When you decide to live on a tight budget, you willingly give up dozens of luxuries. For example, long gone are the days when I can enjoy a shopping spree to fill my closet with brand-new, on-trend clothing; I cringe at the thought of wasting money on minor occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries; and it is a blessing to eat out once a month, even if it is at a moderately priced restaurant like the neighborhood Thai place.
However, one seeming luxury I simply couldn’t let go was being charitable. Though I am working hard to increase my net worth, I want to be kind to others and give back to a community that continues to support me. Fortunately, I’ve found a few ways to be charitable without breaking my budget, and I’ll share them with you so we can all do some good.
Know Your Charitable Cause
Even though I was relatively certain my money was “doing good,” I still felt wasteful when I gave my hard-earned cash to charities without understanding exactly what good my money did. So, I devoted some time to researching certain organizations to understand how they use contributions.
Using charity websites as well as ratings and review sites – Charity Navigator is a particularly good one – I learned how my causes allocated donations, their goals, and their outcomes. This exercise helped me feel better about being charitable because I learned
- Not all charities are trustworthy, and not all charities use money wisely.
- My money has the power to do quantifiable, qualitative good.
- I can impact causes important to me by giving to specific charities.
In addition to online research, you can call and talk to charity representatives or even volunteer for a period to gain insight into charitable actions.
Make Donations a Priority
Once I decided that being charitable was an important value to me, I worried about fitting donations into my budget: How could I afford to give money away? However, I soon realized that I afforded rent and food as well as phone and internet service; I diligently put money into an emergency savings account and sometimes had cash left over for my retirement fund; and I even budgeted enough for a night out every so often.
I live frugally, but I have money to spend – which means the only thing preventing me from being charitable was me. I decided that donating to my causes was a spending priority, of the same importance as my emergency account, and donating became easy.
Like most Americans, I can be awfully materialistic. As I write about doing good and being charitable, I am all too aware that my closet is full of clothes I haven’t worn in three years and my cat has more toys than she can play with in her lifetime. If you truly lack any budget to spare for charity, you can probably scour your home for unwanted items that can be put to good use.
For example, last year, my dad donated his boat to benefit multiple causes, and my mom gives her old magazines and books to women’s shelters. There are organizations that will eagerly accept nearly everything you have, which means you can do good and clean your home in one charitable act.
Donate Time and Effort
Perhaps you live a minimalist lifestyle, and your home is charmingly clear of all that potentially donatable clutter. You can still be charitable – with your time. Organizations around the world are desperate for volunteers, so you likely have the pick of the litter when it comes to volunteer jobs.
I volunteered during my college years; admittedly, I did it to fluff up my resume, but I’m still proud of the good I accomplished despite my intentions. You can find available volunteer opportunities on individual organizations’ websites or on volunteer boards like Volunteer Match.
Fundraise From Others
Even if you work from dawn ‘til dusk, even if you are being crushed to powder by student loans or other debts, you can be charitable. Many non-profits devote a sizeable portion of their income to marketing and fundraising endeavors, so if you can do some of that work for them, you are being charitable.
You might consider participating in giving circles, where groups of people pool money for charity, or you could ask loved ones to donate to your causes for giving occasions like your birthday or the winter holidays. As long as you put your mind to it, you can always do good.