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It’s been a month and a bit since I started Money Experiment 5: The Art of giving £1 a day. My goal with this experiment was to give away £1 a day to charity, strangers, the homeless, etc, in an attempt to understand the effects of giving away money and what it would make me feel.
I’m not going to lie it kind of fizzled out at the end (explanation why at the bottom), but I am proud to say I properly gave away £30 without expecting anything in return! And I really had to get out of my comfort zone: talking to random strangers, being uncommonly generous and constantly looking for ways to give money (not the commonest of things). I was more aware of how little I normally give away, and it was quite a mindset change to be actively generous.
My small acts of money kindness included: giving to the homeless, buying a girl a drink, paying forward 2 cakes, buying snacks for shop assistants, giving to a GoFundMe account and to a Patreon page. I recorded some of them through the twitter hashtag #moneykindness (oh yes I have my own hashtag) if you want to check the deets:
Here are my top takeaways from actively being generous and giving £1 a day.
1. Giving away money feels like I have more of it
Even though it was just pennies, putting away money in the charity boxes did make me feel like I had more of an abundance. And it makes sense: by giving money I’m subconsciously telling myself that I have enough to give away, that I have enough money to not have to spend it on myself. Interesting way of making yourself feel rich without being rich (is that good or bad?).
The only annoying thing was having to take out cash through an ATM each time (#mobilepaymentplease). I would have probably donated more if I could just swipe my debit card at a charity till instead of coins (charities are you hearing this???)
2. You can really make someone’s day
This is what I really enjoyed about this experiment: making someone else happy. I bought a little chocolate cookie with my salad at the University cafe and went up to the till to pay. Once paid I simply gave the cookie to the shopkeeper and asked her if she could give it to someone else. She was really surprised and asked who. In the end I just said ‘Well, you can have it’. She got really cute and happy and said thank you. Pretty sure that made her day, and it definitely made mine.
I did that again to a different shopkeeper and this one just said ‘oh, thanks’. At first I was disappointed but then I remembered I’m supposed to ‘give without expecting anything in return’, and so I got over it (discipline guys).
What amused me was that each time I gave away money as a product (cakes, cookies) the shopkeeper would say ‘You know you can have them, right? They’re yours’. Like of course I know I can have them, but I WANT to give them away. It surprised people so much they thought someone was forcing me to be nice. What’s up with that??
Interesting observation, and I don’t really know what to make of it.
3. There’s more satisfaction giving away to someone than a charity box
As I said in point 2, receiving gratitude for my act of kindness is what made me the happiest. When you give it to someone, you get a nice ‘thank you’ and a smile. When you put it in a charity box you get the noise of a coin dropping. It’s easy to guess which one is more satisfying.
Not that I’m discouraging anyone to put in a charity box, but it’s just interesting how interpersonal giving will increase my happiness/satisfaction than a simple box. But does it mean that I am more likely to give to a person rather than a box? Honestly, no. In the UK there are little charity boxes at every till in every supermarket, making it very easy to drop any spare change in (good marketing tactic guys). And so it’s much easier to drop a few coins in than getting out of your comfort zone and giving someone a chocolate bar.
I still have to say that giving to a person not only made me happier, but also increased the chances of me getting something in return (remember ‘give and you shall receive’). After buying a drink for this random girl at a bar she got so happy that she bought me one (so I effectively bought myself a drink but with double the happiness).
Just something to keep in mind…
4. It is NOT a waste of money
Contrary to popular belief and to what all my friends and family think, I am not wasting my money by giving it away (thanks everyone who said ‘well just give ME the money’). Even if the money I give away isn’t put to proper use, I indirectly increased my own happiness. What I’m saying is that buying someone a coffee or a drink is more likely to increase my happiness than buying myself one (this is statistically proven. Check the book Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending). And even more if it’s a shared experience: buying yourself and your friend a drink and then sitting and having a chat.
When I give away money, I’m indirectly spending money which makes me happier, and I get to make someone else happy too if it’s interpersonal. Pretty great huh?
5. It becomes a habit
This one was unexpected. When I started the experiment I kept looking for ways to give away my money, which meant my eyes and ears were constantly open, looking for some innovative way to impose my generosity. Whenever I saw the charity boxes at a till, it became a habit to drop in some extra change. The interesting thing is that I stopped the interpersonal giving and just kept putting the coins in charity boxes. You know what that meant? My overall satisfaction from giving away money decreased because I didn’t see the direct effects of my generosity. And so the money giving fizzled away because I soon stopped seeing the point.
It’s a very interesting observation, and I think companies could take advantage of this by using more interpersonal (between strangers, not with a hired employee) contact to encourage more donations. Just a thought.
Lessons and final thoughts
This experiment taught me how little we practice giving away money as a society. Between everyone telling me ‘You know you don’t have to!’ to how getting out of the habit of dropping coins, we obviously don’t give away enough. It also taught me that interpersonal generosity is what increases the most happiness and is actually a great way to spend money.
So is the whole ‘give and you shall receive’ thing true? Yes. When you give something, you receive happiness (or beer hehe). And we can all agree happiness is so much better than anything material. Kindness is an exercise, and the more you do it the more kind you automatically are. Not only will this make you happier, but it will help you view people and society in a more positive light. Whether it’s actively being kind to a stranger or just giving to charity, being kind has no negatives.
In honour of this experiment and of a beautiful thing called humanity, I want to continue giving at least once a week, whether it’s a large sum or just £1, something is better than nothing. I will continue updating my #moneykindness Twitter hashtag, and I encourage you to join me. Making someone’s day is a gift we all have.