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Dave Says

Giving beyond your means

Dear Dave,

My wife and I are debt-free except for our home, and we’re on Baby Steps 4 and 5. Recently, we were asked to make a large donation to a charity we already support. We don’t have the full cash amount they asked for on hand, and after hearing that, they said we could make monthly installment payments until the donation amount was paid in full. We’re hesitant to do this because it seems a bit like debt to us. What do you think?


Dear Ben,

Well, it’s not debt. There would be no repercussions, other than guilt, if you couldn’t make the full donation. So, it’s not debt. To be honest though, I don’t engage in that kind of stuff when it comes to giving.

My wife and I do all our giving — except for our tithe to our local church — through our family foundation. Sometimes we’ll do this giving in a couple of installments, but it’s not because we don’t have the money. It’s generally a situation where we’re walking with the charity or ministry throughout the year, and we’re observing and assessing the need.

I’d be hesitant to give a gift when I don’t have the money. Most of the time, approaches like this fall under the heading of manipulation. You’re being pushed beyond your means. Most giving of this type, biblically speaking, would be from surplus. And right now, you don’t have the surplus.

I’m kind of uncomfortable with this, Ben. I don’t engage in making gift promises beyond what I have. It’s not debt, but it kind of starts to feel like it, and it’s not so much living beyond your means as it is giving beyond your means. That’s just another reason it doesn’t strike the right chord with me.


Know where to go

Dear Dave,

I am 18 years old and homeschooled. I want to continue my education this fall, and my dad works at a college near our home. I would get free tuition, but there’s another college farther from home that I like just as much — but it’s more expensive. On the plus side, it is a Christian school, and my faith is important to me. What do you think I should do?


Dear Braden,

Free tuition is a major plus in my book. At the same time, I can understand your desire to get out from under mom and dad’s wings a little bit. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that a school, church or anything else is completely Christian. You’ll meet some of the wildest characters ever at a Christian school, just like you would at a public university. However, you would have the advantage of a built-in spiritual support network.

All things considered, and since you mentioned your faith specifically, I’d probably choose the Christian school. But I wouldn’t go into debt to make it happen. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t work and go to school at the same time. Pay it as you go. I did it, and I finished with good grades in four years. It’s a little bit harder way to go, but it’s a lot better than ending up with a ton of student loan debt when you’re through!


Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 12 million listeners each week on 575 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

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