Save. Spend. Splurge.

Donating to charity is silly if you’re deep in debt

If you’re in debt and you’re donating 10% of your income towards charity, you’re not doing ANYONE any favours…AT ALL.



Let’s say you earn $6000 net a month between two people, and you’re collectively $50,000 in debt together. You donate 10% of that, which is $600 a month to those in need, and all things said, that in and of itself is a very generous thing to do.

…..except for the glaring fact that you are $50,000 IN DEBT.


To put it into perspective, even with an income of $6000 net a month, you would need to live on less than $22,000 net a year (or $1833/month) for one whole year, to be able to clear that debt.

Why don’t you put forth your frugal efforts to live on less than $1800/month NET, clear your debt in a year, and THEN be generous?

If you can’t do that, and you need 2 years to clear your debt, then so be it; but make sure that you are out of financial worries before you start giving away your money.

After you clear your debt, you could live on the same amount of money if you wanted, have about $4200 in disposable income, and you could give 10% away very easily. Or 20%.


If you lost your job, think about what would happen: You’d still be $50,000 in debt, and probably kicking yourself for having given $600/month away to those in need.

In all actuality, you were the ones who are currently in need of that money, as you racked up that bill to get the degrees you needed to land those cushy jobs.

Not only that, you were prioritizing OTHER people’s needs over your own and your own family’s.


If you get in trouble and can’t give that $600/month any more, you won’t be able to help anyone else.

Help yourself first, get out of debt AND THEN be generous.

Lest you think I’m a cold-hearted miser, I followed this rule to the T.

I didn’t donate a penny towards any kind of charity until I myself was out of $60,000 of debt, then I set a rule for myself, saying that for every year that I worked and made money, I would donate a percentage of that to charities that I felt strongly about.


  • Anonymous

    Sheri, there are religious gurus like Dave Ramsey, Terri Savelle Foy, and Joel Osteen who teach that if you donate then God will bless you. I haven’t found this to be true. Personally I think these people are shilling for something. It’s a way to scam religious folks.

    However you don’t need to donate thousands or even hundreds each month to make a difference. A lot of charities are happy to have even $10/month from you like “Feeding America.” Anyway these religious leaders will tell you a story of how they had like an X amount in the bank, and that’s all they had in their bank account, and “God” told them that they had to donate it all to their church, and they did, then they unexpectedly got a check for the amount they gave away.

    Some religious people go as far as saying that God asked them to donate all their money, retirement accounts, bank account money to charity. Then you find out that their church will give them handouts after their donations like a car, or a house to live in, etc. People like the 700 Club also teach that if you give 10% to your church or a Christian organization even in times of debt and need that God will help you get out of poverty.

    They like to quote the bible verse Malachi 3:10 as “proof” that God will rewards his followers financially. There are other bible quotes that they like to use as a way to make their points for tithing. Anyway, I find this type of faith disingenuous as if you can bribe God to bless you, if God even exists.

    Just wanted to explain to you why people donate in debt because it’s encouraged and you seem agnostic/atheist and a lot of times agnostics/atheists don’t understand why religious people do what they do. Not every agnostic/atheist is familiar with how the bible is used to manipulate people.

    I think this religious tithing stuff is all bunk to scam people out of their money through religious means. Anyway, when I think about this crap a certain quote comes to mind:

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

    Lucius Annaeus Seneca

    • Tania

      I listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcast daily and he actually discourages giving when one is getting out of debt (with the exception of a mortgage). That said, I don’t believe in giving to nor am I a follower of organized religion but I do believe there is a benefit to giving to a charitable purpose (i.e. food bank) for the giver (but that benefit is non-monetary) so when Ramsey talks about tithing, it doesn’t bother me. I can also generally apply it to not just donation of money but a donation of one’s time (I’m a regular volunteer). There are some large churches in my area that I understand pass around the plate not once, but multiple times during the service and the church sits on a large plot of land in a building that costs millions. While I do believe in community and fellowship, I also believe group discussions on philosophy and how to be a good person doesn’t need to have a million dollar + permanent home. So, I absolutely agree with you on the church donation perspective.

      Even without the religious affiliation, much of what is discussed on Ramsey’s podcast makes sense to me – frugal living within one’s means, cash flowing large purchases, educating ourselves (rather than just following instructions) about retirement vehicles. He does have some strictly his opinion rants but I take it as that, an opinion – nothing more, nothing less.

  • Irene

    This is an interesting post. I really dislike it when people judge you when you say no to donating money. I live in a neighbourhoor where we get people asking for donations 2/3 times a week. It’s frustrating.

    What are your thoughts about this on a larger scale? For example, Canada’s public debt is astronomical at 1.2 trillion dollars, or about $35,000 for every man, woman and child. And our government spends billions on foreign aid.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      It is not an obligation it is a privilege to have the means to donate your cash. I feel great when I give money, that’s my thing, but to be guilted into it, or to be told it is mandatory, is a whole other ballgame.

      So I am really not a fan of debt, period. Any country being in debt is a bad thing for me. On the one hand, I would like to say: No, let’s try and be more spendthrift and SAVE OUR CASH to have no debt, but on the other hand, we are far richer just living in poverty in Canada than many people in other countries fleeing war, just trying to get basics and to LIVE.

      I’m torn.

      Governments in general are tricky businesses. I hate how inefficient they are. SO much red tape. Bureaucracy. Corruption… so how much of it is really debt from THAT, versus debt from actual needs being covered? That’s where we start to wade into grey waters.

      I also know that without foreign aid, other countries would not survive and we are in a better position relatively to help them as a whole, or a mass of folks who can shoulder that burden. Individually however, I say no to charitable giving if you aren’t able to do so.

      Still.. I guess to those who are in debt who still want to give money, they could take your point about Canada giving money anyway as a country, and take some credit in that? –sigh–

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