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Lori Beth Crawford



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A November 2008 report prepared by The Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University titled, "Religious Giving in Uncertain Times: Insights for Congregations and Faith-Based Nonprofits" included the finding that "Donors with incomes under $50,000 may stop giving when their personal economic circumstances worsen." Chances are, this really isn't a surprising fact. If you feel that this hits a little close to home and want to know how to defy these odds, there is a very simple habit you can develop to continue your generous ways despite a downturn in your own financial situation.


 It’s called Charitable Shopping For Free

If you adopt a few simple strategies to your shopping habits you’ll be able stockpile much needed goods and food stuffs to take to food pantries or shelters in your area.

Step One: Target Your Shopping

Know who you plan to donate to before you shop. This will save you time and make your donation valuable to the recipient. Churches are good recipients as they generally will have ministries in place to distribute the goods they receive. If you’re not a member of a church or already have a favorite charity, you can search the community for charitable organizations. A quick Yahoo Local search should do the trick.

You’ll get a list of possible charities to whom you can donate goods. A simple phone call to the charity will answer your question of the types of items they can accept. Once you find a good match for the type of shopping you wish to do, iron out the details of their acceptance hours and policies. Now you’re good to go.

Step Two: Clip Coupons

Just because you are engaging in the selfless act of charity, it does not mean that you should be foolish with your funds. Keep in mind that you are on a strict budget yourself and plan accordingly. Another reason you’ll want to use coupons is that it will make your contribution stretch a lot further than if you don’t. Coupons can mean the difference in feeding a family of four for a day or an entire week.

Step Three: Track Sales in Your Local Markets

Since you are on a budget, it’s a good idea to do this anyway. The change comes in that sale on Kellogg’s cereal that you personally couldn’t use because you prefer General Mills. You can use it now because you can donate the Kellogg’s items to your charity for very little out of pocket because you’ve used coupons on top of the sales price.

Another take on this is to look for sales where you can buy something and get something free. Suppose the store is giving away a free gallon of milk if you buy $10 in Kellogg’s cereal. If you can use the milk and have coupons that will make the cereal nearly free, go for it. This way you’ve helped someone else and got yourself a little bonus in the process.

Step Four: Drop the Goods Off at the Charity

When you’re ready to take your items to the charity, you may look at the small pile and become discouraged. Don’t. You did the best you could and they will appreciate it. No matter how little you have to give, take it to the charity. You will get such a wonderful feeling out of helping that the amount will not matter.

The charity should offer you a receipt, but it’s up to you to decide whether you want to take it or not. You may want to claim these items on your income taxes and will need the receipt to do so. If you’re not sure, the safest course is to take it then decide later. Who knows? The extra deduction may come in handy and help you give more the next year. You should also save your store receipts. This way you will have a record of everything you purchased for this charitable venture.

Happy Giving!!

The Extent of Good Stewardship