As someone that is deep in debt, and just settling into a new job, I don’t have a lot of extra money to support organizations I love, or people in need. At one point in my life, I donated $25 a month to a local organization that I was passionate about, but that time has come and gone.
I still think there is a time and place for helping people. In the end, it is all relative. I am so very privileged on so many levels compared to most of the world; I have a roof over my head, love in my heart, health and (finally) a job! Who is to say that I shouldn’t also be grateful and generous from time to time?
The other day I went to Chipotle (why do I love that place so much?!) and a guy approached me saying he was outside for three hours trying to get $5 to stay at this low cost mission, but he only got 3 pennies. Usually, I apologize and walk away and don’t give anything. This time I knew I had $5 in my purse. He pointed at the mission in a guidebook he had. He claimed he didn’t do drugs or alcohol and just wanted a place to sleep. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, gave him $5 and pointed him in the right direction. I always like to think that you never know the truth, you give people the benefit of the doubt and you try to do a good thing with the best of intentions.
Although I was feeling particularly generous that day, as I mentioned I usually never give money to others or donate to organizations. This will be at the top of my list when I become debt free! I do want to point out many other ways you can give back to others or support organizations you believe in, for free or at a low cost.
- Smile: I know it sounds cheesy, but happiness is really contagious. If someone is smiling or laughing, we are more likely to mirror them. Everyone can use a little more happiness in their life.
- Write a letter: It’s a lost art form, my friends. I write to my friend in Mongolia and it makes me so happy to receive mail and I know my letters are a highlight for her as well. Express things you might not say in an email, phone call or text message.
- Say Thank You: Sometimes it’s hard to say, especially when people give you a compliment. I’ve adopted a theory. Shut up and say thank you. Self-deprecation isn’t cute anyways. If someone does something unexpectedly, say thank you. Thank you is a simple way of appreciating kindness and reflecting that back to others.
- Give Recognition and Acknowledgement: I think this is such an important one. Often times, if I am feeling frustrated, annoyed, sad, or angry I really just want some acknowledgement. People want to feel like they exist, that their work matters, that they mean something in this crazy universe. Valuing everyone and acknowledging people is a great way to give back. If you can’t help others who are in need financially, at least acknowledge their existence. Know that everyone has their own issues and you never really know someone’s complete story.
- Volunteer: I have volunteered at local homeless shelters to feed the homeless, and teach classes. I’ve also volunteered at theatres, and concerts to get free tickets. I’ve volunteered to make calls and do mailings. If you have time, but not money, this is a great way to give something to an organization or friend in need. Many people and non-profit organizations don’t have the budget overheard to make some fairly simple things happen. Volunteers can usually get a lot out of volunteering, too. Networking, free tickets, an experience, giving back, free food, etc.
- Give away stuff you don’t need: They always say, another person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you have too many clothes, give them away to someone who can’t afford them. If you are moving and getting rid of stuff, find an organization that might need your stuff. Your stuff is meaningful and necessary to someone, even if it’s no longer you.
- Organize a drive: A few years ago, I was teaching classes at the local women’s shelter. It was coming up on Mother’s Day and I was sad that I couldn’t fly home and be with my mom. I thought to myself, why don’t I spend the money I would spend on taking mom out to brunch on my lovely ladies at the shelter. Then I thought, I know other people who can’t go home to be with their moms, or have lost their moms, why don’t we all pool together and donate items in love for or memory of our moms? Support women in need everywhere! The first thing I had to do, was figure out what the women wanted. Did they want a party? Food? I wasn’t sure, so I got it straight from them. I was shocked. They wanted combs, toothbrushes, lotion, razors, toothpaste, and shampoo. Really? That’s it? I did some privilege checking and realized how much I took for granted those simple items. I could find those at the dollar store! I organized several of my friends and we were able to donate several bags worth of toiletries that helped all the women in the shelter.
Some people have money, but no time, so donating is easier and if you are in that position, that is awesome. Some people have time and no money. Seems like most of us have no time or money! 🙂 It’s all about practicing gratitude and helping others where you can.
Do you have any other cheap or free ways to give back?