Five ways to give when you’re short on money

Making a difference doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some options that are both inexpensive and meaningful.

John Kehe

This column is part of an occasional series about how you, too, can make a difference. It is written by the head of our partner organization UniversalGiving, which is dedicated to helping people give and volunteer.

The economy can be a roller coaster, and with things like “Brexit” and climate change, the world can feel as if it is in turmoil. On top of that you’re worried about job security or paying back student loans, and giving seems like a secondary priority.

Don’t lose heart. Giving back and making a difference don’t have to break the bank. Here are some low-cost and meaningful ways to give.

1. Cultivate an attitude of abundance

Let’s start with our minds. Be courageous and realize that you have more than you think. If you have a bed, shelter, clothing, a job, and family or friends, then you are in a very “wealthy” state.

Go over the positives in your life. Write down heartfelt quotes that inspire you. As you fill yourself up with this goodness, you will be able to give to others.

2. Pick up the phone

Instead of being constantly worried about where the world is going, why not pick up the phone and find out how someone else is doing?

Calling someone “for no reason” is an important opportunity to show them that you are thinking of them. You are taking time out of your busy day to reach out. Everyone needs someone to just listen sometimes. They may be filled with joy or sadness. Be there to celebrate their good news, or support them with compassion.

3. Write a note

While some people enjoy receiving gifts, all of us appreciate a kind word. It is one thing to say it, but it can be even more meaningful to put it in writing. What if you made a commitment to write a thank-you note to someone every week?

You can congratulate friends on a new job, express condolences for the death of a loved one, or simply say you are thinking of them. You can think of any positive reason you like. Handwritten letters are memorable and heartfelt.

4. Invite someone over for dinner

You never know what someone might be going through – a painful divorce, a tough college semester, or just a bad day. Opening up your home will make someone feel appreciated. In addition, it costs less than going out. The leftovers from this dinner can be packaged up for homeless people. That’s double giving!

5. Set aside money from a daily ritual to donate

Giving doesn’t have to mean a life full of sacrifices. You can still buy a burger or get your nails done. But instead of buying several coffees every week, you can drink one fewer. Donate the money you save: Even $5 can make a difference in someone’s life. In the United States it can buy a small lunch, but abroad it can be used to build a library or buy mosquito nets to help prevent malaria.

Difficult financial times don’t mean your giving shuts down. Instead, they allow you to examine how your time and money are spent. There are so many ways to give back that won’t hurt your wallet and will enrich your life.

Pamela Hawley is the founder and chief executive officer of UniversalGiving. She is a recipient of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize of community service). She also writes the blog “Living and Giving.”

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