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8 Ways to Be Charitable Without Spending Money

Matilda Woods is a digital nomad who is just trying to do a little good in the world.


Being a Good Person Is Hard

I get it. Just because you are all out of money, time, and energy doesn’t mean your compassion has run dry, too. You see all the pain and suffering in the world, and you feel helpless to do anything about it. You want to give, but first you need to make sure you can pay your rent and buy groceries this month. You want to volunteer in your community, but you’re already working too hard and you’re exhausted! And yet, you know there are people out there struggling harder than you ever have.

Well, have I got good news for you. Actually, I have three pieces of good news for you.

  1. You’re doing a good job and working hard to take care of yourself. Keep doing it and it will get easier.
  2. Congratulations! You’re a good person. You’ve got your own dang problems and you still care about other people! You’re compassionate, empathetic, and you’ve got charitable intentions!
  3. There are lots of ways you can do good without spending any extra money, time, or precious energy. Read on, you good person, you!
Trees! Let's plant some!

Trees! Let's plant some!

1. Search the Web

Need answers? Yeah, I hear ya. Luckily, we’ve got the internet. Even luckier is the fact that you can plant actual trees while you internet-search yourself into a hypochondriacal state. If you’re going to use WebMD to convince yourself you’re dying, you might as well help the planet not in the process.

Enter Ecosia. Ecosia is amazing. They will use your ad revenue to plant trees where they will help people most. Think it sounds too good to be true? It’s not. Ecosia's website is amazingly transparent and will explain everything. Go there, do it, make it your homepage and default search engine.

You could help buy a goat!

You could help buy a goat!

2. Lend a Hand With Microfinance Loans

Got $25 you could live without for a while? Yeah, me neither, but when I do, you better believe I’m sending it to Kiva so they can lend (that’s right, lend, not give) it to people who do something useful with it. You can choose which person or project you would like to lend your money to and help someone who would likely not qualify for a traditional bank loan.

People all over the world use Kiva loans to start new businesses, install water filters, buy solar panels, and much more. Their repayment rate is over 97%, so your money is pretty darn safe. And when the loan is paid back, you can cash out and either get your $25 back or choose to lend it again!

Those grains add up!

Those grains add up!

3. Play Games

Wanna feel smart? Check out Free Rice. You can prove your intelligence in a huge variety of categories and even learn a new language for free! For every correct answer, you donate 10 grains of rice. Sure, 10 grains of rice might not be much, but these games are addictive! So, make Free Rice your first line of procrastination! Go ahead, that term paper can wait.

Note: right now is testing a beta version of their new site, so if you want to sign in and keep track of your scores, check out

Make giving gifts feel extra good :D

Make giving gifts feel extra good :D

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4. Give Gifts

Okay, I know this one involves spending money, but it's money you would have to spend anyway.

You’re a good person, you like people… At least from a distance, right? Well, that probably means that every once in a while, you are going to want to buy them something nice. How about buying them a sense of satisfaction that they have helped the world to be a better place?

Plan International is one of many websites that will let you give a gift to someone in a developing country (say, a goat) in the name of a friend or relative. Personally, I like the idea of a dual gift. For instance, I give my niece a special book and explain that instead of getting another book, I sent one to a child who isn’t as fortunate as she is. She likes the idea of helping another kid, but she still gets something and, let’s be honest, we all like getting stuff.

What's your birthday wish???

What's your birthday wish???

5. Get Gifts

You’ve got a birthday, right? The cool thing about birthdays is that you get to call the shots for the day. And, being a good person, you can use this opportunity (or whatever other day of the year that people seem to want to buy you stuff and feed you cake) to do some good. What’s better, you can let Facebook handle all the logistics. They are already going to remind all your friends that you are aging, why not let them do the rest?.

Facebook has a little known ‘fundraisers’ tab that will allow you to collect donations for a whole bunch of different charities. All you have to do is make a quick post about what you are doing, or why you chose that particular charity and ask that your friends and family donate instead of buying you presents (or birthday shots). Settled! Now you can enjoy your birthday knowing that you started a new year by helping some people or puppies or parakeets or whatever! Good job, you aging philanthropist!

I just want you trypanophobics to know that just for you, I specifically did not choose a photo of someone actually giving blood.

I just want you trypanophobics to know that just for you, I specifically did not choose a photo of someone actually giving blood.

6. Give Away Your Body Parts

You don’t need all your blood, do you? No, technically you don’t. If you’re itching to do something good, why not relieve yourself of a few pints in the name of helping someone who needs it? Looking for something bigger? Make sure you are an organ donor! If you don’t need all that blood while you’re alive, you definitely aren’t going to need all those organs when you’re not!

I mean, if you're going to run anyway...

I mean, if you're going to run anyway...

7. Get Moving

Running from something? Might as well run for something at the same time! Alright, I know, I said that you wouldn’t have to put in any energy, but hey, maybe you are someone who already runs, and, if not, you must at least go for walks sometimes, right? Those chips aren't going to bring themselves home from the corner store.

In either case, you have the opportunity to change more than just your heart rate. Charity Miles will donate 10-25 cents a mile to a charity of your choice! If you are an animal lover, you can also check out Walk for a Dog which uses the same premise to raise money for animal shelters!

Ah, online shopping, the only thing that can make me feel like this while I'm in my pajamas.

Ah, online shopping, the only thing that can make me feel like this while I'm in my pajamas.

8. Shop

Even if you don’t have any extra money to spend, there are some things you’re already buying for sure, and these days, a lot of us buy that stuff online. If you are one of these people, you could be missing out on the opportunity to do some good while you’re at it! Personally, I order almost everything on Amazon (they just make it so damn easy!), so I was extremely excited to learn about Amazon Smile. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice. If you think that doesn’t sound like much, you underestimate my Amazon shopping problem…

For everything else (pretty much) there’s Altruisto. Altruisto is a Chrome extension that has partnered with a whole bunch of massive shops (think Etsy,, and eBay) to donate money to end extreme poverty. The whole process is super non-invasive. Just install the browser and when you head to your favorite online store, you’ll have the option to donate a portion of the money you pay to charity at no extra cost to you! Pretty sweet, right?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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