Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Frugality....Give It Away

Many people think of frugalists as stingy or miserly people who hoard their bargains; more like Scrooge than Mother Theresa. And maybe that is true in some cases. But thrifty people have a unique ability to see a need and fill it in creative and low-cost ways. Combine the tightwad’s skill with money, their habit of using everything to its fullest, and their ability to think outside the box and you’ve got someone who knows how to feed a crowd for just a few dollars or fix a broken piece of machinery MacGyver-style. With our current economy and high jobless rates, many of us are just one unexpected tragedy away from a major financial catastrophe. There are numerous opportunities for us to step up and help those in our community who are having a difficult time. Not because we deem them worthy of help but simply because at any moment that could be one of us.

There are all sorts of ways for us to pitch in and help. A few weeks back, a thrifty friend of mine noticed that the Community House on Broadway, a local homeless shelter, had a list of practical needs, one of which was laundry soap. She knew that for a minimal expense we could meet that need so off we marched with the ingredients in hand to make some homemade detergent. We set up shop in the Community House Kitchen and in about 45 minute’s time, we managed to provide them with 15 gallons of homemade laundry soap. The cost to us was a mere hour of our time and around $15. For the homeless shelter, it was one less thing for them to squeeze into their budget.

Many expert coupon clippers use their skills to create stockpiles of toiletries and canned foods and donate those goods to food drives, women’s’ shelters, or soup kitchens. Gardeners can plant extra crops and donate their produce to food charities. Many people donate used clothing, furniture and household items to local thrift stores that support worthy non-profit organizations. You can even donate old prescription glasses, hearing aids, and laser and print cartridges to your local Lions club. They have a program in place to disseminate these items to the people that need them.

We’ve all seen the panhandlers in the parking lots holding their cardboard signs. I’ve been guilty of awkwardly pretending they aren’t there or wondering if they are going to buy booze with the dollar I hold out my car window. Instead of passing judgment you can pass out a homemade sack lunch. Carry a few lunch bags around in your car full of bottled water, granola bars and other nonperishable items. It’s minimal cost to you and you know you’re meeting a tangible need.

And if cost is a hindrance for you, than donate your time. Are you good at fixing things? Find an elderly couple who need a few shingles replaced, their gutters cleaned or their oil changed. Bring the kids and let them see how satisfying it is to help other people. Did someone lose a loved one? Make sure they know you care and you’re available to help, even in practical ways. Did your neighbor get injured? Offer to mow their lawn or pick up their groceries for them.

The needs in our community are many right now as people deal with fires, deaths, job losses and illness. Even though many of us are on tight budgets we can all manage to dig deep and give from the knowledge, time and resources that we have.


Janet said...


You said this so very well!
Last Christmas my husband and I adopted 9 families to help and provided gifts for an additional 18
people. Many thought we were extremely rich and by some standards we are.
However, the cost of giving when you use frugal skills is mostly time and effort!
Hopefully our blogs help many of those who are in such a painful time right now.

I hope that in 2011 I can help at least 200 families.

Thank you Gail for all that you do.
I would love to use your article here as a guest post on my blog as well.

momma-lana said...

Great post! Thanks! I have always said that no matter how bad your own situation is there are always those whose situation is far worse. My hubby has been unemployed for almost 8 months. We had an emergency fund and got a severance packege so we are not in danger of forclosure or anything like that. A good friend was hurt in an accident 3 months ago and is paralyzed from the waist down. How could we think our situation is worse than theirs? Ours will work itself out but our friend will always be handicapped.

Poer Mom said...

What a wonderful post! Most people usually think about giving around the big two holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) but sadly need is a year round thing. Sharing this post with many so we can make 2011 a year of sharing!!

Amanda said...

great post. i totally believe that frugal people are more giving because they think about where their money is going.

i always try to pick up acouple extra soups when on sale to donate to the food bank. using coupos has let me donate more

Nan said...

I totally agree with this post. Being frugal can help in some many ways. Since this is anonymous I'm going to give out some figures. My husband lost his job. We went from making about 2400 take-home money a month to about 1500 a month. During this time, we have finished fixing my car (husband does car-work).

We haven't been eating out as much or buying extra clothes and other "wanted" items. But I really haven't felt a major change of living. I still buy the things I bought before he lost his job. Because I always looked for good deals. Our needs are still fulfilled because we are frugal. Our wants are on hold for now. We even managed to have a great Christmas with enough presents to make the kids day. I think our total spending was around $400-500.

I keep thinking that when he gets a job again, how much easier it is going to be to save money and use/give it wisely.

grace said...

great post Gail
recently we had a fire here in Duluth. Left at least 30 people homeless and they were the most needy in our community. Now they have lost everything.\
Hubby and I empty most of our bathroom cabinet of shampoos, conditioners, toothpaste, deodrant ect and filled to brown grocery bags of stuff I had bought at CVS or Walgreens with coupons and good deals.
Brought these to the Salvation army to pass out to those in need.
Feels good to pass on our bounty even when things may be tough for us. It is always tougher for someone else.

Sunflower Sue said...

Great article, I can't say one group is any more generous than an other. But I can say by being frugal those who give can give more. I agree, the holiday stirs people but after that, most settle down to wait for the next year. I hope more people follow the footsteps of you and your readers and give all year long. There are so many ways to make a difference. Some don't cost a thing, like your time.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the times I or a friend have given sack lunches (or even bought a meal) for a panhandler, it has gone to waste. One fed it to the gulls, the other got angry. They just wanted the money. :( Also you do have to be careful because we've seen that some will get almost irate with you if you don't offer cash.