A Readers Challenge - Christmas Giving


For the second straight year, Mrs. T and I decided to help out a family in need by providing a Christmas meal for the family and toys for the kids. We both feel this is a small gesture we can do to help out people in our community. Through a local charity, our family was matched with a single-mother family with a 7 year young daughter this year. After learning what the family wished for, we got a gift card from a local grocery store for the Christmas meal and some craft toys and a dress for the little girl.

Yesterday we drove for half an hour to drop off the gifts. Because it was pouring rain outside, only Mrs. T got out of the car to drop off the gifts and I stayed in the car with Baby T.

After about 10 minutes, Mrs. T came back to the car, eyes a bit teary and slightly choked up. I knew something was up.

"How was it?"

"I feel so fortunate that we can help out. I talked to the mom briefly while dropping off everything. The dad had passed away last year and the mom got laid off work about a month ago. The family was forced to move out of their house. They were very lucky to find a cheap place to rent. The mom was not sure how she could afford any Christmas presents for her little girl this year. She was very grateful and the little girl put the presents underneath the Christmas tree right away..."

"Wow that's hard... is there something else we can help them with?"

Both of us were happy our little gesture has provided tremendous joy for this particular family. It brought smiles to my face to think that we've made a difference in someone else's life.

Writing a personal finance blog and focusing on becoming financially free in our 40's (in roughly 10-15 years) have conditioned both Mrs. T and I to think about finance and investing regularly. We have a frugal lifestyle, we live below our means, we try to save as much as possible, and invest money that we saved. We often hear people with high income living pay cheque to pay cheque and wonder what these people are doing differently since they are not headed toward early retirement. However, we sometimes forget that people are struggling financially because of things got out of their control. Yesterday's experience is a reminder. The family is in this unfortunate financial situation because bad things that are out of their control happened. I think it's extremely important for all of us to reflect on our lives and be appreciative and be grateful. Personal finance bloggers often pay close attention to savings rate, net worth, and passive income. We try to do better and better over time to improve our financial lives. While we may have many different reasons to reach financial independence, when analyzed, we just wanted to create better lives for ourselves by having more freedom and options in life. Because we pay so close attention to these financial factors, we sometimes forget that we're doing quite well already. Driving back home, both Mrs. T and I talked about how we feel extremely fortunate to be where we are in life - we're doing well financially, receiving dividend income each month for doing nothing at all, our net worth has increased by ~300% in 4 years, and we're on track to receive over $10,000 in dividend income in 2015.

Mrs. T has been reading Living the Wisdom of the Tao: The Complete Tao Te Ching and Affirmations by Dr. Wayne Dyer lately. Interestingly, she happened to read a chapter about giving last night which she read to me before I fell asleep.

All the world talks about my Tao with such familiarity – what a folly!
The Tao is not something found at the marketplace or passed on from father to son.
It is not something gained by knowing or lost by forgetting.
If the Tao were like this, it would have been lost and forgotten long ago.
I have three treasures, which I hold fast and watch closely.
The first is mercy.
The second is frugality.
The third is humility.
From mercy comes courage.
From frugality comes generosity.
From humility comes leadership.
Now if one were bold but had no mercy, if one were broad but were not frugal, if one went ahead without humility, one would die.
Love vanquishes all attackers, it is impregnable in defense.
When heaven wants to protect someone, does it send an army?
No it protects him with love.

Dr. Wayne Dyer interpreted the teaching as that being satisfied with less rather than more will result in great generosity. So we all need to be willing to take only what we need. There's no need to accumulate unnecessary items. We should not be attached to our stuff. If we can do that, we can be more generous to others. The more we cling onto our stuff, the more we feel that we need them. When we do this, the less concerned we will be with the welfare of others around you. We all should learn to see the hidden strength of simplicity and humility in everyone around us.

If you are reading this blog, I would assume that you're doing OK financially and you're trying to make your financial life even better. Like us, you're probably striving to achieve financial independence early in your life. Perhaps we are guilty focusing too much of our time on ourselves? Perhaps we need to step back from time to time, to realize that we're doing well, and instead focus on how we can help and serve others in need. We all need to realize that we are part of the community and that there are more important things in our lives than becoming financially independent. No matter where we are on our journey to financial independence, I truly believe it's important to reflect and help people in need.

So, dear readers, I would like to challenge you to provide a helping hand to a family in need in your community this Christmas season (or being politically correct, this holidays season). Let's all step outside of our comfort zone, donate money, donate food, donate your time, or even better, do it face to face and help out people in need in your community. If we can all do this, we can make this world a better place.

On a side note... hearing this story further enhanced the importance of having sufficient amount of life insurance coverage. We just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. We must make sure our loved ones are covered if the unthinkable were to happen...

So when you are enjoying your Christmas dinner this year, feel good that you also helped someone else to have a wonderful time with their family, that might not have been possible without your help. So I challenge readers of this blog to provide a helping hand this Christmas and make this a tradition. So every year you will extend your help further and further because you can financially. I believe it is our duty to do so 🙂

PS In case you're wondering about the picture, it's a card the little girl made for us.

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  • Reply
    Team CF
    December 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Well done you. We are actually preparing our own little thing as well.
    Have a great Christmas (or Holiday - you pick) season!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Team CF,

      Great that you're preparing your own little thing as well.

  • Reply
    The Broke Dividend Investor
    December 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm


    I like going to a small diner late at night and ordering hash browns, bacon, toast, eggs, and pancakes. When I leave I tip $100. I do this 5x in december (once a week) at random small diners.

    • Reply
      December 14, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Hi The Broker Dividend Investor,

      Hmmm that's an interesting concept. Personally I would like to give someone in need rather than just giving in random though. 🙂

  • Reply
    Generation YRA
    December 14, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    This is so wonderful - and so much along the lines of my Flexible Philanthropy Fund post. It's true, this community strives to focus on bettering their financial situation as well as their families' & who they care for. But along that journey, it's also important to stop and spontaneously take care of those in our communities where life took a turn unexpectedly. I accept your challenge! Thank you for encouraging others to do so as well. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Hi Generation YRA,

      We allocate a certain percentage of our income for giving purposes. I think that's probably similar to your Flexible Philanthropy Fund. Thanks you for accepting the challenge.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I LOVE this. My girls pick out a name from the Giving Tree that is someone their age and they get so excited to pick out the perfect gift for them! They think about it a lot and we go shopping. It's great to see them care that much and focus on giving. This is a great challenge. I accept it! Merry Christmas!

    • Reply
      December 14, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Maggie,

      Very neat about the Giving Tree. Thank you for accepting the challenge. Let's help someone in need this Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    What a lovely post Tawcan, it made me a bit teary reading it!

    We too have a 'Giving Tree' at work, donating gifts to the local women's refuge, which provides somewhere safe for women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse. The tags on the tree have info such as "27 year old, would like hair products or toiletries" or "5 year old boy, loves trucks and diggers" so an appropriate gift can be purchased.

    I donate to charity throughout the year but am painfully aware that I do not do near enough. I used to volunteer at a local school to assist kids with reading but work got in the way unfortunately.

    Helping out financially is probably the way to go for me and I fully intend to open a charity account so that I can donate a lot more regularly.

    Thanks for the timely reminder of how lucky we are.

    • Reply
      December 14, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Hi weenie,

      The Giving Tree is a good one, it's odd we don't do that at work. I think giving more personal description and reasons why you are donating always helps with the cause. We donate to various charity throughout the year too but this helping a family for Christmas is something we started last year. Plan to keep doing it in the future. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dividend Hustler
    December 14, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing Tawcan. Glad you guys are giving back to the community. I respect that.
    As with everything, we are all connected. Karma comes back. Let's do our best to be the best so we can help others. Giving / donating / helping others makes us feel great so why not keep doing it to make us feel awesome.
    Just the last 2 weeks, I've given out over 600 dollars worth of chocolates, (Ferrero Roche) and another 400 worth of gift cards. It's nice as I can write it off for the business so it's win win. Gotta give so you can receive. It's the circle of life bud.
    I wish your family have a wonderful weeks ahead. Happy holiday bud.

    • Reply
      December 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Dividend Hustler,

      Karma definitely comes back. What you give out will return back to you. Kudos to you for giving out $1k worth of stuff the last 2 weeks. It's great to be able to provide the helping hand.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2015 at 5:19 am

    What a great gesture. Pay it forward, random act of kindness, whatever you like to call them, always so nice to be able to impact someone life directly. Well done guys!

    • Reply
      December 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks Brian. Hope you can do the same.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2015 at 5:51 am

    I know sometimes I get so consumed with my finances and getting out of debt that I forget about the people around me. Thanks for the reminder that this world doesn't revolve around me 🙂

    • Reply
      December 15, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Ernie,

      Great to hear you liked the piece and reminder.

  • Reply
    Ben Reynolds
    December 15, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Fantastic post! The world needs more people who will 'pay it forward'. Sites like yours help people to live a lifestyle that will result in more giving 🙂

    • Reply
      December 15, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Ben,

      Hopefully more people will provide a helping hand this Christmas season to make a small difference.

  • Reply
    Stephen @ HowToSaveMoney.ca
    December 16, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Great story Tawcan! I always love to hear about people unselfishly giving of themselves to help those in need.

    In my twenties, I donated large portions of my my income and money to charities across the world to help those in need. Nowadays, I am more focused on growing my business and saving for my own family so I don't give nearly as much as I used to. However, whenever I see a good opportunity crop up I try to help.

    For instance, I found out a friend from years ago was diagnosed with Leukemia, so I offered to use my Aeroplan points to fly her family to see her across the country in Edmonton and then eventually to get her back home so she could continue her treatment here. It's great when you can make that more personal connection.

    I'm sure in my older years I'll get back to donating more of my time/money, but right now I'm just taking things day by day as I'm swamped with this business and small kids.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Hi Stephen,

      Good for you on donating large portfions of your income to charities in your twenties. That was very generous for you to offer your friends to use your Aeroplan points.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Great post! Giving and donating is something I have been doing for years, year-round, not just for special occasions. At times when I couldn't afford to give money, I would give my time instead. Giving time can also make a huge difference in someone's life. Today, I am fortunate to be able to do both.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Hi Stephanie,

      You're so right about not just giving during Christmas time. We donate throughout the year too. People need food and items throughout the year, not just before Christmas. Giving time is a great way to give back too.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Funny you send this challenge as we are already involved in the "Guignolée" event in our city, which are baskets of food, necessary items and some gifts for the less fortunate. We will participate to it this coming weekend with our three kids. We are very excited about this experience and I can't wait to see how my kids will react. This will surely be very challenging for the five of us. More to come I guess! 😉



    • Reply
      December 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Hi Mike,

      That's great that you guys are already involved in donation/giving events in your city. 🙂

  • Reply
    Adam @ AdamChudy.com
    December 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Great story. We love doing that stuff. We grab 2 or more angel tree kids every year and try to join in anytime something like this is an option.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Hi Adam,

      That's awesome. Sounds like many PF bloggers are already giving or donating regularly. That's great to hear.

  • Reply
    December 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Wow, not only you guys are true philanthropists, but you are teaching little T to give too. This is wonderful parenting!

    I've donated over 200 hours this year volunteering. Christmas is a bit too commercialize and overrate to me, so I choose to give over the year. I think being nice to someone or giving is a year around process :). Waiting to give at Christmas might be a little bit too late for some people.

    I didn't buy any parents for my family just because it's Christmas. I helped my sister listed all of her rental property up for rent and so far she's been able to keep them all fully rented. I knew it was a big relief for her as the taxes bill was coming. I think a little gesture here and there will add up. She has never given me a Christmas present either, but what she did for me like spending almost all of her first pay check to buy me a dictionary, that helped me to be the person I am today, I'm forever grateful to her.

    • Reply
      December 17, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Hi Vivianne,

      I used to volunteer when I was younger but lately free time is slightly more challenge to find, so we donate money instead. You're right that Christmas is too commercialized nowadays that's why we donate throughout the year as well, for example Food Bank, Canadian Red Cross, and etc. I also donate blood regularly and have been doing for years.

      Little gestures here and there definitely add up. 🙂

  • Reply
    Mr. SSC
    December 18, 2015 at 7:35 am

    We both have giving trees at work that we participate in, as well as at our daycare. They pick a family in need and then put items on the tree at daycare, so the whole daycare community can get things to help make their Christmas special. It's nice having those opportunities so readily available. Our oldest is starting to get the giving concept with these, but he still needs some work. He's definitely grasping it better this year, but I'm guessing it gets easier as they get older too.

    • Reply
      December 18, 2015 at 10:12 am

      Hi Mr. SSC,

      That's awesome that your oldest is starting to understand the concept of giving. Teaching them young will make them great people.

  • Reply
    The Eugene Elf | Generation Y Retirement Account
    December 23, 2015 at 6:11 am

    […] Expenditure’s “The Experience Based Christmas,” taking on Tawcan’s “A Reader’s Challenge – Christmas Giving” and perpetuating the use of a Flexible Philanthropy Fund I explained in a past post – […]

  • Reply
    December 31, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Do you mind sharing which charity you used as mentioned in the post? A resident of Greater Vancouver myself, I'm interested in knowing.

  • Reply
    A Little More Giving + Home Brew #7 - Quietly Saving
    April 25, 2016 at 4:07 am

    […] Christmas post made me think again about how lucky I am to be in a position where I can put relatively large […]

  • Reply
    April 29, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Totally love this idea. I missed it last year (only just found your post via weenie at quietly saving) but looking to give more back to the community in future so I'll look out for similar charities in my area this year.


  • Reply
    robin hood rides again + what are your best charities? - theFIREstarter
    May 22, 2016 at 12:50 am

    […] leave you with one of my favourite quotes I’ve heard in a very long while, which I read on Tawcan’s post here, which I found via weenie’s post above, and is from the Tao Te […]

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