Making a Difference without Making a Dent


I belong to a social group for working moms in Wilton – we recently collected money for our local Social Services agency to help families in need during the holiday season. Through our efforts, we managed to collect $1,300 in addition to purchasing several holiday gifts to help fulfill some kids’ holiday wishlists.

In discussing the efforts, an acquaintance questioned how far $1,300 would go in a town like Wilton only because around here, the cost of living tends to be high. Basics are expensive, the cost of gasoline is higher than most parts of the country, and the large homes are expensive to heat. True, when you look at it that way, $1,300 doesn’t sound like a lot, and many people might opt out of donating because they feel like their contribution may not be impactful. In reality, however, EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR counts. Consider the following: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) does not cover personal products (soaps, shampoo, feminine hygiene, grooming items and cosmetics), paper products, medicines, vitamins or household supplies. Families who depend on SNAP to get by would be required to pay for the items out-of-pocket, and most items can hardly be considered “luxuries.” If I pulled prices out of our local supermarket circular and discount department store:

  • A 12 oz bottle of low-cost shampoo or conditioner costs $2.99 at a local supermarket on sale
  • 12 rolls of toilet tissue costs $6.99 at a local supermarket on sale
  • Dish detergent costs $2.99 at a local supermarket on sale
  • Box of tissues costs $1.00 at a local supermarket on sale
  • A 3 bar package of soap costs 2/$4 at a local supermarket on sale
  • A tube of toothpaste costs $1.77 at a local supermarket on sale
  • Ibuprofen costs $2.48 for 100 (generic brand) at Wal-Mart
  • Diapers (48 count) cost $5.97 (generic brand) at Wal-Mart
  • Maxi Pads (48 count) cost $3.76 (generic brand) at Wal-Mart
  • Laundry detergent (75 fluid ounces) costs $3.97 (low cost brand) at Wal-Mart
  • 1 gallon of gas locally $2.97 regular unleaded per gallon

Not counting gas, if the families in need had to purchase these things on their own, they’d be paying approximately $36 per trip, all out-of-pocket. Ten simple donated dollars can buy a family 3 bars of soap and 2 bottles of shampoo.

Now, also consider this. I am frugal person when it comes to personal spending – I rarely splurge on luxuries, I always try to find the cheapest price for things I need, and I am ALWAYS watching my checkbook. Even still:

  • I am known to buy coffee maybe twice a week – I hate frilly coffee, so my cup is actually cheaper at $2.25 than those who drink “designer” flavors (I mean, pumpkin spice latte is SO GROSS…to me, it tastes like warm puke in a cup)
  • I probably buy lunch in our cafeteria 1-2 times per week and each lunch averages about $5.
  • My one splurge is dinner out with the kids once a week – on a cheap week (pizza!), that could be about $25 for the family.

If I gave up these luxuries for an entire month and banked it to donate, we would be looking at:

  • Coffee twice a week for 4 weeks = $18
  • Lunch in my cafeteria a total of 6 times = $30
  • Pizza dinner out 4 times = $100

TOTAL: $148 for the month. I would hardly consider myself a “splurger,” so imagine how much it might add up for someone who does splurge!

By making small adjustments that are barely noticeable, I could fund 4 of the shopping trips, above, or (perhaps) 2 full tanks of gas to help those families in need to drive to work, with little or no real dent in my own bank account. Even if I gave it up for only two weeks out of the month, we’d STILL be looking at about $75. That’s a whole lotta shampoo and soap!!!

(note to self – must stop buying coffee and lunch because wow…I never thought about how it adds up!)

Last year, I was able to donate to a local charity by selling baby items on a tag sale site – although each item ranged from $5 (toys) to $15 (snow boots), I managed to offload stuff that was cluttering up my spare bedroom and collect about $100. It was great – I got a clean room, some families got some nice toys and clothes for cheap, and a local charity got $100. Win win for everyone.

In this very difficult season, remember that every dollar does count; no matter how small. You don’t need to make a major dent in your finances to find ways to help – by looking creatively at what you have at home and what your spending habits are, you can make a difference. 

As an ending note, I would like to say that I am very proud of the amount that the Working Moms of Wilton was able to collect for the local families in need. The generosity of people in town never ceases to amaze me and everyone was more than willing to contribute. Thank you to everyone who helped in one way or another, and a special thank you to Loryn, who was the driving force behind the effort. Happy Holidays.

4 comments on “Making a Difference without Making a Dent”

  1. Thank you for this. I try to tell people that every little bit counts, and your article really illustrates this fact.

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