PennyWise: Personal Finance & Travel TipsPennyWise: Personal Finance & Travel Tips

5 tips on when to skip the charitable donation option at the checkout and when to donate

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Self-checkouts aren't the only things becoming more and more common for shoppers. Now the option to donate money as shoppers pay at the checkout has become a common occurrence, but should you use the opportunity to share the wealth? On the latest episode of PennyWise, host Nat Cardona is joined by NerdWallet's Sara Rathner who weighs in on when it's a good idea to skip the charitable donation at the checkout and when it might be a good idea.

Read more on NerdWallet here!

About this program

Nat Cardona is host of PennyWise as well as Lee Enterprise's true-crime podcast Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles. Lee Enterprises produces many national, regional and sports podcasts. Learn more here.

Episode transcript

Note: The following transcript was created by Adobe Premiere and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Welcome to Pennywise, a Lee Enterprises podcast. I'm your host, Nat Cardona. 

When it comes to supporting a charity, it doesn't get much more easy than donating at that card reader in the checkout line. But depending on your motivations and your financial situation, it might not be the best approach, really. NerdWallet Travel and credit card expert Sara Rathner joins us to help you decide whether you should give to charity on your next shopping trip or you're checking out a cash register at any given store.

And oftentimes you'll be greeted with that little donation. QUESTION Would you like to donate $1 or $3, $5 to whatever charity? So today we're focusing on if you should skip or give to a donation, whatever it may be. So let's just go right into it. We're going to play a little game of skip a bit. So let's say you want to have a significant impact and you want to give maybe a little bit more than a dollar.

When you head into Walgreens, what's your suggestion there? Should you skip the cash register then or give at that time?

In that case, skip the cash register and donate directly to the cause, either the one that's being offered to you at the register or another cause that's really meaningful to you?

And kind of what I just mentioned, a lot of times those questions that you'll be greeted with at the cash register are, Hey, do you want to make a small donation? So if that suits you, is this the time to give or a time to skip?

Yes. And it could suit you for a couple of reasons. One, you're giving budget might be a little bit low this year if you've had a tough year financially, but you still want to give money to causes, it could be meaningful for you and impactful to give a couple dollars here and there to different causes as you shop for the holidays, or if it just makes you feel good to spread your donation dollars around to a number of different causes rather than concentrate them all in one place, then in that case, giving at the register could be not just a useful way to do that, but also a convenient way to do that because it's something you can do while you're already completing other tasks in your life.

Okay. And this is maybe trying to get one of those tasks off your list, talking about tax breaks. So if you're hoping for an easy task, break. My guess is probably skip in this.

Year for a couple of reasons. First of all, in order to get a tax deduction for charitable donations, one, you'd actually need to itemize your deductions, which many taxpayers don't do. Many opt to take the standard deduction. So if you take the standard deduction, you're don't count on your charitable donations being a tax deduction you can still give, of course, is just not something that you're going to have to submit proof of when you do your taxes later on in a couple of months.

You also need to make sure that the charity in question is recognized by the IRS so that you could get that itemized deduction for it. And so you'll want to look into that before you give. And then the third thing is you need to be able to provide proof in the form of some sort of receipt that you've made this charitable deduction.

And so if you're spreading your charitable dollars around across multiple retailers at these, you want to keep receipts of everything so that if you do itemize your tax deductions, you'll have receipts available to provide proof of that. And that's just a little bit of an administrative lift. But honestly, so is itemizing your deduction. So if you're already doing all that extra work, then then you'll want this to count to.

Serve as all just go full in.


So speaking of your budget, times are tough for a lot of Americans out there. You I'm going to cut a scene here. So you're at any given store and the person working at the cash register asks you, you said, would you like to give a donation to, you know, the Children's museum? The children's hospital? They really get you.

It seems every time like with a really, really a tough one that's hard to refuse oftentimes. But let's say your budget's a little bit tight. What do you do in that situation?

It's okay to graciously say, no, no, thank you. It's nice to do that. Right. And a lot of people feel pressure and guilt into giving. Our survey found that 67% of Americans don't actually like to be asked this question at the Register. And part of that is because nobody likes to feel pressured to give, especially at a time where budgets might be tight and you're already feeling kind of bad about all the other things you have to say no to.

And this is just one more thing to have to say no to. And it makes you look like a total Scrooge, at least in your own mind. But the person asking the question does not know the full story of what's going on in your day to day life. And so that moments of discomfort where they ask you a question, you have to say no and you feel really bad about it.

And there's that awkward silence in there. It's okay. Just let the moment pass in a sure transaction. Ultimately, the most important thing is making sure that you and any anyone in your household has as much financial security as you can have. And then hopefully you might be in a place later on where your situation has stabilized and now you can give as generously as you're able.

And so it's okay to say no to stuff. It's okay to say no. In general. It's a complete sentence.

How do you do that sometimes, man? And I was just going to say it's good to keep perspective because those people are just doing their jobs.

They're just doing their job. They were told by their manager to ask the question, so don't take it personally and they don't take it personally. If you say no, it's maybe they do you, I don't know. But like so what? They're probably also I mean, you know, it's just it's everybody's just doing the best they can.

That's a great attitude and perspective of anything else you want to add about this charitable donation stop at the register that I didn't mention.

So we talked a little bit about tax deductions is now 2024 and all of your actions will be applied to that tax year. Yes.

So start early in that case.

So. Yeah. So, yeah, you know, listen, I mean, maybe it's a situation where like by the end of the year you're feeling so strapped for money or buying gifts and paying for travel and entertaining and hosting guests, and it's just a very expensive time of year. But you want to give to charity and you don't want to feel that pressure.

Maybe give to charities at times of year where you aren't spending so much money on other things and spread your donations out not just to different charities, but throughout different months of the year. And that might make it easier for you to have that charitable giving budget that feels realistic given all of your other obligations.

Nothing like wham bam at the end of the year.

Yeah, you already have so much other stuff going on at the end of the year. Maybe take a little pressure off of yourself and be charitable over the summer or in the spring or in February, like Valentine's Day Show the love by giving donations to causes that you care about at a time of year where you're not really spending much money on too many other things unless you have a habit of buying really expensive Valentine's Day gifts, it's another story entirely.

I'll talk to you in February at that time then about.

How to save money on jewelry. I don't know.

Buy five cards from Hallmark, get one free.


Anyways, that's all I have for you. I am sure I will talk to you more in the future.


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