10 Ways to Make a Difference with Extra Money
There are times in life where you may find yourself fortunate enough to have extra finances. Maybe a relative left you an inheritance or you were awarded a bonus from your work. Or perhaps you’re blessed financially overall and have additional savings. Whatever the reason, you may wonder “What should I do with extra money?”
How to Use Money to Help Others
If you’re looking for a meaningful use for your extra finances, consider using this money to make a difference in your community. In addition to helping others, donating will help you feel fulfilled.
Why should you consider using your funds to make a difference for others? For one, science shows that helping others is good for your own sense of purpose and fulfillment and even for your health. More importantly, we are called by the Bible to show God’s love by putting others above ourselves. This doesn’t just include evangelizing — the Bible also emphasizes the importance of meeting people’s physical needs.
As Saint James pointed out to the believers in his day, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” He goes on to propose a scenario where someone needs clothing and food, pointing out that kind words aren’t useful to this person without practical help for these physical needs. Doing good works — like feeding and clothing people in need without expecting anything in return — should be a mark of a true Christian.
Now, let’s look at how to make a difference with money. Consider these 10 ideas for how you can help friends, family and strangers in your own community and in other parts of the world.
1. Tithe at Your Local Parish
An easy way to make a difference with extra money is to give at least a portion of it to your local parish. Monetary gifts given to the church are commonly referred to as tithes or offerings. The concept of tithing 10% of your income comes from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, rather than specify a certain required number, Christ emphasized the importance of a generous spirit. Many people still use the principle of tithing to cultivate generosity in their hearts and help the church’s mission go forward.
Even for members of the community who are not involved in a local religious institution, tithing to your local parish is an excellent way to know you’re doing good in your community. These funds help pay the church’s bills and fund the many valuable ministries the church offers, both locally and abroad. Knowing your money is going to help people with both physical and spiritual needs will reassure you that you’re making a difference.
2. Deliver Groceries to a Family in Need
Especially for large families or for low-income families, the total at the grocery store checkout counter can be a source of stress. Depending on what state you live in, the average household spends anywhere from $286 to $498 a month on groceries. Keep in mind that this figure doesn’t include any costs for eating out. If you know a family who may be struggling financially, providing them with groceries can be a practical help and a great way to show you care.
It can also be a huge help to a family who could afford the groceries financially but may struggle to find time to get to the store. Either way, be sure to stock up on items that will last in the pantry — such as canned goods and cereal —along with items for the fridge that the family can use over the next week or so. If you want to make life even easier for a busy parent, buy the ingredients they’ll need to make certain meals and include the recipes along with the groceries.
3. Bless Someone with a Large Tip
Most of us are used to tipping the customary 15-20% at restaurants and perhaps giving a few dollars to thank other folks in the service industry. Many of these employees depend on their tips to supplement an otherwise extremely low hourly pay. If you feel led, you can bless a waiter, waitress, barista, housekeeper or any other employee by tipping far more than the customary amount.
Some people choose to give a tip equal to their total bill, but the sky is the limit. Give what you feel is right. Nothing is too extravagant when you feel led to bless someone. You never know what a difference you could be making in someone’s life by giving this unexpected gift. It could be the difference they need to pay a bill or to buy a birthday present for their child. You may also consider leaving a note on your receipt or on a separate piece of paper to let the person know you hope this gift blesses them.
4. Help a Friend with Medical Bills
Even for those with health insurance, medical bills can cause severe financial burdens. Illnesses, injuries and other health complications can come on suddenly, and many individuals and families don’t have the savings they need to pay for costs like ambulance rides, hospital stays, surgeries or even medication. According to a recent study, two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy identify medical costs as a key factor in their financial downfall.
The stress of these financial burdens may even make it more difficult for a person to make a full return to health. If you have a friend or family member who has been battling health issues themselves or who has a child who has been in poor health, you can bless them with your extra money — pay their insurance deductible or some of their medical bills. This unexpected gesture can help someone tremendously and allow them to focus on healing instead of worrying about finances.
5. Buy a Meal for Someone in Need
If you’re blessed financially, you’re probably not used to worrying about where your next meal will come from, but this is a reality for many. You are likely confronted by this reality when you see impoverished members of your community holding signs requesting money. Many people feel uncomfortable in these scenarios and aren’t sure the best way to help the person.
When you see someone in need, you can’t go wrong by offering to buy them a meal and it’s one of the easiest ways to make a difference. If you’re on your way to get lunch at a restaurant, ask them to join you. This not only meets their practical need for food but can also help meet their deeper need for relational connection. Take the time to learn about them. Talk, laugh and enjoy a good meal together. If you don’t have time to join someone for a meal, you can give them a gift card for a restaurant within walking distance. Dropping off a prepared meal or food from the grocery store is also a generous gesture.
6. Pay off Students’ Lunch Accounts
Over the last couple of years, the issue of school lunch debt has received a new level of attention. Three-quarters of school districts report that some students in their district have unpaid meal debt. Many students from low-income households are on either free or reduced lunch programs. However, some students who may qualify for these programs are not enrolled, or students who don’t qualify may still not be able to pay at times. Unfortunately, children sometimes end up bearing the burden of their parents’ financial hardships in these cases.
Some have urged schools to offer free lunches to all students, but this isn’t financially feasible for most schools. You can help by donating money to pay off unpaid student meal accounts. There are ways to do this online through independent charitable organizations, or you can simply call your local school and ask how you can help cover these costs. Know your contribution will help every child receive a hot meal and not have to worry about their meal debt accumulating.
7. Pay for Lodging for Someone Trying to Get Back on Their Feet
Homelessness is a serious problem for many Americans. On a single night in 2018, 552,830 people in the U.S. were without a home. There tends to be a stigma surrounding homelessness, and many of us think of it as a permanent lifestyle, though many people experience homelessness temporarily. This can happen due to walking away from an abusive relationship, losing a job or not being able to make ends meet.
These people may turn to homeless shelters, but these shelters are limited in their capacity, and some people may not feel comfortable staying there. If you know someone who is in a difficult spot and needs a place to stay, offer to pay for a hotel room for them while they work to get back on their feet — or let a friend in need stay with you. If they’re trying to find employment, you can also help by giving them some professional clothing to wear or a ride to a job interview.
8. Help a College Student With Their Tuition
Though college isn’t a necessary step for success in all careers, it can be an important stepping stone for some. Some college-bound students receive scholarships or government aid that can lessen the financial burden. However, most students have to take out loans to cover their tuition. Sadly, close to half of students who begin at four-year colleges end up not finishing their degree. This astounding dropout rate is due in part to students being unable to meet the financial demands to continue with their education.
Especially students who plan to work for nonprofits or go into ministry, paying back loans can be a real challenge. If you know a bright student who has big plans to make a positive impact with their degree but is struggling to pay their tuition, you can help this student achieve their goals by financially assisting them. If you’re not able to give everything they need to pay for their next semester, consider extending the funds as a loan with no interest.
9. Donate Baby Items to a Community Pregnancy Center
Some expectant parents worry about how they’ll afford everything they need to care for a baby. If you personally know a mom or dad who may need some help, you can gift them with things like a crib, diapers, baby clothes, bottles and more. Perhaps the families you know, though, can meet these needs themselves or can count on family and friends to shower them with gifts. So how can you help other moms in your community who are struggling to provide for their babies?
All over the country, community pregnancy centers help moms, dads and babies with material needs as well as valuable services like counseling and medical services. These nonprofit facilities may forgo government funding so they are free to share the Gospel with their clients. This means they depend on charitable giving from churches and individuals to keep their doors open. You can either donate money to these centers or donate baby items. Just be sure to call ahead to find out what they need most.
10. Help People Around the World With Catholic World Mission
Though there are plenty of ways you can help in your community, you may also feel led to give to international efforts to help people in need all over the globe. At Catholic World Mission, we believe that every person is worthy of dignified living and spiritual empowerment. That’s why we aim to alleviate suffering, illuminate the mind and ignite the Spirit in communities throughout the world. Our focus is on helping communities and individuals become self-sustainable so they can reap ongoing benefits rather than a one-time handout.
If you want to assist in the mission of providing basic material needs, education and spiritual truth to people both here at home and abroad, donate to Catholic World Mission. We depend on the generosity of caring people to carry the mission forward and bring health and healing to hurting communities. You may not be able to fly over to places like Bangladesh, Haiti or Poland, but you can still make an impact in those places.
Donate to Catholic World Mission Today
When you’re blessed with extra money, giving it to those in need can bless you as it blesses them. Take some time to learn more about Catholic World Mission and determine whether you can afford to help others in need. You can either choose to give a one-time gift or a recurring one. Donate using a credit card or by direct debit. When you donate to Catholic World Mission, be confident that every dollar you give is helping to make a real difference in the world. Donate online today.
Learn More About Catholic Inspiration & Encouragement
Deacon Rick Medina is the Former Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and for years oversaw the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.