Frugality and Charity

by Kelly · 15 comments

in Thoughts On Frugality

It’s interesting how charity and giving are perceived in different cultures. There is a very strong culture of giving in the United States- through religious institutions, to support schools, buying and giving things to thrift stores and so on. There is much less charitable giving in France, due to a variety of circumstances; there were a series of big scandals involving charities and scams a few years ago, as well as the government support of many local organizations, leading them to rely much less on private donations than their American counterparts.

This post is not about whether it’s good to give (or receive) charity, or about the role a government should play in supporting non profit associations, but about how to be charitable when you are also trying to be frugal?

First of all, I think that it’s important to state that if you don’t have a lot of extra money, it’s of course more challenging to be charitable. On the other hand, for many people, being frugal is not about having or not having enough money. Instead it’s a way of life, and as such, charitable giving is often budgeted into their regular expenses.

Here are five ways to be charitable when also being frugal.

Save up.

You could save a little bit of money every week or month, and make a large donation every year.

Give time.

I do this as a volunteer for two associations, I give my time to the running of the organizations, instead of giving money.

Stop a service.

Why not stop ordering the newspaper or cable TV, and giving your monthly savings to charity instead?

Donate things.

Many of us probably already do this- instead of throwing unwanted items in the trash, we take them to the local thrift store. You declutter your house, someone else finds treasure in your trash (for cheap), and the charity earns money on the transaction.

Shop effectively.

Buy things from charitable shops. Or buy products from companies that support the same values you wish to support. In other words, put your money where your mouth is!

How do you give to frugality while remaining frugal?


1 Nicki at Domestic Cents April 10, 2009

Giving is important to us. We give a lot of our time to our local church (as well as our tithe) and try to contribute 1 item per week to our local food pantry.

There are many ways to give to charity and they all require a sacrifice of some sort but isn’t that the point of giving? It wouldn’t mean as much if it didn’t cost you anything.

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Easter Projects Update – The Dress

2 Kelly April 10, 2009

Nicki, such a good point!!

3 Molly April 10, 2009

We do a couple things – when I get on a purging streak, we donate a ton to our local thrift store. Frugal as well as environmental! We also donate to 1-2 charities per year – but we donate quite a chunk – and we think long and hard about which charities those are. Sometimes we even use those donations as gifts for our family!

It’s putting our money where our mouth is – and that’s what I think both frugality and charity are!

4 Nancy April 10, 2009

We try to do several different things ~ donations to the local Salvation Army (typically household items and clothing when I purge our closets), giving of time and tithes to our church, volunteering our time.

A group of local guys I know who enjoy playing poker each week contribute $5 to their ‘kitty’. The ‘kitty’ is actually a savings account and in December of each year they donate that money to either a local charity or to a family in need.

I’ve also heard of a family that prepares sack lunches and hands them out to homeless people one day each weekend.

Nancy´s last blog post..We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

5 Annabel April 10, 2009

I’ve found to be a great resource for giving on a super-tight budget. It’s a site that allows you to make micro-loans (minimum of $25) to entrepreneurs in poor countries. They pay you back with interest and you can either take the money back out or recycle it into another loan.

6 Alison@This Wasn't In The Plan April 10, 2009

I remember once when my husband and I wanted to make a large donation following a big natural disaster. We really had no extra room in our budget, so we decided to forgo eating out for a month and donate that money. It wasn’t a huge amount, but we found room for it.

Alison@This Wasn’t In The Plan´s last blog post..I Saved 35% at the Grocery Store!

7 AnotherGreatRed April 11, 2009

I’m working on some financial goals like credit debt reduction, accelerating mortgage payments, developing an emergency fund at the moment. However, I believe that my charitable donations (several direct debits that amount to about 5% of my take home per month) can and should be funded by a reduction in my luxuries – ie out of my ‘wants’ money. If I can still afford to spend money on myself, I can still afford my charitable donations. Still working on reducing my spending on silly stuff :] but I’m getting there.

8 Shevy April 12, 2009

Since giving is a religious requirement for me as an Orthodox Jew and since volunteering time is not an alternative to giving money for us I find it useful to be knowledgeable about what does or doesn’t qualify. Also, it makes more sense to me to give the majority of my tzedakah to a family member or friend or community member who really needs it than to people I don’t know. I say this even though I work for one Jewish non-profit and am on the board of another! Of course I give to both of those as appropriate but I do believe that looking at it as a series of concentric circles and giving more closer to the centre of the “bullseye” is highly appropriate. Really, would you rather help out a friend with cancer who cannot work due to illness or donate to an umbrella agency that splits up the money between a variety of organizations?

I’m sure everyone knows people who are in worse situations than you yourself are. What about helping the family with a premature baby or the one where one parent is in school and the other just got laid off? How about the family where the breadwinner is recovering from an industrial accident or the family whose house went up in flames?

9 Babaloo April 12, 2009

Even though we’re on a tight budget we have each chosen one charity that we support regularly, i.e. through a direct debit. This way the money is out of the account at the beginning of each month and that’s it.

In addition to these two charities we give smaller amounts occasionally to whatever cause seems worthwhile to us.

It’s important to me to support charities because let’s face it, even though we’re all feeling the pinch we’re still very comfortably off compared to others.

Babaloo´s last blog post..Enough of the good stuff

10 Target-Addict April 13, 2009

I happen to be lucky enough to work for a large company that matches any charitable donation (up to a certain amount – I think it’s $1,000) as long as the charity is in their database. And getting them to add charities is fairly easy; all you need to do is to fill out a form. I’m sure that other large companies do this, so it’s definitely worth it to take the time to see if your company has this policy, because if they do, then you automatically can double your donation.

11 Cynthia in France April 13, 2009

Having spent my entire life in the nonprofit world and running shelters for homeless women and children, I have strong commitment to charitable giving. I still considerable amounts every year to my favorite nonprofits. However, I know that in another year the income won’t be there to be able to do this so it is good to read Kelly’s suggestions on how to give without having to donate large amounts of money. I have been surprised to see the big difference in charitable traditions between France and the US. Cynthia in France

Cynthia in France´s last blog post..Sainte Christophe Grottos (Caverns)

12 Kristy @ Master Your Card April 13, 2009

I could be better about my giving, that’s for sure. The credit union I work for has a host of things that they do for charities throughout the year and I try to participate in those. Currently, we’re working to save money for the children’s hospital. But, when I do donate my time and money, it’s usually related to children or animals. I’d like to be able to give more of both my time and money, but I haven’t been in a position to do that recently. So, I do what I can.

These are great tips, though!

Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..10 Ways to Honeymoon For Less

13 Deb April 14, 2009

Give blood if you’re able to! And if you can spare a little more time — give platelets, which are so important to cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation, trauma and burn victims, and others who desperately need them. You can donate platelets 24 times a year, about four times as often as you can donate whole blood.

14 Heather@TheGreenestDollar April 14, 2009

Thanks for addressing this important issue! I really enjoyed this post.

My husband and I cancelled our cable, and we donate that amount monthly to our local food bank through automatic withdrawal. We don’t miss television one bit, and we’re able to help a worthwhile cause instead.

Heather@TheGreenestDollar´s last blog post..Solar Power 101

15 Kristin April 16, 2009

Great post Kelly! I really enjoyed and appreciated you writing on this topic! It is one that does not get a lot of attention, but definitely should. You gave some excellent tips and ideas. You even inspired me to write my latest post on my class blog about a TOMS shoe event on April 16! The event was an easy way to support/raise awareness for a good cause without spending a dime! Thanks again!

Kristin´s last blog post..Supporting a Good Cause without Spending a Dime!

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