Illustrated gif of a person sitting at their computer with different images moving across the screen

Illustrations By Michele Perry

How to give back when you’re on a budget

Get creative and you’ll find that supporting your favourite charities doesn’t have to be expensive

As we all recover from the social, emotional and, especially, financial strains of the holiday season, giving back might be the furthest thing from your mind. In fact, it might sound like just one more expense to add to an already crowded budget. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to be charitable and make a difference—without taking a hit to the pocketbook.

Illustration of a corner of a desk with a click, to-do list, screen and keyboard visible

Give your time

Volunteering might seem like an obviously thrifty way to give back, but it may also feel like the least dynamic way to do it. Maybe it’s because you’re looking at it from the viewpoint of a volunteer. However, from the perspective of a charity—which may struggle to find the person power to get critical programs off the ground—volunteers are worth their weight in gold.

It’s something I know from experience. I recently spent a week volunteering at a camp run by the Teresa Group. As we were wrapping up, one of the paid social workers put my contributions into perspective by pointing out just how much it would have cost the charity to hire enough staff to replace all of us folks who willingly gave our time. Suffice it to say, the amount of time I contributed that week was comparable to handing over a pretty generous cash donation.

Illustration of a desk covered with a shirt in a box, a computer screen and keyboard

Give your clothes

You know which items in your closets will never get any time out on the town—it’s probably clear you just don’t have enough lifetimes to wear all the sweaters, jackets and extra winter gear that are collecting dust in there. Donating clothes is another way to help others while helping yourself. You’ll free up some space, and your gently used winter coat or other items could make a huge difference to a women’s shelter, homeless shelter or other charitable organization.

Illustration of a desk covered with a to-do list, jar filled with loonies, computer screen and keyboard

Give your spare change

If you’d like to give a little bit of money here and there, without having to do any planning or scheduling, consider using Mylo. This Canadian app links to your debit and credit cards, and whenever you make a purchase with your card, the app rounds up your total to the nearest dollar. These extra few cents are then automatically donated to the Canadian charity of your choice.

Illustration of a desk with a plate of fruit, a to-do list, keyboard and computer screen

Give your leftovers

Okay, so not your leftovers exactly (though there is a Canadian charity for that). But Mad Radish, a popular Ottawa-based restaurant, has found a way for you to have your cake and let someone else eat it, too. You simply have a meal at Mad Radish’s “cashless and trashless” location at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto and give a meal to someone in need. Here’s how it works: Mad Radish has partnered with Community Food Centres Canada to donate one serving of fresh produce to the Regent Park Community Food Centre, a United Way-funded agency, for each order placed through its app or website.

Make a difference now:

• Share this story with your friends and family!
• Sign up for The Good News Letter to get more stories like this in your inbox every Saturday.