5 Ways to Give Back – Even With a Tight Budget

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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.

If you’re looking for places that need your time, you might want to check out Volunteer Match – of if you’ve got restless teenagers, send them over to Do Something.org.

#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.


  1. Also, a lot of these products that we are able to get for so cheap or free that we need to buy anyway have boxtops and labels that donate to local schools. Since my husband and I don’t have kids we never thought twice about throwing these away, but these can easily translate into money for any school, whether or not you have a child going there. We are now collecting them and will select a Jewish school to donate them to! Totally free, barely any extra effort. We couldn’t believe all the money we were throwing out before!

    • What a good point! Yes! Of course, we save these, but I didn’t even think to mention that. Thanks for the great addition, Judith 🙂

  2. Wow- what an amazing idea to get freebies you don’t need in order to donate them! I don’t usually take advantage of the freebies you post if I don’t need them, but now, I might- depending on what the product is. I think it’s such an awesome idea!

  3. Your school supply challenge inspired me to go out and get some of the freebies, penny items, etc. and donate them this year. Next year, I want to do more. My plan is to set up an amount that I will spend on school supplies (to donate…we do not have children yet). Let’s say $10-18. Then I plan to continue buying the freebie and cheapie school supplies until I hit my limit. The real challenge: to guess how much everything would have cost at the full price.

  4. I started this before Elul, but I’m clipping my expired coupons and mailing them to a military family stationed overseas – they can use coupons in the commissary up to 6 months after the expiration date. And since so many military families overseas are getting by one one salary, every bit helps!

  5. FrugalEngineer says

    Judith got right to my point. We always saved Cambell’s labels back when I was in school, so I continued when I started shopping for myself. (and box tops, and best choice labels, etc.) DD’s only in first grade, but we’ve been giving labels to her school longer than she’s been alive. Now that she’s in school I have an even better idea of what they collect for fundraisers. They never met a money-making idea they didn’t like. (I imagine our Catholic schools are a lot like your Jewish schools in that regard.) Now, in addition to saving my labels and aluminum cans for the school I don’t hesitate to ask other people if they’re going to use theirs. At work they collect recyclelables and take them to a community bin…including the aluminum. Instead now I take home the aluminum cans when the bin is full so the school gets the money instead of no one. This weekend I was at a grocery store and a lady was giving samples of best choice pizza. I asked what she was planning to do with the labels. Yep, you guessed it. She let me have them. So yes, save your labels, aluminum cans, etc. And ask others for theirs!

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