Frugal Living: Giving Back Is Part Of My Budget

September 14, 2015

To change the world, we must think both big and small. We must never stop caring. Take time to give back

Asking for help is difficult.  It really is.  As a finance blogger, I’ve advocated that we should always be prepared for financial hardships that come our way- to build an emergency fund and live frugally, below our means so incase a layoff, illness or life change happens, you’ll be ready.

Well, sometimes, the financial hardship is a hardship because it totally knocks us on our ass, or it was worse than expected, happened sooner than expected, or simply was more expensive than we could have ever prepared for.  Sometimes hardships mean we can’t work due to a physical injury or emotional setback that leaves incapacitated, just trying to recover.  As much as I advocate for financial wellness and preparedness to prevent those extreme financial hardships, it cannot prevent all financial hardships. Even when we work to pay off our debts, build up savings, and diversify our income- things can go wrong.

I don’t attend church, so I don’t tithe.  I love the idea of tithing, and the significance it yields in our lives to help us share and cultivate our blessings by regularly reconnecting with the people and causes dear to us.  I regularly give to causes that I care about- throughout the year, I collect toys on clearance for a big Toys For Tots haul.  Whenever a friend runs or walks for cancer research, I throw in $5 or $10.  I also coordinate the Virtual Pug Run (which I’m sure you’ve been knocked over the head with since we are currently fundraising) to generate $8k or more a year. It’s a ton of work and it’s worth every stressful evening and jam packed shipping session.

Recently though, I have started to see friends asking on Facebook for help- either on their own behalf, or on the behalf of a friend or loved one.  It’s hard to ask for help.  A car accident, a cancer diagnosis, a baby born with a defect that no family could have prepared for- it’s hard to live through and it’s harder still to admit when you need a helping hand financially.

There will be times when you are called to help someone, a key to living fruitfully and in your own financial wellness, no matter what your financial situation currently may be- helping others helps ourselves.  No matter what you can give, if you feel called to give, it is in an investment in our communities and in our own wellbeing.

I make it a point to donate at least $5, or whatever I can give at the time, whenever I see someone ask for help.  It’s changed my philosophy on life:

Ask when you need to, give when you can.

The last year of my life, I’ve been pretty vulnerable.  I had times where emotionally, I felt I had hit rock bottom- and I didn’t know where to turn.  I felt all alone in my city, and in my life.  I literally had to start over several times in the last year, first calling off a wedding, finding a new place, then getting laid off.   I was so lucky to have had the support of friends and family to tell me when I could take the facade off, and simply crumble for a bit- allowing others to put the pieces back together.

As we get older, we have to learn to be visibly vulnerable.  In a Facebook world, we have a very veiled transparency- we show only what we want to show and we can control what people see, sometimes to our own emotional detriment.

Over the last few months- I’ve seen lots of good people ask for help for a variety of reasons: a friend from elementary school needing help to finish her degree, a family who had an unanticipated and expensive medical setback that resulted in a loss of work, a friend of a friend who was sent over the financial edge with a series of trips to the emergency room.

These requests have been random- it’s not something I plan on, but I always participate when I can.  If someone is brave enough to ask, I am humble enough to participate.  Some day, it could be me, and chances are- someday it will be me.  I can only lead by my own example, that we have to give often and give when called to do so.  We cannot idle by the sidelines, hoping to change the world, we must do it in the smallest ways possible.  Simply show up and show you care about random strangers, distant acquaintances and old school friends you haven’t spoken to in years.

At times, I’ve only had $5 to give, and at times you may only have $1.  I think the greater point is not how much we give, it’s how often.   When we give, no matter how small- we open ourselves for new blessings.

It is sometimes the smallest acts of complete strangers who make the biggest difference.  I can tell you when I’m able to give, even if it’s a sometimes embarrassingly small $5 to a crowdfunding campaign of a distant acquaintance on Facebook, it means so much to me, though it’s just a small ripple in someone else’s pond.  If we can give, we should give- I totally feel that way- when we share even a little bit, even when things are tight, the blessings come back.   When my budget has stressed me out- that measly $5 wouldn’t have been a big deal to me, but it would be for a struggling single mom who just needed a reminder that someone cares out there, and my vision widens once again beyond the own problems and stressors of my tight budget.

Giving is sometimes really scary.  There have been times where I have been ashamed I could only give a few dollars, but I wanted to make the statement that truly, complete strangers, or people who aren’t “compelled” to care, really do.  Little things are big things, we cannot let fear keep us from participating in other people’s lives and supporting one another.

When we share even a little bit, we get so much more- and it’s amazing to see what little acts of kindness can do for people in a time of need.

Nearly a year ago, I had seen a post on the Offbeat Bride about a really cute DIY Disney wedding– a few months later, the site posted on Facebook that the bride had been diagnosed with cancer just a few short months after her wedding.  Random people chipped in who had seen the posting on Facebook, contributing $10, $50, $100…whatever they could give- and raised $16,405.  Strangers.

Random strangers connected and gave what they could- and it was awesome to see what we were all able to do for a couple in need.  My $10 wouldn’t have bought much at Target, but getting email updates months later has been such a gift.  I don’t have room in my budget for a giant Oprah sized give, but little gives make my frugality feel so much more authentic.


Ask when you need to, give when you can- there is no shame in how big or small, what matters is that we show up, we care, we share and we participate in each other’s lives.  Someday- it could be us in a greater need than we can anticipate, and it will be those same acts of kindness that will make the world of difference.


10 comments so far.

10 responses to “Frugal Living: Giving Back Is Part Of My Budget”

  1. I think conscious giving is the best kind. They ask to round up at the grocery store in Ohio to donate it to the Mid Ohio Food Bank, and I’m sure a lot of people do that. I actually say no and am more intentional with my giving in my budget. Another point is that for people who can’t give financially, you can always donate your time. A good quote I heard was “Often giving has little to do with money at all.” So, money is no excuse not to give! P.s. I’m loving your image 🙂

  2. One day I’ll blog about the fact that our grocery budget is equal to our “gift” budget each month. Sometimes money goes towards people we know (either celebrating them or helping them out), but I also fell in love with a literacy initiative that we spent the day at in Mexico this past summer. So we make monthly donations to them. And sites like GoFundMe. My only wish is that I could do more! This post is HUGE. Such a terrific point to make about generosity.

    • Shannyn says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you agree, and I love hearing that other people enjoy giving back just as much! It’s great to find a cause that you can get behind 100%.

  3. The story about the DIY Disney bride is incredible. I have seen people forgo their own selfishness to provide kindness to strangers many times in my life and it always makes me pause. I pause to be in awe, but also to appreciate what I have in life. It makes me more thankful for where I am! Even with recent hardships myself and my own family have gone through. So, yes, giving is such an important characteristic we need to not lose as human beings. One of my favorite recent quotes is “Kindness is free. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”

    • Shannyn says:

      Love it! Great point about pausing to be thankful. Gratitude has made such a big difference in my life, and it’s humbling to realize what we have in light of certain situations.

  4. I love this. My husband and I try to live below our means, and we don’t donate too much during the year, but each winter we “adopt” a family who is going through a tough time and needs help with a few gifts, and money for food so they can still provide a Christmas for their small children. But I should probably be more open to the crowdfunding campaigns that I see during the year as well. You’re totally right that even a small amount probably brings more hope, seeing another person cares.

    • Shannyn says:

      That’s such a lovely idea, and I think giving really packs an extra punch around the holidays when families are in need. I love being able to help make a difference there.

  5. Love this post. I’m embarrassed to not be a natural giver. My money mindset has always been one of scarcity, and I grew up in a household where we didn’t ever give. I’m really challenging myself to be generous and give when and where I can. Currently reading The Go-Giver and it’s been life-changing! 🙂

    • Shannyn says:

      That’s awesome, Jessica! I can understand that. Everyone has different experiences growing up, and they shape us into who we are today. Sounds like a great book!


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