How to be Generous (on a Student Budget)

Self, Finances , Opinion

Contributed by: Food for the Hungry Canada

Written by Sarah Dickens

If you’ve hung out in the cafeteria or walked around the grounds of my small, well-kept university campus, you would probably overhear at least a handful of comments like these:

“Ah dude, I am like SO POOR right now.”
“Guess what? I tried to pay with my debit card last night, and it actually went through!
“I have no idea how I’m going to afford next semester.”

As a student attending university in one of the richest countries in the world, it is perhaps a bit ridiculous to claim that I sometimes feel “impoverished.” But the reality is, when you are hitting the books and not working full-time, money is always tight.

That’s why the call on our lives to be generous can feel like such a struggle. On top of paying for tuition, gas, textbooks, social outings, and groceries, it seems unrealistic to spend copious amounts of more money on gifts, restaurant tips, or fundraiser donations.

So how can a Canadian university student that is strapped for cash actually be generous?

The first thing to know is that generosity flows easily when you are thankful and believe that you have more than enough to give away. Look around you right now and consider 10 different things you can be grateful for–you will probably be able to think of even more than that!

The second step is to get creative. Generosity comes in all shapes and colours, and  doesn’t always look like a 30% tip at Earls. The key is to look for the in-the-moment ways to be extravagantly giving.

Here’s a beginners guide for 5 powerful and student-friendly ways to be generous:


1. Encourage, encourage, encourage.

There is nothing more rewarding than making someone’s day with your words. Start looking for ways to consistently and genuinely affirm the people around you! Being generous with your affirmation is powerful. Write something on a sticky note and put it on a friend’s windshield, send a quick text, or stop someone throughout your day and pay them a genuine compliment. Encouragement can become an easy and natural part of life, and makes everyone a little brighter.


Photo byMatthew Henry

2.  Offer to drive.

Be the person that volunteers to burn a little gas. It’s a natural and easy way to give to your friends on a trip to the grocery store or late night coffee run. As a bonus, carpooling with your buddies makes any drive more fun! It also is a great way to help keep the environment clean! Blast the music and enjoy the company, all while knowing that you are doing everyone a favour


Photo byBurst

3.  Stop buying stuff you really don’t need

Everyone can get sucked into the “treat yourself” mindset. A treat now-and-then isn’t necessarily bad, but can lead to constant splurging on pointless items. Do you really need another black t-shirt or venti Starbucks drink? Saying no in the moment can help you actually have some dollars to spend on others or give to your church or other meaningful causes. Pass on the bulk bag of mini eggs, and treat a friend to tea instead.


Photo byJosh Appel

4.   Commit to a daily 5 minute favour

Everyone’s busy, but everyone can spare 5 minutes. Be generous with your spare moments in ways that positively help someone. Intentionally set aside time to edit your friend’s paper, pick up some garbage around your neighbourhood/campus, or even wash your roommate’s dishes. It’s powerful, practical, and doesn’t cost a whole lot.


Photo onUnsplash 

5.  Listen

Be generous with your attention. In an age where multi-tasking during conversation is second nature, giving a person your undivided focus communicates a high degree of love. Resist the urge to look at your phone or direct the conversation. Swallow the need to interject with personal stories or comments. Simply allow someone else to feel completely heard.

Generosity can often be associated with grand, extravagant gestures of wealth. But the small, practical ways of giving to others can be just as, if not more, meaningful to those around you. Don’t wait around for the right moment to be generous; start stepping into the everyday opportunities to give and keep giving.