One of my favorite things about becoming debt free is the ability to give more than I ever thought possible. But giving is not something that is reserved when you hit a particular financial mark. It should always be a part of your spending plan. Giving back is one of those non-negotiables throughout life. It doesn’t matter how large or small your give is – it’s the action of giving that matters.

Sometimes giving can be thrown out of proportion. I’ve had people ask about cutting out giving when they are getting out of debt. They see it as extra dollars that they can be putting towards their debt balances. Then there are others that are struggling financially with the household bills but are giving a lot more than their budget can handle. You need to make sure that your giving is appropriate for your current life circumstance, not what you think others think you should be giving.

There are many positive benefits to giving outside of the benevolence you are bestowing on others. A 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee showed that those who showed social support to others had lowered blood pressure than those who didn’t. And research recently published in the Journal of Economic Psychology by Baris K Yoruk, an associate professor of economics at the University of Albany-SUNY found that donating to charity can improve a donor’s physical and emotional well-being. Giving also connects us with others to help build a stronger community and helps to build a legacy of who you are as a person.

Here are some ways that you can get started with giving:

Research the organizations that you want to contribute to. We all have causes that speak to our heart so make sure you research the specific organizations that you want to support. It is important to make sure that the charity you are supporting has a mission that you align with and are carrying out its goals the way you want. Take your time and ask lots of questions before committing your dollars to a worthy cause.

Include your giving as a line item in your budget. I have specific line items in my budget for giving. There is giving I have committed to for the year and there is an additional percentage I have budgeted for discretionary giving throughout the year. This allows me to have both committed giving and the freedom to give additional dollars to a charity in need.

Volunteer. Giving doesn’t have to be monetary. If you want to be able to give more but don’t have the financial means at this time, use some of your time and talents to organizations that could use your help. Check out resources like to match your skills and interests with charities and causes that could use your volunteer time.

Include giving in your will. This is an area of giving that many people may not think about but is an awesome way for your legacy to live on. Talk to your financial advisor about setting up an estate plan with your will to make sure your favorite charity is included when your estate is settled.