Give back without breaking your budget

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If cash is tight but you still want to give back, donate your time and talents to help worthy organizations. Just a few small changes in your spending habits and leisure activities can free up both cash and time, so you can continue to help where it's most needed. Here's how.

1Be a volunteer.

Charitable organizations are always in need of an extra pair of helping hands. You can cook a meal for Ronald McDonald House, supervise a group of Brownie Scouts, or lend your time and talent to an adult education class or art program.

Volunteer opportunities are available all over your community, too. Nature lovers can donate time to clean parks and open spaces, or join a service group that collects trash along the highways. Love to read? Offer your services at your local public library for children's story time. Hospitals and nursing homes need caring volunteers to spend time with patients who would otherwise spend their days alone.

Consider your own neighborhood: Are there elderly people who could use a little help at home with minor chores, or who would welcome having someone just stop by to see them? Take that half hour for coffee and a visit with someone who may be lonely. Help out at your children's school, the Boys and Girls Club, or at your church.

2Pass it on.

Your kids probably have more toys than they'll ever use. Pass them on to a daycare center or your church's nursery. Your old clothes, furniture, electronics and appliances can have second lives in the hands of someone in need.

For instance, some organizations help women dress for success as they reenter the job market, often after abusive relationships or legal problems. Those work outfits you're tired of (or have finally managed to diet your way out of) can be donated to someone who needs them to start a new phase of her life. Shelters and safe houses welcome sturdy, gently used furniture and bedding, cookware and small appliances. When you're ready to upgrade or just clean out, pay it forward by donating what you no longer need.


Challenge yourself to do without one fancy coffee or takeout meal weekly. Give up some small luxury and earmark what you've saved for your favorite charity. It all adds up.

More tips for a happier life

Live life to the fullest
8 Ways to be happier
5 Organizations that need your time, not your money

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate station. Deciding to switch gears and write fulfilled a lifelong ambition. She started as a blogger for a diverse group of businesses, and now writes for a number of websites for companies in her hometown in the Rocky Mountains, and provides advertising copy and media buying for national and regional clients. She finds the research as interesting as the writing, learning about subjects as diverse as construction scaffolding, child safety seats, and newest trends in beauty and fashion. As a long-time devotee of SheKnows, she’s thrilled to see her own work on the pages.