Four Ways to Help Strangers Save Money

With a minimum of effort, you can make a person's day while you save them a bit of money.

Even when money is tight, you can do small things that can help out others with little cost or time on your part.

Best of all, these are usually viewed by the recipient as a lucky and unexpected prize.

Here are a few steps you can take:

Drop-Shop Coupons

Drop-shopping is the opposite of shoplifting. Instead of taking something out of the store, you instead leave something inside the store. A great way to help others is to drop-shop coupons you've come across but will not use.

Most people who find coupons that they know they won't use simply throw them into the trash. Instead, keep them and take them with you when you go grocery shopping. As you walk down the aisles, drop-shop the coupons you won't use next to the items for which they are good.

When the next person who is going to buy that item grabs it off the shelf, there will be a coupon waiting that can be used to save a little extra money.

Also consider drop-shopping coupons for local restaurants. If you have a bunch of restaurant coupons but know that you will only be using a few, take those that you won't be using and leave them near the door where others can find and use them.

If you print an online coupon, consider printing out a few extras to help others who are eating at the restaurant as well.

For those who are too shy to drop-shop coupons at stores or who often throw away expired coupons, you can still make them useful. Although this will cost a little money in stamps to send a package overseas, military families can use these coupons.

Military families living overseas have far fewer opportunities to collect coupons for the food that they eat and often have a difficult time getting coupons at all. Most military stores overseas accept coupons including expired coupons, meaning that coupons you won't use or ones that have expired still can have a life.

The overseas coupon program keeps a list of military bases looking for expired coupons.

Give Excess Vegetables

If you are a gardener, chances are that your garden will end up producing much more than you can eat on your own. The same is probably true if you happen to have fruit trees in your yard.

Instead of letting the fruit and vegetables go bad, pick them and set up a small table with a "Free Fruit and Vegetables" sign in your driveway so that those passing by can stop and partake in your generosity.

You will save them some money while also providing them with quality and healthy food at no cost, allowing them to place the money they would have spent on the fruits and vegetables to something else in their budget.

Leave Books, Magazines and Newspapers Behind

Once you've finished reading a newspaper or magazines, it usually ends up in the recycling bin.

Instead, consider leaving it in a public area where others interested can pick it up and read. They can be left in waiting rooms, park benches, on public transportation or any other area with heavy foot traffic where they're sure to be found and appreciated.

The same can be done with books. If you finish a book that you know you will not read again, instead of keeping it on your bookshelf, consider leaving it somewhere for others to read.

Web sites such as Book Crossing encourage you to leave books in public places so that others can find them and you can even track the book's journey as it is passed on from person to person. By providing these reading materials for free, people can indulge without it making a dent in their budget.

Offer Goods on Freecycle

If you have things around you home that you no longer need but don't want to sell through a garage sale or on eBay, consider offering them up on your local Freecycle site.

Freecycle is an online group created for each city that attempts to keep items that still have life out of landfills.

People offer items they no longer need for free to others in their community. Once accepted, the person will come to your house and pick up whatever it is your offering so there is no cost to you.

It's an amazingly simply way to get rid of things you no longer need while getting them to people who want and need them.

Even if you don't believe the item has value, it could very well save someone money. Quite a few artists use Freecycle to get free material for their artwork. Items that still work can often save people money.

While none of these acts is going to save the recipient a fortune, they will save them a small amount and likely brighten up their day at the same time. When times are tough, everyone needs that.

Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs

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