Life is expensive. Kids outgrow their shoes overnight, cars break down, and there is ALWAYS some home improvement project that needs attention. Finding additional money to donate for worthy causes like hunger is a challenge. Most of us don’t have the Bill Gates/Warren Buffet type of disposable income to make huge gifts. In fact, most of us use everything we have just to take care of our own. It can be discouraging, I know, but don’t despair! There are lots of things you are already doing that can be used to make a difference. And when my little bit joins up with yours, before you know it we’re contributing millions.
Here is a list of 7 ways that you can help when you have nothing to give.
Time is Money: It seems like you go through seasons in life when there is just not enough time, and seasons when there is not enough money. I’m in a “not enough time” season right now; our bills are paid, but I’m working six days a week while going to grad school on the side. Back when I was a stay-at-home mom, I had more time on my hands, but the finances were tighter. (And yes, sometimes you feel like you have neither time nor money. It happens. If you’re there right now, I hope it ends soon for you and you can reclaim some of your financial and/or scheduling independence.) If you’re retired, a stay at home parent, seasonally employed, or temporarily out of work, you may not have disposable income, but your free time isn’t free, it’s valuable!
- Volunteer: Nearly all non-profit organizations use volunteer labor, and there are jobs for volunteers of all ages and abilities. You can pack meals at Feed my Starving Children or Kids Against Hunger. Volunteer at a food bank or soup kitchen. If you don’t know where to start, hit the internet and run a quick search for non-profit orgs near you, ask friends where they volunteer, or ask your pastor for suggestions.
- Use your Time to Cut your Costs: When my schedule was a bit looser, I used to spend more time planning out my grocery spending. I got really good at matching coupons with store sales, shopping on the special double coupon days, and I trimmed my family’s grocery budget (which included: food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and pet food) by $150/month. It took time, for sure, but that time paid me well! Click HERE for Pocket Your Dollars, the blog that helped me find the matchups.
- Use your Time to Make Some Money: I know this is really basic, but I’m not necessarily talking about taking on another job, just using a day or a weekend for your favorite cause. Holding a garage sale is a great way to make some money while cutting clutter. You can also sell your unwanted items on eBay, or drop off some clothes, shoes, and accessories at a consignment shop. Clean out the kids’ closets and the sporting goods in the shed and make a run to Once Upon a Child or Play it Again Sports.
Shopping and Gift Giving: Gift giving is a big expense. We all love to spoil our friends and family members, but that really adds up! There are a few things you can do to use those gifts to help more than one person
- Credit Card Programs: Many credit cards these days have rewards programs. For example, when I use my card, I get points that I can redeem for gift cards to a wide variety of restaurants, retail stores, etc. Those gift cards make great gifts, or I can use them to shop for a gift. I know some people don’t use credit. That’s a totally valid choice that has a lot of benefits. But for those of us who responsibly do use cards, make sure you’re getting as much out of it as possible (and be careful; debt and identity theft are ugly monsters…).
- Org Gear: Some of your favorite charitable organizations have merchandise that you can purchase. The money benefits their programs, and the gear creates awareness when you wear it. For J’s birthday this year, one of his gifts was a tee from our favorite organization, Feed My Starving Children. The cost of the shirt provided 65 meals for kids in need. Some people are rotten hard to shop for. Making a charitable donation in their name is a great option. Find out what causes and charities your loved one is passionate about, and give to that cause in their name.
- Cause Apparel: There are a number of companies out there that use your purchases to employ the disadvantaged, teach job skills, or give a portion of their proceeds to charity. My sisters both got shirts from Sevenly for their birthdays. I spent the same amount as usual, but the gifts did double duty that both giver and recipient can feel good about. There are a lot of companies that fit this: Toms gives away a pair of shoes for every pair purchased (I still think they’re ugly, but to each his own). Noonday Collection and The Giving Keys sell accessories that give people work with dignity and help them dig their way out of poverty. There are a ton of good organizations like this – add the ones you’re familiar with in the comments!
- Amazon Smile: I’ve mentioned this before on the Facebook page, but in case you missed it, you have to check out Amazon Smile. It’s really simple: instead of going to http://www.amazon.com, go to www.smile.amazon.com. Log in as usual, and chose a non-profit organization to receive a portion of the money you spend on Amazon. Most items are eligible (occasionally you see a third party seller’s item that isn’t eligible for the smile donation), the prices are the same as regular Amazon, and all the Prime members’ benefits count just like usual. You can change your charity, too. I like to switch mine up every couple months. Click HERE for the FAQ page about Amazon Smile.
There you go! Seven simple ways that you can help when you have nothing to give. I know there are more great ideas out there, share them in the comments!