You don’t have to be pulling in six figures to spend a portion of your earnings on charity. Here are some creative ways to budget in giving back.

By Real Simple
Updated October 24, 2012
Credit: Christine Balderas/Getty Images

A version of this article originally appeared on

You want to be charitable, but you aren’t exactly rolling in it. While most Americans donate about 2 percent of their income to charity, if you’re financially stable and not in debt, LearnVest suggests you aim for 3 percent at this point in your life. That’s all good in theory, you say, but how?

Dole It Out in Pieces

Many charities encourage us to donate smaller amounts on a regular basis rather than bigger one-time donations. One organization we love is Modest Needs (the site allows you to give mini-grants to prevent individuals from entering the cycle of poverty), which will match your monthly pledges. Double happiness!

Tie It to an Event

Having a birthday? Tell people that you’d like donations to your favorite charity as a gift. If you’re really motivated, consider throwing a party in honor of a cause, both to spread awareness and to accept donations. Goods4Good, a nonprofit that sends excess goods from the United States to third-world countries, is one of many charities tied into the Facebook Causes app, which makes it particularly easy to do all of this.

Do It With Friends

Experience the power of numbers by creating a giving circle in which multiple people donate to the same cause. Go to charitable events together and pool together your money for donations. The Giving Circles Network can help you find giving circles in your neighborhood.

Give Giving as a Gift

Many websites like Kiva, which allows individuals to loan directly to international microfinance projects, feature gift certificates. Instead of spending a lot of money on holiday gifts this year, consider donating to charity and giving the gift of giving to like-minded loved ones.

Save It Separately

Charitable donations deserve a place in your personal budget. Most people give around the holidays or in the wake of disasters, but don’t wait for a tsunami to become a charitable person. Instead, mentally try setting aside 3 percent of your income on a regular basis so that you can donate when the time comes.

Go for the Goods

Many retailers donate portions of their proceeds to charity. We’re not recommending that you consume instead of donating—because it’s not a real substitute—but we encourage you to do so when a good portion of the proceeds go to charity, and it’s a product that you would buy already.

So, no more excuses. You can’t wait until you’re a hotshot to start donating money to charity, because that’s not a sustainable model. Give a little consistently, do it smartly, and feel those karma points rush in.