5 Ways To Give To The Homeless Without Giving Cash

By Melissa Batai | Article from biblemoneymatters.com July 2015


Giving to others is something that God asks us to do.  Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

In addition, giving to others makes us feel good, as documented by many recent studies.

In one study shared on Greater Good, researchers gave individuals $5 to $20 in an envelope.  Some were instructed to spend the money on themselves; others were told to spend the money on someone else.  At the end of the day, the researchers measured how happy the individuals were and found that

“individuals who spent money on others. . .were measurably happier than those who spent money on themselves. This experiment suggests that spending as little as five dollars to help someone else can increase your own happiness. Similarly, in a representative sample of more than 600 Americans, the amount of money individuals devoted to themselves was unrelated to their overall happiness; what did predict happiness was the amount of money they gave away: The more they invested in others, the happier they were. This relationship between prosocial spending and happiness held up even after taking into account individuals’ income.”

Why You Should Give Even If Your Budget Is Tight

While you may want to give because of religious beliefs or, as research supports, because it makes you feel good, giving on a tight budget is difficult.  You may think since you don’t have $100 or $1,000 to give, whatever you can do wouldn’t make a difference any way.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are plenty of low cost ways that you can give and make a difference in the recipient’s life as well as your own life.

How To Help the Homeless

We moved to Arizona last summer, and I notice the homeless here more than I did when I lived in Chicago.  I see the homeless standing under the blazing sun in 108 degree heat and trying to find shade beside a cactus, and I worry about their physical health.  Water is essential here, especially because the sun and the heat are unrelenting.

Here are some ways we’ve been helping the homeless without giving them cash:

  • Give Water. I often carry a cooler with me in the car in the summer filled with water.  It is for me and my family, but if I see a homeless person standing on the corner, I will give them a cold bottle of water.  The water cost me about 10 cents since I buy it in bulk, but it could make a real difference in the immediate health of the recipient.
  • Give Snacks. Another woman I know has her 11 year old son help her make up snack bags of dried fruit, nuts, etc.  They buy the ingredients in bulk and separate them into baggies.  When she sees a homeless person, she gives them a baggy of food and a water.
  • Give Toiletries. Another idea is to save the unopened soap, shampoo, etc. that you get when you go to a hotel room and give it to a homeless person or donate it to a homeless shelter.
  • Give Your Extras. Most of us have closets that are filled to the brim, full of clothes we rarely wear.  Take the time to go through your closet and donate whatever you don’t or can’t wear to a homeless shelter.  Carry this a step further and look to see if you have extra blankets, sheets and towels.
  • Buy Toiletries on Sale. If you wisely shop CVS or Walgreens using their rewards programs and coupons, you can often get toiletries like lotion, shaving cream, razors, soap, shampoo, etc. for free or nearly free.  If you’re good at couponing, why not do this and donate what you buy to a homeless shelter?


There are plenty of worthy causes to donate to, all of which will benefit from your donation, no matter how small or insignificant you may feel that it is.

Using these strategies, you can help the lives of the homeless in small, but measurable ways.

What are your favorite ways to give when you have a tight budget?

About Melissa:  Melissa, a mom to three (ages 11, 6 and 5), blogs at Mom’s Plans where she writes about homeschooling, health eating, frugal living, and paying down debt. She works as a freelance writer and virtual assistant.