How to Help Others When You’re on a Tight Budget
A few weeks ago, Grayson over at Debt Roundup shared a story about facing poverty in our lives. In my 46 years, I’ve had lots of run-ins with poverty; I’ve been involved in several ministries that focus on feeding the poor and caring for the poor. I’ve lived in many a lower-income neighborhood, and as a child, my family faced its own battles with hunger.
Lots of people that I came in contact with during the different ministries I’ve been involved in had no money for food simply because they didn’t manage well, end of conversation. I saw first-hand as we ministered to the poor in different capacities as they walked around in $100 tennis shoes or jeans, yet didn’t fix a broken screen on the window or had no money left over after the 3 cases of soda or their cell phone payment to buy their kids food.
But there are the cases, like the one Grayson ran into, where people really are trying their best and simply cannot make ends meet, for a variety of reasons. As a child, I remember specifically a time when that happened to us. After my parents’ divorce, my mom, despite dad’s faithful child support payments, just didn’t have much money. So she took advantage of the welfare system while she learned office skills and learned to drive so that she could get a job and bring more money in.
But one week it just wasn’t enough. There were 3 days until the next welfare check, and we had NO food. None. The cupboards were bare, and my two younger brothers and I could do nothing but watch as mom cried, wondering how she would feed her babies for the next 3 days. We sat there in silence, the four of us, and didn’t notice when my baby brother, then 4, slipped out the door.
Doug, with his 4-year-old logic, had walked up to the corner store, set several food items on the counter and waited patiently for the cashier, who knew us well (thanks to the PacMan and Centipede games that garnished the corner of the store 🙂 ) to bag up the food and bring it home. Doug didn’t understand why mom was so upset when there was a plethora of food just waiting for us at the 7-eleven.
When the cashier asked Doug for the amount due, my little brother looked at him, with those big-blue eyes, wondering what on earth he was talking about.
Then came Superman.
A wonderfully kind old widower, who lived across the street from us, happened to be behind Doug in line and figured out what was going on. The frugal man had more than enough money to live on, and kindly bought our groceries and walked Doug home.
Imagine my mom’s surprise when Doug and Old Tom walked up to the door with a bag of groceries in hand. It was Christmas in July, that’s for sure.
So when you see someone, like Grayson did, who truly seems like they’re doing their best, but still struggling, think about how it might feel if you didn’t have the money to feed your babies, and then step in as you feel led. Maybe you don’t have the cash to buy their groceries, but here are some ways that even those on the strictest of budgets can help out the less fortunate or those who just need a hand:
1. Give of your time. Serve food or clean up at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Help package and distribute food at the local food shelf. Get involved with organizations that need people to shop or deliver food that they collect and pay for. There are all sorts of volunteer opportunities out there that require time but little or no money.
2. Give of your surplus. Clean out your pantry and give the food you know you won’t eat, or that is near expiration, to the local food shelf. Give your “buy one, get one free” items to the food shelf. Clean out your closet of all of those clothes or household items that you haven’t used in years, and donate them to your favorite charity. Give away the extra veggies in your garden. Or pick up one extra thing on each shopping trip that can go into a donation bag. Every little bit helps.
3. Partner with others. Maybe you’ve got a friend with lots of money who would like to help others, but has no time or know-how of shopping for the food shelf. Work together: your friend supplies the cash, you do the shopping, and you deliver the goods together. Volunteer at an organization like Feed My Starving Children, that has volunteers pack food that they buy to send off to third world countries. There are many organizations out there who need hands to help more than they need money.
4. Look close to home. Chances are, you can find a way to help others right in your close circle of family, friends or neighbors. Maybe there’s a single mom in your life who could really use a babysitter once in a while. Or an elderly person who needs help with errands or housework. Maybe you could help a young couple just starting out by teaching them what you’ve learned about budgeting and money management.
There’s always a way to give to others, no matter how tight your budget might be. Just keep your eyes open, and you’ll find a way. 🙂