Making kits for the homeless might not seem all that thrifty, but it’s such a beautiful way to give back to your community. In fact, one of our core values as a family is volunteering and teaching our children to volunteer.
That said, part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money in efficient and sometimes unique ways. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord all together), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs.
These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you need to reevaluate what is important to you if you truly want to become debt-free once and for all. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, because if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)
Evaluate the Essentials
Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is ACTUALLY essential to our grandest dreams and fullest life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.
Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out daily that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could drastically improve their life?
How Much Will It Cost?
I am not suggesting you completely alter your lifestyle for someone else, but just stop and think for a moment where that $5 coffee or breakfast or random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused where you spent it. If you were spending $5/day on non-essentials, but cut 2 days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.
Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not – in fact, missing 2 of your 7 indulgences per week would make those other 5 more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card or student loan or car payment. That’s a great deal!
But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.
DIY Blessing Bags for the Homeless
During the winter, I like to create care packages for the homeless, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24 pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.
If you prefer to watch instead of read, check out my livestream below for this next part! —
If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.
Things to Include in a Homeless Kit
Some things we included were:
Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, peanuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc
T-shirts that would otherwise have been donated to Goodwill or thrown away. In addition, old ball caps or other hats are great during summer months.
We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help the homeless with day-to-day needs.
You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so turn to those for these kits. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out as you come across someone in need.
The power of a bunch of small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, and not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates perspective that is invaluable, and on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.
So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and you’ll be better in the long run for it.
Have you ever created a homeless kit before?
I’d love to hear other ideas/suggestions of what to include, post ’em in the comments below!
Volunteering with children is truly one of the best choices you can make as a parent.
It’s a great use of your time and should be an integral part of your child’s upbringing. While it can be hard to fit volunteering into an already busy day, there are ways to do it without it feeling forced or inconvenient.
There are also many volunteer opportunities for children, even those who might not yet be old enough to realize importance of philanthropy.
Volunteer Ideas to Do With Young Children
Make birthday or holiday cards to deliver to senior citizens at your local nursing home. Be sure to call ahead to see if there’s an age requirement for non-familial visitors.
Explain Angel Tree to Kids
During the holiday season, let your little one pick a couple tags off an Angel Tree. If “Santa” is brought up, you can explain that these children go without so much during the year, that Santa has requested some extra help to make sure they get all that they need.
Spend, Save, Donate
When teaching your children about money, be sure to talk to them about how important it is to donate when possible. Depending on the age of your child, it might be easiest to use something like a Moonjar to help them designate what money goes where. Encourage them to set a goal for donation and then let the child choose which organization gets the money.
Clean Up Your Community
If you’re lucky enough to live in a relatively litter-free neighborhood, then consider visiting a local park or other area prone to trash. Use a pick up tool or grabber and make sure you wear gloves!
Donate to a Local Food Pantry
While it’s typically better to donate cash than food, everything helps in the long run. Take your child to the grocery store and let them help shop for food to donate to a local food pantry. If your child is old enough, you can also use this as an opportunity to learn about budgeting. Let your child know how much money is available and help him make healthy, economical decisions.
Make No-Sew Dog and Cat Toys
There are many DIY dog toy ideas that are easy for children to help with. Pinterest is definitely your friend here! Give your local animal shelter a call and see if they could use some new homemade dog or cat toys for their furry friends.
Talk to Your Local Library
Check in with your local library as many offer volunteer opportunities for all ages. Just make sure your little one knows how to use his “inside voice.” This is also a great opportunity to start to craft your child’s love for learning and reading.
Set Up a Home Recycling Center
Teach them about the importance of reducing waste and reusing when we can. Our recycling company doesn’t require sorting, but we still talk about how different kinds of products are recycled (i.e. glass vs plastic vs paper).
Sign up for a 5K
Most encourage families to participate, which is great if you’ve got a little one in a stroller! Allow your children to help fund-raise and educate them on the mission behind the organization you’re running for.
Donate That Which You Do Not Need
Have them sort and box up toys or clothes to donate. Giving away their own items might be a bit much to handle at first, so try reading a related book (like Too Many Toys by David Shannon) the night before or have them help you sort through your own stuff first. It’s a wonderful time for the whole family to benefit from decluttering!
Teach your child not to look the other way when there’s someone in need. Work with them to create blessing bags for the homeless (something that can cost you as little as $5 per kit!) If you’re uncomfortable handing them out with your children around, you can always call your homeless shelter and see about dropping them there.
Cook a Meal Together
There are many not-for-profit organizations that are always in need of food to provide to volunteers at their site. While your little one might still be too young to help at the organization, s/he can still be of great service! This is also a fun way to introduce them to the basics of cooking.
Draw Thank You Cards
Have your children color pocket-size “thank you” cards to give to those who help better your day – whether it be a nice cashier at the grocery store or someone who held the door open for you at the daycare. Teach them to see the good in everyone and to be thankful for those around us. I guarantee this one is sure to brighten your day, too!
Donations Instead of Presents
If your little one is old enough to understand, you can suggest s/he request donations for a not-for-profit instead of birthday presents. Around that same idea, you could encourage the child to donate any money received while keeping the other presents. Remember, this is about instilling a desire to volunteer, don’t push it so that it becomes a “have to” instead of a “want to.”
The most important part in all of this is to make sure you lead by example, not just during the service but in everyday life.
Volunteering means putting values into action. You can volunteer at the soup kitchen every weekend, but if you then throw out leftovers each night, will your child actually see the value in your work? Sure you worked together to pick out old toys to donate to the children’s hospital, but if you then reward him with a new present each time he behaves at the store, will he learn what it means to truly give of oneself?
Doing volunteer work with children is a great bonding opportunity and an even better teaching tool. Empower them to make a difference. Teach them no limits in changing their worlds.
Do you do any sort of volunteer work? What are your thoughts on involving young ones? Comment below and let me know!
Welcome! My name is Amber Temerity and I'm here to guide you on your journey toward a richer life.