Everyone wants to give back to their community somehow, but not everyone knows how to make room in their budget. In the United States, charitable giving continues to growing and set new records, up 4.2% in 2019 from the year before.
For a budget-friendly way to give to the organizations that matter to you, customize your budget in several ways to include giving to the causes you care about without emptying your wallet.
Why You Should Donate to Charity
The first thought that comes to mind about donation is simple: it improves other people’s lives and makes you feel good. Contributing to a cause that matters can be life-changing, and no matter the size of the donation, it can make a difference and assure you that you’ve done something transformative. Donating to organizations can also reduce how much you owe on your taxes. In addition to changing someone else’s life, you’re improving your own, too.
You want to make sure your money goes where you want it to, so diving deep into the organization’s values is a must. If you don’t have time to review an organization yourself, you might opt to read reviews on charities to make sure they’re legitimate.
How to Budget for Charitable Giving
Even if funds are tight, you can work around your budget and find gaps where you can contribute to the charity of your choice. Starting up a donation stream is easier — and less expensive — than you might think.
1. Set Goals at the Start of the Year
With the new year comes plenty of resolutions, none more inspiring than giving to others. Most households also set their budgets at the beginning of the year, making it the perfect time to start incorporating charities.
By including charitable giving in your budget at the beginning of the year and then allowing it to trickle out of your pocket in the following months, you’ll have effectively built it into your standard spending. Treating charitable giving as a wealth management strategy—just like your retirement and tax savings—rather than a one-off donation can help you prioritize your goals and build some accountability for yourself.
Waiting until the last minute to donate just to get a tax write-off doesn’t help you or the organization you’re contributing to. So why not get a jump-start and give throughout the year? Your charity of choice is bound to appreciate it more than a lump sum in December.
2. Manually Build Giving Into Your Budget
While adding charitable giving into your budget, you can automate the process so you don’t have to lift a finger — meaning you can give to your chosen organization effortlessly.
Recurring donations — whether monthly, bi-weekly, or seasonally — benefit both you and the charity. The convenience of auto-renewing your payment eliminates the burden to remember, and it helps the organization decrease operating expenses so they can remain functional.
3. Give in Prosperous Times
If you can’t build regular giving into your budget, consider donating money in times of prosperity. If you receive a significant sum of money for your birthday, for example, you might consider offering some of that to an organization.
Similarly, if you received a bonus for a job well done at your workplace, you might think of giving some of it to charity. Sharing the wealth is sure to make you feel good knowing you’ve saved some for yourself as well as given to those with less than you.
How to Give Without Spending
Sometimes, when your budget is worn thin, you may not have anything to give. Luckily, you can still make a difference by offering smaller donations and resources that aren’t monetary at all.
1. Enlist Friends to Help
You may have to contribute a bit of money for this one, but the bulk of the donation will be taken care of collectively by your friends. By creating a sort of “giving club,” you and your friends can make regular contributions to an organization you care about without incurring a financial burden on any one individual.
Pick a charity you can all support and make a plan to each contribute a set amount to a pool. Once everyone has pooled their money, you can offer that sum to the charity you chose together. By giving semi-regularly with your friend group, you can make a difference to an organization while also saving the bulk of your money for your own financial needs.
2. Donate Items
Take the opportunity to clean and declutter your living space regularly. While you sift through old items, consider putting anything you don’t use to the side to donate later. For example, organizations such as animal shelters often look for blankets or anything that can provide warmth.
Even if you can’t find an organization explicitly searching for something you plan to donate, you can still give it away at a secondhand store, and someone will find use in it.
Remember to check your clothing for holes and to test appliances before you donate them. If they aren’t functional, they aren’t going to help anyone else. Make sure you’re only giving things that will provide value to somebody!
3. Volunteer Your Time
If you don’t have the financial resources or items to give, consider donating something else that’s valuable: your time.
Even just a few volunteer days can help make an impact. You can offer to pay for and deliver pizzas to a homeless shelter, or maybe you and some friends could get together to walk dogs for the local animal shelter on your day off. Plenty of organizations support volunteers, even if they don’t come regularly.
Many people make volunteering a regular part of their schedule, whether it’s because they feel passionate about an organization or they view it as a way to build friendships in their community. Building a regular relationship with a charitable organization can be an incredibly meaningful way to spend your time.
Give Back with Something Meaningful
Even if you can’t donate in any form right now, you can find ways to keep yourself accountable for when you might be able to. You could follow your favorite organization on social media, for example, so that whenever you see one of their posts, you’re building an emotional connection with them and subtly reminding yourself to make that commitment later.
Ultimately, giving to charity doesn’t have to involve money but it will always be impactful. You can provide your items, your time, or your heart and passion to an organization that means something to you. Whatever the case, it’s sure to fit into your financial or emotional budget. We encourage you to step out of your comfort zone! Take a walk outside or scroll through the internet and you’ll find that there are tons of causes that you can join to help our society one way or another.