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If you are a regular Kosher on a Budget reader, you know that I feel pretty passionately about paying forward the blessings in my life. With Rosh Hashana coming, these feelings are all the more intense.
But what happens when my desire to give is not matched by my ability to give?
Fortunately, as I’ve learned over the past several years, it’s still possible to be a very generous giver – even without a well-padded bank account. Here are five ways we do our best to give back, even when the budget is tight.
#1. Shop for freebies.
Even if you don’t need a diabetes monitor, or a bottle of Suave shampoo, or a case of canned peas, there is someone out there that does. And thanks to the wonders of coupons, you can almost always pick up some product for free – or very close to it.
My aim this fall is to be more consistent about remembering to drop off all these freebies at a food pantry, women’s shelter or other charitable organization. (By the way, I even like to get pet freebies for the Humane Society or animal rescue organizations.)
#2. Use couponing to create margin in your life.
Three years ago, we were spending about $1500 a month on groceries and household expenses. Today, thanks to the wonders of couponing and stockpiling, we spend about $500 a month. That’s $1000 of margin!
Now some of that margin goes to things like, oh, living within our means, saving for our retirement and paying for our kids schooling. But saving on the things I need also lets me have more to spend on the things I want – including being a more generous giver.
#3. Tap your largest asset – yourself.
Regardless of the size of your bank account, one of the best “assets” you can donate is your time. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, less than 30% of Americans volunteer any of their time to help others.
Giving back doesn’t have to be a part-time job. You could:
- Volunteer one evening at a soup kitchen.
- Head up a fun project at your shul (I don’t know a synagogue in America that isn’t desperate for volunteers).
- Organize a bake sale for your local day school.
- Bring a meal to a new mom or a grieving widow.
- Take your kids to the community “mitzvah farm” and harvest some potatoes.
- Rake an elderly neighbor’s yard.
#4. Declutter – then donate.
Want to appreciate how truly blessed you are? Spend a few hours decluttering your house! It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff we have that we don’t need, don’t love or don’t use.
When I sort through the clutter, I always make a bag of “Donate” items and then – this is the tricky part for me – actually donate them. Fortunately there are a number of charitable organizations in our community that pick up curbside, like Big Brothers Big Sisters.
If that’s not an option, you might also want to look into Freecycle. While you won’t get a tax receipt, you can rest assured that it’s going to someone who needs it more than you do.
#5. Leverage your impact through social media.
I love how writing Kosher on a Budget has allowed me to leverage my individual giving for a much greater impact.
Remember in June when my family and I were able to donate over $2000 in Walmart gift cards and a trailer-full of canned goods and toiletries to the Joplin Jewish community? I never could have done that alone!
I realize, of course, that not everyone has a blog. But if you do blog – whether to a few friends or a few thousand strangers, I would encourage you to share your generous spirit with your readers. You will inspire people – and there will be a ripple effect.
When Rivki from Life in the Married Lane wrote about How to Use the Internet for Good, for example, she reminded me of the responsibility of blogging – and to keep that duty at the forefront of my actions.
Blogging aside – most of us are on Facebook, where we have 24-7 access to hundreds – and for some of you, thousands – of friends. Even the simple act of “liking” a charitable organization initiates an echo that gets amplified through the channels of social media. No where is the potential of mitzvah goreret mitzvah greater than in today’s online world.
During this month of Elul, in what ways are you striving to increase your tzedakah? Have you taken on a volunteer project in your community? Is it a family affair?
Have you discovered creative ways to give back to the community, perhaps even when the budget is tight?
Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments section. I’m eager to read them!
Don’t forget to help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.
Disclaimer: I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. It doesn’t get much better than being sponsored to write about my passion! For more information on post sponsorships at Kosher on a Budget, please see my disclosure policy.