18 Free Ways to Be a Better Person


With a crazy schedule and tight budget, giving back is usually easier said than done. However, what if making a difference someone else's life didn't have to be that complicated, time-consuming, or costly? These 18 acts will help you become a better person, and help your community.

1. Bring in your neighbor's trash cans

Sometimes it's the simplest acts of kindness that can make a huge difference. If you're already bringing in your own trash can, then rolling in your neighbor's will just take a few extra minutes. You can also help neighbors along your block who are elderly or have disabilities that make tasks like moving the trash cans a chore. (See also: 12 Easy Ways to Win Over Your Neighbors)

2. Pick up trash at a local park

Have you ever looked around your city or local park and thought it looked a bit dirty? Where I live, the amount of wind we receive makes it nearly impossible to be a trash-free community. Simply picking up a few pieces of litter at your park or anywhere else can instantly improve the appearance of your town.

To get involved on a larger scale, research your city's website for annual trash pickup days.

3. Volunteer at a school or library

Ask your local schools and libraries about volunteer opportunities. Many need readers for story time, especially on fun days like Dr. Seuss's birthday (March 2).

You can also volunteer your time as a tutor. And you don't need to be a 4.0 GPA rock star to help kids with homework after school. It also doesn't need to take up every moment of your free time, either. Just a couple hours per month can make a world of difference. United Way and VolunteerMatch are sites that can connect you to tutoring opportunities and other volunteer gigs near you.

4. Write a nice note

Your encouraging words can mean more than you know. Send some to people you don't talk to regularly, such as old friends and distant family members. You can also send notes to soldiers thanking them for their service through A Million Thanks or to hospitalized children to remind them that they have love and support all over the world through Cards for Hospitalized Kids.

5. Donate books

We all have one too many books lying around. Donate books that you and your family are done reading to local libraries, schools, or to organizations like Books For Africa and Books to Prisoners.

6. Make and deliver a meal

Know of someone who just had a baby or is recovering from surgery? Bring them a meal. If you can't cook, no worries. Even easy-to-make sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly or turkey with cheese would be welcomed and appreciated by someone who doesn't have the time or energy to prepare meals for themselves.

7. Send old tech gadgets to soldiers

Your old cellphone or iPad aren't worth that much anymore, but you can still donate them to individuals who will get great use out of them. Cellphones for Soldiers accepts older phones, smartphones, and tablets and gives them to service members as a way to connect with family members while serving.

8. Donate Blood

Most healthy individuals are qualified to donate blood. Hospitals always need more blood, and your blood donation can save a life. Find a local blood drive near you through the American Red Cross.

9. Offer free baby-sitting

If you know a couple with a kiddo or two who could use a night out on the town, offer to watch the kids for them. This way, the parents will get some much needed alone time, and won't have to pay anyone to watch the kids.

10. Donate nonperishable food to shelters

Take a look in your pantry. Is it overflowing with canned or boxed foods you know you won't eat? Pass the unused, unexpired, non-perishables to someone who will. Put your ZIP code in Feeding America to locate your nearest food bank.

11. Play with pets

Contact your local animal shelter to donate your time caring for animals. Some areas need help with cleaning, while others just need help socializing potential pets. Start by calling your nearest shelter or by visiting the Animal Humane Society for nearby opportunities. Plus, you're never going to regret spending a few hours playing with dogs and cats.

If you have a child who needs to practice their reading skills, your child could read to pets who haven't yet been adopted as a way to provide them comfort before their forever family takes them home.

12. Donate blankets and towels to animal shelters

If you don't have time to play with pups and kittens, you can still help out through donating old blankets and towels. Animal shelter staffers are constantly cleaning up after animals in their care, and also trying to keep them as comfortable as possible. Old towels and blankets are an ongoing necessity for them.

13. Serve food at a soup kitchen

Many individuals will volunteer time to pass out food during the holidays, but soup kitchens and food banks need help year-round. This is a great way to give back to your community alongside your friends and family, and usually the time commitment is minimal. Get everyone you love together and lend a helping hand.

14. Donate gift cards

Is your wallet full of gift cards with weird value amounts on it or with gift cards to stores or restaurants you would never visit? With CharityChoice, you can donate your gift cards and store credit to over 1,000 charities. (See also: How to Use Up Remaining Balances on Prepaid Gift Cards)

15. Donate your miles

Like gift cards, sometimes you end up with unused air miles that aren't enough to cash in for travel or items. Instead of trading your miles for a subscription to a magazine you won't read, donate them to a worthy cause. For example, United members can donate their miles to Hero Miles which gifts airline tickets to wounded, injured, or sick military members to see their family. (See also: 6 Ways to Sell or Donate Your Airline Miles)

16. Knit blankets or hats

Put your knitting or crochet skills to use by creating goods for others. Knots of Love accepts homemade hats for chemo patients, and Binky Patrol accepts handmade blankets for those in need.

17. Donate your shoes or eye glasses

Organizations such as Soles4Souls and Give Your Sole give lightly worn shoes a new life by donating them to those in need.

Don't trash your old eye glasses, either. Donate them to Lions Clubs, an organization that cleans and sorts used glasses by prescription strength to donate to low- and middle-income communities.

18. Shop through AmazonSmile

Now your Prime orders can benefit your favorite charity. Every time you shop through AmazonSmile, a portion of your purchase will go to the charity you select. You can even see how much you donate over time to your charity through regular shopping and how much your charity receives overall. Your organization of choice gets rewarded for you buying something you were already going to purchase online. (See also: 7 Amazon Prime Perks You've Forgotten to Use.)

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