give back to your community on a budget

In middle and high school I was part of a youth program that donated our time to help local kids. The leader of the group used grants to purchase school supplies and other back to school necessities like deodorant, underwear and shoes for local kids. One weekend in late August we would set up at the local clothing bank and parents who qualified for getting free clothing from the clothing bank could come through the line and get school supplies for their children. I decided to join in and I was able to help hand out the supplies to local children. It was very touching to see some of the parents very emotional about accepting donations. The first year that I participated one mother broke down crying when her little boy got excited over his new pair of shoes. She hugged me and kept repeating ‘thank you’ through her tears. I didn’t pay for the shoes so I felt a little odd being the one to get the “thank you”.  However, the leader of the event later explained that she couldn’t do the event without our help. She needed help from us kids to organize the supplies and to efficiently work 500+ kids through the donation line in a 2 day period that we were able to borrow the building we used for the event. That experience made me realize that giving back to your community really doesn’t have to involve a significant financial contribution. In fact, there are tons of ways you can give back to your community for free or at very little cost.

10 ways to give back to your community through service projects while on a tight budget

10 Free or low-cost ways to give back to your community:

jewelers mutual band together

1. Vote in the Band Together campaign. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company has been insuring jewelry for over 100 years. Their plans cover repair or replacement in the event of damage, theft, and loss. The Jewelers Mutual Band Together campaign will be donating a total of $2 million. The donation will be divided up between St. Jude’s Research Hospital, Habitat For Humanity and Feeding America (or Food Banks Canada). Jewelers Mutual is asking individuals to vote for which Nonprofit will come in first, second and third place. The nonprofit that gets the most vote will get a $1 million donation from Jewelers Mutual, while second place will get $700,000, and $300,000 will go to the remaining nonprofit. Voting began July 11th and will continue through 11pm CT on July 31st, 2016. When you vote, YOU will be entered to win jewelry prizes from STACKED New York. Each week, one winner will receive a set of 3 stacking bands ($450 value!). Visit Jewelers Mutual Band Together to vote. You can vote every day to increase your odds of winning.
2. Donate clothing to those in need. If you don’t know someone who needs the clothing personally, consider offering it to a local homeless shelter, pregnancy center, church or school. A charity in my area accepts old prom dresses or bridesmaids dresses to give to low-income students for the next year’s prom!

donate prom dresses
3. Volunteer your time at local charities. In most cases humane societies, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other charities are desperate for volunteers and will appreciate as much of your time as you can offer.
4. Help local individuals in need. Most towns have Facebook groups for buying, selling and trading products. In these groups I occasionally see local residents posting asking for help. I’ve seen teenagers asking for a ride to work because their car wouldn’t start, mother’s asking for a last-minute baby sitter so they can go to work, and other similar requests. It’s a unique way to find local people who need help with something specific.
5. The Power of Social Media: In the Facebook groups I mentioned above, I often see people post about how they are trying to sell their house, their car, or how they are trying to find their dog or cat who is missing. Share those posts to your personal Facebook page to pay it forward. One of your friends may have seen their pet, or might be interested in their car or home. If you can connect them to the right person you could make a huge difference in their life, it only takes a click!
6. Support local businesses, stands or shops.  Do you have a neighbor who puts up a garden stand or who sells eggs? Help them out by purchasing from them instead of the grocery store.
7. Help neighbors with small tasks. When I was out-of-state last month, my neighbor mowed my half of the lawn. The yard is pretty small so it’s not a time-consuming task but I really appreciated their help.

babysitting swap
8. Swap babysitting with parents in your community. Help a mom in need by babysitting her children, and have her watch yours when you need a break so you both benefit!
9. Leave coupons in swap areas. My local library has a coupon swap box to leave coupons you won’t use, or take coupons you want or need. If you have coupons you won’t be using, donate them to a coupon box so someone else can save.

donate your hair
10. Donate your hair. If you have long hair that you’re willing to cut short, there are charities that partner with hair salons. They will cut your hair for free in exchange for them being allowed to ship your hair to the charity.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

This post currently has 38 responses.

  • Crafty Nunn

    These are all such good ideas. Thank for you for gathering them in one place. Thank you for all you do for the community.

  • These are SUCH a awesome ideas! I have been wanting to do this with my son! I am going to see what I can find here in town.

  • Dandi D

    These are some really great ideas, and it’s really good to remember that time is as valuable as money when it comes to giving back.

  • kathy downey

    Those are all fantastic ideas that you mentioned,everyone can give back someway you dont have to spent money.I donate my time helping raise money and educating people on Feral cats.

  • These are all great ideas. You can always do something for someone else, even if you aren’t rolling in money. You can give your time and your skill!

  • What a creative list of ways to give back on a tight budget, so many live paycheck to paycheck so it’s nice to have a list to look at as a means to continue giving back to community while still maintaining our own household bills!

  • So many great ideas. I donated my hair once to locks of love and it was amazing. It felt so freeing. Knowing I was doing it for a great cause made me feel a bit less traumatized by cutting my hair so short.

  • Laurie P

    Great post! We do a lot of volunteering around town….donations of clothing and food, we’re even growing a few extra rows of veggies in the garden for the local food bank!

  • Amber Ludwig

    Love these ideas!! I am a sahm so we are always on a tight budget but I donate clothes all the time!! I love that they are making someone else’s day!! The coupons idea is something I could really do!! I have so many of them that I do not use!!

  • Lisa Favre

    This is a really great resource – love the idea of giving back to the community regardless of your salary range. There are ways of volunteering your time, paying it forward, etc. without having to spend too much money (lots of people show off the monetary value they’ve given, making others feel very bad about it… I hate it when people do that.)

  • Love this post – it proves that money is not always needed. I volunteer with my Wigglebutt Warriors group that I founded to help homeless dogs.

  • I love your ideas. It’s great that there are so many ways for people to chip in. It’s nice to help our your neighbors and small businesses in your area.

  • ellen beck

    Great ideas! I always like to see kids involved, as modeling these things encourages it later. Another way to give is if youre a gardener, donate to the local food bank. Grow an extra few rows if you can!

  • Elizabeth O.

    Helping out doesn’t have to be expensive. I love that this post talks about how to help in different ways without spending too much or spending nothing at all. It’s a great way to teach kids kindness and compassion as well.

  • Sarah L

    I volunteer my time at several places. I’m on a fixed income so my time is what I can easily give.

  • Nikki Wayne

    I always make sure to buy to those local vendors instead of getting my fresh produce in the supermarket. Love your own so you can help your community grow.

  • Sara

    Such a great post! We have to give back in our communities, it is so important! We have done many of these suggestions. My daughter donated her hair the past 3 years! We also donate clothes that we outgrow each year. Helping is not about how much it costs, it is about how good it makes you and others feel.

  • These are great tips! We always try to shop to the local stores to help our community out. Donating stuff we don’t need is also great.

  • Rebecca Swenor

    These are indeed all great ways to give back to your community. You don’t need to donate money when you don’t have it to give back. Volunteering is a great way to give back. Thanks for shairng the ways to give back.

  • I love giving back, it feels so good! I’ve gathered 2 boxes of things to donate, so I’m excited about that!

  • Kathy

    I think these are all wonderful ideas. I donate clothes and food all the time. It’s great to be able to help out when you can. I also leave coupons by items in stores sometimes.

  • i love these ideas. i usually donate clothes and shoes by putting them in those big bins and my mom always leaves coupons. but i do think that we could be doing more. thank for sharing.

  • Love your list, I love the idea of swapping child care. I really wish I had more friends
    That lived closer. Thank you for sharing.

  • This is a great list. I do swap out childcare with neighbors and try to donate blood as often as possible. It always makes me feel great to know I can help, even if it’s in small doses.

  • These are excellent ways to give back. I personally wish I could do more to help others.

  • I make sure I donate clothing at least 3 times a year plus I am always cleaning out my kid’s toys because they so blessed, they always getting new ones thanks to my awesome job.

  • Living in the city and having many families around us with less then us makes it so much easier for me to give to our community. They are often thankful for any amount of clothing, food that our household is too picky to eat, out grown and worn shoes are even a thankful gift to many of these other families. I try to throw away as little as possible! Now that I’m working I am hoping that I can start keeping cold water with us to hand out to the homeless and “panhandlers” as we walk around or even as we drive around, they are at almost EVERY freeway exit ramp.

  • I have always wanted to donate my hair, but it grows so slowly. We are always donating clothes and toys. It feels great to give back.

  • Nicole Escat

    I super love these ideas. We should help our community even in our own little ways.

  • Robin Rue

    These are all such great ideas. Leaving the coupons in the swap areas is something that I never would have thought of before.

  • Every little thing counts and we always give back as much as we can. We actually have a box of clothes here to donate.

  • such brilliant ideas we should share with our children as well. Many children these days have a mentality of “I deserve everything for nothing” its killing their creative power and charity doesnt even come into play! Thanks for sharing this Emily!

  • Ron Leyba

    I love the tip about supporting local business. This is indeed a big help not only for the business owners, but also to the community as a whole.

  • I hope by some means I am able to help others. I remember helping many in my community but now living in Miami where I now others need help it seems I am not able to find those in need but perhaps by this means I might be able to find those in need or group or community. Thanks for sharing your ideas, it means the world to me.

  • Melissa Bernardo

    Supporting local small businesses is always a nice thing to do. Thank you for sharing this post.

  • Lauryn R

    These are all fantastic ways to help your community, thank you so much for sharing! 🙂 I have three kids and I always donate their old toys and clothes that no longer fit. I love the idea of a coupon bank, I didn’t know these existed. I have also heard of community libraries and definitely think this a great way to share and give back. 🙂

  • maggie branch

    I love this! Growing up my mom would make me volunteer at Elija’s promise, a local soup kitchen. It was my least favorite thing to do. That is until I saw a friend and their parents eating dinner there one night. It made the experience so real to me and made me realize how fortunate I was that even though we didnt have a lot, we had warm beds and dinner on our table. Giving back to the community is so important. When my children get older they will certainly be volunteering their time in the community one way or another.

  • Deb E

    We have many volunteer opportunities and needed charities indeed, in the Los Angeles area. I am able to donate some of my things and still can donate more I know (especially clothes, lol) so it’s a work in progress. The holidays are a great opportunity around here to donate your time, and those are the ones I love to participate in the most.

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