It's been awhile since I've come right out and talked about Living Simply In Order to Give. The changing seasons make me think of fresh starts so I thought I'd put together some of the ways we try to achieve more simple living for the purpose of giving.
Before I jump in, I want to recognize that some of you may feel as if you have nothing to give. You may be strapped for cash and barely able to make your own ends meet. Or, you might be emotionally drained dry- unable to reach out because you need to be reached out to. If you find yourself in either (or both) categories, it is my prayer that someone will give you whatever kind of support you need. And I also pray that God will extend His mighty hand and bring you healing and hope.
It is for these folks that we cut corners and make do. If you are living with bounty of any kind, I want to strongly encourage and challenge you to look outside of yourself and your immediate family and touch someone who needs to know they are cared for. These needs lie across the street as well as across the globe. May God connect your heart to those He knows need the gift of your unique self and your resources.
I recently put a link at the top of my side bar. If your heart aches for the plight of women and girls in Southeast Asia, I strongly recommend you follow the link for concrete ways you can help.
Okay, here we go!
1) Don't shop! It may seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to part with your money is wandering around stores and looking through catalogs. You come away with things you didn't know you needed (you don't need them!) just minutes before. Stick to your list, don't browse and put those catalogs directly into your recycle bin or use Catalog Choice to control what comes to your mailbox.
2) Put those things you want right now on your birthday, Christmas or general wish list. If you're using the latter, make yourself wait a week or two before buying it. Most of the time, I change my mind by then. We use this technique with our kids and it's an important habit for adults to consider, too.
3) Used items should not be thrown away! Donate it or, if it's a rather expensive item, consider taking it to a consignment shop. It might mean an extra trip to take it and collect your money, but it's money you can pass along that you didn't have before. Of course, donating it is giving, too, but if you have a special cause you wish to give to, this can free up extra cash.
4) Cut out extras! I might make a few of you squirm here, but do you really need cable? Really? Do you need the phone plan you have or could you make do with less minutes and less texting? Instead of going to the movies, subscribe to Netflix and watch it in a couple months for much less. YOU get to decide what extras you need, don't let society, your friends or your kids' friends decide that for you.
5) Use it until it is truly unusable. I know the temptation is to replace something as soon as it starts to look less than desirable, but really. Stop and think. Could you make do? If so, make do and free up that money for someone else who needs food or clothing.
6) Plan your meals. I know it's not glamorous, but chances are if you have the ingredients and an idea for dinner, you're less likely to be tempted to go out to eat where you'll spend much more. Save restaurant trips for special occasions only.
7) While we're talking about food, grow some! Even if you don't put in a huge garden and an orchard, seeds are way cheaper than fresh, organic produce. Every little bit helps.
8) If you use the internet (I know you do), let it earn you money! Sites like Swagbucks and Ebates earn you gift cards that can off set your expenses for searching and shopping you do anyway. Take advantage of this free money!
9) If you have an abundance of produce or flowers each summer, give them away or sell them. While they do make for lovely compost, they can also help feed people or raise funds to help in other ways.
10) When you do need to shop, thrift shop! My go-to place for clothes is our town's Goodwill. They have a huge selection and I have much better luck finding what I want because the brands and styles vary so much. I also use thrift stores to find items not found in the hand-me-downs we receive.
11) Find a family with kids slightly younger than yours and pass along kids clothes that still have life in them. There are two families that give us clothes and I hope they know how much money this has saved us and allowed us to pass on to others (and we pass the clothes along as well!) They've blessed us so we can bless others.
12) Feel like re-decorating or sprucing up the place? Paint! Wall color is easy to change, inexpensive and gives the whole room a new look without forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars for new furniture, couch pillows and curtains. Also consider just rearranging the furniture- that might just be all the change you need :-).
13) Budget your giving if it's important to you. That way it will be there, ready to be passed along.
The next set of suggestions has more to do with giving of yourself than of your money. Over the past couple years I've been challenged to give more of my-actual-self. When you're running a busy household it's easy to feel as if there isn't much left to give. Giving of yourself can also become messy and uncomfortable- our life might be disrupted by someone else's need for time and support. It can also be just what both you and they need to be reminded that we are created for relationship- both with our God and each other. So, take courage (I'm talking to myself, too!) and make that phone call, stop in for a visit, invite someone out for coffee and listen, encourage, extend a helping hand and pray for them. Here are some other ideas.
1) Make double batches of meals so that you can pull one out and take it to someone who needs it. Sometimes my heart is in the right place but when it comes to figuring out what to make and when to make it, I lose momentum. Having something on hand makes it much easier to respond to illness, new baby, or a prompting of the Spirit. Staying and eating with the person if they're alone can be a greater gift than the food itself.
2) Invite people into your home and don't apologize for the state of things (dust, clutter). It will likely make them feel better! Inviting someone into your home is the start of inviting them into your life and it shows them that they are important to you. A meal is nice but so is some iced tea on the porch or sitting around a camp fire.
3) Visit someone. The elderly, the sick, the new-to-the-area, those who've lost their job or are going through a tough time.
4) Stop and pray. There are times after visiting with someone that I have kicked myself. Why didn't I stop our conversation and pray with/over them?! Prayer is a powerful thing and it reminds us to look up for help.
5) Mentor someone. Match your gifts to someone in need who might benefit from your skill and friendship. Contact your local Boys and Girls Club and be a light in the life of a youth who needs encouragement. Consider hosting a Fresh Air child. Offer free childcare to single moms who need a back up when day care isn't open so they won't lose their jobs and then open up your home to the parent as well as the child. Young, single moms need mentors, too.
6) This last one might require a post of it's own. Many won't agree because of what it requires but here goes...if you want to give of yourself, you have to be available- not away every night and scheduled so tightly that you'll never have opportunities to help others. Our culture relishes busy-ness and many of us say we don't like it but I don't tend to believe that. Why is it that we can't just be? Be with each other and be with others? Just like budgeting our monetary giving, we can budget ourselves for others. Or, we can stay on the crazy, never-ending hamster wheel that we claim to dislike. Create and then guard those empty spaces in your schedules to allow for the unknown.
7) I must mention service as well. It comes in all forms- local and foreign missions, volunteering, foster care, adoption, etc.
There was certainly a time when we were young-marrieds who were focused on learning to live together, acquiring full time employment and paying off school debt (we're still doing some of that). There were also the early days of parenting young ones that encompassed our whole beings. We didn't always focus outward and we still don't always do it well but making it a way of life and spending time in prayer about how God will choose to use us has opened up opportunity after opportunity and we are in awe (and often very challenged) when God places a new person or opportunity into our lives.
I'm always on pins and needles (in a rather good way) as I wait to see what is coming next and what ways God will enable us to meet the needs presented before us. Join us, will you?