50 ways to leave your debt behind: give to the poor

by babhoyersh on March 18, 2011

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”Lao Tzu

It’s fascinating that the first two steps on Laine’s ways to pay off her house involving giving to God and giving to others.

Giving to others creates community and a sense of purpose in our lives. It helps us to see how so many of our needs are more truly wants, and that we need so little. Giving to others helps us see money as a tool, not the end. Research on charitable giving has shown that even giving as little as $5 to help others helps us feel better about ourselves and the world. When we feel better about ourselves, we’re less likely to do retail therapy and increase our debt load.

There are many simple ways to give to the poor. Donating items that are still usable rather than throwing them away is one way. Setting aside $5/week and buying items for a food pantry is another. Our local library is holding a shoe collection, and our school recently held a clothing collection which served the additional purpose of being a fundraiser for the school.

Giving time is one of the best gifts of oneself. A few months ago, I spent a day at a Christmas party for Philadelphia school students and homeless children, provided by Rubye’s Kids. So many of the children had never experienced such a day filled with crafts, food, and gifts – things that my children take for granted. I still remember the little boy who told me that it was the best day ever, and the look on the children’s faces when Santa Claus walked in.

If you decide giving to the poor is a priority for your family, I would suggest starting locally and simply. Your church may already have a program in place for collecting donations for food pantries. When you do your seasonal clean out clothes and household goods, take them over to a local charity and donate them. As step beyond these simple ideas would be finding a local soup kitchen and volunteering there once or twice a month. Maybe you could start a charity drive at your school like collecting clothes and household goods that could also be a fundraiser for the school. Use the seasons of the church year like Lent and Advent for focused projects like collecting winter coats during Advent and shoes during Lent.

If you have time to give, find a local charity such as Rubye’s Kids which holds a yearly Christmas parties and needs an army of volunteers just on the day of the event. If you can give time each month for a long period of time like 5 to 10 years, Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a wonderful organization that pairs adult volunteers with children who have only a mother or father in their life.

Resources for getting started:

Frugal Friday at Life as Mom

Thrifty Thursday at Coupon Teacher

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coleen March 18, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Great ideas, don’t forget to help the needy, year round, not just at the holidays.

babhoyersh March 20, 2011 at 5:33 am

Great point! I was thinking about the mechanics of giving to the poor instead of seasonal versus year-round. I think it’s easier to get into the habit of giving if it’s built into our daily and weekly routines. I think year round giving can be easier on a limited budget if one takes advantage of free products through couponing. One other way of giving that I didn’t think of was planting a row in the vegetable garden for the local food pantry. I’ll research that!

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