This post is part of the “The Spectrum of Personal Finance”. In this one-day event, comic-book nerd Brian from My Next Buck, will discuss eight different emotions (taken from the Green Lantern comics) and relate them to personal finance. Here at GRS, Brian looks at Compassion.

One of the most rewarding parts of personal finance is being able to give back. Giving is powerful, and it’s contagious. But maybe this year times are too tight for you to give in ways you’ve done before. That doesn’t mean you should disregard the needy this year. Let’s talk about some alternative ways to give.

Here are some ways to give back without having to dig deep in your wallet:

  • Donate clothing. Goodwill is a great place to make donations, but also look for local clothing drives that give items directly to the homeless. Don’t forget things like hats, scarves, and gloves; it is nearly winter after all.
  • Keep small bills in your pocket. If you live in a city, you likely pass by homeless people on your commute to work each day. Carry ten $1 bills, and pass them out until they’re gone.
  • Host others for Thanksgiving. Have a neighbor who is out of work? Open your door to share Thanksgiving with her family. This is the sort of act of kindness you usually only see in movies, but it’s easy to do.
  • Clean out your cupboards. Sort through all of those canned goods that haven’t been eaten for months, or that your children decided they didn’t like after one sitting. Donate them to a food bank.
  • Make room in your budget to donate $25 or $50 to charity this season. Then, when you’re asked to donate an extra $1 for a cause at the grocery store, or asked by girl scouts to buy cookies, you can say yes.

Even when times are tight, there are always opportunities to give back that don’t cost you a cent. Here are some free ways to help you give to those in need this holiday season:

  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. There are scores of ways to volunteer, but soup kitchens always need a lot of help, especially during the holidays. I volunteered at a soup kitchen with my family one Thanksgiving; it’s probably the most memorable turkey day I have had.
  • Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. I’ve wanted to do this for a while now, but my life just doesn’t allow for it yet. It’d be awesome to be able to mentor (and hang out with) a little buddy, and to help them grow.
  • Start a food or clothing drive. Maybe you don’t have spare food or extra clothing to donate. Others might. Maybe they just need an easy outlet to donate them through. Starting a food or clothing drive at your church, synagogue, or local school can be easy and rewarding.
  • Donate your body. Donate blood, bone marrow stem cells, and plasma. This type of giving can make a huge difference in people’s lives and costs you nothing that can’t be replenished.

Are you still giving despite the down economy? What other ways do you contribute to charity or community that make an impact without draining your budget?

For further reading of the Spectrum of Personal Finance Event, please see:

To view a recap of the event, check out the Spectrum Roundup at My Next Buck.

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