6 Budgeting Tips to Reach Your Charitable Giving Goal

David Bakke is a contributor for the online resource, Money Crashers Personal Finance. He explains topics related to taxes, charitable giving, budgeting, and more.

Most of us have grand goals when it comes to contributing to charity. In fact, in 2011, charitable giving in the U.S. reached a new high of almost $300 billion, according to the Giving USA Foundation. But with rent to pay and retirement to save for, charitable donations are one of the first spending categories slashed from most family budgets. However, by sticking to a few simple budgeting tips and avoiding financial roadblocks, you can continue to give and to get the satisfaction that comes with it.

1. Create a Personal Budget
The first thing to do is to create a personal budget. While it can take some time to establish, a budget will save you money in the long run. Use the Mint.com online budgeting tool or manually write out your income and expenses. Once you see everything laid out in front of you, it will be easy to see where cuts can be made. To help discern where to cut back, prioritize your charitable giving goal in relation to your other expenses. For example, if giving to charity is more important than dining out, cut at least one dinner out per month.

2. Eliminate Unnecessary Purchases
Ask yourself one simple question every time you reach for your wallet: Do I really need this? If the answer is “yes,” consider where and how you can save on that item. For example, if morning coffee is the thing you can’t live without, indulge in high-end beans, but brew them at home. If your newspaper is draining $2 a day from your wallet, opt for the online version. Changing your habits may take a  period of adjustment, so make it worth your while. Adopt this mindset with all your purchases and you’ll start saving money to contribute to the causes you care about most.

3. Save on Monthly Bills
Review all your monthly bills, including your cell phone and TV plans, to see if you can get by with less. Do you really need unlimited text messaging and every movie channel known to man? Think about how much use you get out of these plans per month and weigh the costs. For monthly services, including gym memberships, video streamers, and cell phones, investigate the competition – you may find a cheaper alternative.

4. Reduce Your Grocery Bill
According to a study by Gallup, the average American grocery bill is $151 per week. Since groceries are such a large expense, saving even 10% annually can yield almost $800 extra per year. One way to save big is by clipping coupons and learning extreme couponing strategies. Pick up extra copies of the Sunday paper and put a filing system in place. Categorize your coupons by expiration date and food type. Then, when you see an item on sale that your family loves, stock up.

5. Open a Separate Bank Account
If you don’t have a strict charitable donation schedule, open a separate bank account dedicated to charitable giving. Set aside $50 per month from your paycheck or contribute your savings in other areas to this account. Contribute during the year to your favorite causes or at the end of the year in one lump sum. And, of course, don’t forget to save your receipts. Charitable giving has the added benefit of reducing your taxes.

Final Thoughts
Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Even when times are tough, do what you can to maintain charitable giving as a priority. Budget for your monthly expenses, your savings, and investments, and then decide upon a reasonable donation amount. Remember, it’s not how much you give, but the act of giving that is most important.

What budgeting tips can you think of to reach your charitable giving goal?