It’s unwise to give beyond your means

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  • Over generous: don't give more than you have

    Over generous: don't give more than you have

Dear Dave,

My wife and I are debt-free except for our home, and weíre on Baby Steps 4 and 5. Recently, we were asked to make a large donation to a charity we already support. We donít have the full cash amount they asked for on hand, and after hearing that, they said we could make monthly instalment payments until the donation amount was paid in full. Weíre hesitant to do this because it seems a bit like debt to us. What do you think?

ó Ben

Dear Ben,

Well, itís not debt. There would be no repercussions, other than guilt, if you couldnít make the full donation. So, itís not debt. To be honest though, I donít engage in that kind of stuff when it comes to giving.

My wife and I do all our giving ó except for our tithe to our local church ó through our family foundation. Sometimes weíll do this giving in a couple of instalments, but itís not because we donít have the money. Itís generally a situation where weíre walking with the charity or ministry throughout the year, and weíre observing and assessing the need.

Iíd be hesitant to give a gift when I donít have the money. Most of the time, approaches like this fall under the heading of manipulation. Youíre being pushed beyond your means. Most giving of this type, biblically speaking, would be from surplus. And right now, you donít have the surplus.

Iím kind of uncomfortable with this, Ben. I donít engage in making gift promises beyond what I have. Itís not debt, but it kind of starts to feel like it, and itís not so much living beyond your means as it is giving beyond your means. Thatís just another reason it doesnít strike the right chord with me.

ó Dave


Dear Dave,

I am 18 years old and homeschooled. I want to continue my education this fall, and my dad works at a college near our home. I would get free tuition, but thereís another college farther from home that I like just as much ó but itís more expensive. On the plus side, it is a Christian school, and my faith is important to me. What do you think I should do?

ó Braden

Dear Braden,

Free tuition is a major plus in my book. At the same time, I can understand your desire to get out from under mom and dadís wings a little bit. Just donít make the mistake of thinking that a school, church or anything else is completely Christian. Youíll meet some of the wildest characters ever at a Christian school, just like you would at a public university. However, you would have the advantage of a built-in spiritual support network.

All things considered, and since you mentioned your faith specifically, Iíd probably choose the Christian school. But I wouldnít go into debt to make it happen. Thereís absolutely no reason why you canít work and go to school at the same time. Pay it as you go. I did it, and I finished with good grades in four years. Itís a little bit harder way to go, but itís a lot better than ending up with a ton of student loan debt when youíre through!

ó Dave

Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven bestselling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 12 million listeners each week on 575 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey

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Published Apr 22, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 21, 2017 at 8:43 pm)

It’s unwise to give beyond your means

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