Money Hacks for Effective Giving

Money Hacks for Effective Giving
credit AlexKalina

This article was previously posted on the EA Forum

In “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Peter Singer presented two principles regarding our moral obligations to others:

  • Principle of Sacrifice: if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. 
  • Weak Principle of Sacrifice: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.

More recently, Will MacAskill, Andreas Mogensen and Toby Ord have argued that giving 10% of your income to help others in extreme poverty turns out to be not in the least demanding and can do a huge amount of good. Therefore, they created a revised version of Singer’s principles:

  • “Very Weak Principle of Sacrifice: Most middle- class members of affluent countries ought, morally, to use at least 10 percent of their income to effectively improve the lives of others.”

These principles are of crucial importance because people have the misconception that giving money to alleviate extreme poverty puts an undue burden on them as donors. However, Gallup Poll research suggests that donating 1% of income would result in only about a 0.01 decrease in subjective well-being for someone living in Britain. There’s also pronounced evidence from across 122 countries that giving to charity increases your subjective well-being by 0.5 on the same scale.

What’s more, we don’t receive the same amount of value from every pound we spend. A pound can buy things of great value, like cutlery so we can eat our meals, but sometimes it makes no noticeable difference, like buying bottled water when the water from our taps is perfectly safe to drink. 

This post shows where we can remove or reduce spending that brings us little or no value with minimal time and effort, and the impact this money can have when given to two of The Life You Can Save’s top charities, the Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

The downshift challenge

The downshift challenge involves going down one brand category, as laid out here by Money Saving Expert, from what you usually buy, and continuing to do so if you can’t tell the difference: 

  • Premium. Words like 'finest' or 'extra special' imply it's a treat.

  • Branded. Products like McVitie's Jaffa Cakes or Kellogg's cereal.

  • Own brand. These tend to be presented in a similar way to manufacturers' brands, but with the supermarket's own take on it.

  • Value. With names like 'basic' or 'savers', the presentation is deliberately stark to imply it's cut back to the bones.

This challenge exists because we assume that food with a higher price and more attractive packaging is more nutritious and tasty, but this is often not the case. On average, the challenge cuts your food bill by a third and, in this example, the individual saved roughly £75 a week and between £2000 and £2500 a year. On a family’s £100 weekly shop, if you did this and even noticed differences on half the items you bought (and therefore stuck with the higher-end products), you’d still be saving £750 a year.

Money saved: £750 a year (conservative estimate)

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 493 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 889 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 617 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 1111 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Protect 2016 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Protect 2520 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Coffee shops

In 2017, market researchers Research Without Borders reported that the average Brit spent £2,111 a year (8% of the average UK salary) visiting coffee shops. On average we make 152 trips to coffee shops a year (three times a week) and spend £8.52 in the shop and £5.33 on transport to and from the shop, resulting in a £13.85 average cost per time. 

There are many ways to reduce this cost, including having coffee for free at your office or with a friend at home, or opting for a less expensive drink when you do go to cafes. If we were happy to visit coffee shops one less time per week on average, this would save £57.64 a month and £691.65 a year. 

Money saved: £691.65 a year

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 452 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 813 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 565 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 1017 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 1845 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 2306 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Lunches

If, for example, you get £3 meal deals for your lunches at work, making your own lunch is a very simple way to save an average of £10 a week and £521.40 a year. This estimate takes into account the fact that you don’t go to work every weekday by excluding the UK’s average number of holidays and sick days. 

Doing this takes minimal effort as well; if you feel like your morning routine is already full to the brim, you can always make your lunch the night before or make it on the spot during your lunch break with elements or leftovers you’ve brought from home.

Money saved: £364 a year (conservative estimate) 

Impact: 

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 240 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 432 people from malaria for three to four years, on average. 

With Gift Aid: Purchase 300 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 540 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Protect 979 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Protect 1,224 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Gym memberships

In 2017, a poll of 1,000 gym members in the UK revealed that 11% of those with a membership had not been in the last year. These people were paying an average of £47 a month and thereby spent £564 whilst receiving no value in 2016. A further 21% said they visited their gym just three times a year, effectively making each visit cost £188.  

If you don’t get enough use from your gym membership, luckily there are myriad guided and individual ways for you to reach your fitness goals. Running only costs as much as your running shoes (which of course you’d also have to buy if you wanted to run at the gym), lifting weights at home only costs what you spend on dumbbells, and if you already have a bike, it provides a great source of exercise with no additional outlay. There’s also a huge range of fitness routines and classes online for free. 

If you bought the middle-price running shoes and dumbbells and enrolled in any or all of the free fitness routines from the links above, you’d be saving £434 compared to an average gym membership.

Money saved: £434 a year

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 283 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 510 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 354 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 638 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 1157 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 1447 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Smoking

With the average packet of 20 cigarettes costing £9.91, smoking one a day amounts to around £180 each year and data from The Office for National Statistics reports that the average smoker has 11 cigarettes a day, costing almost £2,000 a year.

The impact of this money shown below could be an effective motivation for those with altruistic instincts, thereby increasing your likelihood of quitting and of experiencing all the health benefits that accompany this. This allows you to simultaneously make a huge difference to your health and the health of those living in extreme poverty. If you’d like to quit, here’s a decent and thorough guide to help you with the process.  

Money saved: £2,000 a year

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 1308 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 2356 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 1636 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 2945 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative 

Without Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 5342 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia. 

With Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 6677 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Eating out 

Particularly when you live in a big city, it’s easy to burn a hole in your wallet by eating out frequently. In 2017, The Office of National Statistics reported that the average UK household spent £31.30 a week on meals out. Based on these figures, if we ate out one less time each month, we could save £20.87 as a household (£250.44 a year) compared to the price of cooking food at home. It’s also worth considering that the actual cost of food for a restaurant meal is less than a third of what you pay for it; the rest goes to other costs like labour and overhead. All the social benefits of eating out are also available when you have friends over for dinner with the added pluses of being able to linger as long as you'd like, move to a comfortable sofa in the living room after dinner, etc. Therefore, eating out less often doesn’t have to involve any social sacrifice.

Money saved: £250.44 a year

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 165 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 297 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 206 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 371 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Protect 673 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Protect 842 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Alcohol

In 2017, Drinkaware estimated that the average UK household spent £8.20 a week on alcohol consumed in the home and £7.90 a week on alcohol consumed outside the home. 

Drinkaware also confirmed that this figure is likely to be far lower than the reality because “(r)eported alcohol consumption based on surveys that ask people how much and how often they drink typically amounts to 40%-60% of total alcohol sales in studies conducted internationally” and “asking about ‘the typical drinking’ risks missing the drinking that takes place on special occasions. In a recent study, researchers asked people about special drinking periods (e.g. holidays) and events (e.g. weddings). They found that accounting for atypical or special occasion drinking added over 120 million units of alcohol per week to population consumption.”

Even based on these highly conservative figures, if the average person didn’t drink alcohol for one week each month, this would save £16.10 (£193.20 a year); if they participated in Go Sober for October, they would save £69.87 during that month.

Money saved: £193.20 a year (conservative estimate)

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 127 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 229 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 159 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 286 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Protect 520 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Protect 650 children from schistosomiasis for one year, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

Mobile phones

The 2016 ctrlio National Mobile Phone Report found that in the UK, “(p)ay monthly customers could save, on average, £76.20 per year on their mobile phone bills, by reviewing and switching deals when their contracts end” and “matching deals to actual usage can save an extra 22% compared to just ‘guessing’ how much people need”. 

Like gym memberships, our mobile bills can be another area where some of what we’re paying isn’t converted into a service we use. What’s more, a sizeable amount of our data may just be going on in the background without providing value to us. Here’s an effective guide on how to avoid this happening. 

Money saved: £76.20 a year

Impact:

Against Malaria Foundation

Without Gift Aid: Purchase 49 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 89 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

With Gift Aid: Purchase 62 bednets to protect those living in malaria-stricken areas from infected mosquitos; Help protect 112 people from malaria for three to four years, on average.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Without Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 203 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

With Gift Aid: Deliver treatments to protect 254 children from schistosomiasis, preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.

In summary

Many think that giving to fight extreme poverty will be demanding, but some of the pounds we freely spend can end up bringing us little or no value. By taking control of this spending, we can transform the lives of those struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day with minimal time and effort and without sacrificing anything important; we really can have our cake and eat it too. 

Resources

For those looking for more ways to free up money for effective giving, I’d recommend the following links:

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/chat-tips-gold/ 

https://www.thesimpledollar.com/little-steps-100-great-tips-for-saving-money-for-those-just-getting-started/ 

Robert Mathers
Robert Mathers
Robert Mathers is an Online English Teacher to students in China, Taiwan and Japan. He pledges to give at least 10% of his income to highly effective organisations and supports Buddhist ethics, veganism, minimalism and organ donation.
The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.

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