~by Andra Baehr, Shopping on a Shoestring with Kids in Velcro Shoes
When I decided to start writing for Purposeful Money, I had all these bright ideas bouncing around in my head. After getting an awesome deal on a birthday gift for my son, I drove away beaming with pride for my ability to score a $20 toy for $5. The ideas started flowing. I began thinking about all the little things I do to stretch our budget. Before the day’s end I had a long mental list of things I could write about. I figured I’d sort of wing it when it came to the order in which I’d share my ideas. My plan was to just use current events in my life to inspire myself as I go.
That being said, this week a lot of things inspired me. I thought of several topics I could write about, like stretching your grocery money, parties and gifting on a budget, or finding free or inexpensive activities to do with your child. All of these things were relevant to me this past week, but none of them felt like the right thing to write about yet. There was something more important to start with; I just wasn’t sure what it was. At church this Sunday, the woman who runs the food pantry expressed that they are in dire need of food. I put it on my to-do list, and after grocery shopping and going through my cabinets, I packed up a bag of food to drop off at the church. A little light bulb popped up over my head. That’s what I’m supposed to start with.
I remember reading something written by a very wise person, and it has stuck with me since. The key to financial success is giving. Give, Always. No matter how badly you have it, there is always someone who is in greater need. That person was Erin Baehr. You know, the Erin Baehr, my mother-in-law, and the lady who runs this show.
Most importantly, be generous. I have been so blessed by the generosity of others when times were tough. It’s of utmost importance to give back to your community. People need to help people.
When times are tough, it can seem unfathomable to give away your money, even when you want to. You may have found yourself saying, “That’s a great cause, I wish I could afford to help.” Remember that every little bit counts.
-Donate to your local food pantry. Even if you can only afford to spend 5 extra dollars. If you donate 5 cans of soup, you just fed FIVE people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. You made a difference in FIVE lives. Or, purge your cabinets! Maybe you stocked up on a 10/$10 deal and can spare some. Maybe you bought something you thought your husband would like, but he didn’t, and you won’t be eating it. If you have food collecting dust in the back of your cabinet, please donate it before it expires. Nourishment is one of the most basic human needs, and unfortunately, a need a lot of people struggle to meet.
-Donate your gently used clothing. Kids grow SO fast. My kids had so many clothes that I literally had items that went through two kids and never even had the tags removed… things that were never worn even once. Don’t be a clothing hoarder. If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re probably not going to. Donate it. Your baby doesn’t really need 3 newborn-sized snowsuits, especially now that he’s 3 years old.
-Donate your hair! Did you know all you need is ten inches to donate to Locks of Love? It’s easy and free! If you’ve been meaning to get your hair cut for a year and it’s gotten pretty long, don’t trash it!
-Put your (and your children’s) craftiness to good use. You like to crochet? You make scarves, hats, and blankets? GREAT! Send them off to your church’s clothing closet, the Salvation Army, or a coat drive. BOOM. Warm people. How cool. Oh, you’re not crafty, huh? I bet your kids are, though. Kids love to color and paint. Let someone else savor their art as much as you do. Help them turn their masterpieces into get-well cards for a hospital, or Christmas cards for our troops.
-Give an hour. There never seems to be enough time in the day. I’ve said it a million times myself. But take an hour to volunteer at your local soup kitchen. Volunteer to walk a few dogs at the local shelter. It’s a free way to give back.
-Dig to the bottom of your purse. I know. It’s a black hole. You just spent two hours in the store and your kids are cranky and they need a nap. You could just avoid eye contact with the guy ringing a bell and move on. But don’t. If you have some change in the bottom of your purse, dig for it. When you find it, hand it to your toddler and let him put it in the bucket. You’re teaching your kids little lessons with every move you make. Take the opportunity to teach them about the importance of giving.
These are just a few simple things you can do to help others. There’s a lot of other ways to give back to your community, even when money is tight. I will be writing about some of the other topics I mentioned above in future posts, and will elaborate on how you can put some of the cash you save towards a worthy cause.
Andra Baehr lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She is a stay-at-home mom who recognizes the truth in the old saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” You can also find her working at Baehr Family Financial from time to time.