How to be good on $10 a day
Editor’s note: This week on Twitter Rhiannon pledged to donate $10 each day to a different charity. And she’d welcome your suggestions on charities worth donating to. You’ll find her blog and Twitter name at the bottom of her piece.
Here’s my confession: I’ve done a few bad things in my life.
When I was seven I stole some stickers from my teacher. As Julia Roberts would say, big mistake. Huge.
Even now I still turn nauseous now at the thought of banana-scented scratch-and-sniff.
I’ve been rude to my parents. Mean to my friends. I have deliberately started arguments because I found it entertaining.
And painfully, I am a bit disillusioned when it comes to charity giving. In fact, apart from the occasional sponsorship of fundraising friends and the odd Big Issue, it’s something I rarely do.
Not for lack of wanting to.
I’ve said this before, but I’m not convinced our charity giving habits are that awesome.
Fundraising days are good reminders to donate, but the practice of buying pens, flowers, badges or other things we don’t really need is just a teeny bit dubious. Mostly, I don’t like the idea of manufacturing a whole bunch of junk – destined for the top drawer vortex of useless stuff – in order to motivate people. And what about all those other charities in need of funds, that can’t afford to advertise?
Yet, we do need motivation.
A few years ago, an old school friend decided to spend just five dollars on food every day for a month. I am pretty sure he half-starved, but he did it.
The blog he kept was a fascinating excursion into our obsessive relationship with food and his experience of living in relative (self imposed) poverty. I was really impressed by this “life experiment” and how simple it was to execute. The idea stuck with me long after the month was over.
On a whim, I have decided to give away ten dollars to a different not-for-profit every day for a month. It’s not a lot of money. Not nearly on par with British ethics professor Toby Ord, who pledged to give away 10 per cent of his income for life, or former millionaire Karl Rabeder, who is giving almost all of his fortune away “for the sake of happiness”.
Ten dollars is roughly how much I spend on lunch, but it still adds up to about 700 per cent per year more than what I would normally give.
I want to make a commitment to investing in charities that I think – and others think – are doing a great job. No carrot or stick, just a slight readjustment to help out areas that constantly struggle for money.
There are literally thousands of not-for-profits competing for donations, and I want to know my money is being well spent. That’s why I’m asking people to nominate their preferred charities to me, and I’ll keep track of how the money is used on my blog.
I also want to encourage public support for a single national charities regulatory body. Federal legislation and an accompanying not-for-profit watchdog are currently being considered by the Council of Australian Government’s Business Regulation and Competition Working Group.
Among the recommendations are best practice standards for not for profits, a complaints investigation channel, a searchable public database and enforced compliance with relevant legislation.
Finally, this is also a learning exercise. By stripping a few hundred dollars out of my monthly budget, it will teach me to manage my own finances better.
Ten dollars a day won’t drastically impact my lifestyle. It’s a realistic, sustainable amount. Hopefully I will realise I won’t miss this amount too much, if I lose a few of my more impulsive purchases.
Will it make a difference? I’m yet to find out.
In the meantime if you would like to nominate a charity or even pledge to match my donations, please get in touch.
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