Make 2013 The Year You Step Outside Your Own World and Do for Others

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai. Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans, where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.
If you look at most people’s New Year’s Resolutions, they are extremely self-centered.

My guess is that the top two resolutions are to get in shape/lose weight and to gain a handle on finances, whether that means making more money or paying down debt.  These resolutions are about me, me, me.

Unfortunately, most people fail within the first month or two of making resolutions, yet they continue making the same ones every year.  As Dr. Phil says, “If you keep doing what you are doing, you are going to keep getting the same results.”  Instead, why not make 2013 the year you reach outside yourself and give willingly to others?  You may be surprised by the difference it can make in your life.

Giving Is Selfish, but It Benefits Both Parties

I read another blogger say that volunteering and donating are selfish acts.  I had to do a double take and re-read the line, but after some consideration, I had to admit that he is right. Volunteering and donating are selfish acts because we enjoy the way we feel when we do something good for others.
However, these so called selfish acts come with benefits on both sides.
Every year, Jacob bikes for MS.  Sure, he enjoys biking and donating to charity, but the MS Foundation also benefits from the donations he is able to raise.  Essentially, both sides benefit. If you have a boat that you no longer use, you can donate it. The organization that accepts the boat will sell it at auction and give the money to a pre-approved charity. In return, you not only receive the satisfaction of knowing that your generosity helped those in need, but also a tax receipt in the amount for which the boat sold. This is a true win-win situation because your donation provides everyone involved with some benefits.

Giving Cultivates Gratitude

There is something about volunteering and donating that can change your own behavior.
For years, my husband and I had talked about sponsoring a child through World Vision, but we were never sure if we had the money to do so.  This year, even though we have debt, we decided to sponsor a child who is 8 years old, just like our son, and born on the same day as our son.
Two amazing things happened.  First, my son, who is never really good about doing his chores even though they are attached to monetary payments, suddenly started doing them regularly because he wanted to use some of his money to help sponsor the boy, Janvier.  Now, he regularly donates about $5 to $10 to help pay the monthly sponsorship fee.
Second, my work, which I had been hoping to increase, suddenly increased and continues to do so.  It is almost like by opening our purse strings a bit and giving, the world gave us more.   (Of course, I am not saying there is a correlation or that this will happen to everyone, but many people speak of this phenomenon.  As they give, they get more in return.)  While initially we weren’t sure we could afford the monthly sponsorship fee, we now know that we can.
Giving can change your life, largely because you step outside yourself.  Humans tend to be very self-centered, and by doing for others, you often realize how good you have it.  While you might bemoan the fact that you “only” have $300 to spend on Christmas gifts, if you take the time to donate a basket of food to a needy family, you will see how grateful they are.  Suddenly, the $300 you have seems like more than enough.
It is easy to get caught in the trap of envying those who have more than you, especially if you watch television and see the lavish lifestyles others lead.  However, if you look at your own life, you will see that you probably have more than enough.

Donate and Volunteer As You Can

If you are looking to make a difference by donating or volunteering, you don’t have to make a commitment for years as we did with our sponsored child.  Instead, you can choose one time donations such as donating some of your extra dry goods to the local food pantry or serving in a soup kitchen one day.  Make it a goal to do one act of good at least every month.
As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “We’re put here on this earth to share and to help each other. . .and nothing I will ever do – or you or anybody else that’s generous – will give you as much pleasure as you get when you look in the mirror just before you turn off the light and say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m making a difference.'” (Christian Science Monitor).
You may find that as you step outside yourself, your own financial issues begin to resolve themselves.
How about you all? Do you volunteer or donate regularly?  What has been your experience?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of


  1. Such a great point! I currently deliver meals once a month to some shut ins and less fortunate. It is so much more rewarding than doing anything for myself. My best friend has committed to making care packages for the homeless throughout the year. These things will make a difference in someone's life and hopefully they are things we will stick too. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

    Your son sounds amazing! How wonderful that at that age he would be willing to give his hard-earned money to help out someone in need! I enjoy volunteering myself and used to volunteer with St. Thomas Soup Kitchen in New York when I was living there. Even though there were plenty of Saturdays I didn't want to get up early our go out in the cold, it was always worth it in the end. Now I'm living in another city and desparately looking for another volunteer opportunity because I've found that I can't feel compeltely happy or fulfilled unless I'm giving back in some way. It's not a feeling I expected to have at all and I'm amazed to see how much those years at the soup kitchen (plus volunteering with my grandparents as a child) really changed me in that way.
    My recent post Top Personal Finance Blogs of 2012

    • Shannon–What a great lesson your grandparents taught you that you have carried through life!
      My recent post Freezer Cooking, Gluten Free, Dairy Free Style

  3. Those are great activities. I think giving of yourself generally makes you happier, too.
    My recent post Tuna Noodle Casserole – Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free

  4. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

    I have a post tomorrow about the same topic. Even if you are still in debt, there are free ways to help, you can volunteer your time and skills. And yes, it does feel good, and builds social capital, chances are you will benefit a lot from giving.

    My recent post What You Need to Know When Buying a Car

  5. krantcents says:

    Last year, I started volunteering and still make donations too. I found giving my time was much more rewarding and I will add more time this year.
    My recent post How to Prepare for 2013 or Any Year!

  6. Krantcents–What kind of volunteering did you do? With little kids, we haven't had much time to volunteer, but we plan to do so when the kids get older.
    My recent post Tuna Noodle Casserole – Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free

  7. Melissa, great post! We too sponsor through World Vision. It's helped our kids understand just how blessed we are to live in America. Volunteering at the local food shelf or soup kitchen, as well as at great organizations like Feed My Starving Children, are also ways we can help without spending much money, but instead giving of time, if you're on a tight budget.
    My recent post Motivation: Learning From Others

  8. Laurie–Excellent points. My son already has new perspective on how blessed he is, and we have only been donating for a few months. Our plan, once the debt is paid off, is to sponsor a child for each of our girls, too.
    My recent post Freezer Cooking, Gluten Free, Dairy Free Style

  9. I donate items regularly. I volunteer as able regularly. And I have started a giving project this year, where I'm doing something nice for someone else (stranger, family member or friend) each day this year and writing about it.

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