“I’m waaay too broke to even think about helping anyone else out right now. But I definitely will… when I have more time and money.” Ever said that to yourself? I know I have!
It’s really hard to see past ourselves when things aren’t going “perfectly”, right? Well, it took me some time to realize that “perfect”…ain’t happening! So in honor of November 27 — also nationally known as the Day of Giving — let’s get real and break down some ways to be a giver…even when you have debt to deal with of your own!
And why you’re going to feel amazing in the process…
Clear the path. The best way to solve a problem is to address some of the obstacles. You know, those pesky hurdles (and in some cases unintentional excuses) that keep us from accomplishing the things we would really like to. So let’s get right to it! No need to add procrastination to our list too.
Here are four ways to overcome obstacles and give back…even when things are less than “perfect”.
1. Take stock of yourself
The first and often best place to look when figuring out how you can give…is in the mirror…literally!
Every single one of us has our own unique set of gifts and talents that make us who we are. Think about the things that you are naturally good at — that doesn’t require you to spend a dime — that you can help someone else get the hang of. It may be a work skill that you are a “master” at…or a favorite hobby or passion that you can help teach someone else.
Here are some ideas to get you going:
- Are you a lesser known Da Vinci? Volunteer to teach an art class to a youth program or at a local senior citizens center.
- Do you have top-notch administrative skills? Volunteer time providing admin support for your favorite charity.
- Does everyone come to you for math help? Volunteer as a math tutor in your spare time.
Using your very own skill set and passions to give back right in your community is an ideal way to spread a little love on a tight budget.
2. Consider “episodic” volunteering
So after you’ve dissected all of your shareable gifts and talents, you may then realize that…wait a minute…”I don’t have much time available to dedicate to lending myself out to give back.”
Introducing “episodic volunteering”.
Episodic volunteering is the easiest volunteering method for people who are time-deprived (i.e. most of us). Let me tell you how it’s different from more traditional volunteering methods.
Traditional volunteering is what may first come to mind when thinking about opportunities to give back. This just means that you establish a long-term, ongoing volunteer relationship with an organization. For example, you might sign up to walk dogs once a week at the animal shelter or spend 2-3 hours each week doing administrative work at a domestic violence shelter.
With traditional volunteering, the organization relies on your commitment to be there consistently and on a designated schedule. By all means, if you can make the time to devote to traditional volunteer endeavors, please do! There is a great need for continued, reliable partnerships between volunteer staff and organizations working to do good.
But if there’s no way you can squeeze out time for a traditional volunteer style, no worries, I have a solution.
Episodic volunteering is sort of like “do in a day” volunteering. You go in…do a great deed…and get out.
For example, you might sign up for a single, 4-hour shift serving food to the homeless. Or, you might select a specific date to join an organization to help put together holiday gift baskets for veterans. With this type of volunteering, there’s no expectation that you will return…unless you decide you want to.
Non-profits and other do-good organizations have definitely caught on to the increasing popularity of this non-traditional volunteer style and have adjusted their programs to allow for more volunteer flexibility…perfect for the busy-body do-gooder! You will have no problem finding “one-shot” volunteer opportunities in your area to throw on your calendar as time permits.
3. Get creative with “micro-volunteering”
Now, what if you tell me that you have even less time available than episodic volunteering frees up? Sheesh…you’re making me work! But don’t worry; I have a solution for you too!
It’s time to get creative with your giving. Microvolunteering to the rescue!
Microvolunteering is all about making a positive impact on society by means of tiny, quick, non-skilled actions. When I say quick…I mean an average time spent of less than 10 minutes.
This method of giving is perfect for the person that barely has a second to spare, because it can be done right from a mobile phone, without leaving home to connect with a group or organization. Yes, you heard right! You can keep your pajamas on. * insert giggle *
Microvolunteering opens up a whole new world of give-back opportunities. Don’t believe me? Check out just these two examples and prepare to be mind-blown…No seriously!
- Charity Miles: When you download their free App on your smartphone and select your favorite charity from the list, you begin earning money for them (from a corporate sponsor pool, not your own wallet) for every mile that you log doing things that you were doing anyway — like walking, running, biking, dancing!
- Be My Eyes: Yup. Another do-good App. When a blind or low-vision person needs assistance (reading an expiration date in the grocery store, for example), they submit a request through their app and connect with a sighted volunteer for quick help. If you’re not available when the request comes in, don’t sweat it —there are nearly 2 million volunteers on standby. Woot woot!
There are thousands and thousands of micro-volunteering opportunities out there that you can find with a quick Google search.
Good stuff, wouldn’t you agree?
4. Give to feel better
Speaking of “good stuff”, there’s another reason to “give” that doesn’t get a lot of mention…because it’s selfish! Volunteering is great for your mind, body, and professional life!
Here are some surprising things that giving back can do for YOU:
- Combat stress and depression
- Increase self-confidence
- Advance your career through new connections in the community
- Makes you happier
- Give you a sense of purpose
- Provide a physical health boost (gets you away from your sedentary desk job or off the couch for a bit)
- Teach you new skills
- And the list goes on and on…
Not a bad exchange for helping to make the world a better place! And to be honest, sometimes it takes seeing someone else’s situation, to realize that your own situation is not that bad.
Which leads me to my last point. Surprise, there’s a BONUS number 5! It’s about you!
5. Give back to yourself
Now that you’re feeling good, it’s time to talk about debt. You didn’t actually think I was going to let that slide, did you? Dealing with debt can take a huge toll on you and the scariest part for most of us is…finding out where we stand.
Guess what? I have a solution for how we can do that.
My peeps at TurboTax are giving us the opportunity to take a look at three key numbers that are critical to our financial health (verified income, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio) via their Turbo App.
Not only do you get your “numbers” in black and white, but Turbo will also hook you up with customized, ongoing tips on how you can improve your numbers going forward! And bonus: Turbo use is 100% free and requires no credit card information. Woot woot!
I think I mentioned at the beginning that the best way to solve a problem is to address some of the obstacles.
Ummm-hmmm! So do yourself a favor and go ahead and take a look — get your numbers for free and “see where you truly stand financially”.
Your future debt-free self will thank you (and me, hopefully)! *wink*
This blog post does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.