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How to Be a Charitable Cheapskate

It’s the kind of news story that makes national headlines every year or two: A person of seemingly modest means secretly amasses a small (or not so small) fortune while leading a frugal lifestyle, only to reveal that wealth by giving it all away to charity.

Gifts to charity

The latest jaw-dropper came from 98-year-old Jack MacDonald of Washington state. He died in September and left a surprise fortune of $187.5 million to Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.

Not bad for a guy who lived in a modest one-bedroom apartment, rode the bus instead of owning a car, faithfully clipped coupons and was known for wearing shirts that were more than a little threadbare. Following his death, his stepdaughter was quoted as saying, “He was quirky and eccentric in many ways, and always stayed true to himself by acting on his convictions to do the most good with his wealth.”

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While the number of decimal points in MacDonald’s generous bequest is truly remarkable, what I’ve found is that charitable giving among frugal folks is more common than you might think.

In a 2009 survey I conducted of 320 proud, self-proclaimed “cheapskates” for my book The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means, I found that on an annual basis, these cheapskates gave more than twice as much to charity as the average American. I also found that nearly 40 percent of them planned to donate a majority of their estates to charity upon their death. As one of the survey respondents put it, “I believe in spending less on myself so that I have more – both more time and more treasure – to share with those who truly need it.”

You may be surprised by the generosity of many of us frugal folks, but you probably won’t be surprised to learn that we approach charitable giving in the same way we approach all money matters: We want to get the absolute best value for our money.

Here are some tips to get the most bang for your charitable buck:

 

 

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