Being Generous on a Budget
Love to be generous with your friends and family? Tired of having the gift giving and “chipping in” budget be out of control when you are scrimping and saving in every other area? It can be hard to have finally carved out the time and money to go have a little fun and have the “call” come in. Following are some ideas to continue the tradition of generosity that don’t necessarily involve cash or driving your budget into the ditch.
1. Reach out and touch someone
Find a great unlimited calling plan and a super communications package in general. There are plenty of land line calling plans out there that offer unlimited North American calling for a nominal fee. Ours (Vonage) even includes a few European countries. Pair that with a slamming cell phone plan and great internet options like instant messaging, internet calling and of course, email. There are plenty of ways to offer support that don’t involve writing a check. Electronic cards, calling to brainstorm ideas or offer condolences, or just touching base with your friends and family on a regular basis to share the love are all more than worthy. Trust me, if you have a friend in crisis that needs you to spend that two hours on the phone with them to help them through a rough time, it’s worth every penny of your calling plan to be there for them if they don’t feel comfortable talking with anyone else. Bonus? You’re shelling out a particular amount each month for the calling plan so it provides a consistent line item in your budget plan. Gotta love that!
2. DIY gifts
Dry mixes in a jar, building a picnic table, planting a flower garden, a car tune up, mending, making someone’s favorite dinner, dropping off a casserole during a sickness or family crisis...it’s not all homemade tea cozies in this category.
This may seem like an odd item to include in a list of generosity ideas, but bear with me. What if you have a friend or colleague who you respect who is trying to get their business off its feet? Rather than charging them, or giving something valuable from your service list away that will leave you feeling out of balance, consider letting them swap services. A custom paint job on their store front sign for a full body hot stone massage for example. Then you also get to be one of the people that can give a testimonial on their brochure. And they get to feel professional rather than like a charity case.
4. Give the gift of time
This relates a bit to the first one, but could also involve stopping by to hold someone’s hand during a chemo treatment, sitting with them while they wait for someone to come out of surgery, consulting with them in an area where they may need some assistance with business, investing, etc. Even exercising a little patience with someone who you find challenging can be a huge gift in certain circumstances. Volunteering opportunities abound for this item.
5. Donate to Kiva
Kiva.org is only one option, but the one that comes to my mind the most readily. For an initial modest donation, you can have an account that keeps on giving long term.
6. Precision selection of the gifts you actually do purchase
By making careful choices about which items a person will truly need or love, you can make sure the gift does not go to waste. Incidentally, one of our Wise Bread readers has developed a board game on this topic that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. It’s called Gift Trap. It comes with a game board, set of directions, score markers, various game pieces and several sets of gift cards. Points are given or subtracted based on whether or not a “gift” you choose to give to a fellow player is one they actually want or not. Also, you get and lose points based on how accurately people are able to choose which gifts you might enjoy as well. There are stacks of ideas at various levels of financial outlay, and the game provides fodder for discussion and figuring out what your friends and family really want, and what they don’t. If you are looking for a more lively way to increase your gift giving precision, this board game might be for you.
7. Be there
Honestly. Just be there. During a major family crisis, if you’ve flown thousands of miles to be there and paid countless dollars in travel costs to offer support, should anybody give a damn if you have flowers in your hand? It’s nice if you do of course. But if you can’t, and they don’t understand...maybe you need to rethink your relationship with that person or group of people.
8. Stick to your guns budget-wise
Again, this is another item that may seem odd to include on a list of generosity ideas. However, I’m struck by something I heard Suze Orman say on Oprah just recently. By giving in when your conscience is telling you not to, what you are really sharing is the poverty cycle. Her example related to a family that kept giving in to a financially irresponsible sister. But I think it can apply to generosity as well. Think about what funds you’ll have available if you keep giving frivolous high cost items and then a crisis comes up that you feel it’s mandatory to write a check for. Funeral, the surgery of a child in the family, the winter coat of a niece or nephew whose parents might have hit a financial road block...you get the picture. Makes an extra waffle iron seem not so important, huh?
9. Set a dollar amount or range for incidental gifts
This of course will be a personal decision based on where you are financially and what your goals are. But there are lots of ideas out there for affordable gift giving, whether you are looking for hostess gifts, just - because presents, political contributions, birthday ideas for children, or a romantic anniversary. The important thing is to stick to your agreed upon range, whether it’s five dollars, fifty, or more.
10. Pick a pet charity
Or two. Or three. The point is, having a set location where you channel your charitable gifting monies can not only help you determine a specific amount to contribute according to your budget, it gives you a framework to refer to and rely on when those unexpected solicitation calls come in. Politely declining yet stating that you’ve already given to a charity you’ve chosen to consistently support can often get them off the line. If they ask for your support as well and you really feel you want to but can’t afford to write a check, consider starting a free blog with money saving ideas and fund raising suggestions. Then refer them to it. If they don’t appreciate your efforts, and are unable to take the lead and ask to contribute a PR article or read what you’ve provided, then you’ve at least made an effort you can be proud of. The rest of the responsibility still lies with them.
11. Have some fun at it
If you are looking for a budget option to go out on a dinner date with your partner, and someone is hosting one of the fundraising variety, why not get a two-fer? Other options are out there for this as well, including shopping for items you were going to need anyway that give proceeds to a particular worthy cause. If it's within your budget, and you were going to anyway, why not?
Well folks, these are my top eleven pics. I’ve tried to make them as flexible as possible to meet a variety of budgets and giving styles. As always, if you have additional ideas or comments...share the love!