The deeper I get into the third stage of personal finance, the more I think about my responsibilities to help others who are in need. For years, Get Rich Slowly readers have been encouraging me to contribute to charity, but I’ve always been reluctant to do so. This wasn’t part of my family culture as a boy (we were the ones in need), so it’s been a struggle to come to terms with it as an adult.

But come to terms with it, I have. Over the past few years, I’ve discovered ways that I can give, even if these contributions aren’t always financial (and even if the contributions aren’t to traditional charities).

For today’s “Ask the Readers” column, as part of the ongoing “how much do you spend on?” series, I’d like to know: How much do you spend on charitable giving? How much of what you give is cash? How much is in goods (like canned food donations)? How much time do you give? And, more importantly, how do you determine which causes to support? There are so many worthy organizations — how can you possibly pick which one gets what you have to give?

Five years ago, I wrote about an article from the New York Times in which philosopher Peter Singer explored the question: “How much should a billionaire give? How much should you?” The original article (and the comments on my post) are a great read, but to cut to the chase, Singer concluded:

  • The top 0.01 percent of U.S. taxpayers — 14,400 people earning more than $5,000,000 — ought to donate 33% of their income.
  • The rest of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. taxpayers — 129,600 people earning a minimum of $1.1 million/year — ought to donate 25% of their income.
  • The top 0.5 percent of U.S. taxpayers — 474,900 people earning at least $407,000 — ought to give 20% of their earnings.
  • The rest of the top one percent — 719,900 taxpayers earning at least $276,000 — should donate 15%.
  • The rest of the top 10 percent — nearly 13 million taxpayers who earn an more than $92,000 — should give 10%.

How much do I give? Well, despite the fact that I’m learning to give, I still don’t contribute much cash to charity. Instead, I’ve been volunteering my time to various causes that move me. So far this year, I’ve spent just under 100 hours doing various types of volunteer work (almost all of which has been related to my new-found Spanish skills).

That said, I’ve also contributed money to various causes. I say “causes” because I can’t rightly claim these as charities. Instead, they’re friends or projects that need financial support.

How about you? How much do you give and to whom? Tell us how you reached this place, and where you hope to go with your charitable giving in the future.

This article is about Ask the Readers, Giving