By Rachel Cruze
No matter what your holiday plans look like, one thing most people can agree on is that giving is a huge part of the Christmas season. And it’s fun to think about our own wish lists, of course. But somehow, it’s even more fun to give and be extra generous during this special time. But here’s the thing: Generosity shouldn’t just be a priority at Christmas. What if we committed to being generous so often that it actually became a habit—something we naturally do all the time?
Growing up as Dave Ramsey’s daughter, my parents taught me the importance of giving from a very early age. In fact, one of my favorite memories from my middle school years (and trust me, there were many—I’m a 90s kid) is the time my dad gave me a unique opportunity to participate in outrageous generosity. My sister, Denise, and I were watching TV one Saturday morning when my dad came in and said, “All right, girls! You’re going to do something a little different today.”
He then handed each of us a massive envelope full of cash and said Denise and I were going to take two teenage girls shopping. He explained that he’d already made a phone call to a local outreach program and set it up. I wish I could say we were instantly on board and ready to serve, but that was not the case. I mean, we were teenagers after all, and we didn’t even know these girls! Honestly, it sounded kind of awkward.
We jumped in the car anyway and headed to pick up our shopping buddies for the day. Once we got to the mall, we pulled fun pieces for them to try on, swapped out sizes while they were in the fitting rooms, and had so much fun. It felt like we were in our own episode of an early 2000s makeover show.
Eventually, we made it to the cash register. As we handed the employee our wads of cash to pay for their items, one of the girls started crying. I’ll never forget that moment. She looked at us through tears and said, “I just can’t believe this is my life right now. I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you.”
Looking back, that experience was super formational for me as a 13-year-old kid. At the time, I remember feeling pretty out of my comfort zone, but I’m thankful my parents gently pushed me to do something new because it ultimately laid the foundation for a lifelong love of giving. And today, I can honestly say that giving is one of the main reasons I choose to live a debt-free lifestyle. Generosity motivates me to be smart with my money so that I have more to bless others with.
And you know what else? This act of generosity helped us grow closer as a family because it was a team effort! My parents gave up something they had (money), and Denise and I gave up something we had (time). Not only did I get to share quality time with my older sister and our new friends, but I also got to practice being a good steward of resources that were never mine to begin with. And isn’t that what generosity is really about? Not just during the holidays, but all the time.
I hope this little memory inspires you this holiday season. But what I really want is for you to take the spirit of giving into the new year and beyond.
And don’t forget, money isn’t the only thing you have to offer! You can give your time, talents, possessions and so much more to make someone’s load a little lighter. Here are three steps to help you make generosity a habit all year.
- Make a commitment. Decide that you’re ready to get serious about making some sacrifices and invite people in your life to partner with you.
- Do some brainstorming. Make a list of non-money “gifts” you can be generous with, like a professional skill that can serve someone else or a knack for hosting and hospitality.
- Balance your budget. Create realistic margin in your monthly budget so you have the funds to fuel your giving habits.
The practice of giving takes intentional thought and preparation, so start with these simple steps today. And hear my heart on this: You don’t have to immediately start giving away huge envelopes of money like my dad did, but I hope you choose to believe that generosity is possible at any income level.
* Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people to avoid debt, save money, budget and how to win with money at any stage in life. Follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at rachelcruze.com.