25 Ways to Give (Without Breaking the Bank)

In the past nine months I've found $12.89 in singles and specie. The cash has shown up in a number of places, but most of it is from coins I picked up.

As usual, I'll squirrel away the found funds until Thanksgiving, at which time I'll write a check to a food bank. I've been doing this for a couple of decades, including a span of several years during which I had neither a vessel into which to urinate nor a casement through which to dispose of it.

This was a painless way to help others at a time when I worried nonstop about my own ability to stay afloat. Giving to others got me out of my own head, reminding me that plenty of people lived with considerably fewer resources (financial, emotional, practical) than I had.

It also reminded me that despite my fears I actually did have enough to get by. In fact, I had so much enough that I could afford to share a little with others. What richness!

Maybe you're in a tight spot of your own, or maybe your paycheck covers the basics without much left over. But writing a check isn't the only way to give. Our time, our talents and even our frugal hacks can make a difference in the world.

The Ultimate Social Network
Why give? Because there's need — and because it's as good for you as it is for the people to whom you contribute.

Helping others connects us with the bigger picture, i.e., life outside our own little circles of circumstance. Giving is the ultimate social network, because it connects us with the wider world vs. the virtual one.

Suppose you spent an hour driving a veteran to the doctor and back. For you it would be an hour you could spare. For the vet you drove, it would be a lifeline.

Note: You shouldn't give anything — even your time — if it endangers your equilibrium or your budget. A single parent with one and a half jobs already has enough on his or her plate, and you should chase the wolf away from your own door before you pick a name off the Angel Tree.

The following tips are not one-size-fits-all. For example, maybe you:

  • Live in a high-rise and don't know your neighbors.
  • Aren't the kind of person who would ever pick up recyclables.
  • Can't donate blood for medical reasons.

But surely one of these suggestions will resonate. And if not? Share your own ideas in the comment section.

“Used,” but still useful

    1. Charity thrift shops. Goodwill and others can use clothing, housewares, books and maybe even furniture. However, keep in mind that the stuff you think “still has some use left in it” might not be saleable. Get a receipt in case this is the year you itemize; see “Getting the most from your charitable deductions” for specifics.
    2. The Freecycle Network. Not all chapters are created equal, but I've had tremendous success with people coming to get stuff I no longer need.
    3. Got books? This American Library Association fact sheet offers information on libraries that accept donated materials.
    4. Got children's books? Ask if you can leave your kids' outgrown titles in the waiting room at a public health clinic or social service agency.
    5. Periodical sharing. When you finish with magazines, ask if it's OK to leave them at laundromats, job-source organizations or other places adults tend to sit and wait. Cut the mailing label off the front of the mag; it doesn't hurt to be wary even though identity theft is generally more high-tech than that.
    6. Rags that rock. Before tossing worn-out towels or blankets, see if pet rescue groups could use them.
    7. Holidays for kids. This doesn't have to cost a bundle. Shop the Black Friday or pre-Black Friday sales, or the loss leaders during the holiday season. If experience has shown you which stores have the best stuff, shave off a few more bucks by paying with a discounted gift card.
    8. Holidays for adults. Social service agencies or places of worship will likely let you know who's in need. Shop the same sales as noted in “gifts for kids,” above, and also watch daily deal sites like My Bargain Buddy and Dealnews.com.
    9. Clothing drives. Got a second coat, a like-new hat, an extra scarf? If you're in a cold climate a collection box is waiting somewhere. When I lived in Alaska I carried extra hats, scarves and mittens in the trunk of my car, in case I met a homeless person who needed them. (And I did.)
    10. Pro bono es bueno. Lawyers and doctors aren't the only ones who donate their time, incidentally. Whether it's social media savvy or landscape architecture, your skills might be needed by a town landmark, a group home, an elementary school.
    11. Helping hands. Not everyone has an in-demand skill, but just about any of us can stuff envelopes or help clean up after a PTA meeting.
    12. Teach a class. Take stock of what you know well — web design, cake decorating, Excel spreadsheets? — and offer that knowledge to others through a club, afterschool program, fraternal organization or place of worship.
    13. Be a youth-group leader. This is a huge time commitment, and some people (including me) aren't nuts about certain organizations' policies on gays and lesbians. But if you can find a match — scouting, 4-H, youth sports, Sunday school — your help is needed.
    14. Mentoring. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is the group people most often choose, but other options exist. Maybe your place of worship has a way to match kids in need with caring adults. Perhaps a professional organization arranges job-shadows for teens interested in your industry. A recent college graduate in your field might need advice and/or networking.
    15. Yard work. Got an elderly or chronically ill neighbor who can't manage snow, leaves or lawn? Step up.
    16. Give blood. If the bloodmobile comes to the workplace, well, score: You get a break from the job plus juice and cookies! If not, look for blood drives. Donation doesn't take very long and it's a literal lifesaver.

Frugal-hack giving

    1. Use your coupon powers for good. By combining sale prices, coupons and instant store rebates, you can pay nothing or next to nothing for toiletries, cleaning products and food items. I've donated numerous bags of these things to a shelter and a couple of emergency pantries.
    2. Coupon powers, part 2. Michael's and Jo-Ann's have dollar sections and they run “50% off any non-clearance item” coupons in their Sunday ads. Thus I pay 50 cents for knitted gloves that aren't good to 30 below but do keep out the chill. Shelters can use these.
    3. Clearance tables rule! Speaking of gloves: I found them priced at two pairs for 33 cents a couple of late-winters ago. (I bought 100 pairs to give away.) Clearance tables can also yield gifts for next year's holiday donations.
    4. Recycle for credit. Trade in spent ink cartridges for store credit at Office Max, Office Depot and Staples, then buy school supplies to donate. Deliver office supplies to your favorite local nonprofit. Drop off teabags or coffee filters at the senior center. (Cartridge trade-in policies vary, so be clear on the rules before you do this.)
    5. Recycle for cash. If you walk for exercise, carry a bag and pick up cans and bottles along the way. Give the money you earn to your favorite cause.
    6. Plant a little extra. If you have one zucchini plant you have enough; if you have two, you have enough to share. Seriously: Put a few extra seeds in the ground and donate extra produce to food bank or soup kitchen.
    7. Calendar creep. Do charities send you calendars, greeting cards and notepads? Offer calendars to teachers (animal-themed ones are a big hit with younger kids), group homes, senior centers or nonprofits, or bundle up the cards and notepads and donate them to charity thrift shops.
    8. A non-pay phone. Got a plan with unlimited minutes? Maybe someone in a veterans' or long-term-care home wants to call family or friends but can't afford it. Ask a social worker if you can temporarily donate your phone on a weekend afternoon.
    9. House-caring hack. Next time someone offers you $50 to pick up the mail and feed the cat for a week, make a counter-offer: You'll do those chores if he or she will make a donation to the charity of your choice. If you're a cynic, just accept the money and donate it yourself.

Readers: How do you give on a budget — or for free?

More about...Frugality, Giving

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William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago

Very good list! Through the years we’ve always deviated from the mantra of pay yourself first: the very first thing that came out of our paychecks has always been our monthly giving budget. May sound crazy, but over almost 40 years it has somehow worked out for us. There is more to life than self. If generosity is a value, opportunities appear everywhere. Adopting an older dog for someone in a senior center is something we’re considering at the moment. [We thought about a puppy till someone pointed out the small difference in energy level, and the tendency for puppies… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

I usually try to give away my kids outgrown clothing and toys….either to good will or the local charity thrift shop. Most of them were gifts to me anyways so I am really just passing them along to someone else who needs them!

Savvy Scot
Savvy Scot
7 years ago

I give through KIVA which allows you to give (relatively) small amounts directly to those who need it. You can also pick the people you want to give to directly and read about them. This makes it all more personal

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Savvy Scot

I am a fan of microfinance in general, but I don’t like how KIVA essentially manipulates you into thinking you are personally helping this one individual. You aren’t. The person on the screen has already been helped. This is no different than the Adopt a Child programs. I imagine that little boy you are supporting in Guatemala writes several letters to American families thanking them for their support. All these tactics are used to tug at the heart strings of potential givers. I would much prefer if they would just say – here is someone we helped in the past.… Read more »

Kelly
Kelly
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I totally agree that charities need to be upfront about how they work and what they’re really doing. I’m not sure who they think they’re helping by lying. That said, there are Adopt-A-Child-style programs that work as you describe, but not all of them. With Compassion International, for instance, the child really does have only one sponsor. In fact, if you want, you can even send special Christmas and birthday gifts that go directly to the child in cash, and the workers at their particular program in their town help them pick something out. Now, when you see a child’s… Read more »

Katie
Katie
7 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

That’s actually a terrible aid model though, and there are all kinds of studies showing it. It really is not a good way to help build sustainable communities. It creates stark divisions between children with a sponsor and children without and, essentially, commodifies their cuteness for foreigners oversees.

I’d be much more inclined to support a charity that made better use of their donation dollars while offering up a few “sample” children then I would one that actually followed the individual sponsor model. (Though I think there are better charities to support than either.)

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Kiva’s pretty clear about this. I know they didn’t at first, but now when you lend they put up a message saying the loan has already gone out and you are just helping to backfill the funds for that agency.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago

In the wintertime I usually make side cash snow plowing people’s driveways and the parking lots for small businesses. Sometimes I’ll throw in a free plow (Merry Christmas to them and makes me feel good!).

Ms. Rants
Ms. Rants
7 years ago

Due to health problems, I can’t shovel snow. Every winter I put up signs in my apartment building offering to pay someone to shovel out my car, which is parked on the street. Every winter one or more neighbors insists on shoveling me out for free. It makes a huge difference not only financially, but also just knowing how supportive my community is. I can’t help others in this way, so I help in other ways – usually by reviewing and editing resumes and cover letters for free, since I have experience with hiring.

Audrey
Audrey
7 years ago

I’ve had several friends run in marathons or races that require donations. I usually try to find some extra money for them if I can. I also saw on facebook that someone I went to high school with has an infant with cancer and their medical bills are getting astronomical. They have a donation site, and I decided to give to them as well. Also, by blood bank gives “points” for donating blood, and then you can redeem those points for items (t-shrits and other fairly inexpensive things). However, recently they’ve added donating the points to the food bank or… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

In times when business is slow we donate services to people and causes we like (because when it’s busy we don’t have time). It’s nice and good fun and sometimes even turns out to be good networking. One caveat for those seeking a tax deduction: your time isn’t tax-deductible. But you don’t donate just for the deductions, right? Also, having been the beneficiaries of a Kickstarter campaign (thanks 4ever), we recently started giving to projects we like. A documentary we contributed to just $20 recently ended up raking in over $100K! One thing that irks me though is that public… Read more »

KSR
KSR
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I would have to admit that yes…yes I do. I do donate for the tax deductions. I know. I know. BUT! I pay a lot of taxes so I’m not trying to skirt. Between business, personal, employee, property, all the way down to vehicle and soda pop… all those taxes add up to a large sum. It’s nice to give directly (and locally) to see a difference rather than have all those dollars float to a place where I haven’t a clue. There’s the 50% rule and I try to meet it but sometimes can’t. I do volunteer *my time*… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

I prefer to look at it as though our government gives us the choice to decide whether to support society locally or organizationally (via charitable donations) or to support society nationally (via taxes).

So, I see nothing wrong with taking “deductions” from the national kitty since those same dollars have instead gone to a good cause right here in my own backyard.

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

It could be worse…

At one of my former jobs, the state/county budget we were given didn’t supply enough money for toilet paper, so we ended up buying what we needed using a charitable donation fund. (Granted, we weren’t a public school. We were a public park focused on providing educational programs.)

Anyway. I second the recommendation to donate extra character calenders to teachers, especially teachers of preschool or kindergarten.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

All great ideas 🙂 One thing I would like to add is that if you have a hands-on hobby like knitting, quilting, woodworking, etc. you can often find free materials to make up a project for charity. For example, my local wool shop has yarn available for people to knit blankets for the Linus Project. They simply sign up for the yarn and return the finished blanket to the shop. Some churches have prayer shawl ministries and some quilt shops have “quilt for charity days” where people can come in and sew (all materials and tools are provided.) Not only… Read more »

Jennifer Gwennifer
Jennifer Gwennifer
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

hurray for the Linus Project!
for every quilt donated in my area, you get a coupon for two free fat quarters at the local fabric store 🙂

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I love that idea. Locally I’ve heard of knitters making caps for preemies and baby blankets for single moms.
What a nice way to turn what you love doing into something someone else would love to have.

KP
KP
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

if you have time, here is a good organization http://www.seamenschurch.org/christmas-at-sea

Another thing is to see if there is someone you can check on everyday.

Schools need folks for the youngsters to read to.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  KP

One morning my friend’s mom fell at home. She lay on the floor for several hours until the neighbors across the street noticed she hadn’t turned off her porch light. Luckily her hip wasn’t actually broken. She was just in so much pain she was afraid to move. Those kind neighbors offered to let her live with them. My friend, who was overseeing this from afar (she lived in Alaska, mom lived in Tennessee), was so grateful. She paid them, of course, because it was no small amount of work to take in an elderly person and make sure she… Read more »

Babs
Babs
7 years ago

Great Ideas! I donate to local thrift shops regularly AND I shop there as well. Our local Girl Scout Council has an Outdoor Challenge Program. They train people (male & female)to run ziplines, rappel towers, teach archery, orienteering, outdoor cooking, first aid, etc. If you are interested in learning that kind of thing the training is free and the facilities are excellent. You volunteer when you can so the time commitment is not nearly as great as being a leader. I was an archery instructor for a few years and I loved it. Our council is very committed to providing… Read more »

Beth
Beth
7 years ago

I live in a very small rural town and the local food pantry is independently run by the local council of churches. They are always barely scraping by with never enough food to help all who are in need. For years hubby and I have started early and with coupons and sales been able to donate “extras” like hot cocoa, cake mix and candy or cookies for the holiday baskets. I know in many larger areas the holiday baskets consist of little extras that make the holidays easier. Here the families receive a turkey, 5 lb. bag of potatoes, some… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I work at a food bank. Please go lightly on the cake mixes and heavier on the proteins.

Peanut butter, tuna, canned meats are definitely more needed than another cake mix. There are always plenty of those.

Beth
Beth
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I understand that. I wasn’t talking about general donations, I’m talking about the holiday baskets exclusively for the extras. I actually used to volunteer at this food bank, and the items I listed for the holiday baskets are what the families get period. I know in larger communities they do get other items for meals, but not here. I think it’s nice to have a dessert for Christmas or Thanksgiving at the end of the meal.

Gillian @ Money After Graduation
Gillian @ Money After Graduation
7 years ago

Great post, it is always good to encourage people to give back. I have been thinking about being a Big Sister for awhile now, maybe sometime this week I will begin to put the wheels in motion on that one.

Jo in OKC
Jo in OKC
7 years ago

I moderate an email list, which is one of many ways to give of your time online, mostly on your schedule, without needing to donate money.

Jennifer+B
Jennifer+B
7 years ago

What a great list!

One more to add for you – Military families stationed overseas can use coupons in the base commissaries and post exchanges, but they don’t get the newspaper inserts.

You can send coupons to the bases overseas and they can use them for 6 months past the expiration date listed on the coupons. So you can send them coupons that you don’t use, or can’t use (because they are expired) and they can use them.

Do a google search for “coupons for overseas military” to find programs and addresses where to send and further information.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer+B

I did this once, but afterwards I received a letter from the group asking me not to send more. They said they had more than they could ever use. Apparently the coupon craze had overloaded them.

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer+B

I’d recommend ocpnet.com – I’ve been donating through them for years. There’s a list of which bases are accepting coupons and which aren’t.

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

Donna, your list is great! Thanks too for the gentle point that sharing with others is important; I tend to do it on an irregular basis, and my challenge is finding ways to do so regularly. Mostly I do what I can as opportunities come up – anything from giving a ride to a friend to donating worn towels to an animal shelter – but it would be worthwhile for me to find a regular approach. I’ve also passed along small windfalls when possible and appropriate – for example, a $50 Amazon gift card I’d received that I sent to… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

My giving used to be hit-and-miss as well and ended up donating more around holiday time. I felt I could do better. For cash donations, I set up a separate account with an automatic transfer each month. Then I’ve always got cash on hand if someone I know is raising money for a cause or if I hear there’s a special need in my community.

I feel awkward talking about my giving in a public forum like this, but I found this strategy makes it easier to plan and track my giving.

Barb
Barb
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

As someone who works with many charities, both volunteering and liason, I think this is important (without picking on you). Yes, its nice to give at Christms and thanksgiving and it makes you feel good, but charities REALLY need help at other times. Food banks actually need food the most during the summer, for example, when many children dnt get their subsidized lunch or breakfast. Many kids miss the first days of school because mom and dad cant afford school suplies….and the list goes on.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

I love this list! Can I please request that it “re-runs” in December?

I know GRS readers wouldn’t do this, but it’s worth mentioning: Please be honest w/r/t the quality of the clothing, etc., that will be given to Goodwill, clothing drives, and the like. Every year, one of my teacher friends has a clothing drive for winter clothing – and every year, she ends up tossing about 1/4 of it because the stuff is stained beyond hope or torn beyond repair.

Beth
Beth
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

I understand exactly what your saying. That’s an excellent reminder. I like to donate my kids clothes to a domestic violence emergency shelter. Many times these families flee with the clothing on their backs, and clothing and toys are always on the shelter’s want list. I never put anything in the box that I wouldn’t put on my own children.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

This is definitely true. We had a clothing drive at my church once. I was in charge of going through the items. Some of it smelled really bad and was overall pretty gross. One bag was full of used men’s underwear. Yuck!

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

EW!

I feel so sorry for the volunteer who reached inside the bag and thought “I wonder what’s in here?”

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

Plus plus that! Even if we wouldn’t give away something actually dirty, some of us forget that a shirt we think still has quite a bit of wear in it is something most people wouldn’t pay money for — and the shops need to prioritize space on the racks for things they know they can sell.

That said, I’ve seen items with stains or bleach spots at thrift shops. But they’re priced accordingly. We all need an outfit in which we can paint or clean fish.

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

the big charities – Goodwill, ARC, DAV – are pretty good at diverting stuff for cash, like selling stained clothing as rag-quality fabric. They still get stuff that costs them too much to get rid of (hazardous-waste electronics and baby items that are illegal to resell are big no-nos around here.) but they’re experts at turning a profit on donations even if it’s not through the store.

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

Donna, you had me at “specie.”

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

It’s a fun word.

K
K
7 years ago

Whenever I shop online I use the sites Goodshop or iGive–they donate a percentage of your purchase to the charity of your choice. My local animal shelter will receive a donation of almost $1,000 this year and it cost the volunteers nothing!
I also use a Bank of America Humane Society credit card–BofA gives a percentage of each purchase to the Humane Society, and I get 3% back on gas, 2% on groceries, and 1% on everything else. I put the cash back toward my BofA mortgage. Win-win!

PB
PB
7 years ago

I keep a bright red envelope in my bill drawer, and when I pay the bills every month, put $ 20.00 into it. That way, when something comes up, I always have money on hand to donate to it. It says “Guatemala Mission” on the outside because that’s what I started saving for, but has since grown to cover any number of local needs.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago

Instead of trading in cartridges and buying supplies, consider donating cartridges directly. A lot of organizations are now accepting donations of used toner and ink cartridges (as well as cell phones) which they trade in for value. By cutting out the store as the middle man, the charitable org gets to keep more of the donation!

brooklynchick
brooklynchick
7 years ago

I set up automatic giving to my favorite charities. $10 a month is easy on my checking account, gives them some dependable cash flow and adds up to a nice gift at tax time! It makes monthly budgeting easier and also allows me to focus my giving in a planned way.

Great post!

Donna
Donna
7 years ago

Honestly almost anything you can think of can benefit charities. We have a mum fundraiser at work with proceeds to benefit the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter. So far raised $67 in 1 day!

ellie
ellie
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna

What is a mum fundraiser?

Carol
Carol
7 years ago

You can donate swagbucks to their featured charities and also do searches for charities at Goodsearch.com.

CPALady
CPALady
7 years ago

There was a great article in a local arts magazine covering some big movers & shakers in our arts scene. One of which is a major arts philanthropist. She gives massive amounts (six figures) to the arts every year, she runs a successful business that she makes her money through, but she’s not landed gentry or anything. The interviewer asked her why she gives so much and I loved her answer, paraphrased it was “This is my passion. I live in a small house and I don’t take vacations or go out to dinner, I just give to the arts”… Read more »

Val
Val
7 years ago

Bless your heart Ms. Freedman. Makes me happy that there are such sweet generous souls out there like yourself who not only give of themselves but inspire us to follow their lead. Have a beautiful day! 🙂

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago

Practical Parsimony had some really thoughtful ideas that she left in the comments section of our blog post yesterday.

http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/planning-charitable-giving/

We mainly give money now, but back when I had more time than money I did a lot of math tutoring in urban low-income schools and for a summer program for migrant children.

Kaytee
Kaytee
7 years ago

Donate breastmilk! There’s always a need and I believe most states have a chapter of Human Milk for Human Babies. Granted, this is a rather unique item that only a specific group of people can do. Why not take the opportunity to donate something valuable when you can?

Cortney
Cortney
7 years ago

While I already donate time and things I no longer want, in the past few years, I’ve taken more and more to donating cash. I feel like charities can use that cash and get a better deal buying in bulk than I would if I went to the store, bought a smaller amount, and donated the item to the charity. Plus, cash lets them get what they need, not what I think they need. Does anyone know if this is actually true? I like the idea of using coupons to buy goods and then donating those items to a charity… Read more »

MM
MM
7 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

I think this is very true. Food banks, for instance, can get food for pennies on the dollar. Food that might cost you $2 will cost them 10c. Logistically speaking, receiving donations of random items like clothes or household goods is a nightmare. In general (not ALWAYS) it’s better to give cash to well-run charities if you want to do good, not just feel good about yourself.

Babs
Babs
7 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

My favorite grocery store has a pads of slips at the checkout that you can pull off and donate $1/$5/$10 to the local food bank. It is painless, year round and keeps me off the #!!!*# lists!

LB
LB
7 years ago

Some friends and I “adopted” our local women’s shelter’s transitional living program. We found them a bookshelf and bring them a box of books every couple months. We put the word out and it’s easy to collect a box of books every couple months.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago

Volunteer with your local first aid squad. It has enormous benefits to your community, and in some cases has even more benefits for you. Thinking about a second career in some medical tech field? You can become a First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician through most squads. Just don’t be a pr**k and quit as soon as you finish your training and get some experience. Being a member also has social benefits – you meet some of the most interesting people! Some towns’ businesses offer members discounts. And it doesn’t hurt when a police officer pulls you over and sees… Read more »

Diane Romano-Woodward
Diane Romano-Woodward
7 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

I am a volunteer First Aider in England with the British Red Cross. A lot of Public Events cannot go on if there are not F.A. people present so we help the public generally and also specifically if they are ill or injured or distressed.I have been to a wide range of fun day, events , marathons, village fairs etc which I would not normally visit.I have also learned a lot about child and adult protection, organisation, human management, emergency response and all training is free.I have to agree about staying the course for some time after you have qualified… Read more »

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago

Thanks for adding that, Diane. We also attend high school sports events, charity runs/walks, parades and other things where we might not otherwise even get parking! My most recent one was a book signing for NJ Housewife Teresa Giudice at a local bakery. We had to care for several people who stood in line for hours and then were overcome after meeting her!

Babs
Babs
7 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

There is also CERT training.

http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/

for the chainsaw crowd.

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago

Our grocery store has a box near the checkouts for our local food bank, and we make a point of buying something every week to donate. This way we can pick up something that’s on sale for the donation, yet still feel like we’re giving back.

Ely
Ely
7 years ago

I’ve gone through many versions of donating time/money, trying to find a balance of things that work for me, and I think I’ve finally got it. I spend 2hrs/week (not so much over the busy busy summer, but generally) at my neighborhood library, fulfilling holds – the service I use most myself. It’s a wonderful two hours of quiet among books; absolute heaven! And I donate $10/mo to planned parenthood, a tiny candle in the darkness of woman-hatred that has sprung up recently in our country. It’s not much, but I do what I can. Thanks Donna for your as… Read more »

MamaMia
MamaMia
7 years ago

I love, love, LOVE this article! I’m printing out your list to pin to my corkboard now, Donna. One piece of advice I wanted to offer, though, re: calendars, greeting cards, notepads and so on that charities send in the mail. If you’re getting them but you’re not giving to the charity, please take the time to contact the charity to be removed from its mailing list. Those freebies don’t come free! The same goes for charity mailings that DON’T come with freebies – charities sink an enormous amount of funds into bulk mailings, many of which never see any… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

Good point. Thanks.

CPALady
CPALady
7 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

I wouldn’t worry TOO MUCH about this (though true, if you really aren’t interested in a charity, do them a favor and ask to be removed) Non-profit execs understand very well that only a tiny portion of their mailings will be answered. My friend who’s an ED at a smallish non-profit said that they get about a 10% response to their annual fund drive despite curating them mailing list extensively. It’s to be expected that they will geta low response rate from mailings, but if they get ENOUGH of a response then it justifies the cost. It’s good to keep… Read more »

MamaMia
MamaMia
7 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

I’ve only ever worked for non-profits, and so I feel I can safely say that while it’s true that they expect only a small return on bulk fundraising mailings, it’s also true that these mailings are a drain on their resources. One reason some non-profits don’t mind suffering the costs is that they can recoup some of their losses by selling or sharing their donor lists with other non-profits/third parties. (Which is why charity mailings seem to multiply each passing year!) Personally, as an environmentalist I’d rather not get all that “junk” mail that adds to my carbon footprint. I… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
7 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

I put a lot of time and effort into getting off the mailing lists (from calling, doing Catalog Choice, marking stuff Return to Sender, on up to every few years I hand-write notes with my annual donation saying “if i get any mail from you before this time next year I am never donating again) Nothing works. I think it’s because relatives donate to the big cancer & children’s charities in our names, and then they get sold. But we get junk mail from places we never have and never will support, and the effort of getting off the lists… Read more »

Carol in Mpls
Carol in Mpls
7 years ago

I’m a blood donor, specifically platelets, as I have one of the less common blood types. I do a double donation, watch a movie for free, relax a bit, and feel good afterwards. It has a tangible and immediate use for someone in need. Even more meaningful lately, as my father needed four units in the hospital last month. My goal for this year is to donate once a month.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Carol in Mpls

You are my hero, whether or not you are currently wearing that red vest.

FinancialBabySteps
FinancialBabySteps
7 years ago
Reply to  Carol in Mpls

That’s awesome, and I love it! My firm just had a blood drive yesterday, and I was bummed that I couldn’t donate (still have another month to go before my one-year-following-travel-to-countries-where-malaria-is-present is up). There’s such a huge need for those donations.

Carol in Mpls
Carol in Mpls
7 years ago
Reply to  Carol in Mpls

@Donna & FBS,

Thanks for the support. Just had a phone call seeking donors for the holiday weekend ahead, but I’ll be out of town. The cool thing about donating platelets is that you can do it every two weeks, which is great. Since I have a much less common blood type, it feels like my way to pay it forward for others.

And, for a financial tip: think of all the money I’m saving at the movies 🙂

Jenne
Jenne
7 years ago

I found that even setting up at $15/month gift to Unicef made me feel more rich.

Giving old stuff away is another great way of combining decluttering and charity. Our best stuff goes on Freecycle. Stuff that someone might want but that nobody’s going to drive to pick up goes to the Vietnam Veteran’s Association (pickupplease.org) because they pick up stuff at your house. And stuff that’s unwearable, I drop in one of those for-profit ‘charity’ bins, since they often sell the clothing for rags or carpet padding. 🙂

M
M
7 years ago

And something as simple as growing an extra row of lettuce (or any other produce), then donating it to the local soup kitchen does wonders for the soul!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  M

Or zucchini — tip #22.
Here’s my six degrees of separation: I actually know Jeff Lowenfels, the guy who created the “Plant a Row For the Hungry” campaign. All Alaskans know one another.

Stan
Stan
7 years ago

Great suggestions overall!

If you are looking to give something away that you no longer use, the “free” section of Craigslist can also be a good alternative. I usually list items on both Freecycle and Craigslist and get good responses either way.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Stan

Good point, since some areas might have Craigslist but not Freecycle.

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

I had an excess of milk while nursing my daughter (I pumped at work), so I donated over 22 gallons of milk to the Milk Bank in my state. There is a rigorous medical and lifestyle screening, blood tests and permission forms for your physician and baby’s pediatrician. The milk is tested for fat, protein and calories and pasteurized. The milk is dispensed by prescription only to infants who are premature or ill.

My husband donates blood.

My daughter donated her beautiful golden ponytail to Locks for Love.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Twenty-two gallons?!? My hat’s off to you!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

What Megan said. Wow.

My great-nephew grew his hair long and donated it to a different wigs charity. He got teased a little bit but he said it didn’t bother him. Bless his heart.

Jason Clayton | frugal habits
Jason Clayton | frugal habits
7 years ago

Giving brings us Joy even more so than becoming wealthy. If you’re not going to give to help others, (which you should do) at least you should do it for our own self-interest of happiness.

Thanks for a great set of ideas on ways to give when you don’t have the $$.

Jen
Jen
7 years ago

I did this when I was younger, and I’m trying to get back into it now. Since I don’t have much money to donate, I try to donate time. When my aunt and great-uncle were sick with cancer, my parents would visit them in the hospice for a few hours at a time, several days per week. I was a young-ish kid and the illness made me uncomfortable, so I spent the hours playing piano in their lounge/hall. After the first few times, the visiting families or even some of the hospice residents would sit in the hall and listen.… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I like this idea so much. Be prepared to have people request favorite songs, though.

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

I give the way I handle much of my personal finances, auto payment of $50 a month to the charity I’m invovled in. I recently upped it from $40 to $50 a month in response to a recent NPR segment on giving and who gives the most.

http://adventures-of-sam.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-charitable.html

We give at other times and in other ways, but the auto pay works great for us and its just a part of our monthly spending plan.

I also give of my time to the same charity, by serving on the board of directors.

stellamarina
stellamarina
7 years ago

I like the idea of telling an elderly neighbor that they are now a member of the soup of the month club. Then once a month you give them a good size container (enough for two servings) of home made soup with a bread roll. Easily done and happily accepted.

A poorer neigbor might also really appreciate getting your Sunday newspaper after you have finished reading it.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  stellamarina

Wonderful suggestion.
I’m loving all these ideas. Keep ’em coming!

MamaMia
MamaMia
7 years ago

#26: Sign your organ donor card!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

Already have. Hope others choose to do so as well.

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago
Reply to  MamaMia

Okay, this related option is NOT for everyone, but my husband donated one of his kidneys to a neighbor. One year later, the neighbor is enjoying dialysis-free traveling again, and my husband doesn’t miss his second kidney. It did “cost” us with time off work,etc., but it was a priceless experience.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Wow. What an amazing gesture.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Sign up to be a marrow donor. You may never match someone, but you might someday.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

@WWII Kid: Years ago I did a newspaper story on a couple of people who’d donated marrow. That inspired me to sign up. Sadly, no matches were ever found and I’ve aged out of the donation demographic.
I would have done it without hesitation. Imagine being able to help save someone’s life. (Blood donors do it every day, of course…)

Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
7 years ago

In the UK, opticians can collect your old glasses and recycle them, sending them to people in other countries who would otherwise not be able to get proper prescription lenses.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago

Good one! I used to donate my glasses at an optician’s in Anchorage. I believe the Lions Club collects them as well.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Places to donate hearing aids to:
Local Lions Club

Hear Now

Help the Children Hear (Rotary program)

Sertoma Hearing Aid Recycling Program (SHARP)

Genny
Genny
7 years ago

Many food banks receive food but do NOT get personal care items like soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. A bible study group we attend collects these items for our local food pantry. Something to keep in mind when you have coupons combined with great sales on these items!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Genny

That would be Tip #17 — and one of my personal ministries as well. I take them to a social services agency that runs a food bank as well as providing toiletries and school supplies (which I also collect, during the loss-leader sales).
If you can’t afford food, you probably can’t afford a toothbrush, either.

Genny
Genny
7 years ago

Do you love Paperback Swap? (I do) You can donate your credits to teachers looking for books for their students.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Donna, Thanks for the article. Particularly, thanks for recognizing that giving is about more than money. I have this really weird hangup about money. On paper, I make a lot of it, almost six figures in a good year, $75k in a bad one. But I also borrowed $92k for college, and live in Washington DC. You know what that means? Rent is expensive. Paying $1300/mo in rent and $600/mo in student loan payments takes a *big* bite out of my financial hide. If I want to buy a house and put down a respectable down payment? Well, that $40k… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Give what you feel you can afford to give. And charity DOES begin at home, i.e., don’t give away every extra cent you have. That way madness lies. Indebtedness, too.

Sheila
Sheila
7 years ago

While there was a bit of an upfront investment involved (to cover training and insurance), which I saved for, I got my very-energetic-but-sweet dog and myself certified as a therapy-dog team. It seemed like a good way to volunteer with my dog and to channel her crazy affection for people. We’ve started visiting a nursing home every other weekend. It’s amazing how just a few minutes with an animal can bring a little bit of happiness to someone’s day.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

What a nice way to spread the love! When my daughter was in a long-term respiratory-care hospital after getting out of the ICU, my sister brought her dog, Sarah, out a couple of times. One time a respiratory therapist asked to “borrow” the pooch, to visit a woman who never got visitors. (How awful.) The woman was so happy to see the dog, and didn’t want to let her go. She cried when Sarah left the room. I think that the pink ladies should trundle around a cart full of puppies and kittens along with the magazines and playing cards.… Read more »

Genny
Genny
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

When I was with my mother in a hospice facility, a lovely woman brought her therapy dog in to visit the patients. That was so sweet.

Angie
Angie
7 years ago

Great suggestions. Right now I have a very haphazard approach to giving – generally if someone I know is participating in a chartiable event (eg. shaves head to raise $$ for cancer, abstains from drinking for a month to help disadvantaged youth, participates in a fun run etc) I will donate a minimum of $10 (more if I really like the cause). I give somewhat regularly, but obviously am not targeting my donations in any useful way. So this is something I should think about. I also give a decent amount of money to “non-charitable” causes, e.g. donating money to… Read more »

Linda
Linda
7 years ago

I try to watch the clearance aisles for toys year round and then donate them to the Toys for Tots program. Tonight, in fact, I found a paint by number set on sale at Michaels and it is now in our “give” stack. For many years, I volunteered with Girl Scouts and one of my kids’ sports teams. Now I am a bit more stay at home but still donate blankets to the Humane Society. Finally, if you run or walk and participate in races, it’s another good way to give to your favorite causes. I personally do all the… Read more »

Erica
Erica
7 years ago

My dad runs an assisted living facility for lower-income folks with severe mental illness – including many veterans and former cops. They love receiving large-print books. In fact, my dad always requests this in lieu of a Christmas gift for himself!

Donna
Donna
7 years ago

Donna, love, love, love your article. This is an example of why you are one of my favorite authors. Your advice is always common-sense and practical, with a good dose of humor added in. Blessings to you.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
7 years ago
Reply to  Donna

Plus: I have a cool name.;-)

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