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They save money so they can give it away

Illinois couple are among the frugal folks who make a point of helping others.

By Teresa Mears Dec 23, 2009 3:06PM

Like many frugal families, Suja Thomas and Scott Bahr don’t have cable TV. They don’t eat at expensive restaurants, and they drive old cars, one of which they’ve decided they no longer need. They didn’t buy each other Christmas presents.


Both make a good living, but they have decided to live frugally so they can donate substantial amounts to charity. Last year Suja, 43, who is a law professor at the University of Illinois, and Scott, 41, who is a controls programmer there, donated $50,000.


This year, they have set a goal of raising $50,000 in donations to five charities, which they plan to match. They’ve set up The Give Blog to encourage charitable giving and hold themselves accountable. As of Tuesday, they had raised $20,000, according to The Chicago Tribune.


"If we can do this ourselves, and encourage some other people to also give away more, then hopefully that's going to start us moving in the right direction" to eliminate hunger and poverty, Suja told the News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill., where the couple live.

Suja and Scott met in 2007 on a church mission trip to South Africa. Both were moved by the poverty they saw, and both had already been questioning their part in the consumer culture, The Chicago Tribune reported.

They were married in June 2008. Instead of giving Suja a diamond engagement ring, Scott gave her a plastic heart, and the couple donated the money they would have spent on a diamond.


The couple find the whole experience "freeing" -- especially not having to shop for Christmas. Writing the checks to charity every year brings back "that romantic, childhood Christmas-type feeling you don't have as an adult," Scott told The News-Gazette.


Their charity is not unique in the world of frugal living. Many people who make an effort to live simply and cheaply still make a point of donating to charity.


Kate, at Money Mate Kate, collects donated coupons throughout the year and gets products cheaply or for free to donate to people in need.


Ashley at Shopping Frugal set up a group on Charity:Water and asked her readers to donate $1 toward providing drinking water to people in poor countries.


Amy Dunn at Our Frugal Journey has five tips for giving when you don’t have much money:

  • Give from your bargain stash, extra items you’ve accumulated using coupons.
  • Give your time.
  • Use coupons to buy gifts for charities.
  • Clean out your closets and donate.
  • Spend less and give away the money you save.

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