Giving, on a budget

My work holds an annual food drive for the Salvation Army, like most works do.  They set out a couple of big boxes in our lobby under the huge Christmas tree for employees to fill with food and toys.  It’s wonderful and I always bring at least a bag of food and a toy or two, just so I can feel good about myself at least until I call someone a stupid douchbag idiot driver on the way home and remember that maybe I’m not all that great.  Even though they totally deserve it for being so stupid and douchy and idiotic whilst driving.

The only thing is, they usually don’t set out the boxes until mid-December.  They’re missing at least two weeks of prime donating time.  Must fix

Unrelated: we recently renovated our powder room.  Fresh paint, new mirror and art work, and a new vanity.

Related: I brought in the giant vanity-sized box from home, wrapped with Christmas paper from last year, made up a cute sign on Word (I even coined the phrase “Donation Station”; copyright pending), and voila!  We’re in the food collection business.  I sent an email to the person who normally runs it to let them know that we were starting early in our department (so I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes).  Cost so far?  FREE.

An empty food donation box is just an empty box, but I didn’t really have the extra money to buy anything.  But what I did have, in droves, was clutter in my kitchen.  So I scoured the cupboards for unwanted food – stuff we had purchased when we were hungry (never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry) and now look less appealing, stuff we hadn’t gotten around to using, stuff we no longer needed (baby food).  I came up with two very, very full bags of groceries. 

This step was a two-fer.  On one hand, my kitchen cupboards have never been cleaner.  On the other, someone in need can use what I no longer want.  Cost so far?  FREE.

I sent an email to my coworkers letting them know what I had done, suggesting they do the same.  After two weeks, the box is half full.  I would estimate well over 150 lbs of food (I can’t even come close to lifting it).  Cost so far?  FREE.

Today, while I was being all anal retentive and OCD, sorting the donations by food group, size and package material, I remembered that I had a $20 bill in my wallet, which I was going to spend on probably something for myself like lunch or whatever.  Instead, I took that twenty dollars across the street to the IDA, where they often have canned and boxed foods at a huge discount.  I came away with two more bags filled with non-perishables, and another few hours of self-worth before I mentally cuss-out a stranger for their inability to follow the right-of-way rule (it’s simple, people; you get there first, you go first.  Gah!).

Grand total for my entire year’s worth of do-gooding*? $19.22.  My wallet can stomach that.  


What have you done to be charitable this year?  I must hang with a charitable bunch, because many of my friends are also organizing their own food/toy/hamper collections. 

So, what are you doing?  Do you need help deciding?  ‘Cause I have all kinds of help to give.

Tips for Giving On A Budget

  • As mentioned, clean out your own cupboards of unwanted, non-perishable food.  You may not want it, but someone does.
  • Scan the flyers and store shelves for buy one, get one’s.  Then buy one for yourself and donate the free one.  That way, you’re not spending any more than you had planned on.
  • Use your Shopper’s Drug Mart reward points to purchase items.  Most SDM’s have at least a small grocery section, stocked with canned and boxed goods; if you use your points, then you’re essentially spending no money.
  • Buy your groceries, paying special attention to sales and store brands, even if for just one week (if you’re a brand-whore like we are).  Add up what you saved and use that amount of money to buy a few more items.  Again, you’re not spending any more money than you would have, had you not bought the less expensive brands.

Do you have any other tips for ways to donate on a budget?  Please share.


Everyone, especially this time of year, especially this year, is in some sort of need.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t cutting back somehow.  Giving fewer gifts, hunting for sales when it was never an issue before, presents for the kids only.  But there are still ways we can give, even with little or no money.

If you don’t work at a place that runs their own food drive, nearly every fire station has drop boxes, every church accepts donations, nearly every grocery store has a box near the exit.  There’s always somewhere to donate.

As a parent, I can only imagine the feeling of not being able to provide enough food for my children.  I can only imagine how helpless and desperate I would be if I couldn’t afford breakfast for my child, or if their meal portions left them still hungry.

Do you have $5?  Campbell’s Chunky Soup (the soup that eats like a meal) is on sale this week, 3 for $5. 

If you can give, please do.  If you don’t think you’re able, think harder.  Every can helps.


14 thoughts on “Giving, on a budget

  1. Pingback: ‘Tis the Season « …And Bells on Her Toes

  2. First off I love that you used the word whilst – a word that is not used enough in my opinion, it makes one sound so aristocratic!

    Every year I sponsor a family a donate a box of presents and food. I also plan on donating all of the toys and clothes that my kids have outgrown somewhere as well.

    • I love the idea of sponsoring a family. I’ve done it before through school and when I worked in a different department where I work now. It feels good to know that you’re making Christmas better for a family who otherwise wouldn’t get to celebrate in the way that we usually do.

      I love whilst, too! I also love bequeath. What are your feelings on bequeath?

      • Bequeath, another fab word – besides, bequeath is a word that definitely goes with your “giving” post! As long as it isn’t “Bob’s Your Uncle” I’m all for British vernacular.

  3. here’s another idea we did last year. Ask your co-workers to donate their Canadian Tire Money (who doesn’t have that lying around). It may be 5 cents here or 10 cents there but from 100 people it adds up. We collected a pile about 6 inches high full of fives and ten cent pieces and it was about $100 worth. We used that ‘money’ at Canadian Tire to buy toys for our toy drive.

    Can’t do this every year because you deplete everyone’s stockpile 🙂

    another thought it have a Canadian Tire collection jar in the kitchen or something and ask people to start donating their CT money in January for the next winter’s event … just make sure you empty it every now and again – we’ve had stuff go walking before ….

  4. We had an awesome campaign! Not only did we raise more than $300 for the cookbook but more copies are being requested from our remote offices! We had the Silent Auction today too (which I had to miss because of my windows) and we raised more than $640! That’s nearly $1,000 for the Food Bank!! To top off this fabulous season, we’ve also collected 8 boxes full of food and household items! I’m so proud of my group!

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