Thursday, July 31, 2014

Donating as a student

Today I was talking with some undergraduates, and the topic of how to manage donations while in school came up. When you're taking on student loans, it can seem like a bad time to be giving money away.

Reasons to donate now, even in small amounts:
  • It keeps you in the habit of giving. There will always be a reason to delay — student loans, a mortgage, a child. If you're ever going to donate, you might as well start now.
  • It keeps you in the loop. If you need to decide where to donate each year, you end up looking at the latest charity recommendations. And you're thinking about your values and how you want to go about picking a place (or places) to give.
  • It lets you talk to others about your choices. Better to be able to mention “this great charity that I support” than “this great charity that I’m going to support . . . eventually.”
Some more thoughts on the student years:
  • Invest in yourself. It's worth it to spend extra money or time if you will gain useful skills, experiences, and connections. (Not that this means spending years backpacking in Europe. I always think of Bill Cosby's sketch on finding yourself.)
  • Value your time, not just your money. Katja Grace writes a good post on Using Time Effectively as a Student.
  • This is a time in life when people and experiences are probably much more important to you than material things. After school, keep your needs small rather than ramping up your spending.
  • Keep good relationships with your family. It’s not worth fighting with your parents about small expenses in order to donate a little more.
  • You probably have some money you spend on clothes, entertainment, etc. Consider donating a portion of that. For example, the Giving What We Can pledge asks students and other people without their own income to donate 1% of their spending money.
  • Tweak your budget once a month, or once a semester, or once a year.  Experiment to find what works for you.
  • This is a great time to join or start a group on effective altruism. Organizing gets a lot harder after you don't have friends and classmates all living on campus together. See if there's a chapter of Giving What We Can or 80,000 Hours near you. Or consider organizing something of your own, even if it's just talking with people over coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your time and advice, Julia. You're a great inspiration for us and others! I signed the pledge and I don't think I will ever regret that!