Published in: Banks | Nov. 23, 2019

7 Ways to Be Generous Without Spending More

By:  Lyle Daly

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There's no spending minimum for generosity.

You may have heard before that being generous isn't just good for others, it's good for you. The research backs that up, as we've found a clear link between generosity and life satisfaction. People who are more generous tend to be happier and healthier both mentally and physically, and have stronger friendships.

One of the main barriers to being more generous is the idea that you'll need to spend money to make a difference. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, because there are plenty of ways to be charitable without dipping into your bank account.

A woman sitting in a sunny park with a dog.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Donate extra belongings

Money isn't the only way to donate to a good cause. You can also donate any belongings you're not using, such as clothing, books, furniture, toys, appliances, or electronics. In addition to helping others, this is a great way to declutter the house.

Where you take your donations will depend on what you're donating, but the local thrift store will work for most goods. With books, another option is the library. And if you prefer to do it all online, you can list your items through Freecycle or on the free section of Craigslist.

2. Volunteer

There are ways to volunteer your time in almost every community. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Serving meals at a food bank or soup kitchen
  • Helping at an animal shelter
  • Mentoring children
  • Spending time at a nursing home or senior center

If you need help finding volunteering opportunities in your neighborhood, a couple of organizations to consider are VolunteerMatch and Points of Light.

3. Give blood

Here's one option that could literally save lives -- in fact, the American Red Cross says that a single blood donation can save up to three lives. And there's always a demand for more donations, because someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds.

Most people who are healthy and at least 16 years old can give blood. If you don't mind needles too much, this is a fulfilling way to give back on a regular basis. 

4. Make meals to distribute

This is an easy and rewarding option for anyone who likes to cook. You make your favorite meal, pack it into individual containers, and distribute it to those in need. You can reach out to organizations that feed the hungry for this or provide lunch bags with food directly to the homeless community in your area.

You can also hand out food to your friends or neighbors. Sharing food or baked treats is a friendly way to brighten up someone's day.

5. Babysit or pet sit free of charge

If you know a couple who are in need of a night out or have a friend with a pet who's going to be away from home, they'd probably appreciate it if you offered to help. Both babysitting and pet-sitting services can be expensive, and it takes time to properly vet a potential sitter.

By offering your services, you can save your friends some money and give them the peace of mind that someone they trust is looking after everything.

6. Help a friend move

As anyone who has recently done it will tell you, moving is a pain. It's exhausting, and if you need to hire movers, it's often expensive.

An extra set of hands can make a big difference when you're moving. The whole move happens more quickly, and it is that much easier to move heavier items, such as couches and beds. Helping a friend move is another one of those gestures that they're sure to appreciate.

7. Write a letter to someone in need

Now that text messages and emails are the de facto forms of written communication, the handwritten letter has become a rarity. But this also makes it even more special to receive one.

Several organizations are dedicated to sending handwritten letters to people who could benefit from them. These include those with mental health issues, the elderly, members of the military, and anyone else who could use a pick-me-up. If you'd like to help someone in this way, Letters to Strangers, the Write_On campaign, and A Million Thanks all accept letters.

Giving back doesn't need to cost a thing

Although financial donations are one way to be generous, it's far from the only option you have. So, if you've been wanting to practice generosity but you're tight on cash, give one of these suggestions a try.

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