Want to make a difference, but feel like that might not be possible since you are on a tight budget? Here are some ideas for ways to make a difference — even if you don’t have a lot of extra money or time!
1. Give Something Away
Look around your house. Do you own items you aren’t really using anymore that could bless someone else?
Maybe you have a book on your shelf that would really encourage a friend. Perhaps you have some baby clothes you no longer need that could help a new mom on a tight budget. Do you have exercise equipment you aren’t using that a friend could borrow or even just have?
I look around our home often and ask myself, “Is there anything here that we could give to someone else to bless them?” There’s so much joy that comes from sharing with others and I’d much rather give a book to a friend who would love to read it than just have it sitting on my shelf doing no good to no one.
If you don’t need it, don’t love it, or aren’t using it, look around to see if there’s someone who could be blessed by it.
I also pay attention to when someone says, “Oh! I love your shirt!” or “I’ve been wanting to read that book!” or “My son is growing out of his clothes so quickly!” If there’s some way that I can help someone or bless someone based upon these remarks (give them that shirt because I don’t really like it, loan them the book, or pass on some of my son’s clothes), I jump at the opportunity to do so!
It’s fun to surprise people in this way, too, because it shows that you care and that you were listening to what they were saying.
In addition, you can also share great deals you find with others. For instance, if you are a coupon queen and have built a stockpile of toiletries, household products, or cleaning items, donate some of them to a family in need in your neighborhood or to a local shelter.
You can also shop sales and clearance racks for significantly marked down merchandise you can donate to local families or organizations. Or, take some of these items you’ve gotten practically free and make bags of food and hygiene products for the homeless.
One of the Best Things You Can Give Away: A Smile!
A smile is a free gift you can give away to everyone you meet. And it’s a gift that everyone can use. Look around you and look for people to smile at. It costs nothing, it doesn’t really take any extra time, and it will make you feel great, too!
2. Volunteer Your Time & Talents
What gifts, skills, and talents do you have? What are you good at or have experience or special training in?
For me, I love to volunteer my time in helping other people develop their business, find creative ways to increase their income, or get their blog up and running. I can’t do this for everyone, but I love being able to help people and organizations as often as I can with this.
I also love being able to volunteer my time serving in the Kids’ Ministry at church, helping out in our kids’ classes at school, and looking for ways to reach out and encourage/help other friends and people in our life.
There are so many, many opportunities to volunteer and there’s no way you can do them all. But look around you and see what needs are most pressing and if there’s a way you can help out. Maybe that’s in the local soup kitchen, at a hospital, at church, at school, or in an online or local charitable organization.
If you’re not sure what the possibilities are in your area, you can visit VolunteerMatch.org to find opportunities near you.
A few other ideas:
- Pick up prescriptions for elderly neighbors or ask them if they need someone to drive them to doctor’s appointment or help with errands.
- Mow the lawn/weed the yard of a neighbor working multiple jobs.
- Donate your talents. For instance, if your hobby is photography, offer a free photo shoot for a family who is struggling financially
- If you have a passion to sew or knit, make sweaters or scarves for a local shelter or hospital. (My sister volunteers with Bridget’s Cradles — an organization that provides hand-made knitted and crocheted cradles to hospitals to give to families who experience second trimester loss. If you are interested in more details on this opportunity, check out their website here.)
- Clean the house or do laundry for someone who is sick or for a family who is in the middle of a difficult crisis.
3. Bake or Cook Something Delicious
Yummy food is such a great way to brighten another person’s day! And there are so many options that are really inexpensive.
Look at what’s on sale at the store or what you already have on hand and see if there are ingredients you can work with while staying within your grocery budget to be able to bless someone who just had a baby or a family who lost a loved one or for a neighbor who is sick.
When Jesse was in law school and our budget was incredibly tight, one thing I made a lot of when we had people over or I took a meal to someone was homemade pizza. I could usually find a great deal on cheese and pepperoni and I’d stock up and stick it in the freezer. Then, I’d just buy some peppers and spaghetti sauce at Aldi, make a homemade pizza crust, and we had a very filling and yummy meal to take to someone or to serve for dinner to guests.
If you have a really tight budget, serving breakfast for dinner is another great option for having guests over. Pancakes or waffles and scrambled eggs, along with some fruit on the side is always an inexpensive crowd-pleaser!
Or, you can also just invite friends over for coffee and dessert. It’s simpler and less expensive, but it will bless others just as much as a full dinner at your house would.
4. Send a Note or Text
One of the least expensive ways to reach out and bless someone is to send them a quick note — either by email, by text, or even a handwritten card in the mail.
I can tell you of specific instance after specific instance where my entire day or week was turned around by a simple note that someone took the time to send to me — either by mail, email, or text.
Just sending someone a simple text to say, “I was thinking of you and wanted you to know!” or “Thank you so much for being YOU!” can mean the world to someone.
If a friend is going through a hard time or just received difficult news, DO reach out to them. You don’t have to have amazing insight or incredibly comforting thoughts… they probably aren’t in a place to want to hear advice or suggestions or counsel. They just need to know that you care and that you are thinking of them.
Oftentimes, when I’m not sure what to say to someone, I’ll just text or write and say, “I’m thinking of you today and wanted you to know.” Or, “I’m so sorry that you’re going through such a hard time. Know that I’m thinking of you.” Or, “I just stopped and prayed for you. I just wanted you to know.”
It’s simple. It’s not questioning decisions, giving advice, or requiring them to respond. It’s just saying to them: I’m sorry and I care. Which is what most people need to know most.
5. Listen with Genuine Interest
People are desperate for community. They want people to really care about them at a deep level.
When you take the time to look into someone’s eyes and listen, it can mean so much to someone. Show people you care by giving them your full attention, asking good questions, and fully engaging in conversation.
I like to ask questions like:
“What are you most excited about right now?”
“What’s the best thing that happened this past week?”
“What are you celebrating right now?”
One thing I like to ask people when I meet them but know very little about them is to say, “Tell me about yourself.” It’s an open-ended question that usually provides enough springboard for me to ask follow-up questions and then really get to know someone.
When you ask questions, it opens up the door for people to share with you because it shows you’re interested. And the most important part is to listen after you ask the question. Wait for a response, and ask a follow-up question.
I’ve learned about tragedies, triumphs, health issues, a person’s dreams and hopes, been able to better pray for someone and encourage them, and have developed close relationships with people as a result of asking questions and being genuinely interested in what someone else has to say.
What are YOUR favorite ways to make a difference — even on a tight budget?