The Savings Account, The Spending Account & The Charity Account

This is another post from HLR! I said you would be seeing more posts from me, but maybe you didn’t realize you would be seeing them so soon!

After reading MLR’s recent guest post at Frugal Dad “The Three Most Influential Lessons My Parents Taught Me,” I thought about the way my parents viewed responsible finance. For better or worse, I think it’s safe to say that the way that parents teach their kids about money can have a huge impact on their kids’ futures.

Save the Bats

My brother Jon was about seven years old, and he had been learning about bats in his second grade class. He took an extreme liking to the nocturnal creature, and grew increasingly concerned about the fact that six out of forty-five species were labeled as “endangered species.”


Hannukah came around in December, and my brother and I got books and toys and games we had ached for all year long. On the eighth night, though, as was tradition in my home, my parents gave us each twenty-five dollars to donate to whichever cause we deemed most worthy. I can’t remember where my money went that year, but Jon’s went speedily and directly to Bat Conservation International.

Over ten years have passed since that Hannukah, and my brother’s passion for bats has all but disappeared. It turned out to be a short-lived passion. However, my parents’ devotion to giving is something that has stuck with my brother and me.

My parents were always very money-conscious, but also serious about giving to those who needed help. There was a fair but strict allowance policy in my household. My brother and I had to have three “accounts;” the savings account, the spending account, and the charity account. We always had to put at least ten percent of our allowance into each account every week.

When I accompanied my mother to the mall and asked for a CD, or a pair of jeans, my mother never argued with me. The response was always, “Sure, if you have enough money in your account to pay for it.” The occasion was very rare when my mother would buy something for me instead of having me purchase it for myself. Her logic was sound; she gave me a decent allowance each week, and thus, I should be able to save and buy my own Spice Girls CD (yes, I really did buy one), or my own flared ripped-when-you-bought-them jeans (again, yes).

How Much is Enough?

As I grew older and began my high school years, my parents signed me up for my first credit card (which was linked to theirs). Consistent with their belief in giving, my parents encouraged me (but never forced me) to set aside between five and ten percent of my paychecks to charity. While this figure may seem out of proportion to those of you with full-time professional careers, keep in mind that my high school experience in the working world consisted of a fifteen-hour workweek at the local Hallmark store.

While some charitable individuals give twenty-percent (or more) of their earnings, my parents readily admitted to me that they only felt they could afford to give around five percent. I’m an advocate of giving away whatever amount with which you’re comfortable. After all, feeling that charity is a burden may defeat the purpose in some sense.

Giving the Gift Card that Gives

As of late, my mother has become more creative and perhaps more technologically savvy in her charitable ways. This year, for Hannukah, my mother gave everyone in the family a gift card to, an organization dedicated to funding education, health, and microfinance projects. We were all able to log on to the site and chose the project we felt most connected to. Many projects even let you determine which aspect of the project you wanted your money to go towards.

Last year, she bought each of us twenty-five credits to a site,, where we could again choose the project that we connected with. The money you give, however, is not charity; so don’t try to write it off during tax season! The projects on these sites are all entrepreneurial endeavors, and the money is a microloan – paid back, slowly but surely. Once the borrower has paid back in full, the lender is free to retrieve his or her money, or to lend again to a different project.

Giving “giving” gift cards is a nice alternative to kitschy vases or picture frames that might end up in a cardboard box in a few months. Without doubt, this type of gift will not please everyone, but I’m sure each of us has a few friends or family who would appreciate something like this.

Finding the Right Charity

Searching for an appropriate charity to give to is not difficult to do. Websites like offer charities by categories, and can even help you decipher the finances of various charities so that you know you are giving to a trustworthy organization. The IRS also provides a comprehensive online-list of charities that are eligible for tax-write offs ( Giving has also become incredibly easy, as most organizations accept online donations.

Of course, giving takes various forms. Volunteering time for a good cause is just as valuable, and some would say more valuable, than a monetary gift (check out Giving support to a movement you believe in (perhaps writing a letter to a newspaper or a politician) is always worthwhile. And, of course, instilling in your children the notion that “fiscally responsible” could also entail giving some money away here and there is a valuable pursuit.

Charity as a Habit

My goal here is not to sound preachy. I confess that I do not give to charity as much as I used to when I lived with my parents! However, in keeping with the mantra of My Life ROI, I think we can consider how to make our lives fuller through financial aspects, as well as those that are not financial. My parents taught me that “giving charity” wasn’t just a nice thing to do when the mood struck, but a habit that could be realistically worked into every day life.

Whether you connect with local charities, international relief, environmental agencies, or the plight of the bats, “giving” (however you define it) makes a person more financially aware, more socially aware, and in the end – it makes you feel good.

Get to know the author!

HLR recently graduated with a Masters in Education and is learning how to become a fiscally responsible adult. She lives in the North East, is learning to play guitar, and is looking forward to an exciting career as a social studies teacher.

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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Baker @ ManVsDebt Says:

    Wow, this is a really neat story. To be honest, I didn’t real grow up with this sort of charitable direction. You can tell by how you write that it had a profound effect on you!

    I think what you said about giving what is comfortable is important. Everyone likes to toss out 10%, but as you’ve said some people can give from 5%-25% commonly. It’s not about fixating on a certain % as much as it is just giving in the first place.

    My wife and I could really do a better job. We do give money occasionally (less than 5%), but also focus on donating our time and efforts when we can. For us this allows us to balance our want to give with also aggressively paying down our debt.

    This article has given me a little bit of a kick in the butt, though. We could be doing a lot better!


  2. Stephanie PTY Says:

    That’s so great! We didn’t really have anything like that in my household, but I think the lessons on sympathy and empathy led me to be a strong giver, anyway – especially of my time. I’m putting my shoulder to the wheel over the next two weeks to pull together a big fundraiser to build an elementary school in rural Cambodia. It feels great to do all of this with such a worry end – I think some people just need to try giving, and find the right places to give to, to see the good it can do.


  3. MyLifeROI Says:

    @ Baker –
    When I read her article I thought one of the most important things was how she mentioned giving what you can, as well. Too often people place a hard number that giving x% is good, and giving less is cold-hearted. Then it gets to the point that giving x% is actually a requirement, not a warm and thoughtful donation, right? Sigh!

    Giving time, I think is equally as important. Did you check out the website she linked (Volunteer Match)? Glad she inspired you :)

    @ Steph –
    I could see that… giving is just a form of sympathy and empathy, as I see it. So you learned the lesson, nonetheless! I agree that some people need to be open to it. Too often people feel like they can’t make a difference. I urge them to try a grass roots charity, then!

    BTW, I am emailing you in re: to the school thing… I have some information that may be of help for you!

    That’s it for me… I am sure HLR will have a comment of her own!


  4. Frugal Dad Says:

    I really enjoyed this post because it gave some actionable examples for parents to use with their kids. Many parents (yes, I’m guilty, too), preach giving to their kids, but fail to follow through by helping them get through the mechanics of giving.

    My family gives a “Secret Santa” gift every year to a stranger, and this past year I put my 9 year-old in charge of scouting someone we could help. I also encouraged her to pitch in from her savings. When I saw her face light up when the person received the gift I knew she “got it.” She was now a giver.

    The giving gift cards is a brilliant idea! I’ll be stuffing a few stockings with those this year. Thanks for sharing!


  5. HerLifeROI Says:

    Baker – I think it’s great that you and your wife donate your time and energy. In a lot of ways, I think doing that is more meaningful than giving money!

    Stephanie – That project sounds really great! I’m very into giving for better education :) Good luck with the fundraiser!

    Frugal Dad- The gift cards as stocking stuffers is a great idea. It’s actually a lot of fun to look through the projects and choose one to donate to, and I’m sure that could be a nice thing to do as a family too! MLR and I looked through the projects together and chose ones that we connected with somehow. He chose a project in the Dominican Republic because we were taking a vacation there, and I chose an educational project in Honduras because I had gone there during college. Have fun with it!


  6. Hoboken Metro Mom Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. Our children are still too young for an allowance but will be at that age before we know it- so we have been thinking about the topic. I like the idea of setting up a separate account for charity. When you leave charitable giving to what is left over at the end of the year- there is often nothing left. This is a good way to make sure your intentions are funded and actionable. So many charities have really been hit hard this year by the economy and need our help more than ever. Thanks.

    Hoboken Metro Mom


  7. Savings Says:

    It is a good article.It gives us a lesson for saving and also for giving some part of our saving to any charity which is used by these peoples who have necessary.I really enjoyed reading this article.


  8. judith Says:

    Its always hard to give away your hard earned money but if something happens to a loved one then it inspires even the hardest faced donors of cash.


3 Trackbacks For This Post

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    [...] from My Life ROI, Getting the Best Return on Life presents The Savings Account, The Spending Account & The Charity Account, and says, “An anecdote from MLR’s girlfriend, HLR, about how her parents taught her to [...]

  3. -> And On the Seventh Day, He Rested | Bible Money Matters Says:

    [...] This is a guest post from MLR’s girlfriend @ My Life ROI.   I thought it had an interesting perspective on how faith can inform life and finances, even if it is more directly related to Judaism.  If you like this post, check out My Life ROI’s website or subscribe to his feed. He writes a personal finance blog that focuses on what he calls “sensible” personal finance. Things that make an impact while not diminishing the quality of your life like slashing your cable bill or donating even a small amount of time or money to charity. [...]

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I'm MLR. After graduating from college debt free, I decided to write a blog encouraging people to adapt responsible and sensible personal finance rules.

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