Just two more days until Ash Wednesday, and the commencement of the 40 Days of Giving project. This isn't for any particular religious reason. It's just that when you're doing something for 40 days, it made sense to run it concurrently with Lent.
Or so I thought, because as I began the preparations I learned the disturbing fact that Lent does not, in fact, last 40 days. Rather, the period from Ash Wednesday through to the end of Lent on Good Friday actually involves 46 days - 40 days + 6 Sundays. So, though I'm starting with Ash Wednesday, I'm not actually going the full period of Lent, because I don't want to name the book 46 Days of Giving. This means the experiment will end on March 28.
This decision turned out to be convenient, because had I gone the full Lent period I'd have had to pay two mortgage payments without access to my income, which would have (to say the least) taxed my resources and made this even more of a challenge than it already will be. So that ended up working out well.
Giving Net or Gross
Some further logistical consideration was whether to give away my net salary or my gross salary. My initial thinking was that I should give away my full, gross salary, including the over 20% of every paycheck which vanishes for benefits before I ever see it. This meant, of course, that I'd have to take money out of savings and give it away to make up the difference ... and when I initially thought up the idea, this aspect didn't occur to me at all.
This left me with a problem, because my plan was to live exclusively off of my savings account for the month ... and cashing out investments or living on credit certainly didn't seem in line with what I was trying to do, and it certainly wasn't something I wanted to do. After all, part of my goal is to show that you can give intensely, but not actually suffer much from it. Even during these tough economic times, we live in a sea of abundance in America.
After some discussion with my wife, we decided that it would be sufficient to take the net payment of our W-2 salary. It fits with the spirit of the experiment to just give away the money that we normally get and live off of. I did increase the allotments on my W-4, so that there should be no federal tax withholding and less state tax withholding from my paychecks during this period ... but then, the money we give away is all a business expense (I am writing a book about this experience, after all), so we won't have tax expenses on the income anyway. It seems reasonable to eliminate the withholding as much as possible.
In addition, I will get one About.com paycheck during this period, as well, and I'll give the gross amount of that away, since none of that is withheld for benefits. And any other money that comes our way will also be given, with one last exception ...
Raiding the Piggy Bank
One other source of income which raised questions in my mind was child support money, which we receive from my oldest son's biological father. Part of me thought this should be given away as well, but the more I thought about this, the more it didn't seem justified. This isn't really our money, it's given to us for the care of our son, and so giving it away to others, while noble, just didn't seem right. So that money will not be given, and will help with the living expenses during the tight period over the next 40 days.
The Hard Part
With those situations all resolved, the experiment is now ready to begin in earnest, with the hard part being how to best give the money (and other stuff) away. Some of the giving I have planned out already, but most of it has yet to be determined. I look forward to seeing what happens, and whether the whole experience proves to be worthwhile.
I am confident that it will.