Gotta Give It Up, by Matt

Having margin in your finances--space between how much you spend and how much you make--is a huge part of being an effective giver. Unfortunately, margin doesn't seem to be in our country's vocabulary these days. According to recent statistics from the Federal Reserve and a 2012 survey conducted by Rasmussen, the average American household owes $7,281 in credit card debt and around 50% of those surveyed in the 2012 study admitted to spending more than they make several months per year. Ironically though, U.S. citizens donated more money in 2013 than any other nation in the world (around $335 billion according to a Giving USA 2014 report). We are the most giving country, yet we're also among the most indebted. To be clear, I am a big believer in generosity and using it to meet needs and drive social change. However, if we have no margin with our money, we lose opportunities to make a difference and a legacy. As one of my favorite authors Dave Ramsey says, "You must gain control of your money, or the lack of it will always control you."

If there's one thing we can each do to help turn the tide on the direction our culture is headed, it is to get our financial house in order. The more margin you can discipline yourself to create in your finances, the less dependent you are on the government for your success, and the more you are able to reduce your own stress and help others. Though it is fun to spend money on things we don't need, the truth is peace that comes from not having to worry about money, and the freedom of having excess to meet the needs of others is about as fun as it gets. I challenge you to try it sometime--whether it be giving money to a family in need (without them asking), leaving a 100% tip after excellent service at a restaurant, or even purchasing something that supports a cause you believe in.

I've heard it said that the opposite of discontent is generosity. I have found that to be true in my own life. The reason is because discontent comes from focusing on yourself. Generosity flips that around and causes you to focus on others. As a result, your perspective dramatically changes for the better. As any psychologist will tell you, perspective is everything. Making a difference for someone else yields great joy to the point that you begin to realize that you aren't the only one that life throws challenges at.  It's like drinking a glass of water when you don't realize how dehydrated you are. It brings life to your soul!

So if you find yourself stretched thin financially, stressed out, resentful or apathetic
towards others because of your circumstances, the answer is to find a way to take the focus off of yourself. Make it a point to either volunteer some time, or look for a need within your reach to meet. You'll be glad you did, and it will start the process of your finding margin in your life. It just might change someone else's perspective on their circumstances, too!