Giving Outside the Box: Generosity on a Limited Budget

Charity by Sir Joseph Boehm by mira66 on Flickr!Many of us want to give to others. We see others in need and deeply desire to reach out and help them. We want to give to the charities we care about and to other causes. Many people want to give to their church or religious organization as well, using that as a conduit for helping the community and the world.

That desire is often counterbalanced by financial reality. When it comes down to the cold reality of making all of our bills for the month. many of us are pressed to make very hard choices that we don’t wish to make. Is it really fair to make a choice between a check to Habitat for Humanities and a check for our mortgage? Yet, quite often, that’s the type of choice many of us have to make.

My response to that is simple: give what you have. No one expects or wants you to put yourself in a deep personal crisis to give. Instead, give of those things which you have in abundance and wait until your financial life is in order to contribute money.

Instead, contribute of yourself in other ways. Here are six powerful ways to donate in ways that don’t force you into difficult and painful financial choices.

Give things you can make You might be pinched so tight that you can’t afford to drop a check in the collection plate, but you can take the pears from that pear tree behind your house and make several dozen jars of pear butter. Take those jars and give them to the organization you’d like to help for an auction or to give away to the needy. Another option: do what my father has always done. He grows an abundance of vegetables in his garden and gives much of the bounty away to others. What can you make (or grow) that has great value to others? Figure that out, step up to the plate, and give away the fruits of your labor.

Give your time Tempted to donate to public radio but scared it’ll put you in a tough spot with your bills? Offer to donate your time doing a menial task like answering the phone during pledge weeks. Offer to work as a receptionist a few hours a week for them. Your gift of time can often be much more valuable than the money you could scrape together.

Give your patience Most charities have menial tasks that no one wants to do. In lieu of putting your money in their hands, put your patience there instead. Recently, I did this myself by taking on the task of rewriting a very lengthy document that needed to be rewritten in order to maintain the legal status of an organization. It didn’t take smarts to do it – just a lot of patience and a willingness to jump through all of those hoops to get everything right. Perhaps you can show your patience by volunteering to help with preschool Sunday school classes or as an assistant one day a week with Head Start.

Give your compassion Hospice organizations often desperately need people with great compassion to step forward and help out with people in end-life situations. If you’re a deeply compassionate person, this is another spectacular way to give something special of yourself, a gift others with plenty of money in their pocket are often unable and unwilling to give.

Give your expertise Many people have strengths in a particular area – computer programming, paralegal skills, teaching skills, etc. These skills have great value to others and that’s why they can often help you to earn a solid paycheck. Applying these skills to a charitable organization can be even more valuable – if you can offer your programming skills to help an organization develop a key piece of software, you’ve given the cost of someone to consult for that piece of software, and that can be a sizable amount. Got skills with accounting? Serving as a free auditor for charities you care about can bring tremendous value to their door.

“Give what you can” doesn’t have to mean squeezing an extra nickel from a rock. Instead, take a broader look at things. What can you really give? When you find ways to give, you’ll find a great deal of additional fulfillment in life, often in ways you never expected.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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