Being Generous On A Tight Budget


At times, I feel there are so many tragedies and vulnerable people in the world that I wish I could do more to be generous. However, I know that I only have so much money to help. I’m in Southern California. I have been feeling a bit sad by the devastation of the Ventura Shooting and Woosley fire.  I am hearing stories of friends of friends who know those who died in the horrific shooting. My sister’s boss’ house burned down and I had just been to a Halloween party there a couple of weeks ago. My mother is only about 5 miles from the fire and my boyfriend entered very near the fire to help his friend evacuate animals out of a shelter.  I am so sad for those personally affected and losing so much in the shootings and fires. My heart always goes out to those in natural disasters and tragic events and my support goes out to the first responders for their bravery.

With all these world events, happening daily, what can we do to be good people in our daily lives? We don’t have enough money to save the whole world but there are real and practical ways we can do good on a budget.  We can be generous and still feel like we can keep up with our own lives and bills. With the holidays coming up, it’s a great chance to flex that charitable muscle. Let’s look at a few ways that we can help with little to no money.

Be Polite and Kind in Daily Life

We are going to work, raising kids, going grocery shopping, and running errands. It can be hard when we are so busy and our patience grows thin.  However, if you think about it, all the people at the grocery store, nail shop, and post office are in the same boat as you. They have lives, worries, and concerns.  They are also potentially tired or stressed. Being polite to cashier and waiter/waitress is something free that you can do. Bonus points if you can be kind to these people even when they are being a bit short or rude.  Give a smile, start a small conversation, or give a compliment. It may make someone’s day.

Look for Opportunities to Help

We can get wrapped into our own lives but if we keep an eye out, we may see others who have a need.  Consider holding the door for someone who has a lot of groceries. Better yet, help them carry their groceries to their apartment. Try helping someone who is struggling with a large package.  If you see a struggling parent running after their toddler, try stopping the kiddo gently before they get too far. Even throwing back a ball to kids who toss it your way by accident is a small but courteous gesture.

Donate Blood

When you have blood drives at work or in the community, consider giving blood.  Check the American Red Cross website for blood donation locations. It is a small and free thing that you can do but it is a big help.  Especially if you have a rare strain of blood. It is highly needed. You may just help to save someone’s life.

Support your Friend’s Online Business or Website

When someone starts an online business or website, they are really putting themselves out there.  If you like or share their Facebook page or website, it can be a big support. I remember when I told a few of my friends about my Millennial Adulting blog.  One friend in particular immediately shared my website to all her Facebook friends. I remember feeling so proud that I had her support. This was a free gesture but it meant the world to me. Be generous with your retweets, shares, and likes! It will probably make their day.

Visit Love Ones in the Hospital

Being sick in the hospital is no fun.  Especially because you are isolated from anything that normally comforts you from day to day.  Visiting a friend and loved one in the hospital means that you are not only there in good times but also supportive in bad.  They will feel a bit less lonely and positivity can help in recovery too. So whether your friend is in the hospital for pregnancy, dehydration, or mental health, visit them and show meaningful support.

Reach out to Friends and Family Regularly

Keeping up with all your friends or networking contacts can be difficult.  So when you think about someone, especially someone you know is having a hard time, send them a text or give them a call.  Even simply reaching out with a motivational meme or funny gif can brighten someone’s day.

Donate Money

Donating money obviously takes real cash and you may be asking why I included it.  The reason this is on this list is that you can donate even very little to be generous. There is no limit to what you can donate.  Try to pick a charity or a few charities that you would like to donate to a cause. Remember not all charities are created equal because some use much of the donations for administration fees instead of the cause.  The Consumer Report has an amazing list of some of the best charities to donate to in different categories (Animals, Cancer Treatment, environment, ect..).  I personally like to donate to the American Red Cross and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Even if it is only $20 here and there.  I’m doing what I can. Look at your own budget and I would encourage you to do the same.

Offer your Services for Free

Everyday tasks can be hard for someone who is having physical issues or a new mother who is trying to keep awake with her baby crying all night.  Think about what kind of gifts you have. Are you a great cook? Can you fix any computer? Do you connect well with kids? Put your talents to use and offer your services for free to someone in need.  Babysitting a child for a couple who never gets out for date night or fixing the computer of an elderly friend can make a big difference.

Look out for Opportunities to be Generous

Sometimes it doesn’t have to always be money.  One time, I was walking down the street with my friend after dinner.  The dinner was too large so my friend packed it in a to-go box. A homeless person sat on the ground on the street near the restaurant.  As we walked by he asked my friend, “Can I have your leftovers?” She said, “Sure!” and handed them over to him. He was incredibly happy.  Other ways to give to a homeless person is to give single water bottles on a hot day or empty cans and bottles if you see a person digging in the trash for recyclables.  Sometimes we don’t always have cash or money but think creatively about giving and there may be something you can do for free for people in need.

Bring a Pick me up to your Office

A couple of bucks can go a long way for cheering up your office. If the moral is low on a particular day.  Try to bring in some treats. Candy, Muffins, or donuts are not too expensive and can really lift everyone’s spirits.  Everyone will thank you and you may even make a few more friends or meaningful connections in the office. If you are really feeling irritated at work, try reading my previous post Work 101: Maintain an Annoying Job while Adulting.  However, you can be that person to lift everyone up!

Volunteer Time

Sometimes, your time is more valuable than money. Check out your local soup kitchen, animal clinic, or homeless shelter. If you have a specific cause that you care about such as stray animals, the environment, or veteran affairs, there are places to volunteer.  It is an inexpensive and generous way to give back.  You can make friends, build connections, and make a meaningful impact on your community.

Day to day we can’t always try to save the whole world. We are only one person.  With every tragedy that strikes, we can continue to do our part to donate items, time, or even donate blood.  However, affecting the people in our lives around us even if they are strangers or poor is the way to develop a generous lifestyle.  It does not take a million dollars to change the world. It takes a good person, thinking creatively to make the world a little bit of a better place each day.

Do you have any other inexpensive ways that you like to do give back?  Did I miss any? Let me know what you think in the comments.

About Teri Johnson 23 Articles
Find me drinking coffee in the AM and wine in the PM.


  1. What a lovely post! I really like your ideas. Little things can mean so much to someone and it won’t cost you a thing. I love baking so I usually brought some homemade cookies or cake to work, because they all loved sweet things.

  2. This is such a great post!
    I love the the part about being polite as this is such a big thing for me. I just never understand why people don’t say please and thank you. It really takes no effort but can mean so much to the other person.
    I also really like be part about support friends and familys online businesses. A share, comment and like goes such a long way. It means so much when you’ve spent so long writing content and working on your website for some to share it.
    Really enjoyed reading your post!

  3. This is an awesome post!
    Being kind and generous does not necessarily involve large sums of money, but can be accomplished simply by being polite.
    It takes a kind person to invoke the kindness from others.
    Keep writing 😊

  4. It is blog posts like this that should be shared and shared again! You’ve really hit the nail on the head in terms of how you can give so much generosity without any expense other than the kindness of your heart! Like you said about supporting your friend’s business or website online. Completely free but it is such a good feeling when you see someone has taken their time out to share something of your own.

    I really feel for homeless people too as I often think it is scary how anyone in the world could end up in their position. I pass the same guy every day early in the morning on my way to work and each time I pass him he smiles and wishes me a good morning. Nothing else just simply “Have a good morning”. Like you said it doesn’t even have to be money we give them I simply asked him “Do you want a coffee or anything?” and what is 80p out of my pocket really? He got a warm drink and it was pleasing to know that he was happy having someone acknowledge him. Don’t get me wrong I wish I had a lot of cash to be able to really help the guy out but in the meantime – exactly what your post says you can give so much with so little and that in itself is a note everyone should take on board.

    I’ll happily share this post! 🙂

    • So glad you like this post and are willing to share this post. It’s sad in Los Angeles. Homeless people just set up tents in a long row down the street, under an underpass, and in alleyways. If I even tried, I would spend everything before I could even help half the block. It’s a huge problem here. The job I do as a social worker lends me some outlet to help. I also voted for more affordable housing last election. It really touches me that you reach out to the one person as you do. It makes a difference. ONE life is worth it. And I really appreciate the share! So Awesome!

  5. I really appreciate this! I love when a post offers practical, tangible advice. Just this afternoon I was able to let an elderly couple go in front of my in the grocery store line and they were so grateful — it was such an easy way to help someone out. I also volunteer regularly with a group that feeds the homeless in my city. It’s a really rewarding way to give back without spending money. Thanks for a great post!

    • Yes! U r awesome! That was my whole point. Pay it forward or spread a little joy in your own community which makes the world a little better. And a lot better collectively. Thank you for doing your part and for leaving a comment.

  6. Teri this post made me feel really good, I was almost bought to tears because I had a revelation, you never know what people are going through. The other day, I was feeling overwhelmed and internally complaining to myself, which made me feel worse. Reading this post reminded me that instead of sitting in your own temporary misery, get up and help someone because it’s the greatest gift you can and greatest reward you can earn. I like your tips because helping doesn’t have to be money it can be something as small as a corny joke or smile to brighten someone’s day.

  7. This post is really amazing. I love the ideas. I was actually thinking I might volunteer or donate to some charities to help those in need. I feel like especially around this time of year its nice to give back to others and to remember there are people less fortunate than ourselves. Great Post 👌 x

  8. I love this post. There are so many ways to give back and you did a good job of covering them. we can all make a difference! In college, I learned that I have a service heart and love to give back and connect while doing so. I think that has been key to having a happy life. I so love this post and Im sharing. More people in the world need to see/hear this message!

  9. I love this post. I think this post is great for a person who feels the need to help everyone. I am one who always willing to give out a helping hand. Sometimes it can cause you take away from yourself. I love these different methods they are all good ways to help others without taking too much away from yourself.

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