This is Why You Should Add Disaster Relief Donations to Your Budget Next Year

By Paul Sisolak
November 14, 2017

Two massive earthquakes hit Mexico. Wildfires raged across Northern California. Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey swept through Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. Indeed, 2017 has seen more than its share of high-profile natural disasters, impacting thousands of people in the wake of the destruction.

What can you do to help these people rebuild, repair and recover? You can donate, even if your wallet can’t afford it. Here are some tips on how to make room in your 2018 budget for charitable giving.

How much should you donate?

Many people choose to donate 10 percent of their income. This is the amount used in faith-based giving, also known as “tithing.” But don’t succumb to the pressure of this exact percentage. Donating should make you feel good, not broke.

Look at your current budget to see what you can comfortably donate to disaster relief organizations or non-profits. Budgeting for charitable giving is a form of saving money, but this can be difficult if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If 10 percent is too much for you, perhaps consider donating five percent, or even two percent of your current income.

To help you free up money to donate, you can start by paying yourself first, a budgeting method that helps you set aside money for savings before paying your bills. This will help you pinpoint the amount you can donate on a regular basis – before making any changes to your spending habits. An added bonus: this helps you get your finances in better shape.

Find ways to free up money

Donating money may entail mining your budget for extra dollars. It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself financially. Starting a spending diet is one good way to trim a few dollars here and there, giving you funds to donate. You may also want to consider trimming down on day-to-day expenses, even if it means giving up your daily latte fix.

“Donating after a natural disaster is all about giving what you can, so the easiest way to budget for this selfless donation is to go without something or a few somethings that are frivolous,” says budget blogger McKinzie Pack. “For instance, go without that morning coffee stop and put that amount into your donation fund, or swap a few restaurant or take-out meals for a homemade lunch or dinner.”

If making these sacrifices saves you $30 a week, that’s roughly $120 a month, or $1,440 a year. To help you pare down or modify your expenses, consider these additional approaches:

  • Reduce cable, Internet or cell phone costs by downgrading to cheaper plans. This allows you to cut back without having to eliminate services altogether.
  • Shop on sale, or opt for generic/store brand products when you can. A few dollars here and there can add to your donations budget. Says Andrei Vasilescu, co-founder of “To help disaster-afflicted people, you can easily reduce your shopping expenses by 10 percent. This small 10 percent of your shopping budget can save priceless lives. Shopping for a bit less expensive gift items this year will save that extra amount without any extra effort.”
  • Pay it forward to give it back. Going the extra mile and putting more money towards your existing debt will not only help you get out of debt faster, but you’ll have more available cash to donate to your charity of choice. That’s right, the faster you pay off your debt, the faster you’ll have more money. A win-win.

Generate dough for donations

Another way to generate more money to donate is to earn extra cash from a side job or part-time gig.

Marsha Jaramillo set up her own business venture with donations in mind. “I run an online business that brings in extra income,” she says. “From the monthly revenue, I set aside a certain amount each month that automatically goes to the organization of my choice.”

Jaramillo has run four shops for the last nine years, giving her extra money to earmark towards charitable donations.

Save by second nature

When it comes to paying yourself first, this is easiest when you can accomplish this without thinking about it.

To help you get going, we recommend using Chime’s Automatic Savings features as the perfect vehicle to drive your donation funding. Every time you spend, Chime automatically rounds up the transaction and deposits the roundup amount into your Savings account. You can also enable Chime’s Save When I Get Paid feature, which automatically moves a percentage of your paycheck directly into your Savings Account.

Automating your savings guarantees that the money will go towards your intended goals – without you having to think about it. “When you need it, you can give a sizeable amount without having to take away from your other bills,” says Robyn Goldfarb of the blog A Dime Saved. “It’s a good habit to get into, putting aside some of every check for others. It helps build feelings of giving, empathy, and gratitude for what you have.”

Choose your cause

There are a host of local, national and global organizations in need of donations and contributions. Pick one close to your heart and your values.

Perhaps you want to donate to an organization on the ground providing medical services, like the American Red Cross, or maybe you want to donate to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is seeking homes for animals displaced by Hurricane Maria. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is another great resource to learn about organizations helping those affected by recent disasters.

“You have to be really generous and strict at the same time to set your mind to save for others who have lost everything,” says Vasilescu. “If you really feel for the people struck by disasters, saving for them will seem less difficult.”

Do your research

When you decide to donate, it’s also important that you research organizations before giving away your money. While it may feel good to spontaneously make a donation, scammers exist, so it’s best to exercise caution first. These tips from the Better Business Bureau will help you better evaluate if a charity is right for you. For example, the BBB notes that you should be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

A final word

Regardless of where you choose to donate, if you follow our tips, you may find that you can afford to donate more than you think. With some effort, discipline and generosity, any donation — no matter how big or small — can make a difference.

Paul Sisolak is a freelance journalist and writer whose personal finance articles on saving money, getting out of debt, improving credit and a host of other diverse, wide-ranging topics. His work has been featured on Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Policy Genius, and the Nasdaq blog, among other publications and websites.

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