How to Give Generously through Couponing

Guest post by Kelly from Fru-Gal

I have been couponing for a little over two years now and it has become a complete way of life for me and my family. Not only does it save us hundreds of dollars a year on our grocery, drugstore, and clothing budgets, but it has enabled us to give abundantly to people in need on a regular basis!

The relative ease in acquiring free products through couponing, playing the “drugstore game,” taking advantage of daily deal sites, and signing up for freebies quickly replenishes my stockpile each month. Therefore, I have become more creative and proficient in how I use these freebies to bless others in times of natural disaster or personal crisis:

1. Disaster Relief Boxes

Natural disasters are a continuous reality in our fallen world. We’ve seen this clearly over the past year with the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin, the unbelievable tsunami in Japan, and flooding in Minot and most recently the Northeast. Monetary donations are always very helpful during these disasters, but personally, I have been able to give more and more frequently through donating actual needed items from my stockpile.

After a natural disaster, I research online for organizations accepting items and try to specifically donate what they are asking for. Usually, these items include nonperishable food, diapers and other baby products, feminine care products, toiletries, and new clothing. I usually have an adequate supply of these items from my couponing and can quickly pack and send a box to these disaster areas throughout our country.

2. Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite ministries. I love the impact of this ministry on children all over the world, and personally know adults who received a life changing shoe box as a child.

It’s rather easy to fill a shoe box with quality items I can get for free or nearly free by couponing. These include toothbrushes and toothpaste, toys, socks, hats, school supplies, hard candy, and much more.

Personally, my goal for 2011 is to fill 10 shoe boxes for $10 total. I have already succeeded in this goal and I’m currently working on my eleventh box. For a thorough list of items that can be included in an OCC shoe box, please see these gift ideas.

3. Voice of the Martyrs Action Packs

Voice of the Martyrs sends “Action Packs” to families of martyrs who are struggling in restricted nations such as Pakistan, Iraq, and the Sudan. They have a specific list of items needed for each country which includes pens, bar soap, blankets, towels, writing pads, flip flops, colored pencils, and more.

For more information on how to send an Action Pack, visit the VOM site.

4. Homeless Blessing Bags

A Blessing Bag is an easy way to help a homeless person when you drive by them at a busy intersection. Simply put essential items in a gallon Ziploc bag and keep your Blessing Bag in your car.

The next time you see a homeless person asking for help, you will already be prepared to bless them. Potential items to include can be: chap stick, small packages of tissues, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, combs, bar soap, snacks, socks, a note of encouragement, and a list of community resources.

5. Humane Society Donations

Due to my husband’s allergies, we don’t own a pet, but I can still accumulate free pet supplies every few months. Since I don’t need these freebies, I save and then send them to Humane Societies in natural disaster locations. Every little bit helps when shelters become overloaded from displaced pets.

These are just some of the ways I have found to bless people out of the abundance I have through frugal shopping. So next time you sign up for freebies or get free items at the store through couponing, take a second look at these items and see if you can donate them instead. I’m a stay at home mom and our family lives on one income, but I still have enough margin to give when I can get many items for free on a weekly basis.

Kelly is a wife and stay at home mom to a very active one year old. Her blog, Fru-Gal.org, is focused on frugal living to allow for more generous giving to people in need. She is an avid supporter of Operation Christmas Child, Voice of the Martyrs, and Gospel for Asia, and she supplies Disaster Relief Boxes to areas in the U.S. that have been struck by natural disasters using items she has gotten for free.

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Comments

  1. Casey says

    Love love LOVE this post. Great reminder of what I can do to help. I often share items from my stockpile with friends and family, but don’t think of other places/people who I could help. Nice to have specific ideas. Really like the idea of having bags to hand to homeless people. I often see them and think “oh, I have all these extra things at home” but nothing actually w/ me. Good idea to have small baggies ready to hand them.

    Plus, like you I can give more by donating items (that I got cheap or free) than by giving money. Random thought: I often see people shopping and wish they would let me shop for them (using coupons and sales at various stores) I could fill their shopping cart with what they want, for like half the price! Especially if its a young mom or someone with limited funds. Hard to watch people paying full price when I know there is a sale at another local store plus I have a coupon for it. Sometimes I hand other shoppers coupons for items they are eyeing or already have in their carts. Is that weird? Most people are gracious, others give me funny looks.

    • Diane says

      I’ve given people coupons in the store and check out lane before. Some are very grateful, some are a bit confused but I’ve never had anyone be rude before. You’re basically handing them money.

    • says

      I love being able to hand someone an extra coupon on an item they are already buying. Sometimes I have people come up to me and ask where I got that item on clearance (produce, meat, dairy, etc…) and it is a joy to show them so they can save a little for their family as well.

    • Angela says

      I recently gave a huge stash to the folks @ occupy wall st. While I’m disappointed that they’re not as organized as I’d like to see them be, I’m supportive of their message of financial responsibility of one and not always putting money first.

  2. says

    Great ideas! I do want to mention something my husband said to me, though. We recently put together some blessing bags and stashed them in the van. A couple days ago I was out by myself and saw a homeless man standing on a corner. I was trying to reach into the back and feel for one of the blessing bags, but couldn’t find it. When I got home I asked my husband where he had put them. When he asked why, I said “Because I wanted to give one to a homeless man.” His eyes got big and he said, “Please don’t ever stop and talk to a man when you’re by yourself, even if it’s just long enough to hand him a bag. It would be way too easy for him to jump in the car and hijack you and do who knows what. ” I guess he’s right. So, just a warning, ladies. The blessing bags may be best for when you’re with your husband.

    • says

      That is a good point and one our family has discussed several times!

      My husband and I have an agreement that I am not allowed to hand out bags or items to strangers when it is just me (or me and the girls) in the van. He can give the person items or if he is with us in the van then I can share the items with the person. It is important that you keep your family safe.

      • Andrea says

        Maybe because I live in a big city area- there are homeless men and women begging at intersections- and lots of other cars around. I am going to put together some of these bags for those people(and my kids are grown)

  3. says

    I LOVE the idea of donating pet supplies to a Humane Society/shelter! My hubby and I just adopted a rabbit over the weekend and although the workers there are sweet and love on the animals as much as they can, the environment isn’t all that great. I’m sure they would love donations of food or toys for their animals.

  4. says

    Love this Kelly & Crystal! Our Sunday School class is in the process of building a home for a project similar to Habitat for Humanity, and our family along with a few friends decided to save our donation items for the last few months to fill the family’s pantry. My husband just went up last week to work on the home and was amazed at what this family was living in (they have some medical issues, and truly are struggling just to make ends meet.)

    Next week we’ll hopefully take their “pantry” to them, which included hundreds of dollars in toiletries, canned goods, pastas, sauces, and (if I can figure out how!) even refrigerated & frozen goods. It’s been so fun to watch how just a few dollars each week adds up, and has been such a reminder to our children of what we can do to help someone else. Couponing to help others and not only our own family makes frugality so much more fun!

    • says

      Wow that’s awesome, Laurie! How did your church get connected with this family? Send me some pics of your finished pantry collection, if you have some, I’d love to share this idea!

  5. Lana Soileau says

    This is what it is all about! I would love to have a stockpile to bless people with and I am really determined to do so! No one understands what it means to a homeless person to have a bar of soap, a pack of gum, but especially a note of enouragement!

  6. says

    What a fabulous list! I have accumulated a lot for occ and it’s been so exciting for the kids all year. The blessing bags are an awesome idea! Thanks!

  7. Penny says

    Don’t forget that pet shelters can use more than food!
    Mine frequently requests paper towels and bleach, newspapers, etc.

    And if your kids have way too many stuffed animals (my daughter got FOUR bunnies for Easter), an animal shelter will gladly take them for the pups to play with.

  8. Jennifer says

    I have to say that I do some of these and the good that I get from it is probably only slightly less than the good it does for the other person. Thank you for sharing this as you never know how things can snowball and how a simple post can change lives.

  9. Ashley says

    I’m so glad to read this! I have been doing the same for some time now. There are always items I get for free or close to free that I do not or cannot use or simply don’t need so much of so I make regular donations to the animal shelters and small local food banks. This year my friends and I are also participating in an adopt a family program for the holidays where we will be shopping for gifts and food for a struggling family. Ive already accumulated a weeks worth of food to donate for next to nothing and am now watching out for deals on toys and clothes. By using coupons and watching for sales we can make the money we’re spending on this family go so much farther. It takes so little effort and money to make such a big differance in the lives of others! I think this is a great idea and I am so happy to see others doing the same.

  10. Marta says

    These are great and something I’ve done myself.

    Something that often get overlooked are the infant formula coupons and/or “checks” people receive in the mail. Many of these are $4 or higher, which pays for a can of ready to use formula. Of course you could get others, but the point being it’s a freebie/almost free you can donate to the food bank bins at your grocery store/church.

    I received Enfamil and Similac coupons in the mail until my son was about 8yrs old and always used them for this purpose!

    • Emily says

      Domestic violence shelters/programs are another good place to check with about donating these items. We donated some of the free sample cans we had left over from the Enfamil program when my son had moved to regular milk and they were thrilled.

  11. says

    I was wondering about the Operation Christmas Child boxes. I went to their website and it says you should include $7 per box as a “donation”. I could put together boxes but I don’t have the extra $$ to include $7 for each box.

    • Ashley says

      Jessica,
      I did the same thing last year, I got enough goodies to fill 4 boxes but then had to donate $28 to help cover the shipping. What I ended up doing is asking friends and family if they would like to participate. Everyone I asked was more than happy to donate just $1 or $2 and I ended up getting enough to send out a 5th box. Hope that helps!

    • says

      I try and keep in mind that these children can only participate in the shoebox program 1 time ever…there are just more children in need than they have shoeboxes to hand out. For most of these kids, it is the only time EVER in their lives that they have received any type of gift. They also oftentimes share what they have received with their siblings. I never try to skimp or go cheap on them for that reason. I think one good box with the donation to cover shipping would be better than several boxes!

  12. Rebecca says

    Excellent ideas. I am inspired, and I can’t wait to get my husband on board! :-) He’ll LOVE it!

  13. Betsy says

    We just recently did this! In sept we had some devastating flooding in our area. I filled a bag with tooth brushes, tooth brushes, deoderant and other bathroom products!

  14. Karen says

    Another idea: find out if there is a Ronald McDonald House near your home. They are located near many hospitals and welcome donations for families who have a child in the hospital for an extended period.

  15. says

    Lutheran World Relief accepts personal care kits, baby care kits, school kits, and more.

    They each take very specific items-like nail clippers-that couponers often get for next to nothing, and they make a huge difference! Imagine a woman giving birth miles away from any care and using just they hygiene supplies i her little kit. So humbling! Here’s the link (delete if it’s not o.k. to share).http://lwr.org/site/c.dmJXKiOYJgI6G/b.7521967/k.A4AD/Quilts__Kits.htm The list of different kits is on the right.

  16. says

    I love this and got some new ideas from it!!! I love being able to donate from my stash of freebies! I don’t have much money, but I can donate hundreds of dollars worth of stuff from all the great deals that are out there! these were great ideas! I donate to my local food pantry and something to keep in mind is, that food stamps usually don’t cover personal care products. So, sanitary items are usually in high need, plus of course toothpaste, toothbrushes, diapers, soap and toilet paper are great things to donate! also, keep in mind all the pantries and churches that will be collecting stuff for thanksgiving, like gravy and stuffing, etc! awesome post!

  17. k* says

    I like every idea except the.bags for the homeless. Instead of giving them to these men, donate to a place that helps them! You will be safer, and still a help. I go to school in Philadelphia, and it is not safe to interact.with homeless men here.

  18. Rachel says

    The MOPS group that I go to puts together OCC boxes as a group. My daughter and I have put together boxes the last two years. She likes going along and picking out things to put in the little girl’s box.

  19. says

    Thank you for mentioning The Voice of the Martyrs. My husband and I are passionate about this ministry, and it never seems to get mentioned on blogs. Such a wonderful ministry that works to help persecuted Christians.

    It also never occurred to me to get free pet stuff for giving away. My cats eat prescription pet food, and I don’t buy commercial cat treats, so I never paid attention to pet supply coupons. What a great idea!

  20. Jen says

    I love the OCC shoebox idea. The only problem with that is having to pay $7 for each one you put together. It’s easy to fill them inexpensively through couponing, but then to have to pay $70 if you do 10…yikes! Not in my budget!! So we just did 2 this year.