This article about waning college donations from debt-laden graduates is hardly news to me. Many days I find both student loan bills and donation solicitations from my alma mater in the mail. Of course I want to give back, but cutting that check is a hard pill to swallow in the face debt. What’s a recent grad to do?
Pragmatically, there is no financial reason to donate to anybody as while your young and encumbered by debt. If you take claim the standard deduction on your income taxes, you cannot deduct your donation, and even if you itemize, your donation would have to be pretty substantial to add up to a significant tax savings. Assuming you’re paying down debts—and especially if your debts include credit card debt—that money is unquestionably better used for paying that debt down.
An so the question of whether to give – back to your college or to any cause, for that matter – becomes a personal one.
And let’s face it, fundraisers at your school know that neither you nor your classmates are going to provide the next couple mil to build a new residence hall. In fact, they would probably be happy if you gave $20. It probably won’t even cover the amount they spend mailing you stuff all year, but it gets you in the habit of giving. (So when you bank a pretty penny, you might get the itch to put your name on a building).
So perhaps the question you should ask yourself: Do I want to get in the habit of giving?
It’s an easier question to say “yes” to than: Can I afford to give?
And if so, it might be worth setting aside $5 or $10 a month to send to your alma mater or a charity you admire.
Not to say you should feel bad for holding off. There’s no question you will be a more valuable donor once you build your net worth. And if you feel like giving back in the meantime, volunteering is a great way to contribute without spending a penny.
Now I’m curious: Do you give to your school or another charity even though you’re in debt?