By: Jenny Pate //
Two years ago, with a diploma in one hand and a giant suitcase in the other, I moved down to Texas to start my first real job. Non-student life brought on all sorts of grown-up decisions regarding personal finances: How much should I contribute to my 401k? Do I want health insurance plan A or B? Do I need any extra life insurance? Do I want the federal government to take my money now or later?
Wanting to be smart about our time as DINKs, my husband Kyle and I pulled out our TI-89s and some Excel modeling to crunch our way through financial decisions (have I mentioned we met in engineering?). Eventually, we came up with something that looked like this.
Running through the numbers brought up the question of tithing. Like several other religions, Mormons believe in contributing to their church through a tithe, usually 10% of a family’s income. But with two full-time salaries, 10% suddenly seemed like a lot to give. This was much different than paying one out of every ten dollars an hour I made working as a TA. It was even further from the object lesson I’d had as a kid, where they gave me ten pennies and I gave one back. One penny was manageable, but this was now money that could be a car payment, new furniture, or plane tickets to visit friends around the globe.
It would be easy to justify not paying. Thanks to guys like Mitt Romney, the church is not hurting for my money. But part of tithing is choosing to donate and making financial sacrifices for a better purpose than our own. God doesn’t care that my tithing compared to Mitt Romneys is equivalent to powdered sugar on a brownie. It’s more about making an effort to give up something physical and tangible to show commitment.
Kyle and I both agreed that the financial sacrifice had been worth it in our student days, and chose to fit tithing into our grown up financial plans. I’ll admit that it’s a choice I have to make continually. Often when I write out a tithing check I think about my crappy car or a trip home I would like to take. Sometimes I’ll even just think about a new J.crew blazer or shoes, which I suppose is pretty superficial stuff in the grand scheme of things.
So why do I give 10% of everything I earn? I’m encouraged by where I see my tithing money going: the church building we meet in ever Sunday, the LDS temple in Houston and the many others aroudn the world, subsidized tuition for students at BYU (as a beneficiary of basically-free education, I am more than happy to pay it forward), camp outs for the high school kids in our area, tutoring for K-12 students and adults that would like to improve their English, and even things like rent, food, and employment assistance for friends who hit a rough patch. While my 10% may make up a tiny fraction of all those efforts, it still feels good to be a part of it.
Thinking about ways my tithing money is spent doesn’t just make me grateful to pay it, it makes me grateful for the other 90% of my income. I’m grateful for a career, and insurance, and all these grown up financial decisions I’m supposed to be making. I felt the same way as a student paying tithing on my $10/hr student income, and if I ever make as much as Mitt Romney I think I still will, because while the dollar amount may change, the points stay the same. And I think the points are worth it.