4 Ways to Be Charitable on a Low Income

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on April 27, 2020

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A group of volunteers planting a tree.

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You don't need a lot of money to help others.

You don't need a lot of money to help others. 

Do you consider yourself charitable? If not, it could pay to take a step back and think about how you might give back. In a recent study by The Ascent, respondents who identified as highly generous were 23% more likely to be satisfied with their lives than those who considered themselves less generous. 

When we think about what generosity looks like, it's easy to picture a well-known philanthropist like Bill Gates, who gives boatloads of money away. But what if you're not rich? What if you don't have a lot of wiggle room in your budget or savings in the bank? How are you supposed to part with money you can't afford to give up?

There are other ways to be generous. Here are a few options for giving back without letting go of much-needed cash. 

1. Volunteer your time

Why not find an organization that means something to you, and spend a few hours a week supporting its mission? That could mean serving food at a soup kitchen, tutoring underprivileged kids, or helping clean up a local park. You can also give your time to the people you know, whether it's helping your elderly neighbor with house maintenance or watching your friend's baby so he or she can snag a much-needed nap. 

2. Raise funds for a cause 

You may not have the money to donate, but you can still help charities raise money from people who do. Offer a few evenings a month to make calls or write letters to solicit donations. Or help spread the word about a cause by posting about it on your social media page. You never know when you might inspire someone to make a donation. 

3. Donate goods you no longer need

Old clothing and furniture may seem worthless to you. But for someone living in poverty, those items could be lifesavers. Take inventory, organize the items you don't need or want, and find a local charity that will make sure they go to the right people. You may also be able to donate them through a local community center or place of worship. Often, these establishments have ties to charities or families in need. 

4. Give blood

It may not immediately come to mind as a charitable activity, but hospitals perpetually need blood. There's never a bad time to donate. As long as your doctor gives you clearance, you can generally donate blood every eight weeks. If you're not able to make that commitment, donate blood once or twice a year. Look out for local blood drives or visit the American Red Cross website for more information on where and how to sign up. 

The more charitable you are, the better you're apt to feel about yourself and your life. Even if you can't afford to donate money, you can still make an impact. Don't let a lack of funds stop you from being your best self.

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