How to Be Generous on a Limited Budget

Many of us want to give to others. We see others in need and deeply desire to reach out and help them. We want to give to the charities we care about and to other causes. Many people want to give to their church or religious organization as well, using that as a conduit for helping the community and the world. That desire is often counterbalanced by financial reality. When it comes down to the cold reality of making all of our bills for the month, many of us are pressed to make very hard choices that we don’t wish to make.

All you can do is give what you have. No one expects or wants you to put yourself in a deep personal crisis to give. Instead, contribute of yourself in other ways. Here are some powerful ways to donate in ways that don’t force you into difficult and painful financial choices.


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    Give things you can make. You might be pinched so tight that you can’t afford to drop a check in the collection plate, but you can take the pears from that pear tree behind your house and make several dozen jars of pear butter. Take those jars and give them to the organization you’d like to help for an auction or to give away to the needy. Another option: Grow an abundance of vegetables in your garden and give much of the bounty away to others. What can you make (or grow) that has great value to others? Figure that out, step up to the plate, and give away the fruits of your labor.
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    Give your time. Tempted to donate to public radio but scared it’ll put you in a tough spot with your bills? Offer to donate your time doing a menial task like answering the phone during pledge weeks. Offer to work as a receptionist a few hours a week for them. Your gift of time can often be much more valuable than the money you could scrape together.
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    Give your patience. Most charities have menial tasks that no one wants to do. In lieu of putting your money in their hands, put your patience there instead. Sometimes there's a task that requires a lot of patience and a willingness to jump through several hoops to get everything right. Perhaps you can show your patience by volunteering to help with preschool Sunday school classes or as an assistant one day a week.
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    Give your compassion. Hospice organizations often desperately need people with great compassion to step forward and help out with people in end-life situations. If you’re a deeply compassionate person, this is another spectacular way to give something special of yourself, a gift others with plenty of money in their pocket are often unable and unwilling to give.
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    Give your expertise. Many people have strengths in a particular area - computer programming, paralegal skills, teaching skills, etc. These skills have great value to others and that’s why they can often help you to earn a solid paycheck. Applying these skills to a charitable organization can be even more valuable - if you can offer your programming skills to help an organization develop a key piece of software, you’ve given the cost of someone to consult for that piece of software, and that can be a sizable amount. Got skills with accounting? Serving as a free auditor for charities you care about can bring tremendous value to their door. This can also help you budding professionals pad out your resume. Anything you do in your field is experience, whether paid or volunteer. In fact you may get some of the more challenging projects out there that will really help you prove your worth to the professional world.
    • Whatever your area of expertise, you can help many, many people become more efficient in their charitable activities--or directly in managing and enjoying their own lives--by making your knowledge available to the world through the Internet. Sites like WikiHow (for tutorials), Wikipedia (for general knowledge) and, for computer-programming types, various Free Software project sites, help your knowledge benefit as many people as possible. And, by requiring that others who receive it be free to share it, they help make sure that everyone--including you--can benefit from what you helped create.
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    Give your enthusiasm. Consider tutoring or mentoring a child or young adult through an established charity.
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    Take up knitting at the cost of around $10 (or less, depending on what kind of yarn you use). Learn from the Internet, or volunteer at a retirement center and learn from an elderly person there, but donate the scarves/hats that you knit to charity organizations or the homeless.


  • “Give what you can” doesn’t have to mean squeezing an extra nickel from a rock. Instead, take a broader look at things. What can you really give? When you find ways to give, you’ll find a great deal of additional fulfillment in life, often in ways you never expected.
  • Giving what is in greatest need is an excellent way to make a huge difference with just a little as it has the largest impact. In most circumstances, giving anything is helpful and always appreciated.

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