Mama Say What?! is the new name for Thrifty Guardian.
Making kits for homeless people might not seem thrifty, but it’s a beautiful way to give back to your community. In fact, one of our core values as a family is volunteering and teaching our children to volunteer.
DIY Kits for Homeless People
That said, part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money efficiently and sometimes uniquely. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord altogether), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs.
These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you must reevaluate what is important to you if you genuinely want to become debt-free. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)
Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is essential to our grandest dreams and most whole life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.
Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up or adjust weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could instead drastically improve their life?
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Kit for Homeless People?
I am not suggesting you completely alter your lifestyle for someone else, but stop and think about where that $5 coffee or the cost of a random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused on where you spent it. If you spend $5/day on non-essentials but cut two days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.
Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not –missing two of your seven weekly indulgences would make those other five more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card, student loan, or car payment. That’s a great deal!
But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week, and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.
Dollar Tree Homeless Care Packages
I like to create care packages for the homeless during the winter, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24-pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages, and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.
If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items, you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.
Things to Include in a Homeless Kit
- Lip balm
- Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, apple sauce pouches, packaged tuna, etc
- Hygiene products
- Bus passes
- Quarters for laundry
- Socks, hats, and gloves
- Sunscreen (unscented)
- “Hot Hands”
- We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help people experiencing homelessness with day-to-day needs.
You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so turn to those for these kits. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out when you encounter someone in need.
What Not to Include in a Kit for Homeless People
- Hard foods, like beef jerky
- Toothbrushes or other easy-to-get hygiene products
- Clothing that needs to be sized
- Scented lotions or soaps – especially don’t put with food!
- Bulk items that would be hard to carry around
I say to skip hard foods because many currently homeless people may not have access to a dentist and may be unable to eat these foods. I also recommend skipping toothbrushes, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, etc. because these items are usually easy to get at a homeless shelter. And, of course, never put anything scented in with food, as it will make the food inedible. I personally avoid scented products altogether, as you never know what one’s sensitivities may be. Along those same lines, I also try to be mindful of including anything with peanuts or, at the very least make separate kits for those with nut allergies.
The Power of Giving
The power of a few small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates invaluable perspective; on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.
So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and’ll be better in the long run.
Have you ever created a homeless kit before?
I’d love to hear other ideas/suggestions of what to include, post ’em in the comments below!
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture