Love to be generous with your friends and family? Tired of having the gift giving and “chipping in” budget be out of control when you are scrimping and saving in every other area? It can be hard to have finally carved out the time and money to go have a little fun and have the “call” come in. Following are some ideas to continue the tradition of generosity that don’t necessarily involve cash or driving your budget into the ditch.

Find a great unlimited calling plan and a super communications package in general.

There are plenty of land line calling plans out there that offer unlimited North American calling for a nominal fee. Ours even includes a few European countries.  Pair that with a slamming cell phone plan and great internet options like instant messaging, internet calling and of course, email. There are plenty of ways to offer support that don’t involve writing a check.  Electronic cards, calling to brainstorm ideas or offer condolences, or just touching base with your friends and family on a regular basis to share the love are all more than worthy.

Trust me, if you have a friend in crisis that needs you to spend that two hours on the phone with them to help them through a rough time, it’s worth every penny of your calling plan to be there for them if they don’t feel comfortable talking with anyone else. Bonus? You’re shelling out a particular amount each month for the calling plan so it provides a consistent line item in your budget plan. Gotta love that!

Develop DIY gifts.

Dry mixes in a jar, building a picnic table, planting a flower garden, a car tune up, mending, making someone’s favorite dinner, dropping off a casserole during a sickness or family crisis . . . it’s not all homemade tea cozies in this category.

Be better at bartering.     

This may seem like an odd item to include in a list of generosity ideas, but bear with me. What if you have a friend or colleague who you respect who is trying to get their business off its feet? Rather than charging them, or giving something valuable from your service list away that will leave you feeling out of balance, consider letting them swap services. A custom paint job on their store front sign for a full body hot stone massage for example. Then you also get to be one of the people that can give a testimonial on their brochure. And they get to feel professional rather than like a charity case.

Give the gift of time.

This relates a bit to the first one, but could also involve stopping by to hold someone’s hand during a chemo treatment, sitting with them while they wait for someone to come out of surgery, consulting with them in an area where they may need some assistance with business, investing, etc.  Even exercising a little patience with someone who you find challenging can be a huge gift in certain circumstances.

Choose charitable investing. is one option, but certainly not the only one.  For an initial modest donation, you can have an account that keeps on giving long term. When the only thing standing between someone in a third world country and their ability to provide for their family is a $12 fire-heated iron or a machete,  most people in North America can find the extra funds to help out.

Pick your gift purchases with precision. 

By making careful choices about which items a person will truly need or love, you can make sure the gift does not go to waste.  When it comes to my parents for example, I know that a restaurant gift card or a case of flavored agave nectar will always be used and appreciated. Gift certificate for a couple’s pedicure? Not so much.

Be there.

Honestly. Just be there. During a major family crisis, if you’ve flown thousands of miles to be there and paid countless dollars in travel costs to offer support, should anybody give a damn if you have flowers in your hand? It’s nice if you do of course. But if you can’t, and they don’t understand . . . maybe you need to rethink your relationship with that person or group of people.

Stick to your budget guns.

Again, this is another item that may seem odd to include on a list of generosity ideas. However, I’m struck by something I once heard Suze Orman say during a television interview.  By giving in when your conscience is telling you not to, what you are really sharing is the poverty cycle. Her example related to a family that kept giving in to a financially irresponsible sister.

However, I think it can apply to generosity as well. Think about what funds you’ll have available if you keep giving frivolous high-cost items and then a crisis comes up that you feel is mandatory to write a check for as a show of support.  Funeral, the surgery of a child in the family, the winter coat of a niece or nephew whose parents might have hit a financial road block . . . you get the picture. Makes an extra waffle iron seem not so important, huh?

Set a dollar amount or range for incidental gifts.

This of course will be a personal decision based on where you are financially and what your goals are. But there are lots of ideas out there for affordable gift giving, whether you are looking for hostess gifts, just – because presents, political contributions, birthday ideas for children, or a romantic anniversary. The important thing is to stick to your agreed-upon range, whether it’s five dollars, fifty, or more.

Pick a pet charity.

Or two. Or three.  The point is, having a set location where you channel your charitable gifting monies can not only help you determine a specific amount to contribute according to your budget, it gives you a framework to refer to and rely on when those unexpected solicitation calls come in. Politely declining yet stating that you’ve already given to a charity you’ve chosen to consistently support  can often get them off the line. If they ask for your support as well and you really feel you want to but can’t afford to write a check, consider starting a free blog with money saving ideas and fund raising suggestions. Then refer them to it. If they don’t appreciate your efforts, you’ve at least made an effort for which you can feel proud. The rest of the responsibility still lies with them.

Well folks, these are my top ten. I’ve tried to make them as flexible as possible to meet a variety of budgets and giving styles.  As always, if you have additional ideas or comments . . . share the love!

Myscha Theriault

Myscha Theriault

A lifelong money cruncher who can squeeze a nickel ‘til it cries, Myscha is a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and founder of Trek Hound and We Be Sharin’.