Monday, 6 April 2015

Tzedaka does work

I like to look for ways to improve the Yidishkeit in my life.  Always looking to improve myself as a person.  I have a theory that if you try your very best, then you can never be disappointed in the outcome.  It is only when something fails and you have not put in your best that you should be disappointed.

As we got closer to Pesach I decided to review how much tzedaka I was giving to charity.  The big festivals are always a focus for giving tredaka and I knew that I wasn't giving enough each month.  The problem is that it's not that clear to the uninitiated exactly how much one should be giving.  Now I am ball teshuva so don't claim to be an expert on Yidishkeit, so I popped along to one of the excellent book stores in Manchester and bought 'Priorities in Tzedaka' by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger.  A few days later I was knees deep in a spreadsheet calculating my earnings and expenditure.  The basic rules that I followed from the book are:

(disclaimer... as always, dyor and ask your Rabbi for a more accurate ruling.  I am far from an halachic authority on the matter)

1- You should pay at least 10% of your net pay.  For someone earning an average wage, you can give up to 20%.  But as 10% is rabbinically accepted and was quite a jump for me anyway, I thought that it would be a good place to start.  Always take things on in manageable bite sized chunks as there is far more chance that you might stick to it.  Jumping straight to 20% I know would have been too difficult to start with.

2- You can deduct business expenses such as travel. For me that is about it, as I work for someone else and don't have my own business there is little else that I can deduct for travel.

3- Add the net rental income.  I own a second house.  How that came about is a small story in itself but the basics are that when I got married we decided to re-locate and I couldn't sell the house in time.  But, the estate agents manages to find us some tenants and their rental just covered the mortgage.  We were lucky as many years later they are still happily living there.

4- There were some smaller calculations for charity work and some small lotteries that I do, but I don't want to go into minute detail here.

I calculated what I should have paid for the last twelve months and compared this to what I have actually been paying.  The difference varies slightly each month but the average that I need to pay is £135 more per month.  That may not seem such a huge figure (or maybe it will!) but I have spent years of my life scrimping and scraping for money.  Not quite on the poverty, but only just covering costs and certainly never giving to charity.  When I started to get some disposable income I would give a couple of quid to Children in Need or Red Nose Day every year.  So going from a couple of quid to where I was now was quite a big step and now having to pay £135 more each month.  It is more of a psychological block than anything else.

Ok, so where is the coincident...  Time to change scene for the sub-plot.  We recently switched broadband provider and they installed a new phone socket in a different room in the house.  That night we realised that our alarm system was no longer connected to the police as the old phone line had been disconnected.  This didn't occur to us at the time so we had to call the alarm company to get this resolved as if the worst happened and the house was broken into, we were not insured.  They quoted £94 for the first hour call out to reconnect to the new phone socket which we thought was reasonable considering the broadband company were going to charge £99 for the same work.  So they come, do the work and it's all working perfectly. 

Then the invoice arrived and it quoted 1 hour and 3 minutes of work.  Fancy adding 3 minutes over the hour.  But then we look at the total and it is for over £200!  Something must have gone wrong, there must have been a mistake, so I call the alarm company to see what was going on.  I patiently explain what I was quoted and how disappointed I am being charged for 3 minutes over the hour and why is the invoice for so much?  They told me that the charge is £95 plus VAT for the first half an hour and not for the first hour and there were £20 parts on top of that.  But, I protested, I was quoted £94 for the first hour.

Their response came as a complete surprise.  "Ok sir, in that case I will reduce the value of the invoice to £94.  After all, if that's what you were quoted for the job then that is what you will pay."

Ok, that was too easy.  Where was the "I will have to speak to my manager and call you back", where was the "As a gesture of good will we will deduct 10% off the bill", were was the fight, where was the resistance?

I told her that I was happy to pay VAT if that was meant to be paid and I was happy to pay for parts if they were over and above the quote.  But no, there was no persuading her.  If I had been quoted £94 then £94 I would pay.  I was best waiting until I received the credit note for £135 before paying just to make sure that everything is ok.

Um, hold on a minute.  A credit note for £135...  That is exactly the same in extra tzedaka that I had to pay this month.

But that's not all.  The phone call took place on the 1st day of the month that I pledged to pay the extra money. 

Of course I now have to make sure that I pay the extra before the end of the month, but under the circumstances, I don't think this will be a problem!

I tested Hashem by increasing my donations by £135 per month and on the first day of that month he responded by saving me exactly that amount.  If you ever wanted proof... there it is.

And that's not all... but I will save the other story for later.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe we call these events 'coincidence' because we can't explain or comprehend of any other way. So many 'coincidences' happen in my life that it often makes me stop and think.