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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: The More We Save, The More We Have to Give

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Recently, someone emailed in and asked if I died tomorrow would I regret the frugal choices I’ve made?

It was an excellent question and one that gave my husband and I pause — and produced a great discussion for us as a couple. Both of our answers were a resounding“No. We would absolutely not regret the frugal choices we’ve made.”

While we’ve made plenty of mistakes individually and as a family, we have zero regrets that we’ve chosen to live beneath our means, make sacrifices, delay purchases until we can pay cash for them, and live on a strict written budget.

To some people, not getting what you want right away or doing without might seem like a miserable existence. But truthfully, we’ve found it to be just the opposite: we live very fulfilled lives and we wake up excited about each day.

However, we both believe that the reason we feel fulfilled and passionate about life — even though we’ve made counter-cultural choices that some would balk at — is because frugality is a means to an end for us. If we were just frugal for being frugal’s sake, we’d likely quickly burn out or give up.

It’s not about saving money so we can continuously upgrade our lifestyle and always be buying bigger and better things. We want to live beneath our means so that we are able to give generously to others.

There’s a world of need around us. The more we steward our money well, the more abundance we will have to meet those needs.

The more we save, the more we have to give.

Your efforts and my efforts might seem like a drop in the bucket when compared with all of the need that’s out there. But collectively, we can make a huge impact.

Let’s live simply so that others can simply live. Because truly, there is nothing more fulfilling than living a life with outstretched arms.

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Why We “Gave Christmas Away”

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Lisa of .

In March of 2011, my family of 6 moved to Panama City, Panama. About 6 weeks later, we received our shipment of household goods. As I was unpacking it, I began to realize how much STUFF we had… and that we had easily lived without it for 6 weeks.

Did we really need it all?

Those thoughts took a backseat while we got adjusted to our new home. But in October of 2011, I began to clean up the house for my friend who was coming for a visit. Again, I realized we had too much stuff, so I began to purge.

Too many bags later, I had gotten rid of almost all of our excess. I realized that we simply had more than we’d ever use, and I did not want more coming in at Christmas.

After talking to my husband, the decision was made that we were truly going to give Christmas away. asking anyone who was planning to give any of us a present to please donate the gift or the money to a charity of their choosing.

We sat the kids down and explained the situation. After MANY conversations, they understood and got behind the plan.

On Christmas morning, they each had one present to open. (What can I say, Grandmas can’t be stopped.) Then, we began talking about all the kids who would be receiving presents in their names. Operation Christmas Child, Salvation Army, local church groups, and more!

By the end of the conversation, we were all overwhelmed with the truth of just how much more blessed it is to give than to receive. So much so, that this year, we will be continuing to “give Christmas away”.

Have you ever “given Christmas away”?

Lisa is a wife and mom of 4 living in Panama City. She blogs at .

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: 4 Ways to Give on a Limited Income

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Giovanna

I am a firm believer that you should always help with a need when you can, but when my husband was in his last year of school, we hardly had enough of anything to “help” ourselves, let alone anyone else. I knew there had to be some way I could still touch someone else, make their life a little easier, show them that they are not forgotten… I just had to get creative about it!

For some reason seeing homeless/needy people on the side of the road has always pulled on my hearts strings, hard. It is difficult for me to imagine falling to that level, to have nothing at all and, it seems, no one at all. My children must have inherited that same compassion, as they are constantly willing to try and give out money to the needy. This seemed like a “good enough idea” until, well, we didn’t have any extra money… and by that, I mean none.

This is where that “creativity” comes in to play…

For the most part of that last year of school we had to survive somehow, and cutting money from our grocery bills seemed like it could make the biggest impact, so I taught myself to coupon. I would request samples from companies just for the coupons that came with them. After a while I had more toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, floss, soap, cleansers, lotions, etc. than I would ever use or care to have lying around. My daughter and I decided to put those samples to good use and make little “care packs” to pass out to the needy people we saw on the sides of the road.

We decided we would make a goal to fill ten care packs, once we had given them all away we would make more. We used brown paper bag lunch sacks, which my daughter colored with bible verses and pictures, and filled them with all the samples we accumulated along with some water bottles, cans of soup and plastic spoons we found on sale. Due to the samples, some of the care packs were geared more toward one gender and in that case we would mark the bottom of the sacks “male” or “female”. Once we met our goal, I told my daughter to put two in the car as we set out to run errands.

I didn’t know until we were way down the road, but my daughter had chosen to bring one female and one male pack instead of the many other gender neutral ones. I said a silent prayer as we drove around that we would be able to find “a male and female” to pass them out to (seemed a little strange praying for homeless couple to appear!). Soon after as we pulled up to a red light, we saw them… two needy people, one male and one female! My daughter was ecstatic, and after we handed over the packs, the smiled on her face was priceless!

This small act may not seem like much to anyone else, but by performing it I was able to look and reach beyond my own financial situation, make the day of a stranger in need, and teach my daughter (and myself) that we can always help others in need… no matter what our circumstances may be.

If you too are wondering how you can help those around you in creative, low cost ways, I have four ideas below.

1. My Coke Rewards:

You can enter online the codes found on the caps and boxes of Coke product to redeem them for prizes. If you already drink Coke products, this costs nothing extra to you. Consider giving prizes like a McDonald’s gift card, a coupon for a free 20 oz. Coke product, or other gifts to those standing out in the elements.

2. Free Hair Cut Referral Cards:

Many stylists will give you a referral card for a free haircut if you simply ask. Think about asking for one of these the next time you are in a salon. You could pass it out to someone who might be unemployed and need a hair cut for an upcoming job interview.

3. Pampers & Huggies Rewards:

Many diaper companies enclose codes in their products that you can enter online in exchange for prizes. Many of the prizes are toys for babies and toddlers. Collect points all year and consider redeeming your points for toys that you can donate to needy kids or Toys for Tots at Christmas time. This takes no more than entering the codes — and shipping is even free!

4. Candy for the Troops:

Many organizations are more than happy to take your extra Christmas candy and send it to troops overseas. It’s a great way to bless someone else — and save yourself some extra calories!

These are just a few of my ideas. What would you add to my list?

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: Teaching Children the Spirit of Giving (Day 28)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post by Elise from 

Even in the most media-careful home, it’s likely that our kids are exposed to the materialistic messages floating around this time of year. In my home our kids don’t watch TV, yet they still know what a Pillow-Pet is!

Not only are we challenged to provide a happy, true Spirit-focused Christmas season for them, we are also challenged with helping them learn how to give to others without falling into the “just buy a great gift” trap.

I believe that there are a few simple steps we can take to transform our children’s outlook on giving at Christmas… and all year long!

1.  Help them write their own Giving List.

Our kids can make their own list of family and friends who they’d like to give to. Maybe it’s just Grandparents, parents and siblings. Or, they may want to include a few friends. Helping them see the total number of gifts they’d like to give will instill a ‘big picture’ view for them.

2.  Encourage them to make gifts and recycle their treasures.

Re-gifting has gotten a bad name, yet the growing concept of green-gifting is starting to put a different spin on this old no-no. Instead of picking something we don’t like from our own stash, focus on finding ‘hidden’ treasures that our friends/family have spoken about enviously.

3. Help them make out a simple gift-giving budget.

Even a 5-year-old can handle a 3-person, $5 each budget. An older child can understand a more complicated prioritized budget, spending more for Mom and Dad, and spending less on friends. Using the envelope system with a name for each person and the money budgeted inside can be a great teaching tool!

4. Emphasize empathy!

Talk about what each person on your child’s list likes, or doesn’t like. Start by asking your kids to remember their favorite gifts and what they are hoping to receive this year.

“How did you feel when Mommy remembered your favorite color on your birthday?” for instance. Then move into how Grandma will love the photo with a handmade frame from them. Not only will this help our children come up with gift-giving ideas, but it will expand their empathy and deepen their character.

5. Pay attention to how YOU are talking this time of year.

It’s so easy to talk about “running out of money”, or to complain about “not getting what we want this year”. Are we paying attention to our own attitudes and how this is teaching our kids to think/feel about Christmas gift giving?

Instead of saying, “we don’t have money for that” how about practicing a different message such as, “we’re choosing to have a simpler Christmas this year.”

Children won’t get a poverty mindset unless we teach it to them. Neither will they develop a healthy perspective unless we consistently model one!

How do you help your children learn to be givers?

Elise has served clients and audiences across the United States as the NewLife Recovery Coach, offering common-sense inspiration and transforming truths she’s gathered from over 10+ years of personal recovery. Since the Summer of 2010 Elise has personally dozens of clients through organizing, recovery, and personal challenges.

31 Days of Giving on a Budget: 3 Ways to Give Gratitude to Those in the Military (Day 27)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Katie

During the holiday season, we are all pulled in so many directions — whether with church, school, or community service groups, sometimes it is hard to determine how to invest our extra time and resources.

There is one group of people that none of us should neglect — especially during the holiday season — our military. Being away from the comforts and joys of home can be difficult for a deployed member of our military especially during the holidays.

As a wife to an active duty Marine who is currently serving in the Middle East, I can personally say how humbling it is to have people all across the United States praying for, and supporting, my husband and those like him deployed all over the world.

There is so much that those of us here at home can do to support the thousands of men and women who sacrifice so much day in, and day out, to protect the freedoms (including the freedom to celebrate our holidays!) we enjoy every moment here in the United States.

Here are three practical (and budget-friendly) ways you and your family can show gratitude to the men and women serving our country:

1. Write letters.

This is the most inexpensive, yet one of the most appreciated and heartfelt, gifts our servicemen and women overseas can receive. Organizations like accept letters that they include in their care packages. If you know a family in your community with a son or daughter in the military, be sure to ask for their address. By the way, letters to our military only take one stamp to mail overseas.

Small children who do not know how to write yet can draw pictures. Often, whoever receives the letter or picture will write back to you. This is a great way to start a penpal relationship!

2. Put together care packages.

If you are a savvy couponer, donating items like magazines, food, and toiletries won’t busts your budget, but will be very much appreciated. You can donate these items to organizations like or . Or, you can pick up a flat rate box from your local post office and pack it full of special treats and letters and send it to a soldier you know or . These boxes cost from $10-16 to ship.

3. Encourage the spouses and families left at home.

Write a note or email, or drop off a small gift to brighten a military spouse’s day while their loved one is deployed. Separation is hard during deployment and a little bit of encouragement goes a long way!

We are so blessed to live in a country where we are free. That freedom has come at a very high cost and the least we can do is show our men and women in uniform that we care and support them, even from thousands of miles away.

Katie is a teacher, and Marine wife living in Southern California. She is passionate about working with kids and loves encouraging young women and other military wives.


31 Days of Giving on a Budget: 5 Ways to Give Generously Through Couponing (Day 26)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please . I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Kelly of 

I have been couponing for a little over two years now and it has become a way of life for me and my family. Not only does it save us hundreds of dollars a year on our grocery, drugstore, and clothing budgets, but it has enabled us to give abundantly to people in need on a regular basis!

The relative ease in acquiring free products through couponing, playing the “drugstore game,” taking advantage of daily deal sites, and signing up for freebies quickly replenishes my stockpile each month. Therefore, I have become more creative and proficient in how I use these freebies to bless others in times of natural disaster or personal crisis.

1. Disaster Relief Boxes

Natural disasters are a continuous reality in our fallen world. Monetary donations are always very helpful during these disasters, but personally, I have been able to give more (and more frequently) through donating actual needed items from my stockpile.

After a natural disaster, I research online for organizations accepting items and try to specifically donate what they are asking for. Usually, these items include nonperishable food, diapers and other baby products, feminine care products, toiletries, and new clothing. I usually have an adequate supply of these items from my couponing and can quickly pack and send a box to these disaster areas throughout our country.

2. Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite ministries. I love the impact of this ministry on children all over the world, and personally know adults who received a life-changing shoe box as a child.

It’s rather easy to fill a shoe box with quality items I can get for free or nearly free by couponing. These include toothbrushes and toothpaste, toys, socks, hats, school supplies, hard candy, and much more.

I often try to fill 10 shoe boxes for $10 total! I have already succeeded in this goal and I’m currently working on my eleventh box. For a thorough list of items that can be included in an OCC shoe box, please see these gift ideas.

3. Voice of the Martyrs Action Packs

Voice of the Martyrs sends “” to families of martyrs who are struggling in restricted nations such as Pakistan, Iraq, and the Sudan. They have a specific list of items needed for each country which includes pens, bar soap, blankets, towels, writing pads, flip flops, colored pencils, and more.

For more information on how to send an Action Pack, visit the .

4. Homeless Blessing Bags

Blessing Bag is an easy way to help a homeless person when you drive by them at a busy intersection. Simply put essential items in a gallon Ziploc bag and keep your Blessing Bag in your car.

The next time you see a homeless person asking for help, you will already be prepared to bless them. Potential items to include can be: Chapstick, small packages of tissues, toothbrushes and toothpaste, mouthwash, combs, bar soap, snacks, socks, a note of encouragement, and a list of community resources.

5. Humane Society Donations

Due to my husband’s allergies, we don’t own a pet, but I can still accumulate free pet supplies every few months. Since I don’t need these freebies, I send them to Humane Societies in natural disaster locations. Every little bit helps when shelters become overloaded from displaced pets.

These are just some of the ways I have found to bless people out of the abundance I have through frugal shopping. So next time you sign up for freebies or get free items at the store through couponing, take a second look at these items and see if you can donate them instead.

I’m a stay at home mom and our family lives on one income, but I still have enough margin to give when I can get many items for free on a weekly basis!

Kelly is a wife and stay at home mom to a very active one year old. Her blog, , is focused on frugal living to allow for more generous giving to people in need. She is an avid supporter of Operation Christmas Child, Voice of the Martyrs, and Gospel for Asia, and she supplies Disaster Relief Boxes to areas in the U.S. that have been struck by natural disasters using items she has gotten for free.