This year instead of challenging myself to lose weight, get organized and exercise more, I am vowing to find more ways to help others — without spending a lot of money.
There is so much dire need in our Midstate communities and I believe that there are oodles of ways we can help, even if we don’t have a lot of money to spend.
So today, I give you 23 ways to be cheap to be generous in the new year.
1. Start early in the year to buy toys for the holiday toy stores that give away items to families at Christmas. If you look for clearance sales and giveaways, you could probably have two or three times as many toys to donate for the same amount of money you would have spent if you waited until December to shop.
2. Volunteer. The easiest way to find opportunities is to sign up through Hands On Nashville (hon.org). But there are hundreds of non-profit organizations that would welcome help from all ages and interests.
3. Take volunteering a step further and organize a volunteer effort through your office or church, or with friends or neighbors. There are countless choices like sorting food, cooking a meal at Hospital Hospitality House, or taking on a Habitat for Humanity building project. You might even learn some new skills.
4. Look for specials and deals at the grocery and stock up when the price is right. It’s a good idea to get a list of food pantries’ most needed items and keep an eye out for those items at the lowest prices. Use your coupons (paper and digital) to stretch your giving dollars.
5. Clean out your pantry and donate your extras to a food pantry. Ramp it up and invite neighbors to clean out their pantries too and volunteer to take everybody’s food to an area food pantry that serves the needy.
6. Keep a “donate box” in a convenient place at your house year-round. Put anything you don’t want or need in it – everything from gifts you don’t want to gift bags, to books you have read to unused kitchen items. Once you accumulate a large amount, donate it to a worthy organization. (It kills me for people to throw still usable things away.)
7. Have your children put aside gently used toys to give to others. Find a children focused organization to donate them to or donate to a thrift store that can sell them at affordable prices to families who could enjoy them.
8. If you are buying new toys for a charity, make it a family project by involving your children in selecting the toys. It is good for them to experience the joy of giving in a world where receiving seems to be the focus.
9. Organize a book drive for children’s books and donate them to a school for its library or to give away to students.
10. Use social media to be positive – post inspirational things, share positive news stories and highlighting worthy acts. Positivity is such a bright spot these days when there is so much negativity.
11. If you are having a birthday, or anniversary party or other gathering, make it a “party with a purpose” and ask guests to bring pet food for the Humane Association, diapers for the Nashville Diaper Connection, food for a food bank, jackets for needy children, items for Room in the Inn — anything that aligns with nonprofits you want to support.
12. Sign up for a fundraising walk (it seems like there is one every weekend: Boulevard Bolt, Safe Have Walk, Heart Association). It can be a lot of fun, you get some exercise, and at the same time raise a lot of money for good causes.
13. Participate in a silent auction. Not only is this a good way to support nonprofits, with your bids driving the price up, but you might even luck up and end up “buying” a trip or luxury items for waaaay below cost. All for a good cause.
14. Take a minute to call people who you think may be lonely or who might need help with a few chores. This could be a neighbor, someone from church, or someone you used to work with. Just think who might enjoy staying in touch with you.
15. Give blood. It usually takes less than an hour and there is always a need. The Red Cross says that every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood and that one unit (slightly less than a pint) can save as many as three lives. You can make an appointment to give blood or even host a blood drive.
16. Clean out your closet and donate the clothes you no longer wear to a program like Dress for Success or to a thrift shop. Ask friends and neighbors to do the same and offer to pick up and deliver their donations.
17. Make food for one of the Room in the Inn programs. There are so many congregations that offer overnight accommodations and meals and sack lunches throughout the winter season and they could always use more food, and more help serving.
18. Volunteer to tutor at a local school. Schools need all the help they can get and one on one tutoring is a great opportunity to make a difference.
19. In the spring, host a plant swap and invite friends and neighbors to dig up/divide plants in their yards to trade or give away to others. Not only is it fun, but participants can get lots of plant material for nothing.
20. Support area charities by buying whatever they are selling – Girl Scout cookies, Boy Scout popcorn, Thistle Farms product, band and school athletic fundraisers. Plus, you can shop thrift stores like Goodwill and ThriftSmart, with your spending supporting their programs.
21. Sign up for grocery community giving programs. For example, Kroger’s Community Counts program lets you donate to local organizations based on the shopping you do and it doesn’t cost you a cent. You just link your Kroger Plus card to an organization that you choose and when you shop and swipe your shopper’s card, a percentage goes to the organization of your choice.
22. Publix also has a program, Publix Partners for schools. Just join Club Publix or log in to your account and select search for the school of your choice. Then pay with the Publix app or enter your phone number at checkout so that your selected school will receive Publix Partners earnings for your eligible purchases.
23. Make a goal to practice at least one random act of kindness every day — anything from opening a door for someone to offering to take a picture of a group, to making cookies for your neighborhood firehall or leaving a bottle of water and a snack for your mail delivery person. Kindness 101!
I also love seeing people leave unused coupons on the grocery shelf for others to use. Simple but helpful.
Research shows that helping others and focusing on giving back can help you to.
I’m definitely going to focus on this in 2023 and hope you will join me.