Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Ideas for Helping Those in Need, When Money is Tight

A mitten with the words how to give a helping hand when money is tight across it.
There are so many charities vying for our attention at Christmas, that it can become overwhelming to find who best to help and how to do it. If you have cash to spare, it's a bit easier, because money is always welcomed by any charity, because it gives them the flexibility to buy the things that they need. What about when you are on a low income, though? Even when you don't have much money coming in, you can still be acutely aware that many people have less, and at Christmas especially, it's natural to want to reach out to those in need. Fortunately, there are lots of other ways you can help and here are some ideas.

Christmas shopping is a very busy time for retailers with a massive influx of shoppers spending more than at any other time of the year. Whilst high street retailers have a budget set aside to employ extra staff during the silly season, charity shops are not so lucky. However, they still see an increase in custom and have the most to gain from taking advantage of the extra footfall in their stores. If you have a spare few hours a week, consider calling into a local shop to see if they need any help. They don't just need people behind the till, but also sorting through donations, distributing and collecting charity bags and other behind-the-scene tasks. 

Row of coat hangers on clothes rail.
Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

Lots of charities work with the homeless at Christmas. These include Shelter, Crisis and the Salvation Army, but there may be local ones in your area too. They do some incredible work, providing hot meals, washing facilities and clean clothes to those who don't even have a roof to call their own. It's hard to imagine a more desperate situation and a friendly face must mean the world when all else is lost. They need volunteers for a variety of roles, over Christmas and beyond. After Christmas marks the start of what is often some of the coldest weather in this country, so if you can't volunteer over Christmas due to family commitments, consider making it a new year pledge instead. 

Homeless man in red sleeping bag.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Homelessness is just one kind of loneliness that is made worse by the Christmas festivities. There are so many other vulnerable groups who find themselves feeling isolated and there are lots of ways to help. The elderly find it harder than ever if they live alone and have no family close by. All the things we take for granted, such as being surrounded by loved ones, having help on hand for any issues we might have, even just a listening ear, are not always available and that's tough every day of the year, but even more so when the emphasis is on families and getting together. There are volunteer groups, such as Age UK who offer organised befriending services that you can sign up for, but you may already know someone in your community who always wants to chat, or who never seems to have any visitors. Ask them if they need anything, or just make that time to chat, it could make a massive difference to their day. 

Elderly lady walking down the street, carrying flowers.

Your local foodbank will be very grateful for donations of food and toiletry items that you don't need. One way to achieve this, if you don't have a huge budget, is to donate the additional item from any multibuy deals in the supermarket, particularly where you would buy the product anyway. Where as you won't benefit from the saving, you won't be spending money either, so it's a good compromise if you can manage it. You can usually get a list of the items that they are most in need of, and the range of goods they will be able to accept, from their website. Some food banks also accept toiletries and other items. The Trussell Trust takes care of a network of foodbanks and other poverty initiatives throughout the UK and there is lots of information on their website about ways you can help. There may be other ways to volunteer, as well as donating food, perhaps by helping sort or distribute food or by collecting donations. 

Tomato ketchup bottle, on its side with ketchup spilling out.
Photo courtesy of Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay

Community Christmas believes that no elderly person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day unless they want to be. They offer support and guidance to anyone who wants to get involved with putting an end to elderly loneliness on Christmas Day. This can be anything from organising a community event to popping round for tea and cake. Their website has lots of help and suggestions for ideas big and small. You can even get involved with events that are already going on in your area, even if you can't cook, you could help out by raising awareness and encouraging others to get on board. It's a great way to make friends and get to know people in your community. The postcode search makes it really easy to find out if there is anything going on near you. 

Lady laying a large table for a dinner party.
Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

This last idea stems from a family tradition that I think most people do, before the festive season hits. It's the pre-Christmas clear out. I always used to tell my children that Santa wouldn't come if their bedrooms weren't tidy, 'elf and safety and all that, so it's a good chance to sort out what they don't play with anymore, to make room for new toys that they might get for Christmas, and take it somewhere that it can be put to good use. It's also a great opportunity to involve children in doing something to help those less able to help themselves and teach them to show kindness to others. Good causes need money to reach out to as many people as possible over Christmas and many have charity shops to help raise those funds. Other goods, such as clothes and blankets can be donated directly to homeless and women's shelters. Women's Aid have a Domestic Abuse Directory which highlights local centres that may accept donations, so you can contact them to find out what they can use. 

A pile of different coloured blankets.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

However you decide to help this Christmas, it really doesn't matter what you do, or how much. You can make a real difference and hopefully enjoy the experience too. These are just some ideas, you can contact your local library or church to find out who else might need a helping hand this Christmas. 

A tiny trolley next to a XMAS sign.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay


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5 comments

  1. What a lovely post and some fantastic ideas to do your bit over Christmas!

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  2. I always try to help in someway. Last weekend I was away for Christmas shopping break & ended up getting my drinks made for as a sorry from the restaurant as my food was awful so the money I would of spent on drink & food that night paid for a homeless man & his dog for a night shelter at the hostel, he was absolutely delighted.

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  3. Great post i am always donating food and clothes

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  4. what a lovely, thoughtful, thought-provoking post, I'd never even considered the charity shops being busy and they will be if people are having a clear out like you suggest

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  5. Some lovely ideas there, if we could all spread a little kindness like this, the world would be such a better place.

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