Like families everywhere, our family is keeping a close eye on our budget. Instead of spending freely like we used to, we are concentrating on lowering debt and increasing our savings as a hedge against an uncertain future.
While we've slashed our budget pretty drastically, the one area we haven't cut are charitable donations. With one in six Americans living in poverty, charities desperately need our help in both time and money. Here are 10 ways a family can continue to support local charities even when money is tight.
1. Donated gently used clothing and household goods to a favorite charity. Donations of gently used clothing, toys, household goods, furnishings, baby items, and other used goods are a great way to support a charity without wrecking a budget. Instead of hauling these items down to the local thrift store, consider donating these used items to migrant and refugee centers, homeless shelters, and women's crisis centers.
2. Support a local food bank with discount grocery shopping. Food banks across the country are running on empty as they struggle to meet the growing need for emergency groceries. One very easy way to support local food banks is with donations of food purchased from local discount grocery stores. Shopping at dollar store, bakery thrifts, dent & scratch stores, warehouse stores, and grocery outlets means your dollar can go twice as far. Food items always in demand include:
--canned fruits and vegetables
--Mac n cheese dinners
--canned meats and meat based soups
--canned chili and other types of canned beans
3. Clean out the garage for Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity accepts donations of unused or gently used building materials, paint, tools, tiles, and hardware to use in their building projects. This is a great way of putting all that surplus material to good use while cleaning out the garage as well.
4. Donate baked goods to school and church fundraisers when possible. School and church fundraisers can take a big chunk out of a household budget, especially if your family is asked to donate (or purchase) expensive items such as gift baskets and gourmet foods. Over the years, I've discovered the most affordable option is to support these organizations by donating several hundred made-from-scratch gourmet cookies to their semi annual bake sales. Cookies are cheap to prepare, easy to make, and can be quite profitable.
5. Donate meals or sack lunches. Neighborhood churches have joined soup kitchens in helping feed the hungry by hosting community suppers or distributing sack lunches. Donating several homemade casseroles or several dozen healthy treats for sack lunches is an easy way to support a charity without spending lots of money.
6. Donate your hair. If you have long, natural colored hair, donating it to Locks of Love is a great way to help disadvantaged children who have lost their hair through medical treatment. You can learn more about Locks of Love at Locksoflove.org.
7. Grow produce for a food bank. If your family would like to support the food bank but don't have the cash for shelf staple groceries, most food banks will also accept fresh garden produce for direct distribution to the hungry. Zucchini, crookneck squash, and green beans are a few examples of "starter" vegetables that your family will enjoy growing for charity.
8. Provide a foster home for injured or aging animals. Animal shelters are also feeling the pinch of reduced donations which puts a strain on their resources. Providing a temporary foster home for an injured pet is a fantastic way to support your local Humane Society for not a lot of money.
9. Donate the use of your car. If you like driving, Meals on Wheels is one example of the many charities that rely on volunteers and their cars to deliver meals and other services. For more information about Meals on Wheel, visit mowaa.org.
10 Volunteerism. Volunteerism is a wonderful way for all families to give back to their community. Not only will your family make new friends and learn valuable skills, they'll have the satisfaction on knowing that their efforts made a difference in the lives of others. Volunteermatch.org is a good place to start your search.
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