At first glance, there are only two things you can do with money: Save it or spend it. But human beings are inventive, so we also hoard, squander, bury and waste it. On the flip side we also invest it, save it for some future purpose or emergency, and give some of it to charity. There is also a subset of people who give money little thought because they have too little or too much of it.
In fact there are all sorts of things we can do with our money, and no shortage of people who are happy to tell us what to do with it.
I received advice on the use of money at an early age – before my first paycheck. It was not so much in the words I received but in the actions I observed. Money, I learned, is to be used responsibly. Specific guidelines are unnecessary when the intent is clear.
The lesson was borne out in many dealings during my lifetime. I've found that the most financially successful and admirable people I know are generous and charitable with their money. Giving is a joy, not an obligation, especially when the use of money is an expression of gratitude.
For instance, we enjoy Acadia National Park and Historic Williamsburg because of the generosity of the Rockefellers who passed it down to us. Similarly, the financial sacrifices a parent or grandparent makes for a younger generation is a source of pride for the giver and inspiration for the recipient.
It's the size of the heart, not the size of the gift, that makes a lasting impression. Remember the story of the poor widow in Scriptures who gave everything she had – a widow's mite, a pittance – yet her selfless act is an enduring model of stewardship.
There are those of us who check our bank statements several times a day, and others (as many as a third of us, according to some studies!) who never open our monthly bank statements. We should be somewhere in between if we intend to be responsible with our money and recognize the difference between our wants and needs, and those of the people around us.
In the lessons of my youth, validated during my lifetime, there is always money for charitable purposes when we are truthful about our physical and spiritual needs.