Thursday, 7 May 2009

Being Frugal And Charitable

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

When I first began this journey into a frugal way of life, I wasn't sure it was something I wanted. You see I'd only known a couple of people who called themselves frugal, but there were so many aspects of their life I wasn't comfortable with, like the fact they wouldn't give to charity or help out friends/family in need because they were frugal yet you knew, because they shared it, that they were saving $1000+ a month. I then began reading, writing and really changed my perspective. I learned that there were a lot of people living the frugal life so that they could make good choices with their money, whether that was to get out of debt, give more, work part time and be charitable. Lesson learned!

So now here I am, over an year into my frugal journey, a journey which was involved moving, cutting back, finding nature, changing relationships, earning less and blogging through it all. Over the past year I've learned how to make choices so that despite a limited budget I can be charitable, I can give to those in need and provide random acts of kindness! There are so many ways you can be frugal & charitable, here are a few ideas that have worked for me!

Monthly Financial Commitment

The first thing I did was decide upon a monthly amount that I would take from my account on payday, some people tithe, others set a limit that feels comfortable to them. You can start small, even £20 ($40) can make a world of difference.

Choose one or two organizations that you feel connected to, you might decide to choose one that works on international projects or helps people in the developing world, child sponsorship is a great option, the other might be an organization closer to home like a woman's shelter or animal rescue centre.

As you get pay increases or pay off debt, try to increase the amount each month that you are giving away.


It makes you feel so special when someone provides a meal if you are ill or in need. When I was recently unwell, a friend who is my far the least economically well off person I know provided meals for a week for me. What a blessing!

The easiest and frugal way to do this is to have a couple of trusted frugal but healthy recipes that you can make when someone is in need. Soup is a great option! You can double your batch & make a meal for your family & another in need. You can keep some nice homemade soup & breads in the freezer ready for when you see need.

If you have chickens/hens you can give some of your eggs to families or people you know in need.

If you grow veggies or fruit, why not try to set aside a certain amount each week for people & families you know who maybe struggle with a weekly budget or affording healthy food.

When you bake, consider giving some cakes, biscuits, muffins & scones to someone without family nearby. Put them in a tin and hand deliver them, it might just make their day!

Open your home up - invite people without family close by for meals or to celebrate the holidays with you. This can be such an easy & frugal way to show some hospitality!

Instead of accepting birthday presents, ask people to bring a food item or toy to donate to the needy!

A Little Extra

When I go under my grocery budget, have money left over or am budgeting for the month, I find a couple of easy options to give a little something extra.

At my local supermarket there is a collection after the tills for animal shelters. I'd love a dog but it isn't possible at the moment, so I buy a little dog food and donate it at the end of my shop. You can do the same for food banks!

I keep a jar with lots of change and any left over money from my budget to giveaway. I use this if friend's children are collecting or people I know are participating in charity events. I also use this to support homeless people in my area, making sure I have change with me when I visit my city, so I can purchase food or drinks for people, buy the magazines they homeless people sell (in the UK it is called The Big Issue) or simply provide money. I also use this jar to put money towards special events - water aid week, charity drives at Church or school.

There is so much you can do to be frugal & charitable. In many ways I think it is easier to be charitable when you are frugal because you know how to stretch a dollar and you appreciate the little things all the more! Set yourself some charitable goals, we set goals for other areas of our lives, why not include supporting those in need? One of my goals is to pay for a child to have cleft palate surgery, putting away a little each month will make this happen!

I'd love to hear any of your ideas for how to be charitable on a budget!


Heather @ SGF said...

Because part of being frugal means I haven't had a car in years, I walk or bike everywhere. I can't do this when I bike, but when I walk, I see money on the sidewalk/road all the time. I pick it up and put it in a jar at home. Then, depending on the time of year, the bell ringers at the holidays get it or it goes to one of those coin machines in the grocery that will donate it to Unicef. said...

Heather, that is a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing!

A rambling rose said...

A great post - I find cooking a meal for friends is much appreciated in their less frugal but much busier lives! I also volunteer at various projects - it is a good way of meeting people and giving something back to the things that interest you (in my case art and the environment) there are often clean up the countryside days at weekends which the whole family can enjoy. Volunteering is also very flexible from a couple of days a year to a few hours every day - thank you for your inspiring blog!

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

A very thoughtful post. I'm lucky enough, because I'm older, among other things, and my home is paid for, my pension adequate and I have no debt. I volunteer several places and sponser two children through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association . My husband came to the US in 1956 as a refugee from Hungary and remembered times when his family was fed through CARE packages, so I give to them and other organizations to feed and give medical help to those who need it.......But what I wanted to post about is a friend whose pension is adequate for her support but doesn't let her give to charity as she used to. She is retired and makes dollhouses and restores furniture in her free time and contributes the money from that to her charities. So her hobby supports her charity. You need free time to do this, of course.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

I've "donated" to several causes in the past... Children's Miracle Network, March of Dimes, United Way, etc. etc. However I became frustrated because I never was able to "see" this help anyone...

So instead I started donating my time to the local food pantry... I gathered donations and worked at a church 1-2 times a week. It was an awesome feeling to watch families eyes light up at Thanksgiving time when we passed out food baskets to them... Maybe it's wrong to feel that way but the sense of connection to the community and the raw emotion i saw was very educational for me.

Also... I have 4 kids who get a RIDICULOUS amount of toys for christmas, birthdays, etc. Most of them I've had trouble returning or the kids open them, play with them once and then discard them.... so when we started our frugal journey, my oldest learned a lesson. We took all toys that were brand new or gently played with and donated them to a local charity for domestic violence shelters and low income daycare providers. We had a long talk to about what domestic violence means and what some children have to give up to leave a bad situation... he immediately went upstairs and found more toys to give! Never dawned on me that my children are blessed... he had no idea what these terms were and I'm thankful for that... I'm also thankful that he understands now that we can always give more then money to help others...

Robyn M. said...

I'm glad to see some non-money-centered ideas of charity becoming more prevalent in our culture. Money is important, but so is service--thank you for this!

Just to plug some of my husband's work here, he has a really interesting piece on the historical differences between the "prosperity theology" version of charity (work hard, make lots of money, give some away to charity), versus the "WWJD" social Christian charity (actually go and HELP people, not necessarily just give money). I think there's a long-standing divide in our culture between these two approaches, and we often forget about one in favor of the other. At any rate, here's the piece: Check it out if ya like!

lazy susie said...

I set aside a portion of our baked goods to give away. I start with that in mind, so I don't feel like I end up with less.

A bonus of this method is that I figure out an even amount for my four children to share, then give the rest away. No one fights over the last odd muffin!

Araminta said...

Thanks for the reminder; I had a food item for a friend who is unemployed and on a special diet, but I'd let it sit there. I also had a look in my present cupboard for some treats for his wife and daughters. Now it's all packed up and ready to go when we see them tonight. When I see nice little gifts in sales or charity shops I like to get them for presents (or for me; when I'm down I go shopping in my cupboard for a treat!)

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

Thank you for all your wonderful suggestions!

Robyn service is so important yes!

Looking forward to checking out your blogs!

Anonymous said...

yes I aggree with this. I have been living simply for a while and I get so much joy in giving whatever I can to wherever the Lord leads me. Thats money, time, love, kindness, encouragement, a word. Any of those things.
There is so much pain and hurt in the world. Its so good to give back.
Blessings, Juanita

Anonymous said...

There are many ways to help others without spending a lot of money. In the winter I shop at a store that has great deals such as buy one get 2 free. I give the free food to a food pantry at a small church in the city. In the summer I donate extra food and flowers from my garden to this pantry, they love the flowers! I just had my hours cut at work so I will have more time to grow more food this summer which means more to give to the pantry. At our local grocery they have a book table and all the money from the book sales goes to charity. I buy books, read them and donate them back.
Paying attention to the needs of others while shopping is also a way to give. So many times I have seen an elder who needs assistance reaching for something. Look for these moments as a way to give back to your community. I always think to myself, that could be my mom!

Em said...

You're so right that being frugal allows you to really choose where you want to spend that saved money - and living simply allows you to choose where you spend your saved time. I love the power of being able to choose, and feel more sure about saying no to some things too, because I know that the time and money I do have isn't wasted in haste or confusion.

Recently I've returned to paid work after many years of parenting and self-employment, and have been suprised at how it has made me even more aware of the value of the volunteer work and the other giving that we do. I wish that our culture gave more visible value to the millions of volunteers and to the everyday helping of neighbours and friends, instead of the endless pursuit or more things and more money.

Koningskind said...

I take the clothes of my children that are becoming too small apart. And I always ask which size children of friends and relatives need so I can give this clothes away to people who really need them.

livinginalocalzone said...

I've recently started giving time to a local sustainable food/garden organization that works on food security/hunger issues in this area. And one thing I've learned is that the most important thing I can give is that time and a willing pair of hands to do whatever work is needed. That can make all the difference, often more than money could.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

My project for this year is Plant a Row for the Hungry. The basic idea is to set aside a portion of your garden harvest for local food pantries or soup kitchens. Since we are trying extremely hard to pay off our mortgage early, this is a great way for me to give something healthy and valuable to those most in need in my own area - essentially without any extra effort or expense.

Best of all is that anyone can do it, and you don't need to attend any meetings or fill out paperwork. Just get in touch with your local soup kitchen and find out where and when to drop off the designated produce.

Mistress B said...

I always felt that the better we manage our resources then the more we have to share with others.

I think there is a big difference between being 'frugal minded' and miserly