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Cheapest ways to help the homeless

January 8, 2014

Even if you earn a paltry wage, you can still alleviate the suffering of the homeless.


By: May Chiam

The noblest cause is to help another. Indisputable truth. Helping the homeless, or anyone less fortunate than yourself, is a fundamental obligation you must honour at least once during your lifetime. Otherwise, why are you even here? Before you pelt me with tomatoes and rotten eggs, I’ll get off my soapbox and end my sermon. In this short SaveMoney.my article, I’ll show you how, even if you earn a paltry wage like the author, you can still alleviate the suffering of the homeless. I’m not simply talking about volunteering at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter (although doing so is commendable), but helping out monetarily. Your finances are in a shambles? Well, get them organised.

Obvious first step: Budget 5%

If you’re under 25 and work for a miserly employer, chances are you don’t make much. No matter. I still take my monthly pittance and set aside exactly 5% of it for donation. In the long run, you’ll discover that neither extreme parsimony nor avarice pay off. So take that 5% and do your part. You can withdraw the 5% from your bank account immediately or deposit it in a “charity” savings account and allow it to accrue interest. If you opt for the former, you can help out on a consistent basis; If you opt for the latter, you’ll have a lump sum to give away at the end of the year.

Cheapest ways to help

This is the interesting part. 5% of what is just shy of minimum wage isn’t much at all, but you can make that money work by being frugal (i.e. cheap). The homeless won’t be offended, because receiving something is always better than getting nothing. What are the 3 things the homeless need most?

1. Food
2. Clothes
3. Shelter


Food is fuel for our bodies; without it, we wither away and die. Since it’s the most important of the three, I recommend you spend half of your homeless fund on purchasing food. Collect coupon booklets from big supermarkets like Giant, Carrefour, and Tesco; whenever you shop for groceries, accumulate even more coupons and ensure that you use them effectively. You are also often entitled to free gifts when you purchase a certain amount of an item, so save these up, comestible or not, to donate. You can bulk buy groceries (non-perishable foods); they will work out to be cheaper overall and you can give a portion to the homeless. Additionally, you can shop at Mydin, famous for its rock-bottom prices. For fresh produce and fish/meat, go to your local wet market and cut a deal with your regular traders.


Now that you have spent half of the 5% on food, divide the remaining 2.5% evenly, leaving 1.25% for clothes and shelter each. As for the former, make a trip to the nearest Pasar Malam and stock up! Buy blankets, pyjamas, and an assortment of clothes (including undergarments). Living on the streets can be cold even in a tropical climate, particularly during monsoon season and at night when the temperature drops. A good idea is to buy umbrellas and raincoats. Take a trip to Petaling Street and buy whatever you can afford. Although these articles of clothing may not be the best quality, believe me when I say that they will be enormously appreciated all the same.


Unless you plan to invite a homeless person(s) into your house, there’s nothing much you can do about shelter with the limited funds you have left. However, if you associate with a group of like-minded Samaritans, you could pool your money together and contribute to flat rental. I concede that this is an unlikely course of action, so why not donate to an NGO which houses and feeds the homeless? This is a far more sensible option. These NGOs do very good work with the homeless – Kechara Soup Kitchen, Archdiocesan Office for Human Development, and Reach Org – so donate the last of your 5% to these worthy organisations. If all else fails, round up a group of charitable campers and help pitch a tent!

May Chiam is an Investigative Journalist of SaveMoney.my, an online consumer advice portal which aims to help Malaysians save money through smart (and most of the time painless) savings in their daily banking, technology, and lifestyle spending habits.


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