Giving: Does It Always Have To Be About The Money?

iStock_000000154260XSmallWhen many of us think about giving, the first thing that comes to mind is money. Whether you are asked to donate to charity, or whether your cousin needs a little help with his finances, we often get hung up on whether or not we have enough cash to help out.

The reality, though, is that giving doesn’t always have to be about the money. You can still provide financial relief to others even when you don’t hand over the cash.

Your Non-Financial Efforts Can Provide Financial Help

Interestingly, your non-financial aid can actually be financially beneficial to someone else. The help you provide might ease an obligation that in turn frees up financial resources. Here are some ways that you can give without writing a check:

  • Give your time: Whether you donate time at a charity, or whether you offer to babysit your friend’s children while she looks for a job, the time you give can free up resources. Helping out at a charity, particularly if the work you do is specialized, means one less person for that charity to pay. Instead, the money the charity does have can go toward helping more people. When you sit for someone else, that’s money that doesn’t have to go to the sitter — and might be used to pay utility bills. From driving your brother to a job interview to running a few errands for a neighbor in need, your time can make a big difference.
  • Donate items: Since my son is an only child, his clothing doesn’t get a lot of heavy use. So, when he’s done, we give it to a neighborhood family that struggles financially. They appreciate the clothes — and the fact that they don’t have to buy them. If you have goods in usable condition, you can donate them to charity, or to others who might need them. Don’t limit yourself to the thrift stores, either. Many homeless shelters, children’s homes, and battered women’s shelters can probably use the items.
  • Provide a service: This is related to giving your time. Clean the house for someone struggling to find the time to look for a job. Ask what you can do to help out, and the service your provide, whether you edit a resume for free, or clean up the yard, will likely be appreciated. My brother, a student, has an open invitation to come to dinner. That is one less meal he has to cook for himself, and it doesn’t cost us much to cook for one more person. We usually send him home with the leftovers. If you have an area of expertise, you can donate your services to charity. An accountant can donate tax prep services to a charity, or you might be able to donate your services helping to haul items to and from the charity offices.
  • Provide a place to live: In some cases, you might be able to provide someone with a place to live for a couple of weeks. My husband’s cousin lived with us for three weeks a few years ago while he looked for an inexpensive place to live, and a job to help him get back on his feet. This one can be tricky, though, so make sure you are really committed, and that there is a time frame for the houseguest to leave.


All of these actions can help someone in need save money, and use for other necessities. And you don’t have to give cash in order to make it work. Your non-cash efforts can provide the breathing room that someone else needs to improve his or her financial situation.

Deciding to Give Cash

If you do decide to give cash, it’s often a good idea to make it a true gift. When you donate cash to a charity, that is pretty much a given. You can give cash if you don’t feel you have the time or ability to donate in other ways.

When you give cash to someone you know, though, the situation might seem a little different. It can be tempting to make it a loan, but that can provide a lot of hurt feelings and difficulties down the road. Consider it a gift, and if the recipient repays you down the road, consider it a bonus. Or, if you are really worried about giving cash, consider paying a bill directly. Ask for the power bill, and send the check in yourself. Get a gift card for a local grocery store, or take the person shopping, and pay for the groceries.

Whenever you give, though, remember that it’s best to have the mindset of truly offering a gift — no strings attached.

How do you approach giving?


Giving: Does It Always Have To Be About The Money? — 14 Comments

  1. I like to give stuff I do not have use for anymore, instead of throwing away. Not only do the items get a second life and reduce waste, but they make someone else happy. I also give my time whenever I can, but would think twice before having someone stay for more than a few days.

    • I like the idea of giving things away, too. It’s great for sustainability. And it helps, too, when we buy second-hand. The fewer new resources that we can all consumer, the better.

  2. We love to give our time as so many charities will gladly take it just as they will a financial donation. We don’t have a whole lot of free time, so it means more to us to be able to give that to help out organizations we care for. We also like to donate items that we no longer have use for but is still in good condition that someone else might get use out of.

  3. Miranda,
    My employer has a foundation to which I donate 1 percent of every paycheck. The foundation is non-profit and fins other organizations to which to donate. It also finds service members and veterans in need and helps them. I’m also a big believer in donating old clothes to Goodwill or youth-in-need organizations. There’s a dropbox down the street from my apartment!

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  4. Giving unwanted items away is good as long as they are still in good shape. It’s actually a win-win because you have more room. the recipient has something that they (presumably) need and there is no effort involved. Selling stuff can be difficult – like many people we are only too good at buying but not at selling.

    Only when you give expecting something in return is the spirit broken.

    And in the UK you can often Gift Aid something for example to a charity shop so they regain the tax you would have paid on the value of the item that you have given. Not many know this – it enables a registered charity to claim 20% from the government.

  5. I once volunteered my time for a non-profit that focused on health care. I spent zero money, but frankly time is more valuable in a lot of cases. Also, just being out there and helping can be harder yet more rewarding than sitting back and writing a check. Either way though, you’re helping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I appreciate your readership and really enjoy hearing your thoughts on different topics. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.