Pick up terrific tips from bloggers who use their shopping, stockpiling, couponing (and writing!) skills to help others in need
Money may be tight around your house but that doesn't mean that you can't help those in need. Use these tips from charitable bloggers who give on a regular basis to stretch your buck in ways you never thought possible.
Kaley Ehret, 35, chachingonashoestring.com
Hometown: Telford, Pa.
Kaley feels so strongly that couponers can make a positive impact on their communities that she founded Couponing for Community, an annual virtual event that designates a week in May as a time for couponers to shop and give their donations to nonprofits. Last year, shoppers donated 26,000 items within one week’s time.
What you can do: “Food pantries often need help organizing their shelves after food drives or delivering meals around the holidays. Call your local shelter to find out how you can help.”
Bonus tip: “Adopt a friend or a family each year. (Your local shelter should be able to help you find someone.) As you use coupons throughout the year, set aside some personal care, household and beauty items for a goody basket around the holidays.”
Heather Schisler, 27, passionforsavings.com
Hometown: Fayetteville, Ark.
Heather firmly believes that “we have been given blessings so we can be a blessing.” She has worked with local nonprofits to help provide school supplies to families, and she donates to disaster relief programs as well as the local Church Care Center.
What you can do: “Use coupons to get items for free or very cheap that others really need. By taking the extra time to clip a few more coupons, or add a few extra items to your shopping list, you can make a difference without having to sacrifice.”
Melissa Garcia, 35, consumerqueen.com
Hometown: Edmond, Ok.
Last year, when the Oklahoma flooding destroyed Melissa’s home, her family lost nearly everything. But then two bloggers came to their rescue. Monica Brady (mommybrainreports.com) and Amy Bellgardt (momspark.net) raised $4,000. What’s more, through their efforts, companies such as La-Z-Boy donated items to the Garcias. "My house is practically brand new on the inside,” says Garcia. “We are so blessed.”
Now Garcia is “paying it forward” by helping three families whose homes were destroyed by the recent Oklahoma City tornadoes.
What you can do: “Ask the store manager to stock extras of a certain product because you are donating to a shelter. This way the manager will sell more products, but the shelf won’t be cleared.”
Alex Michael, 37, and Cassie Michael, 37, thethriftycouple.com
Hometown: Clearfield, Utah
Alex and Cassie have taken the commandment “love thy neighbor” to heart. The Michaels used to contribute to charity mostly through financial donations, but they now use coupons to buy items to donate as well. The Michaels also give to their local food bank, pregnancy crisis center and women’s shelter as well as to Angel Tree (an organization that reaches children with parents who are incarcerated) and Haiti hurricane relief.
What you can do: “Keep coupons you would never use. There’s always the potential that you can match them up with a store sale to purchase (or get for free) items that you can then donate to your local charity.”
Bonus tip: “Requesting all the free samples allows you to gather quite a stash of supplies needed for women's shelters, pregnancy centers and food banks.”
Andrea Jordan, 33, centssaved.com
Hometown: Pueblo, Colo.
Whenever Andrea makes a purchase with coupons and scores a great deal, she tries to allocate some of those items for the less fortunate. Her selflessness is a product of her past—when she was 8 years old her family was homeless. “So many people helped us. I remember the joy a piece of cinnamon toast would bring to me, so I know that a little can go a long way,” she says.
What you can do: “Use the skills you have been blessed with to help others! If you have a knack for sewing, offer to help at a nonprofit with their sewing needs. Good at mechanics? Donate your time to a single parent whose car needs repair. Enjoy yard work? Help a widow in your neighborhood by mowing her lawn.”
Bonus tip: “Raise awareness about an organization you are passionate about. Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers to pass out flyers, make calls and organize fundraisers.”
Laurie Hise, 35, passionatepennypincher.com
Hometown: Madison, Ala.
In the spring of 2009, the Hises donated $700 worth of food to their local food pantry—but paid just $100. Afterward, they decided to put $3 to $5 of their weekly budget toward the food pantry.
What you can do: “Keep a giving basket somewhere in your home to store donation items. When the basket is full, take the items to your local food pantry, school or homeless shelter.”
Julie Santee, 44, frugalshoppingwithjulie.com
Hometown: Sweetwater, Tenn.
Julie has been a volunteer at Wolf Creek Weimaraner Rescue for nearly three years and in Aug. 2010 she began efundraising for the rescue center (and has raised more than $950 to date). “Shelters and rescue groups nationwide have seen an enormous increase in homeless animals,” Julie says, “and Wolf Creek Weimaraner Rescue is no exception.”
What you can do: “Even if you don't have a pet, you can support your local animal shelter by pairing up coupons with sales, just as you do with food!”
Bonus tip: “Through the efundraiser, you can subscribe to your favorite magazines (including All You), save money and donate to Wolf Creek Weimaraner Rescue. Forty percent of your purchases will go to the rescue center.”
Maggie Miller, 43, Centreville, Md., and Beth Rose, 43, familyfrugalfun.com
Orange City, Fla.
Beth and Maggie realized that donations are down in many organizations— not from a lack of caring, but from a lack of money. So the duo started “Couponing for your Cause,” seminars where Beth and Maggie teach volunteers at nonprofits the tips and techniques to coupon for their organization. “Now we now have the ability to impact our community in a much bigger way,” Maggie says. “With ‘Couponing for your Cause’ we show people that anything is possible.”
What you can do: “Pick up just one extra Sunday newspaper each week for charity couponing. If you are not sure what items are needed in your area, contact your local hospice, school or shelter. Ask if it has a wish list and post it at your community center or place of worship.”
Bonus tip: “The next time you have a gathering, ask your friends to bring one item from their cabinets that they no longer want, won’t eat or don’t like for donation.”
Amee Cantagallo, 36, madamedeals.com
Hometown: Palmyra, Va.
Amee has a community service project that supports the U.S. troops overseas. She adopted a U.S. Navy base in Sigonella, Sicily and encourages others to send their manufacturers coupons (up to six months after the expiration date). Her blog donates hundreds of pounds of expired coupons each year.
What you can do: “I would set a reasonable goal, which could be as simple as paying for three items a week using coupons.”
Bonus tip: “Buy several items while they are at their best price. I purchase as many of a product as I can to reach the retail price of one item. For example, if cereal is $3, and I can get it for $1 per box, I’ll buy three boxes.”