I write and read a lot about creative ways to save and invest money, but what can happen when we take some of that ingenuity and turn it into a charity hacking engine? Can we take a little and make a lot? Can a small amount of money make a difference?
I think this point was already proven when a lot of $20 gift cards made a huge difference in peoples lives, but I wanted to go back into this arena for a few reasons:
- Somone on Twitter took a shot at me for not being “grateful” after I published my “Is my F.U. Fund ruining my work ethic” post
- We have done a lot of good over the last few months and I want to share that you CAN make a difference without thousands of dollars.
I am not going to lie, that twitter moment pissed me off………..But I had a rare mature moment. Decided to let it pass and instead speak with some action.
Before I get into the charity hacks, I want to highlight something about the people I know in the FI community.
Our Financial Position doesn’t mean we lack empathy for people that are struggling. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, it is the complete opposite. Many of the people pursuing Financial Independence are aiming to retire early to help more people. Not to mention they use their platforms to change the lives of thousands of people.
A few examples (there are 1000s more, this is just what I could get my hands on with little notice)
- Giving with Impact on a Small Budget – Montana Money Adventures
- Giving Thanks with a $100,000.00 Donation – Physician on Fire
- Amazon Associates! Free money for your favorite charity when you add Smile to your affiliate account! – Early Retirement Dude (Nice hack!)
- Hurricanes in H-Town, Eid, and Sacrifice – Rouge Dad, MD
- Go Beyond Gratitude // With Great Wealth Comes Great Responsibility – Our Next Life
- You Don’t Have to Give, But You Absolutely Should – Picks Up Pennies
- Poverty, Water, Animals: On Charity and the Why – A Gai Shan Life
Lots of good being done!
I also want to say that it is OK to talk about our accomplishments and the options they give us. We don’t do it to make people feel bad. I show it for two reasons, proof that a pretty normal family can do it and I get motivated seeing other people’s success stories. I am grateful for the position we are in, but I am also proud of the decisions and work that made it possible.
Onto the Charitable Hacking!
Coupon Hacking for Charity
Holy crap did the coupons and samples come flying in when Little AE was born. It seemed like every other day there would be a package on our doorstep or a stack of $5 coupons in the mail. We don’t even know how we got on the mailing lists.
We were fortunate to not need the formula for our daughter, but it seemed like a waste to chuck all the savings into the trash. The stack was mostly $5 off with a few $15 off mixed in with no minimum purchase. Basically cash as long as we could cover the full price difference.
For the next month every time we hit the grocery store or Target we would leave with 4 jugs of formula (spending $2-3 out of pocket on each) and picked up 4 canisters (spending about $10 out of pocket on each)
In total, we had 16 jugs and 6 canisters (2 were full sized samples) of formula worth around $275 that we spent under $80 on. We boxed it all up along with some gifts that we never opened for Little AE and dropped it off at a local Women’s Shelter.
I don’t know if coupon hacking for charity is a thing, but this worked really well.
Charity Event for Friends and Family
This one was all Mrs. AE – she is a much better person than I am 🙂
She organized a huge 30 team Charity Bean Bag Tournament for our friends and family.
- We paid for food out of pocket (BYOB)
- We setup all the games and the brackets
- $40 entry fee per team
- Setup a Raffle after the tournament was over
For the raffle, we called local stores and restaurants and had a pretty high success rate getting gift cards or baskets to raffle off. We also reached out to the charities themselves and they sent over a bunch of T-Shirts and Stickers to raffle off and sell at the event.
We raised over $1,100 dollars for two local animal shelters while having a blast with family and friends. Great return on a $120 investment.
Take advantage of company matches
Not the normal 401K advice (please follow that though)
Our employer rolled out a new program this year that will match up to $750 in charitable giving per employee to ANY charity you want. If you don’t want to pay out of pocket, they will donate $25/hr for every volunteer hour.
We are doing a combo of cash donations and volunteering to get our full match for 2017. $400 cash each, and $350 worth of employer matches for volunteer hours.
What bums me out is the lack of effort by my co-workers, I am prodding them to get the full match by EOY but very few are actually doing it. Sounds like a 401K match that often gets left behind.
Helping a New Mom
Mrs. AE is very active in a few local Facebook Mom Groups and offers/asks for advice when other new parents have questions. It is pretty nice to get immediate responses from other people in similar scenarios on our “Is this normal?” questions.
In the middle of summer, she saw a post from a Mom that was asking for tips on keeping her child cool in a second-floor apartment with no air conditioning. She explained that she could barely afford gas to get to the store, so purchasing a window unit was not possible.
Coincidentally we had one sitting, unused, in our garage. I would have sold it for $25 on Craigslist eventually, but Mrs. AE thought this was a better use.
Knowing she couldn’t afford gas, Mrs. AE asked for her address and drove it down to her apartment. She was so grateful to get a gift from a complete stranger, she thanked us multiple times and posted a huge thank you in the group chat.
It’s pretty awesome that a thing just sitting on our floor of our garage could give someone else peace of mind in a stressful situation. That feeling can’t be replicated by $25
The gesture spread to Mrs. AEs parents who happened to be staying with us to visit our daughter. Her Dad pulled out a $20 and taped it to the back as a little surprise her.
Have you tried anything similar?
I feel like a Personal Finance Ninja that mastered a new move! Taking some saving and investing principles and turning a little into a lot!
You could say we are fortunate or lucky to be in these 4 positions, but I bet if you put in a little effort looking there would be similar opportunities around you. Get to work!