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As an esteemed fellow of the low-income, high-rewards career club (cough, park ranger, cough), I have learned a few hacks for ways to give when money is tight.

Whatever I want, I have to give first. It’s a lifestyle that gets better with age like flannel sheets, fine leather, and Paul Rudd.

But, giving money isn’t my default because when I have yet to crest 40k, giving anything can feel like a sacrifice which is the exact opposite of what giving is supposed to feel like.

As a scrappy sort of gal, I donate, but in ways that get the side-eye because they are unconventional. However, helping the world is always valid even if it involves less stuff, hair, and blood.

Stuff Dump

Stuff is everywhere. Even though I have been decluttering for years, I still have stuff I need to declutter. It happens less because I buy less, but there are times when I’m tired of an item collecting dust and dread. Instead, I would rather have space and light. I keep an area under the stairs when items are transitioning from clutter to declutter. Once I have at least a bag (which can take months), I donate.

I donate clothes and goods to homeless shelters, books to lending libraries, and all things crafty to the children’s museum.

It’s a great trade and a way to give when money is tight.

Prime Time

There are so many good causes in this world the only limit is my imagination. My compelling cause is cats.

I love cats even though my house is catless.

During my furlough, I decided to volunteer at the local animal shelter. In my town, it is small in human population, but has multiple animal shelters. There is a fancy adoption center with cat condos and large demonstration spaces, but I didn’t want to help there.

My gifted goal was to help where the need was greatest. So, the city-funded animal shelter with its rough building and small space was an obvious place for my pent-up cat cuddles.

I had many minutes of inner debate including the real possibility of coming home with 13.5 cats. However, my concerns were meek when compared to their need.

I filled out an application, watched a training video, and was set to cuddle.

A couple hours a week, I work with barn cats. These are the cats that cower as soon as you open their cage and look at me with wide eyes like a pasty version of Godzilla.

It’s hard, heartbreaking, and worth every minute.

Frequenlty, I open the cat carrier door and they run to the furthest corner. All I do is sit across from them and push every ounce of love I’m capable of, across the room to the tiny, scared ball of fur.

I can’t guarantee them a loving home, better life, or that they won’t end up back at the shelter. I can spend time with them in hopes that the next time they interact with a human, they are a shade less afraid.

Spare the Hair

A while ago, Mr. BuLL’s sister had cancer. She battled and won but Mr. BuLL wanted to help.

The sun’s brilliance can’t outshine people’s ability to care.

One way to give when money is tight is sparing hair. Mr. BuLL grew out his locks for over a year and then donated them. In Mr. BuLL’s case, hair is a renewable resource. Even though his grandfather was bald by 30, Mr. BuLL grows long locks with ease.

As a millennial, the man bun isn’t just for fun, it’s a helpful cause for someone.

I would love to donate my locks for love, but my grey hair is at a threshold that is not ideal for wigs. My hair’s splash of silver sassy is enough to disqualify it all.


Another donation go-to for Mr. BuLL that falls outside the money category is donating blood. He has a rare blood type and frequent gets phone calls about his next deposit, which he is happy to oblige.

Mr. BuLL, his mother, and his grandfather all donated blood; three generations of giving. It’s fascinating to hear in the bygone years, they used to give donators a beer afterward.

To rehydrate salts and all.

Nowadays, sugary snacks and salty treats are standard issued refuelings.

Since Mr. BuLL is healthy and has robust iron levels, his ability to bleed on command is textbook quality and quantity. I, however, have struggled with iron levels, as many women do, so I choose other ways to give when money is tight.

Scoring Reward

Occasionally, I donate through Microsoft Reward.

I generate points by using Microsoft Edge and from the daily rumblings with internet searches. There are a few ways to generate points outside of internet surfing, quizzes, and challenges. No matter the flavor, little effort is required.

I could cash the points in for gift cards and games but donating to a cause is an option. So, using a free rewards program to generate income for a worthy cause is one way to give when money is tight!


Sweatcoin is an app that tracks your steps and rewards the effort with sweatcoins.

Not all steps are equal; outside steps get more credit than inside. But still, I generate something from walking.

When I’m not fearlessly furloughed, I collect 6,000 steps at work. To date, I have amassed 3,312,626 steps since 2019.

Similar to other free reward programs, points are generated and options are provided. I can buy stuff or donate stuff. So far, I have only donated sweatcoins.

They have revolving crowd-based causes with time limits where you can track the collective progress, see what other’s donated in real-time, and suggest organizations.

I should have a balance of 7,000 sweatcoins, but I’m down to 5,321 because I frequently donate.

Ways to Give When Money Is Tight

I’m card-carrying serious when I expressed my motivation to give.

I donate 4% of my pay to a revolving carousel of causes, but I can’t give money away every day. Instead, I try to give something else. It may be a snack to the postman, a moment to barn cats, or sweatcoin to a cause.

I didn’t intend to be giving something away every day but now that I do, it feels strange to live any other way.

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2 thoughts on “6 Ways to Give When Money Is Tight

  1. “I’m card-carrying serious when I expressed my motivation to give.”

    I’m curious. What is your motivation to give?

  2. In no particular order other than it gurgled to the top first:
    I’m in a position to give and after a lifetime of taking it feels like the right thing to do
    I’m being the change I want to see in the world
    I enjoy giving (it feels better than taking)
    I see a lot of giving where I work in the form of kindness, baked goods, and various other tangibles and intangibles, so some motivation is a byproduct of my employment
    So, that’s a short list after a long day!

    Do you give, Shel? If so, what’s your motivation?

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