Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.
If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!
Guest post from Kelly of Fru-Gal
I have been couponing for a little over two years now and it has become a 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. 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.
I often try 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: Chapstick, 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 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.
I think these are all awesome, though I would really discourage giving specific goods in times of natural disaster.
I remember seeing pictures after the Haiti earthquake of tons of items-including first aid supplies and food-just going to waste because the infrastructure was overwhelmed with even trying to transport people. I try to find a reliable organization already working in the country to give even a small donation to. Not trying to be negative-just my two cents. I’m sure each situation is unique.
Love all the ideas-especially the blessing bag to give the homeless. What a wonderful solution! We have also given health kits through Lutheran World Relief. They collect several different kinds of kits, each with very specific items they use in some of the most desperate parts of the world. The kits they give to new mothers are amazing-imagine a bar of soap and a nail clipper being the best chance for your newborn’s safe delivery!
I’ve also found the office supply sales (particularly at OfficeMax) to be a great way to give to local charities. I can buy the items when I get 100% rewards back, and then donate them. For instance, my church’s worship department can always use black 3-ring binders to put music in, and those are expensive if you don’t get them for free, so I watch for those on sale. Plus printer paper… you can never donate too much printer paper! And then I can deduct the value as an in-kind gift on my tax return. It’s a win-win!
Tushar @ Everything Finance says
I love these ideas for giving back. Operation Christmas Child is a great organization and it feels so good to know you are doing something for the impoverished children of the world. I’m also a huge fan of the humane society and any other animal organization.
This post was so inspiring. I love giving to others, but it often is hard when we struggle ourselves. This is a great way of doing what you can with what you have, where you are. 🙂
Kelly @ Fru-Gal.org says
Thanks for featuring this guest post, Crystal! My husband and I are currently running a campaign through Gospel for Asia to fund a “Jesus Well” in a needy village. We’d love the help in raising money for this awesome project. We actually just met our personal goal to sponsor one well, but contributions toward further wells can still be given. If you’re interested or want to find out more about Jesus Wells, check out our campaign at: https://www.mygfa.org/kellyandjesse/ Blessings in the new year!
Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire says
Thank you for mentioning VOM! We’ve been passionate supporters of VOM, and through rather incredible circumstances, my husband was offered a job with VOM. I’m finding that many people still don’t know about this organization, which works so hard to help the persecuted church.
Kelly @ Fru-Gal.org says
That’s awesome! Yes, sadly, many people don’t know of the ultimate sacrifices made by many in persecuted nations. Remember those in chains. Hebrews 13:3
I started collecting and mailing coupons to a Marine Corps base in Japan in Aug of 2010 via http://www.ocpnet.org/ . As of last month I’ve donated over 40K worth of coupons. (I get coupons from my mom and sister).
It is simple, mindless & relaxing, and easy. If even only 10% of my coupons ever get used, I’ve helped military families save over $4,000. So while not mentioned in your post, it is connected.
Kelly @ Fru-Gal.org says
Great idea and way to give back to military families!
Heather J. says
Our family is on a super strict budget and I coupon out of necessity. Each year at Christmas my son’s elementary school has a local food drive and because we coupon and therefore stockpile, we are able to give several bags of food to the food drive. Makes us feel good to be able to give back to our community!