We all know that awkward moment at the register when you're asked if you'd like to round up to help charities.  Should you feel guilty for saying no?

You've just purchased a bunch of groceries.  It was way more than you expected to have to pay.  Then after giving the total, the cashier asks (because their job makes them) if you'd like to round up the amount to the next whole dollar and give the extra to a charity that they've agreed to partner with for that month.

Should you do it?  Is the company going to donate that money either way?  And if you don't, do you have to feel guilty for saying no?

Should you round up at the register?

Most people who like to give back to society have no problem donating to help important causes.  However, there is a big movement to stop giving back when someone asks you to "round up" at the register.  The reason why there's been pushback is a belief that it's just a corporate scam.

The theory is that these companies are going to make a large donation to these causes anyway.  They've already agreed to give a certain amount ahead of time and that they're just going to ask you to "donate to the cause" to make yourself feel like you're contributing when all you're actually doing is helping them to make a donation in their name that they will then write off.

However, USA Today found that this theory is wrong.  After asking many experts, they found that companies cannot use funds donated by customers for tax deductions.

What should you do if you do want to help then?

The suggestion that many have made is to just donate directly to the company yourself.  That way when you go to do your taxes, you've got your own charitable donation that you can write off in your name instead.

Plus, if you donate on your own, it can be a little bigger than the $.17 that your rounded-up change turns out to be.

Here's where the theory is flawed

All of that above makes sense.  Where it can go wrong is if you say you aren't going to round up at the register because you're going to make your donation, but then you never end up making one.  Then the charity is just missing out on money that they could, in many cases, desperately use.

Here's my suggestion: if it's a local charity that you love and you are able to, go ahead and round up at the register.  If it's a national charity that means a lot to you, then make sure to make your donation directly to the company.  Either way, do your research as to where your money is actually going.  Then help if you can.

Should you feel guilty if you can't or don't want to at the register?  Absolutely not!

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