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Donating Blood: A Frugal (and Life-Saving!) Way To Give

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Guest post from Kari of She Thrifts

We’d all like to be able to give back to our community, but doing so while on a tight budget can feel challenging. I’ve discovered an easy way to contribute that costs me nothing, and I receive some nice benefits, too… donating blood! 

Benefit #1: It feels good!

Okay, maybe not the part where the needle goes into your arm (it’s a pinch, but not painful – really!), but the part where you know you have just helped save up to three lives… yeah, that feels good!

Benefit #2: A bubble of time that’s all mine!

I schedule my appointments for a time when my husband is able to be home with the kiddos and head to the donation location alone!

I don’t know about other busy mamas, but that’s a rarity for me.

Instead of finding the possible wait time annoying, I really enjoy it! I bring a book, or a magazine, or catch up on my favorite blog-reading on my phone.

Benefit #3: Juice and cookies!

Every donor gets to stop at the canteen for a snack and brief rest after their donation!

I was lucky when I first started donating blood that I had an employer who allowed me to donate on work time. Now that I am a mostly-stay-at-home-mama, I do it on my own time, but feel it’s totally worth the time invested.

Donors can give blood every 56 days, and it’s an annual goal of mine to donate at least 5 times every year. I downloaded the American Red Cross app on my phone recently and discovered I had just reached my 50th donation!

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There are certain requirements you have to meet be eligible to donate (i.e. general good health, weight minimum, not pregnant, etc.) and there are certain situations where your donations will be deferred for a period of time (i.e. after a piercing, tattoo, or travel to certain areas of the world).

A complete list of eligibility requirements can be found here.

First time donors can find out what to expect here.

And you can find blood donation centers in your area here.

Do you regularly donate blood?

Kari is a librarian turned stay-at-home-mama to two boys, ages seven and four. She was inspired by a guest post on MSM several years ago to begin selling items on eBay, which has turned into a successful hobby job which in large part helped pay off her student loans *in full* in February, 2015. She blogs about her eBay adventures at She Thrifts

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45 Comments

  • Jen says:

    Such a great way to donate and save lives!! My blood type is AB which is the “universal receiver” blood type (so I can only donate blood to other AB people – kind of a waste of blood donation supplies since its not in short supply like O blood!).

    However, AB plasma is the “universal plasma donor” – anyone have experience with donating plasma?

    • It’s never a waste. Trust me. If there is ever a shortage it will be needed!

    • LaTanya says:

      You can ask your local blood center to contact you when they need AB blood. My dad has O Negative blood (which they use for babies) and our local center would call him when they needed his type of blood.

    • Michele Kostelecky says:

      I’ve been donating plasma twice a week for almost 10 yrs. now. It’s a great way to have an hour of “me time”, plus making a little “fun” money to boot!! I’d really look into doing it, if I was you – I make $200 – $250 a month.

    • Tonya Ponder says:

      So thankful for people who donate plasma! My daughter and I wouldn’t be here without it. It literally saves our lives.

  • Mona says:

    Sometimes OneBlood (I think) offers two free movie tix for donating. Normally it’s one, but I watch for when they’re giving away two.

  • Staci says:

    As someone who is a recipient of a blood transfusion, I’d like to say a special thanks to all of you who donate! I didn’t know there was an app, now I’m going to download it. I think I will try to aim for 5x a year now – that’s a great goal!

  • Thank you for writing this! A friend of mine recently had to receive blood after a traumatic delivery. It saved her life.

  • Kim M says:

    As a long-term donor, it is one the most rewarding thing you can do. I’ve been donating since I was in high school, and have donated gallons at this point. My job allows us to donate on paid time, and they schedule the donation bus to come every 56 days to allow those of us who regularly donate, to do so as frequently as we’re able to. For me, it started as a way to get out of classes in highschool, however, it has become so much more to me and my family. My nephew was born with a life-threating sickness and received many transfusions during the first few years of his life, during which time he also received an double organ-transplant. More recently, my mother has had an undiagnosed illness which has depleted her iron and blood cells, so has needed at least 10-15 transfusions in the past year. If you’re not able to do anything else for donations, let this be it.. the people’s lives you save are forever grateful, as are their loved ones!

    Also, summer is when the biggest need for blood donors is needed, so if you’ve never given but have considered it.. now’s the time to do it 🙂

    • That’s a very good point. During the summer and around the holidays are busy times for everyone, and there are fewer donors. It’s a great time to make an appointment! 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    I never meet the requirements, but my husband regularly gives blood. He has come home with free t-shirts and my favorite, FREE haircuts! That means I’m off the hook for giving him his monthly crop. 😉

    • Melissa Bowers says:

      That’s cool! So, does someone cut his hair while he’s giving blood, or is he given a voucher for a local barber shop or something?

      • I’ve gotten free t-shirts, free pot holders, free vouchers for pizzas. In my area the freebies are usually offered around Christmas/New Years when people are extra busy, and the need for blood is high. I guess they use it as an extra enticement to get people in the door. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    My husband donates regularly and the Red Cross frequently calls us asking him to come in. He’s lucky to donate on work time, although he works for a large research university and they’re encouraged to donate during the on-campus drives. He sometimes does the “double” and thus has to wait longer till he can donate again. He’s an A- and his dad is an O-. Both of them give regularly.

    I used to donate but I had several instances where my veins closed up before the donation bag filled. They told me they had to throw it out if it wasn’t full. That just sounded stupid and wasteful to me. My veins haven’t changed and my health has actually worsened, so I haven’t donated since then.

    • Julia says:

      They are not being wasteful, but rather, concerned for patient safety. The units have to be measured out pretty carefully. The hospitals give the patients so many units, but they can’t just give them whatever they have–it has to be the correct measurement for patient safety. Also, I have been told that incomplete or over donations (yep, one time my donation was too large) are sometimes used in research.

  • Diane L. says:

    At the center where I donate, they do a free cholesterol check with each donation. Since I have a family history of elevated cholesterol, this is a good way to track for any problems between routine physicals. And, of course, you get a free blood pressure check, too.

  • Kim says:

    This year, I’ve made it my goal to start donating again regularly. After being pregnant, it is hard to jump back on that habit. I was heavily involved in the Red Cross in high school and want to continue to be able to help people in need. If I’m healthy and able to do it, I want to help save a life!

  • Stephanie says:

    I had to have a transfusion a few months ago when I stopped making red blood cells. I’m fine now but wouldn’t have been without a blood donor. I can’t donate so I am very grateful to those who can.

  • Teresa S says:

    With our last child I needed multiple blood transfusions. One day alone I got 7 bags. It literally saved our lives. I can’t give anymore, but am so thankful to those who do. It’s an incrediable feeling when they hang a bag and you can feel the life returning to your body. Those of you who give can’t begin to appreciate how much we wish we could thank you for giving us another chance at life. You saved our lives and let my other 4 kids have a mom. THANK YOU

  • Jody says:

    I am so grateful and thankful for those who donate and make it such a priority. My son received a transfusion during his open heart surgery.

    Since then and In the busyness of life I honestly hadn’t thought about making it a point to donate blood myself. This brings it back to the forefront of my mind. Thank you for donating and for this post!

  • I regularly donated blood for over 20 years and used to do the “double red” donations as well. All of a sudden I started to become anemic every time I would donate, so I’ve had to back off from donating. I miss being able to donate because it always made me feel so good to know I was helping someone in need. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back to donating regularly again.

    I wish more people would donate. Less than 10% of eligible donors donate. That’s pretty pathetic when you think about it.

    • I’ve had a few instances over the years where I’ve been deferred because my iron level has been too low. Iron levels can really fluctuate over the course of the month for women. I try to remember to take iron supplements in the few days before a donation appointment, or try to eat iron-rich foods. I am always glad though when my pre-donation iron level test is done and I know I’ve made it. 🙂

  • D says:

    Another thing to consider is signing up with Be the Match to join the bone marrow registry. There’s only a 1 in 200 chance of donating, but you could cure some one’s blood cancer. I recently donated stem cells and my recipient’s body accepted them so my cancer free cells have taken over and he ought to be cancer free.

    • Wow! That’s amazing. What a gift you have given the recipient.

      I joined Be the Match a few years ago when a friend’s son was looking for a donor. You never know when you might be the one.

    • Jamie says:

      I’m anemic and can’t donate blood (even when I take my iron supplements) but I am registered on Be the Match and encourage everyone to register there as well!

  • Sissy says:

    I had a 10 hour surgery last year, and had to have a few bags of donated blood. Thank you for all you do, to help others.

  • lyss says:

    There was short supply one time when I was in college, so all of my college class went to give blood. I didn’t weigh enough. : ( I weigh enough now, but still doubt my health could handle it.
    My blood type is O-, which I believe is always needed. My dad has the same type and used to give blood fairly regularly. He now has lymphoma, so I guess his donating days are over. Thank you to all of you who can and do!!!

    • Folks who have O- blood are universal donors (their blood can go to anyone), so their blood is extra-valuable! My understanding is that if, for example, someone came to the hospital from an accident needing immediate attention or surgery and the doctors didn’t know what blood type the person had they would use O-.

      I am O+, but a couple donations ago my parents were in town so my husband and I went together as part of a date night (part 1 blood donations, part 2 movie theater). 🙂 I was really surprised to discover his blood type was O-. I don’t think he even knew.

  • Julia says:

    Great post. I give several times a year. As a religious person, as I am donating I pray for the person who receives it and the doctors or scientists using it. I think of it as faith put into action. A few tips for donating: 1) drink plenty of water 2) knock off/reduce the caffeine a few days before donating–caffeine makes your veins constrict 3) drink a chocolate Slimfast a few hours before donating (helps if you are anemic, gets your iron count up) and 4) take iron pills faithfully a few days before donating. My dad needed transfusions when he was battling cancer. It helped him a lot. As a way of thanking those donors, I try to “pay it forward” or pay it back or whatever. It also has heath benefits for the donor as well. I encourage everyone to give blood if you can.

  • Kristie says:

    Awesome post! Very inspiring–I plan to check out locations in my area. Thanks for writing!

  • Tee says:

    I cannot donate due to being anemic, but I have been able to sign up as a bone marrow donor. (http://bethematch.org/)

    I feel fortunate that I am capable of donating something if necessary, and it could save someone’s life!

    • D says:

      Be the Match is a great organization. I donated stem cells for a person with blood cancer and BTM took very good care of me.

  • Heather says:

    My son was diagonosed with leukemian in August of 2012. He is still in treatment. He has received countless blood and platelet transfusions. ( I have lost track of how many….but I mean LOTS) I am SO thankful for those that donate!!!

  • Teresa says:

    I am one who usually can’t donate because I am anemic most of the time and iron pills don’t normally help. I have had one successful donation and one where I got half way and then my vein clotted. At least I was able to help one person I suppose.

  • Lise says:

    As an oncology infusion nurse, I love this post. Thank you to all who donate blood. You have no idea how wonderful it is for a patient to receive a bag or 2 of blood. In our infusion center, we see many different kinds of patients…cancer, autoimmune, hematology and genetic disorders,…and for those patients–pediatric and adult–it buys them time to say goodbye to their family or it boosts their circulatory system so they can continue living at a somewhat normal level. They are so grateful to receive the blood transfusion and it is a joy to care for them knowing the blood, plasma, or platelets helps them–the exact reason why I love being a nurse.

  • Sarah says:

    I haven’t donated in years (between pregnancy and kiddos it’s easy to forget), but this is a great reminder to go back to it. I loved doing it! Another great perk- I always slept so well afterward. 😉

  • I just read every comment so far, and I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has donated blood and stem cells/bone marrow! You’ve truly saved lives.

    My now 6-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare disease called aplastic anemia in August 2013. Our world exploded, and our son, David, had to receive countless blood and platelet transfusions because of his illness. When you have aplastic anemia, your body doesn’t make blood, platelets, or white blood cells.

    We were also devastated to find out that none of our other 4 children was a bone marrow match for David, who needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life. By God’s amazing grace, a match was found for David through the Be the Match registry, and our son received his transplant from a matched unrelated donor in December 2013. His last blood transfusion was on Christmas Day 2013.

    It’s been a very long road to recovery, but today, David is doing well, and we’ll forever be grateful for all those who gave to save our son.

  • Diana says:

    Fantastic post!

  • Heather says:

    When I was younger I gave blood. Now I need blood to live, http://specialneedshomeschooling.com/?p=5546 THANK YOU ALL for giving blood. You have given me more time with my family. I greatly appreciate your kindness!

    God bless
    Heather Laurie

  • Maryalene says:

    I’ve donated twice and passed out twice. The second time they said I probably shouldn’t try again but that was years ago. Wondering if I should give it a go again. Great post!

  • michelle says:

    I just did a post on this (and other donations to help cancer patients). I saw Heather Laurie’s comment and wanted to say that I hope we can get the word out about how important it is to donate more. I also hope that you continue fighting bravely and have much more time with your family! <3

  • Jodi says:

    I also love this post! I have been donating blood since being on the blood drive committee in high school. It is sad how few people donate that are able. I live in NY, and we get blood from other states–crazy with the population we have!!

    I am O- and have double platelets, too. I give because it only costs my time and I love to help people. But a perk for donating in my area is the Donor Advantage rewards program. I can earn points for donating and redeem those points for baseball game tickets, and gift cards for AMC theaters, and a variety of stores.

  • Lisa says:

    I am on permanent deferment from donating blood. My husband and I lived in Germany during the mad cow disease scare.

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