One of the difficult things about living during times of little or no income is the fact that we become so engrossed with our own difficulties that we cannot lift ourselves out from under feelings of despair. We know there there are other people who may be much worse off than we are, but without money, we feel like we cannot possibly help other people.
Giving service to others, however, is the best way to help us rise from the gloom and find happiness and joy in our lives, even when our own situation may be difficult.
Following are some ideas on helping others without spending, or by spending very little
(perhaps the gas to get somewhere, or your time).
Even if you're unable to go anywhere, you can still help others.
Share your talents
At this time, many people need to learn skills to help themselves be more self-sufficient. However, most do not have the money to attend classes.
Offer to teach classes (either individually or in a group setting) those those in your area who might be interested in learning something that you know how to do.
What can you teach?
Plumbing (perhaps just helping a neighbor replace the seal on a toliet, or fixing a broken pipe that froze)
Installing sprinklers or drip irrigation
Share your garden produce
Do you have more zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. growing in your garden than your family can eat? Share some with neighbors, those who are out work, or try your local food pantry! Not all food pantries accept fresh produce, however. Ample Harvest can help you locate pantries that accept garden produce. If your local pantry doesn't participate, you can send them an email suggesting that they get involved with Ample Harvest.
Consider planting an extra row or two to give to others in need.
Share your Extra Seeds
Did the packet of seeds that you bought have way more than you have space to plant? Are you collecting your own seeds from your garden? Did you start more plants from seed than you can grow? Can you take cuttings and make new plants from what is already growing? Share these with friends who have a garden and could use the extra seeds and plants.
You can download this free seed packet for your seeds.
Share your garden space
Do you have more land than you are able to garden? Would you like to offer it to someone who could use it? It doesn't have to be a big space, either. Sharing Backyards helps people find a place to garden---even in the city. You can list your garden space, and you can look for garden space, too.
Share the extra things you have
Do you have outgrown clothing from yourself or your children that your friends could use? What about books that you family is done using? Before you donate to your local thrift shop, consider giving to those you know who need it.
Do you have fabric that you aren't using (or curtains, or sheets)? Do you know someone who could use it? Offer it to those who sew and will use it. I have been blessed in this way by several people (many of whom were losing their homes at the time, yet still thought to share of what they had) who have shared fabric, curtains, sheets, and patterns with me. I made the dress in the picture above with curtains and buttons that were given to me.
A fun way to do this is to host a swap meet, where you throw a party and share what you have.
Share your time
When my husband and I were first married, we were both without work. It was 6 months before my husband started to have a "regular" income (as regular as a commission-based job is), and even then it took a while before we had enough to make ends meet every month.
During that time, we were able to serve together in the Las Vegas LDS temple. It was a great blessing to our marriage to be able to serve together.
I also spent most our first year of marriage doing genealogy work, using free wesbites
(such as Rootsweb). I was able to locate many family pictures of my ancestors that I had never seen, and I was able to share what I had learned with others who were researching
the same lines.
Want to help others with their genealogy?
At Family Search Indexing, volunteers extract family history information from digital images of historical documents to create searchable indexes that assist everyone in finding their ancestors. Right now, they are helping to index censuses from the U.S., England, and Wales.
Best of all, you can do this from home!
Able to drive around town? Want to help index old cemeteries (or even take pictures?)
Find A Grave will tell you how, making it possible for people to locate the burial places of their ancestors. Because of cemetery listings, I was able to find out that my great-great grandmother buried a stillborn baby and a young baby that I had no other record of.
Share a meal
Do you know someone who is sick and bedridden? Just had a baby? Just lost a family member? Out of work? All alone? Having a bad day? Bring a hot meal to their door tonight, or invite them over for dinner.
Make something for someone else
While your family may be mourning the loss of a job, another family is mourning the loss of a child. Newborns in Need provides burial clothing for newborns who do not live long or are stillborn, as well as clothing for preemies and other babies.
The knitted hats are simple enough that a 4-year-old can help.
Want to make something for someone, but don't know who?
Craft Hope has different projects (and deadlines) to help.
LDS Humanitarian Services provides help to those in need all around the world. If you click on the link, and then look under "Resources" on the right, you can see current needs, as well as patterns for donations. Projects include quilts, baby booties, layette gowns, knitted and crocheted mittens, homemade toys, children's clothing, school kits, hygiene kits, and newborn kits. Guidelines for projects are listed; there are certain standards that are required for each (size, fabric, etc). Click on current needs to see what donations they are accepting at the moment. You can also click on How Can I Help? for more information. You do not have to be LDS to help with these projects. LDS Humanitarian Services regularly works together with other charity groups (including Catholic Charities, Islamic World Relief, and the Red Cross) to distribute items to people in need, regardless of religious affiliation.
If you don't already have the supplies for a project you'd like to do, many companies will donate the items you need. I know my Mother-in-law has received donations for fabric for school kits by asking the manager at Joann's fabric store. She also collects fabric and supplies from others and coordinates efforts with women to put together the humanitarian kits. If you're a couponer and get extra soaps, toothbrushes, and toothpaste for very little or free, look at making some of the hygiene kits that are sent to areas after natural disasters and to refugee camps during wars. A woman spoke at our church building last year about how her hygiene kit provided relief to several people as they escaped the fighting in Rwanda. They all shared that tube of toothpaste. With a simple act, you might bless lives beyond measure.
Serve your family
When stress runs high, your family may need a little more from you. They might even need something different than all that you usually give them--especially your husband.
Read this story for some thoughts on serving your husband when times are tough.
More ideas for giving
A blog where every post is on a way to help others without spending a lot of money (or any at all).
Several ideas for helping
(most of which can be done at home on your computer and take a few seconds)