How to Pay it Forward on a Tight Budget

Holiday giving doesn't have to break an already-strained budget. Consider these economical ideas for doing your part.

Generosity is good for the spirit – but schedules and finances tend to be more strained than ever during the holidays. That can make it tough to give as much as you’d like to those less fortunate. If you find yourself wishing you could do more, maybe it’s time to look at charitable giving from a different perspective. We’ve put together some suggestions that may help.

Give with a Group

During the holiday season, opportunities for giving as part of a group are easy to be found. Groups of co-workers often band together to donate gifts, food, clothing and more through organizations like The Salvation Army. Some companies set up bins on site so their employees can donate to canned food drives to benefit the needy. Some extended families pool their resources so their donations can have more impact. Look around your community or workplace, and chances are you can find all kinds of ways to pitch in as part of a group.

Donate Your Time

Even when money is tight, you can make a difference by volunteering your time. You could sign up to deliver groceries to elderly people through your church or volunteer to help cook dinner at a local soup kitchen. Food pantries, homeless shelters, veterans’ organizations, and churches all need help sorting and packaging donations during the holidays. You could even sign up to help out at your local animal shelter.

Plan Your Giving Throughout the Year

Ask the director of just about any charity, and they’ll tell you that donations and volunteerism peak during the holiday season. At other times of the year, many struggle to find enough help. When a group of co-workers approached the director of a Northern Kentucky family shelter about volunteering right before the holidays, the director gently explained that she had all the holiday volunteers she could handle. She asked if the group could call back after the first of the year and schedule some time to serve a meal for the shelter’s residents. If you’re looking for a way to support your local charities, consider volunteering throughout the year as a way to really make your contributions count.

Do Random Acts of Kindness

When it comes to doing some good in the world, little things can snowball into a big difference. If bigger monetary donations or organized volunteering just won’t fit into your life right now, consider doing random acts of kindness – just doing small, everyday things to make a difference in someone’s life. Random acts of kindness can be as simple and inexpensive as buying a coffee for the person in line behind you at McDonald’s or giving a compliment to a co-worker. The Random Act of Kindness Foundation offers all kinds of ideas on its website for making the world a better place through small acts.

The Spirit of Giving

No matter how you decide to honor the spirit of giving this season (and beyond), remember that you can do it in a way that fits your budget and your schedule. Every act of generosity and kindness, no matter how big or small, helps to make the world a better place.


 How to Pay it Forward on a Tight Budget

About Donna Parshall

Donna is a regular contributor to Dollars and Sense, covering topics related to personal finance and frugal living. Before Check ‘n Go, she worked for more than 20 years in the insurance and investment industries. Donna’s writing has also appeared in Cox Media Group newspapers.