I don't know anyone who doesn't have money problems at one time or another. And I don't know anyone who has not had debt issues. But what I see weekly doing volunteer work is an issue that must be addressed by our "giving networks."
I volunteer at a church based program that I admit does more screening that any that I have ever been involved with before. I am very proud to be associated with such people and with a thoughtful set of guidelines. Each person that benefits is given a timeline of when they can come again and is required to re-submit their spending habits each time they come. They may only benefit every 60 days and it is amazing how things can change in that amount of time.
I meet with many people that I know will not be able to make it through the month without help of some kind. People that are struggling regularly and there seems to be no end in sight. And for the majority I do not see an end in sight. So what am I seeing as just a little spark of light at the end of the tunnel - budget training.
We all have to do it, no matter what we call it. We all know it we want something we must either save for it or if we get "this" what are we willing to do without? Or is it all of us? This problem is again falling under the topic of entitlement that we have talked about before. Many of us still believe that if we want something we should have it. And if that means we have debt, so be it. Or if that means we borrow money, so be it. Many of the people I see are caught up in the cash advance places and never get caught up. Or spend vast amount of time running from charity to charity, using more gas and resources than the working class does.
I do not care much what anyone has or does not have consumer-wise, until they ask me to pay for it. Directly or indirectly we all pay for each others consumer choices through charity organizations. Someone makes an unwise decision and the rest of us pay out either through taxes, national debt or charitable giving.
There are times when I have definitely been without money and it is not fun. But I was aware that people who are on minimal income may not have certain things and remain to be considered responsible. So I feel the suggestions that I make are valid through experience.
When I had minimal money or my money came from the government there were certain things I could not allow myself in good conscience. I could not permit myself to have cable or Internet. When I could afford Internet I had to control myself to only have the minimum, in case an emergency could change my finances again. I am not against cable or Internet and I know that with children it can be important. But the minimum that can last is better than the max, that will be gone in a few months. Personally I cannot OK cable in my home, so I have an antennae and minimum Internet. This took me 30 years of living on my own to afford. Before that I satisfied myself with Internet at the library. And TV has always had to be the first thing to go in money crisis. Until HDTV comes, an antennae offers a free alternative, after the initial cost, and offers a variety of local and PBS stations. This also has taught me to use the Off Button and learn to do other activities.
Next I could not allow myself to spend grocery money on cigarettes, coffee, goodies, pop, or eating out. These are privileges of eating healthy first. Very often I would go through the month buying food that was nutritionally needed, and then at the end of the month if there was any money left that could be spent on coffee or other treats it would be purchased for the following month. So I had to pay for such commodities in what was left over, not from the beginning of the month.
Eating out I found was the hobby of the working. But I also soon found that eating out, ate much of my paycheck. An easy alternative was to take a non-perishable lunch or to skip lunch for efficiency. Not only did this save food money, but also gasoline in the forging, time in the decision making and keep me out of the relentless office hobby of "what do we want to eat today?" Such practical practices also can work great on weight control and the time can be spent reading, etc if I worked in an office where lunch time was mandatory.
Did I ever have any fun or spend any money? Yes, I did, eventually. And then I was able to appreciate my decisions. Would eating out mean that I could not save to got to that play next month? Than not eating out was worth it. Did not picking up that burrito, as a quick fix, mean I could have coffee with a friend this month? Than no burrito. If I went without goodies, could I buy something pertaining to a hobby? And most important - if I saved some back, could I maintain my standard of living in a health crisis?
These were all hard lessons to learn, yet today I value them greatly. Why can't we teach these to clients of charitable organizations? Why can't we say - if you give up 1/2 the cable, you could eat - do that and we will help you this month and you won't need us next month? Give up cigarettes and pop and you can attend a concert or play or invest in a hobby. Yes, you may benefit from our services this month, but to continue you must join our budgeting class. And what if after the budget classes, if improvement is not shown, sanction can be visited on the client. And no charitable organization may function without screening, including soup kitchens. If you are sanctioned in one place, all the other organizations uphold it.
We don't do this partly because of fear. Sometimes people are demanding. Will we seem mean, or impolite? Will we not be considered "giving"? Look at these questions, they are ego driven. If we are to change lives through charitable organizations than we must take chances in reputation. Chances that say, no, we do not want you to continue living this way - for your sake.
The other reason this is hard to do is the cross referencing of organizations through computer database or regular communication. And there needs to be found a way to do this, without having to hire a consultant etc. Ask the secretaries, they know the ins and outs of the clients, and the best tips of improvement.
Lots of angry people? Sure. A chance that someday there will be less charitable organizations needed. I think so. Now I just have to "sell" this idea to "good Christians and giving people."