If time is money, why waste it on doing something for free? For a multitude of reasons, not all as altruistic as you might think.
I’ve volunteered for a variety of different causes at different times in my life. When I lived in the United States I wasn’t personally affected by the causes for which I volunteered. I chose them more because of time or geographic constraints. The organizations for which I volunteer now, however, are nearer and dearer to my heart.
I have two main volunteer commitments at the moment, both of which fall under the heading of ‘Because I Don’t Have Nearly Enough to Do, So Let Me Add Something Else.’ The biggest time eater is a network for professional, English-speaking women. I was secretary of this association for three years and between the monthly meetings, secretarial obligations and various requests I probably spent an average of 20 hours a month working for the group. The other cause to which I dedicate my time is a local breastfeeding support group. I feel very strongly and personally about this group; I had major issues when breastfeeding my first son and this group fosters a personal connection and circle of support between new parents and more experienced ones.
I think we can all probably come up with a list of good, altruistic reasons to volunteer: helping others, becoming involved in the community, serving the greater good, karma etc. And we can probably think of some good, non-altruistic reasons to volunteer as well: looks good on a resume, good work experience, helps you make contact with others, karma etc.
But what about frugal reasons?
Yes, volunteering is frugal, even though you are giving your time away without a tangible return (unlike bartering, for example). First of all, the time you spend volunteering is time that you are not using to spend money. For anyone who has ever thought ‘oh, I’ll just go hang out at Target/Ikea/the mall, because I’m bored’ (me), you know what I’m talking about.
Volunteering is also frugal because you get to meet lots of different people. Some of those people might become good friends and others might become good contacts, in a position to help you out at a later date. (Just remember the first rule of networking: first you give, then you receive, then you give again!)
Finally volunteering is frugal because it can help you to further your goals. Much like student loans are an investment that you are making in your future self by furthering your education, volunteering is an investment in your future skills. In my volunteer activities I have learned valuable skills: project management, how to run an event, how to research and present pertinent information, negotiating and how to deal with difficult people. All of these skills will serve me well both in school and when I go back to work.
In short, I believe that it’s important to volunteer in some capacity either in your professional or personal life. Not only for altruistic or non motivations, but frugal ones as well. Stayed tuned tomorrow for the flip side of the coin… or better yet, subscribed!
Do you volunteer, or have you in the past? What were your motivations? Do you agree that it is a frugal activity?