By Matthew Unthank, University of Missouri
Giving away money is a horrifying concept for many college students. Through student loans, grocery shopping, utility bills and rent, sectioning off part of your budget as charitable giving seems absurd. However, this may possibly be the most important segment of your financial plan to include. It may sound counterintuitive, but giving away your two most valuable resources – time and money – is perhaps the best investment you can make.
I only started intentionally giving a couple of years ago. When my best friend hit a deer with his car and no longer had a way to get to his job, I stepped in, driving him to and from Texas Roadhouse and unintentionally cultivating a desire for helping others. Whereas at one point I sought praise or reimbursement for my troubles, instead I began driving others more, helping pay for meals, assisting friends with various tasks and more, purely out of a yearning to support others.
It’s funny to think that selfless giving would gain you anything other than a bit more stress on a tighter budget, but there are some very real benefits to budgeting some of your time and money specifically for helping others. An intentional investment in others can lead to an unintentional investment in yourself, particularly within the follow categories:
Happiness in relation to sacrificial giving has been well-documented by psychologists from around the world. According to a study from Nature Communications, when we sacrifice our own resources to help others, our brains “provide a neural mechanism that links commitment-induced generosity to happiness.” This link is known as the “warm glow,” and it has been found to be a universal phenomenon, emerging in 120 of the 136 countries tested for it. Additionally, a separate study performed in Germany showed that those “who never volunteer report, on average, the lowest scores of life satisfaction.” In giving up my own resources to benefit those around me, I had unknowingly made an investment towards overall well-being.
Other than the boost to happiness, generosity can have other beneficial impacts on your health. Research from Carnegie Mellon University has found that those who volunteer more “decrease their risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, by 40 percent.” Stress levels also decrease the more generous you are. Additionally, another study has found that those who were more generous even had a lower mortality risk, with a concurring study stating that generous people reduced their risk of dying by half. All of this is good news for the world, since it means that, on average, those who are more willing to help others are going to be around for a longer time.
The final bullet point seems obvious: if you help someone, they’re bound to like you a bit more. And this doesn’t just stop with friends. Marriage and family therapist Linda Carroll explains that generosity is the most important factor in a successful marriage. Further research supports this idea, explaining that kindness and generosity keep marriages together, while contempt pulls them apart. Additionally, if you just so happen to be looking for an excuse to be a kind employee, generosity in the workplace boosts productivity; members who feel more appreciative will be more inclined to offer ideas and take constructive feedback.
I hope that these bullet points are motivation towards your altruistic goals. It’s not easy to justify giving away much of anything in college when your mind is focused on classes and your wallet is focused on bills. However, I implore you to find those small snippets of time and try using them to benefit others.
One of the easiest ways to get started is through meeting up with a friend for lunch. If you can afford it, purchase their lunch or swipe them in with your college meal plan. Buying their lunch and giving them your time by intentionally listening to them and what they have to say will make them feel extremely valued. Besides, you have to eat anyways. What better way to use that time than to make someone feel cared about?
Matthew Unthank is a junior studying business journalism at the University of Missouri.