting control over you. If something is controlling you, you are, by definition, not free.

Personal finance writer Suze Orman talks about how giving money makes you open to receiving money, that the first payment you make every month should be to someone unrelated to you with no expectation of getting anything back for it — money freely given with no strings attached. (For an alternative perspective, I will say that my father the CPA is decidedly not a Suze Orman fan, he thinks things like that sound like a big crock of do-do. Though I think he might come around if he watched the “Can I Afford It?” segment of her tv show. I love that part!)

A friend of mine says her mother calls this “greasing the wheels of the universe,” so that’s a phrase we’ve been using a lot around here lately.

Giving money away helps create positive energy with your cash flow. You need to have money moving in and out of your life and you need to recognize the pattern — money comes in, money goes out — without getting too hung up on either end of it. If you try to hang on too tight, or if you spend it or give it all away without letting any of it stick around for a little bit, you disrupt this pattern. It’s all about finding the right balance. I believe that consciously giving money away injects conscious energy into your cash flow pattern and helps you achieve a healthy balance. (And I have a feeling that my father would feel about that statement pretty much as he does about Suze Orman — he’s not a big believer in the karmic implications of spending patterns. But that’s okay, I’ll talk about it anyway.)

It’s the end of the year and nonprofits everywhere are sending out end-of-year appeals, hoping to make their annual budgets and get what they need to keep on keepin’ on.

I tend to give money away throughout the year, but I also do some year-end donations. I usually give to environmental groups like the Eno River Association and my friend Bethanie’s organization Wildlands CPR. My friends at Stone Circles need a little extra help this year, so I gave to them earlier in the year when they sent out a special appeal. Most of my extra charity money goes to The Scrap Exchange, because I know it will be well spent doing things that no one else does, or could do, or would even think of doing. (You do what? With what?)

Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different and many people are struggling just to get by. But I think if most people look around, they can probably find someone worse off than they are. Giving money away is a tangible means of expressing gratitude for what you have, and recognizing that while your life may not be perfect, there are probably things about it that are mostly okay. Giving helps you appreciate what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t.

So in this last week of 2010, I encourage everyone to take a small step toward financial freedom by giving money away. It can be a dollar or a thousand dollars, to an organized charity or an individual in need. How much and to whom doesn’t much matter, what matters is that you do it.

And if you can’t think of anyone you want to give money to, feel free to send some to The Scrap Exchange. We’ll put it to good use.

Happy New Year everyone, and best wishes for a propserous and productive 2011.

6 Responses to “Greasing the Wheels”

  1. Ginger Says:

    Timely post. My husband lost his job a few months ago. I panicked for a few days, but quickly recovered. There are so many who are worse off than we are. We are fortunate to have pared down our lifestyle prior to this event.

    A short time after he lost his job, I stopped our monthly monetary gifts to some organizations (we are now giving time instead). But I have nagging, recurring thoughts that I should reinstate the monetary gifts. These monthly payments are not doable when I put pencil to paper, but I think they are necessary for us to move forward, to change our future.

    I love “Can I Afford It?” on Suze Orman’s show. I’ll head over to the Get Rich Slowly site and check out the info there and check out The Scrap Exchange, too. Thanks!

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Well to be clear, I think giving time counts too, as do things that help others wihout really costing much at all — like donating blood or trying to get unwanted items to a good home instead of just pitching them in the trash.

    But I do think that giving money away is important psychologically, as a way to help you recognize when you have “enough.” Because when it comes down to it, that is what financial freedom is all about — figuring out what is Enough.

  3. Rabbit Says:

    One of the first things I do every month is pay my power bill, and no matter how low or high it is, I always add $5 to the Share the Warmth contribution. I had my time of going without power when I was young, poor, and dumb, and even though I don’t think I was ever poor enough to qualify for the assistance it gives, it makes me really happy to be able to help _someone_ keep their electricity.

  4. auntieintellectual Says:

    Thanks for the link- I’ve been listnening to Dave Ramsey lately, almost obsessively when I’m in the car, because I like to hear the stories that people call in, but to be honest? He can be kind of annoying and his show is at least 1/3 advertising. The blog looks interesting.

  5. fivecats Says:

    i like to think of some of your charitable giving as something i contribute to, in some small way. : )

    when Gwen Cooper, the author of Homer’s Odyssey (http://amzn.to/eyVJwN) came to Quail Ridge Books earlier this year (http://bit.ly/bP50oh) she fulfilled a promise she made to herself when she started writing the book: she gave 10% of the royalties from the book to the Blind Cat Rescue in St. Pauls, NC. (http://www.blindcatrescue.com/)

    it’s inspired me to do the same if/when my book is published and earns past the advance. one of the groups i’ll support is The Conservators’ Center (http://www.conservatorscenter.org/) in Burlington, NC. one of my former students works there.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    I know of Dave Ramsey but haven’t followed him too closely. I have to say that I like his “debt snowball” idea for getting rid of credit card debt. That’s one of those things that doesn’t make sense mathematically — paying the highest interest debt first is always going to be the best approach mathematically — but the importance of having fewer bills can’t be underestimated.

    The past few winters I’ve listened to Clark Howard on my little radio when I’ve been at the gym. I totally love him! But the same problem you mention with Dave Ramsey, too many ads. But he’s a cheapskate even though he makes a gazilion dollars, and I really feel like he does what he does because he loves it. He doesn’t sound like a huckster to me at all. I don’t know if Dave Ramsay is like that or not because i haven’t listened/watched him enough.

    I definitely have a weakness for reader stories and advice columns — “My Problem and How I Solved It” in Good Housekeeping was totally my favorite monthly article growing up. And “Can This Marriage Be Saved,” another classic. I think that was in a magazine we didn’t get, I would read it in line at the grocery store or the hair salon or whatever. Basically any kind of first-person confessional writing is hard for me to pass by.


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