As we approach the holiday season, many are considering volunteering during the holiday season. Volunteering is a fantastic way to spend your time, not just around the holidays, but all year round. It focuses on work outside of yourself, opens you up to the perspectives of others and can make you aware of issues in your area.
Giving Time Over Money
Another positive I found is that volunteering my time provided me with a way to give back while I was still paying off debt. I was working so hard to dedicate all of my resources to freeing my monthly budget (and my life) from having to pay everyone else except myself. I never thought that I’d be able to give money to the organizations that mattered most to me.
So, instead of writing checks, I started volunteering with the local animal shelter. I spent time walking dogs, scooping poop, cleaning kennels and having playtime with cats. Sounds horrible, I know. Honestly, I loved volunteering for the shelter. Every now and again, I would spare a few dollars for a fundraiser they were hosting or towards a specific animals’ surgery fund. Overall though, I largely did not contribute financially as I just couldn’t afford it.
In giving my time and working fundraisers for the shelter, I felt as if I were still a major contributor even if my financial priorities were skewed heavily towards personal goals. Another bonus, the time that I was spending at the shelter, was time that I wasn’t spending money doing expensive activities like going out and shopping.
Good for the heart and good for the wallet.
Good Things Can Happen
Being around animals was a great way to get my love for them in when I could not afford one on my own. Of course, once the end of my credit card and student loan payments was in sight, I could hardly wait. One day, (I had one more payment left on my student loans) and the cutest puppy came into the shelter. With only a $15 fee to adopt, I couldn’t resist.
When Time isn’t Available
After volunteering with the shelter for a couple of years, the workload at my job was picking up, I was traveling more and I just didn’t have the time I once did to volunteer. Instead of stopping my efforts with the shelter, I spoke with them about scaling back and not being able to come in as often as I was previously. Luckily, they were looking for someone to man their twitter account and I was more than happy to take this task on.
I’ve now been doing running their Twitter account for the past few years. In terms of a time commitment, it takes just a few minutes each day and I feel like I’m contributing by getting the word out about this great organization and all of the animals that need help. I also will volunteer for their fundraising events when I can and can donate more now that we’re debt free.
How You Can Get Involved
If you want to help out, either during the holiday season or all year long, DO IT! There are always shelters, food banks, schools, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and many other kinds of organizations that are in constant need. First, determine what you’re interested in doing. If you aren’t interested in the work, but picked a good cause that you “think” you should want to do then your heart won’t be in it. Take the time to think about what issues matter to you?
Next, you’ll want to ask what organizations you’re interested in helping actually need. What you’re looking for is a mutually beneficial relationship. You want to help in a way that’s useful to the organization you care about. Even if you’re not up for, say walking dogs, look for ways to use your skills for free to supplement something for which that organization would otherwise pay. A few examples of these can be accounting, volunteer coordinating or social media management.
If you’re worried that your time is already limited and you won’t be able to see your friends as often, bring them! Involve your family and friends in your cause. It’ll give you something to do that’s not centered around spending money and may even strengthen your relationship by giving you a common goal.
Wrap It Up!
Volunteering creates a mutually beneficial relationship for you and the organization with which you work. Go find your cause and spend your time growing your community instead of thinning your wallet. Once your budget allows it, think about donating money as there are many places that can really use the monetary help. In the meantime though, giving your time can be just as valuable. So, get out there and do some good!
Do you volunteer? Where do you volunteer and how has it impacted your life? Once you became debt free or hit a certain savings goal, did you add donating to your budget? Was it in there all along? Let me know in the comments below!