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Simple Ideas for Generosity–Even on a Tight Budget

When you are living on a tight budget, it is easy to feel like there's not much you can do to give to others–especially if you are barely making ends meet yourself. However, just because you are not independently wealthy doesn't mean you can't be a generous giver, it just means you have to be more creative!

Here are some simple ideas of things we have done or are doing which anyone–even those on a very tight budget–could likely consider doing. In fact, most of these were things we did when we were living on less than $1000 a month during my husband's tenure in law school.

1) Share from Your Stockpile. Many of you probably already do this, but it is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to bless those in need–especially if you are a coupon shopper!

When you find a good bargain that you're able to stock up on while still staying within your grocery budget, stock up! In addition, take advantage of coupons and play The Drugstore Game to purchase items for free or almost-free.

Over time, you'll likely develop a nice stockpile of extra groceries and household products. Having these extra groceries and household products will not only save you a lot of money since you'll be paying pennies on the dollar for most products you use, but you'll also be able to bless others from your abundance. 

Maybe you can't give a $50 check to a needy family or individual, but you could likely put together a box of canned goods and household products worth $50 to share with them. Or you could use items in your stockpile to make up a loaf of bread and a pot of soup to bring to a family who is going through a difficult time.

Really, the possibilities for blessing others with your stockpile are practically endless. Start looking for ways to bless others with what you have on hand and you'll likely have more than ample ideas!

2) Give of Your Time. If money is tight and your stockpile is slim, that doesn't mean you don't have anything to give. What about volunteering your time to help mow an elderly neighbor's yard, or clean a new mom's house, or watch a weary friend's child for an afternoon?

Again, the possibilities for giving of your time are practically limitless. Think of what your strengths and gifts are and how you could use those to help and reach out to others.

3) Pass It On! Do you have items in your home you no longer need or use? Why don't you pass them on to someone else who can use them? Of course, I'm not saying to pass along junk to people! But if you have items which still have plenty of life left in them and are in good condition but you are not using them, find a more appropriate home for them!

From clothes to books to coupons, I love to share extras with others. One thing I always do is to tell people they are free to pass the item on themselves or get rid of it if it's not something they can use. I certainly don't want others to feel obligated to hang onto something just because I shared it with them.

4) Sponsor a Compassion Child. One of our very favorite ministries is Compassion International. Dedicated to helping poverty-stricken children, this organization lets you choose a needy child to share love, support, and prayers with.

We have so much here in America and it is very easy for our children to take the wealth and abundance of stuff for granted. One way we are seeking to help our children understand the poverty and difficulties children around the world face is through sponsoring "our" Compassion children.

It has been so eye-opening to read the letters and see the pictures that our sponsored children send. And 4-year-old Kathrynne has especially begun to grasp just how little they have in comparison to her. She often talks about these children and writes notes to them because she wants to brighten their day.

Sponsoring a child costs $32 per month. This money goes directly to provide food and clean water, medical care, educational opportunities, and life-training skills for these impoverished children. While that amount might seem impossible for you to make room for in your budget, consider how little these children have.

Perhaps you could give up eating out once a month, or have a meatless dinner once a week, or cut your grocery bill by $8 per week in order to come up with the extra money to sponsor a child? You could even consider splitting the sponsorship costs with a few other families, if your budget is especially tight.

If you're anything like us, you will find that the blessings you reap from sponsoring a child are well worth the small monetary investment.

Go here for more information Compassion International.

5) Support Widows and Orphans. Gleaning the Harvest is an organization dedicated to providing for the needs of widows and orphans. I love the concept of this and would love to see many more people begin committing to support these needy families every month.

The best thing of all is that it is set up so you can donate money in whatever amount you are able to. Surely all of us could spare a dollar or two every month? And if a few thousand of us gave a dollar every month, the results would really make an impact!

Go here for more information on Gleaning the Harvest.

Those are just a few simple ideas of things we've done and things just about anyone could do on any budget. But I know this list barely even scratches the surface of ideas on how to practice generosity on a limited budget, so I'd love to hear from you. How is your family giving to others, even while on a budget? What simple and inexpensive ideas do you have for reaching out to those in need? What creative ways have you used your bargain-shopping finds to bless others?

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  • Amy says:

    THANK YOU for posting this. Since I’ve started extreme couponing, I’ve acquired more than I need so I’ve passed it on to our church food bank, rather than build a stockpile that will just go bad.

  • Julie says:

    One of the things that we do every month is fast for two meals. We then give what we would have spent on those meals to those who are in need. It doesn’t kill us and gives us more focus spiritually and makes us more aware of the need around us.

  • Wani says:

    This is great. Sometimes its easy to put ourselves (our budget) in a box and say we can’t do this or that, etc. But We need to look around and find what we CAN do and do it!

  • Dana says:

    I agree that sponsoring a child through Compassion is a great way to give, and I encourage others to consider giving through that organization. We’ve sponsored a child for years and it has been wonderful to watch him grow in faith, education, and maturity. Just this week we sponsored a second child, a little girl, who is very close to my daughter’s age. We hope that as our daughter grows up with her new “friend” she will learn the value of helping others in need too.

  • Rebe says:

    Give Blood!

  • Amphritrite says:

    During the prep for this move, I combined #1 and #3 for some AWESOME results…. My household good stockpile was pretty huge (and heavy!) – full of shampoo, soap, razors, conditioner, cleaning supplies, etc.

    Right now, I live in an apartment building with a bunch of other people; most of these people qualify for low-income housing, but prefer to live here. That said…they don’t normally have the cash to spend on some of the things that I happened to have a bajillion extras of.

    So I set down about half of the stockpile on the console table that’s at the entrance of the building with a sign that said, “Free to me, Free to you! Enjoy!”

    It was gone by evening 🙂 There was a card there the next morning from a family of a mom and two girls thanking me for leaving those things for them and freeing up some money for other things that the girls needed to go to school in the fall.

  • Kim says:

    One of the reasons I enjoy frequenting this site is for posts like this. I am a huge believer in the gift of time. Thanks for reminding us to have a servant’s heart. Serving is something our children should witness and be personally involved in.

  • Jenn V. says:

    We live in a very affluent school district. So when I collect the “Box Tops for Education” or Campbell’s soup labels, I put them in an envelope and mail them to the elementary school in Greensburg, KS. Almost the entire town was wiped out by a tornado two years ago, so if for the cost of the postage I feel like I can help them rebuild. The less they spend on school supplies, the more they can spend on rebuilding.

  • A local crisis pregnancy center holds a fundraiser each year in our area with baby bottles. They ask that you fill the baby bottle over the course of several weeks with your loose change. This is one of our favorite ways to give because it’s so easy to get our three year old son involved. Even after the fundraiser is over, he still wants to put any change that he finds in a bottle “to help the babies”.

  • Mona says:

    My husband and I used to sponsor 3 children but after some financial changes we were unable to continue the sponsorship. A few months later I learned all about the benefits of couponing and have been donating lots and lots of groceries to our local food bank. I am so glad to be able to help in this way and appreciate all the deals that are posted on this site!

  • Thanks so much for posting on this today. This is more important than ever. I used to live in Kenya (originally in an orphanage) and ended up starting a non-profit organization out there. On my blog I have a thing for “Stockpiling for Africa” and I love getting others extra stockpiled items to take over. I’ve got a page on my blog devoted to why it definitely can be worth it to send such items so far:

    What is Stockpiling for Africa?

    Stockpiling for Africa is a way for you to help send the best of those free items to kids who need it more than ever. I started two non-profit organizations, Hope Runs, which has been featured widely in many magazines and newspapers, and IBECOME. These organizations work with AIDS orphans in East Africa. Early on, I lived in one of the orphanages for six months, and now I spend my time traveling back and forth to continue the work.

    In Sub-Saharan Africa, basic medical and toiletry expenses are incredibly high for local people, and local orphanages. Most interestingly, the costs of many items (many imported) is grossly higher than the cost of regular food products when looking at proportional wages. Although orphanages may regularly receive food donations, they rarely receive donations of soap, feminine products, medicines and all other manner of toiletry products that the children regularly need – the very items that cost so much for local people to purchase.

    Out in the USA, though, many of us frugal types are getting some of these items free every day! I started reading frugality blogs, playing the grocery game, and regularly requesting free samples even on things I don’t use so that I can send them to the kids we work with in Africa, and I am looking for more people to help in the effort!

    That’s all;)


  • Stori says:

    Another organization we like to support is Hearts of Love. It is a ministry that provides cloth diapers to orphans in Russia. Many of th orphanages are dirt poor and have only one caretaker to watch many children. They will sit in their own filth for days. This ministry also opens the door to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Honey says:

    I love the shoebox idea from many of your readers last year. It was fun for my 5 little ones to put them together, although we only did two last year. Our goal is to do 5 next year, matching the ages and genders to those of my children as they can take responsibility for a box and they would know what a child their age and gender might like. I can’t wait for November!

  • Ruth says:

    How about bringing a friend going through a hard time, some flowers from your garden (in a mason jar tied with raffia or tulle) and a baked goodie? Or we have put together easy meals just by doubling what I was cooking that night–it always seems to work out that it doesn’t COST me double. I use my stockpile of drugstore toiletries to put together a men or women’s spa-type bag if someone is in need of a little pampering and care (include a chocolate bar). Go through your fabric scraps and make something–there are so many ideas on the internet. A senior might enjoy a handcraft you made if you brought a selection of tea and sat with her for awhile.I usually get a basket at a thrift store, line it with fabric and include note cards or a notebook, low sugar treats, a Bible bookmark, etc. when I visit. Check out the dollar store.

    We started with one compassion International Child and now have three. It is a blessing to us! Since we have all boys, we signed up for all girls so my husband could have the fun of seeing the other side.


  • JessieLeigh says:

    I keep a box in my pantry with a posted “wish list” from our local Ronald McDonald House. I highlight the items I feel I’ll most likely be able to get for free or nearly free and, as I’m able, I fill the box. Once it’s full, I drop it off at the RMH. Having personally lived in that House for 3 1/2 months while our preemie daughter was in the NICU I know how great the need is. I love to be able to donate and help out others without breaking our family’s budget!

    I wrote in more detail about how I do this here:

    I love all the suggestions that you’ve provided here– really inspiring!

  • Christen says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have found that it’s very easy to get “me centered” when I’m trying to save money. I also know from experience that if I allow what God blesses me with to flow through me to other I always have something, if I hold on to it out of fear or doubt in his provision then I start to see things getting tighter and tighter! It’s crazy how that works.

  • lylah ledner says:

    Wonderful wonderful wonderful post! Each Sunday, I head out to our garden and snip off the best, fill a big basket and then add little loaves of bread along with extra eggs and take it to our church. It’s a greater joy for me to see the joy on their faces as I (in a sense) share our “first fruits.”

    We’ve all been blessed to be a blessing and we MUST find creative ways to give out of our little that is a large to someone else.

  • Jan says:

    Amen on the stockpile- we have so much toothpaste sometimes- my husband thinks I’m nuts. I just donated a bunch of it to servicemen from our area serving in Egypt right now.

  • Celia says:

    Well, I try to tell everyone I can about Dave Ramsey and how he helped us, and how his plan can help them. I have gotten one former co-worker on The Road to Dave, and I love to think about the fact that I have potentially affected her life forever.

    I feel that my blog does help others in emotional need, even as it helps me. I did a blog post on couponing for infertility, and discussed how we cut corners in our life to pay for and budget for our medical costs. I feel that showing other people how we pay for things and save can help them do it too.

    We have opened our home twice to family members in need, and I am sure it will happen again.

    We can’t wait to get farther along in our path so we can give more substantially.

    I have begun looking for clearance toys to donate to our local toy drive. They collect all year long. I work at a bookstore, so I get first crack at the clearance.

  • Wendy says:

    In addition to sharing our stockpile with food pantries, we have been donating them to be sent to support our troops.

  • Jannel says:

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas! I am going to look into sponsoring a compassion child.

  • Carrie says:

    i packed up a bag of pantry items for the stamp out hunger food drive last saturday. it was too easy an opportunity to pass up.

  • Thank you for this post. Giving to others is so important and teaching our children that others need our help really shows them how much their family has been blessed.

  • Laura says:

    I am always sharing little things from my stockpile, especially lotions or moisturizers and candles. If someone needs cookies for something, I can always bake up a mix rather quickly too.

    There are some things I can get free that we don’t eat or use, so I donate those to the food pantry.

    I also ‘over-garden’ and share the excess with friends, neighbors and the local food pantry.

  • Susan Wright says:

    I had more fun the last several years sharing my stockpile items as gifts. I have a mentally handicapped cousin who lives on his own so the care packages I send him help with his budget tremendously! My college age daughter has lots of friends and our care packages cheer them up. My mom has several friends in their 60’s and they have limited budgets so these packages are like Christmas to them. I also love to do stockings at Christmas time filled with stockpile and clearance items. I once got pack packs super cheap in the fall and filled them with things for my nieces! This year one of my son’s teacher got a gift bag full of pampering items for her birthday! Some people accuse me of having too much stuff, but I love to share with people. I couldn’t afford to walk into a store to buy all these people gifts, but stockpiling and clearance provide great gifts for sometimes as little as the postage. One of my mom’s friends claimed how excited she was over a little candle that she had always wanted to try, but never could have and all I did was mail a candle that was basically free with catalinas!!!!

  • Heather says:

    This years gift giving has been a tough one as my Husband has been out of work since early December. I have tried extra hard to pick up things way ahead of time, searching clearances and TJ Maxx–Hallmarks free cards have helped!! For Mother’s Day, we looked into Heifer International, as you can do a 1x donation in someone’s honor. That worked out really well:)

  • suzie says:

    Crystal, I was so blessed by your post. I just finished signing up to sponsor a little girl from Indonesia through Compassion International. I can’t wait to write my first letter to her. May God bless you richly for all that you do.


  • Erica says:

    It’s so great to see this post! I actually donated a bunch of items today to the U.S. Refugee Committee which helps settle refugees and sets them up with needed items.

    I was able to donate two large bottles of listerine (out of pocket they cost only .50 each, and I was able to apply the full price of $8 to the Rite Aid J&J Rebate), gum (free), 2 bottles of V05 Shamp and 2 Conditioners (.25 each I think), 3 cans of men’s shaving cream (all free with RR’s and ECBs), 4 packages of disposable razors (.50 ea), 2 large bottles of Suave condit (.50 ea), 2 bottles of shampoo’s I got free after MIR, 2 packages of Huggies wipes (free), 4 bottles of baby powder (free), 2 J&J baby kits (free), 2 packages of Band-Aids (free) and various samples of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion that I got for free.

    Those items will be able to help out a lot of families, and they cost me so little.

  • brittany says:

    We don’t have any cats because of allergies, but we LOVE all animals. For every cat item: food, treats, litter, etc we donate to the local animal shelter/rescues. It’s our tiny way of helping out the people who help the community as well!!

  • Daina says:

    Writing a letter to someone doesn’t cost much — usually just the stamp, and maybe the cost of stationary — but it can mean a lot to someone, and it’s been one of my favorite ways to bless others. I’m always on the lookout at yard sales and rummage sales for inexpensive cards and stationary (often a stack for just a quarter!) so I can do a lot of this without spending much. It’s another way of donating your time.

    Phone calls or visits, too, can mean a lot for someone in the hospital, in a nursing home or going through a hard time.

  • modestforHim says:

    One of my favorite places to donate is the crisis pregnancy center. That way we are not only helping orphans but we are helping to stop abortion one baby at a time. I have over the years given, lots of handmade and storebought blankets, soap, shampoo, baby cream, diapers, clothing, baby gear and more. Most items I got for a very low price or even free at times.

    We will not know until eternity how the things we give away have helped others.

    Thanks for sharing the Gleaning website. Also has a widow’s curriculum fund.

  • Heidi @ ggip says:

    Excellent ideas! I have to second the give blood idea of another commenter.
    I also recently wrote about the same topic:

  • Kristi says:

    Thanks for the article! I love giving from my stockpile! Many on my street are unemployed and underemployed. I’m putting in a few more vegetable plants than needed for my own family so that the extras can be shared with the neighbors. We also share tools and other skills to help each other out.

  • jessica says:

    I donated 22 gallons of my breastmilk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio, and I still nurse my 2.5 yo DD. The milk is pasteurized and given by prescription to premature and ill babies.

    Besides, I donate nearly half of what I get playing the drugstore game to the Domestic Violence collection at work, which is distributed to shelters across Ohio. I also give to Operation Feed from my food stockpile.

    Besides that, we Freecycle!

  • Jill Foley says:

    Thank you for plugging Compassion!!! I’ve been a sponsor for 16 years and it has changed my life in so many ways.

    We now sponsor 7 children and correspond with an additional 4!

  • Tina says:

    We are getting ready to bless my BIL with our old computer. It is much faster than what he has so it will be an upgrade for him and I am so glad that he can use it. Money is tight for him right now so this is good timing.

  • A.Chandra says:

    Very good topic. I totally agree with share what we have with those in need. We (my husband and I) sponsor children and meals for 400 inmates on special days for this orphange ‘Udavum Karangal’ in India . There are various support schemes available. One can sponsor school bag for $4 or a pair of shoes for a child for $6.

  • modestforHim says:

    Another place that you might consider donating to is an assisted living facility. Many of the people that live there are low-income and cannot afford toiletries.

  • Robyn says:

    I like to make blankets and donate them to the local shelter. You can get scraps of fleece and then get creative, putting it together to make a larger blanket.

    I also collect soda can pop tops and donate them to Ronald McDonald House. My family gets involved so it makes me feel good to know others are thinking of my cause when they drink a soda.

    I may not be able to donate a lot of money to organizations I believe in, but I can give of my talents. I help a local crisis pregnancy center, doing research on the internet from home. The place I’m helping needed someone to research radio ads, and contact info for all of the churches in the area. It doesn’t take a lot of my time, but really helps them out since they’re swamped, and strapped for money.

    Thanks for the post. Look at the great ripple effect it’s having!

  • Jen says:

    Great post. One thing I do when I am able, is grant wishes at the Wish Upon A Hero website. So many people are in need, and usually I can easily purchase items online to be shipped to the wisher, or mail a package of gathered stockpile items.

    I also love animals (cats in particular), and cared for a feral colony in the alley behind an apartment I used to live in. The site Alley Cat Allies was a great help to me in those days, and I like to support them.

    There are a few other organizations I support, as well as sharing from my stockpile with family and friends.

  • For me, this post was a timely reminder that I’m not spending all the extra energy to shop wisely and save just to have more money. It was a reminder that through good stewardship we can show God’s love to others. Thanks for a great post!

  • Heather N. says:

    I’m putting some of my stockpile in a box and placing it in our elderly sunday school classes. They don’t know who it’s from and it makes me smile that they get free stuff!

    Also, we have an adopted daughter from S. Korea and plan on sponsoring the orphanage that she came from as soon as our adoption is paid in full.

  • Dee Wolters says:

    When my budget was so tight I could not give more than my tithe, I began volunteering my time seriously. Being the stay home mom of a baby at the time, now have 4 teens, I knew that my time was cheap, but I did not have money to spend. I looked for opportunities to volunteer in my church and community. Over the years I have been a camp fire girls leader, VBS leader, SS teacher, 4-H leader, worked at food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.

    The upside of the is my kids have grown up volunteering. It is incredible to see kids working to give something to others. Now my kids have their own ways they volunteer, in addition to the things we do as a family. 16 yr old daughter makes over a dozen baby quilts each year for the local crisis pregnancy center. 14 yr daughter purchases flowers with her own money to plant in the yard of a shut in neighbor, then visits her regularly. 18 yr and 16 yr daughters both have raised guide dog puppies who grew up to be guide dogs for blind people. That one did cost some $, ( dog food, equipment, etc.) but was a very time consuming endeaver.

    Kids have learned so much from working (often very hard) for someone and knowing there was nothing in it for them- no pay, etc. Just the satifaction of a job well done. We enjoyed several hours together as a family on both Thanks giving and Xmas this year serving dinner to hungry people in our community. It was a nice way to spend the holiday, then come home and be together.

    Now that our finances are better, I do enjoy being able to write a check when a need is expressed, but we still donate 100’s of hours each year.

  • Neil says:

    The gift of time is the most precious thing of all. When our first child was born we didn’t have friends or family living near us (we had just moved) and we had to cope alone. My wife remebers how she felt at this time and will always offer a helping hand (with cleaning or cooking etc) to new moms in our area.

  • Tiffany P says:

    I have a question that is off subject. Do you know of any ideas for stay at home moms to make money? Do you know if filling out surveys online actually works? I am just looking to make a little extra money I dont want to get rich or make $1000 or more a month. That would be nice,lol… I was just wondering if you knew of anything that worked that wasnt a scam. Thanks for your help

    Money Saving Mom here: Tiffany, check out this link and scroll through the posts for lots of different ideas:

  • Tammy says:

    Fantastic suggestions! When I first got married, my husband and I had a discussion about giving (we must have been bombarded at some point for donation requests for this to come up). At the time, we decided that whenever possible, we’d give our time since we had lots of that and not lots of cash to hand out. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for both of us to contribute to our local communities over the years. Since then we’ve volunteered for government, civic groups, schools, charities, community, library, kid’s sports and senior programs. Our kids are now getting involved in some of our volunteering and it’s been rewarding all around – I’d encourage everyone to find one place they can contribute some time to.

  • Jacque Dixon says:

    Thanks for mentioning Gleaning the Harvest, Crystal. We appreciate your support!

    This is a great list!

  • Paola says:

    I liked these posts a lot. I also believe that people sometimes need someone to talk to. My neighbor has severe depression and I have been trying to get closer to her. She finally lets me in her house and she enjoys talking to me. I feel that there are people around us that need to be listened and do not always need material things.


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