How To Give Back With Your Daily Purchases

Let's say that today, you want to do something good for the world. You make a modest salary, live a pretty regular life, and don't necessarily have time to volunteer, but you've been known to make the occasional donation. Your charitable efforts are usually relegated to the holidays, and it's usually prompted by a personal relationship, whether you're donating to a friend's fundraiser or a cause that has a direct effect on your life. In other words, you're not exactly at "philanthropist" level, either in your income or in your efforts. (This is OK!) Much has been written about how to become a more charitable person in the long term, but for people with limited funds, there are definitely easy ways you can give back — today.

These days, many consumers are demanding socially responsible goods and practices, and companies are answering their call. This is where you come in: if you want to help the world in a tiny way today, you can simply buy products that give a kickback to a charity, be wise about the food you buy, or otherwise be conscious about your spending. We've partnered with Walgreens to help you figure out how to spend your money wisely — and ethically. It's not as hard as you think.

1. Take Your Vitamins

Your doctor (or your mom, if you're me) has been reminding you to take your vitamins, but you keep forgetting to pick them up. It might not feel like an "essential" to you, but in some parts of the world, vitamins can mean the difference between malnourishment and survival. So why not do something for your health while also giving a charitable donation?

What To Do: Every year, 50,000 kids go blind due to Vitamin A deficiency. When you purchase vitamins and supplements at Walgreens, you're not only helping your own health — you're helping that of others. For every purchase, Walgreens is donating vitamins to undernourished children through a fantastic organization called Vitamin Angels. More than $5.5 million has been raised for the charity through its partnership with Walgreens.

2. Think Small

When you're shopping for your clothing and home goods, how often do you think about where it comes from? By buying from artisans in the developing world, you can have a tangible, positive effect on local economies. Women in particular benefit from a demand for artisan work — and empowering them economically will in turn help their families and have a ripple effect for generations.

What To Do: Find artisans through sites like PEOPLink, which helps to provide e-commerce resources to artisans and small businesses in 45 of the poorest countries worldwide. The best organizations, like Indego Africa, not only give a steady income to female artisans but also use their profits to fund training programs in business management, technology, and literacy. Here's a great article about how to shop ethically online.

3. Buy Your Food (And Coffee) Fair-Trade

What does "fair trade" mean? This means that the production of the food you're holding is free of forced labor or subpar conditions for workers. It also means that it's being produced in an environmentally sustainable way. Fair trade is said to ensure farmers a fair price for their goods, along with providing transparency between the consumer and farmer.

What To Do: If you can, make sure that you're seeing the Fair Trade stamp on the products you buy. You'll likely see these symbols on coffee, cocoa, bananas, tea, and sugar, according to Serious Eats.

4. Shop Secondhand (And Donate Your Old Stuff)

Thrift-store shopping is not only fun and frugal, but if you choose the right locations, your purchase can help someone in need. Beyond that, you're scoring some points for sustainability, as you're helping to recycle clothing that would otherwise go in a landfill.

What To Do: Organizations like Housing Works (only NY-based) use the proceeds from their retail stores to support their mission: to help people affected by HIV/AIDS and combat homelessness. Increasingly, companies are accepting clothing donations for a discount or credit. (Cuyana, an online retailer, allows you to donate your unwanted clothing to H.E.A.R.T., a nonprofit that helps women get fresh starts following domestic abuse.)

Again, charitable giving doesn't have to mean making a big donation. With your current budget, you can certainly shop a little smarter and make a difference that's even bigger than you realize.

This post is sponsored by Walgreens. By purchasing vitamins and supplements at Walgreens, you’re not only helping your own health — you’re helping that of others. For every purchase, Walgreens will donate vitamins to Vitamin Angels and they will provide life-changing vitamins to undernourished children in the U.S. and around the world. See more and get your purchase (and gift) started here.