6 Ways We Are Helping During the COVID-19 Pandemic That Cost $0

6 Ways to Help During COVID-19 for FreeI believe most people are good.

And I also believe that most people want to do good in the world.

However, it can be really hard to know how to get started. In this particular moment in history, many families are already feeling a huge financial pinch. While I certainly hope that we’ve put ourselves in a place where we can continue our regular monetary donations, I realized that there are plenty of people who are looking for other ways to care for their communities.

I want to share what our family is already working on doing to support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic (Spoiler: There is no sewing happening – my version of a mask would not help anyone!), and then I hope you’ll join in with your own ideas in the comments.

Shelter In Place

It’s now a mandate in Illinois, and we’ve been social distancing and self-isolating for about a week longer than the mandate. I know that there are skeptics online, but I am a rule follower through and through. Plus, too many people I love are high risk, and too many health care workers are using social media to make desperate pleas for us to stay home.

Because we are able to work from home, sheltering in place isn’t costing us anything other than our sanity. 8 hours a day of e-Learning x 2 teachers + one toddler = one heck of a math problem. (However, I do realize that it can be very costly to people who are deciding between going to work and following this mandate.)

Leave Small Business Reviews

Much to my delight, so many people in the personal finance community are walking back their strict decrees to never order takeout in an attempt to save their favorite small businesses. Takeout and gift cards are great options to show your support if you have spending money.

However, there is a fantastic way to show your support that costs you ZERO dollars: Write reviews online.

My dad owned his own auto shop for over 30 years, and he weathered the Great Recession. It was *not* pretty. But I can tell you one thing that means so much to small business owners is referrals. Leave ratings on Yelp, post about your favorite small businesses on Next Door, share their Facebook page. Whatever you can do to call attention to your favorite shops is huge. The Internet is forever so these reviews can entice someone to support now or months later.

Contact Customer Service

Next, I’m going to tell you to ask to speak to manager. No, really! (Does this make me a Karen? If this makes me a Karen, I’m OK with it!)

I’ve been really torn with how to support health care workers and other people on the front lines (pharmacists, truck drivers, grocery story clerks, you name it!). Besides staying put, I also continued something that I started last month.

When a relative was in an end-of-life facility, I filled out comment cards for every staff member who made her smile. But I only sent a few emails following up on the comment cards. Thinking about all the staff members who are supporting the elders in our community reminded me to continue this. Even though this probably the last thing on anyone’s mind, I know they’ll come back to the emails eventually (or I can resend it). I actually got a reply from my relative’s dietitian’s supervisor, indicating that not only would she add a copy of my email to the dietitian’s HR file, but she was also entering her in a $100 cash monthly raffle!

I plan to continue this for Target employees and grocery store clerks as well.

Chalk Art & Window Hunts

I am not a fan of Next Door generally, but I find myself loving it lately. Our neighborhood already canceled the yearly Easter egg hunt in the park, but we are more than making up for it. Every few days, someone posts a challenge where you hang something in your window. Then, when kids (and adults!) go for walks, you try to spot them all. We’ve already done shamrocks, rainbows, and emojis.

Another thing many of us have started to do is decorate our sidewalk with chalk. It’s really something to walk around the block and see positive messages, pictures, hop scotches, and so much more. We actually had the idea this weekend to bring our chalk with us on a walk. When we passed the house of someone HP normally plays with, we left them a message on their sidewalk (and yes, we washed our hands first and we made sure to keep some serious distance from their house just in case!). It snowed not long after and wiped away our messages, but one neighbor already texted us a big thank you and said his kids plan to take our idea on their next walk, too!

Donate Any Unneeded Extras

I believe our supply chains will hold out, so we aren’t doing any kind of hoarding. We do, however, have two weeks’ worth of food and all the medicine and cleaning supplies we need. That means we don’t have tons to donate, but we do have some.

I’ve seen desperate pleas for medicine, hand sanitizer, and so much more. I’ve already offered up our unopened bottle of Children’s Tylenol to a neighbor. We have a bottle of Kids’ Motrin anyway, and I do have faith that stores will start to restock these things before we need it. I also realized we had more peanut butter than jelly, and I found some hand soap that we don’t use. I’ve dropped those things off at our town’s micro pantry.

While I do not think anyone should put themselves in dire straits ever, I do think that many of us can find ways to donate extras–be it food, home goods, blood, time, or smiles.


My toddler doesn’t really understand what is going on. As far as he knows, the park is broken and it’s still not Friday yet so he can’t see his grandparents. He knows his routine is definitely off, but we are trying to look on the bright side. The other day, he helped me make cupcakes. Now, he asks for us to sing him Happy Birthday every night when we eat one. It’s the most ridiculous new ritual (his birthday isn’t until July!), but it makes us all smile and laugh. We even FaceTime his grandparents into the song sometimes.

Also, I have to give a huge shoutout to GovWorker at Government Worker FI who mailed HP a care package filled with items from his kiddos. It made one un-birthday celebration extra special. 

So Tell Me…Have you thought of any ways to help that are free or inexpensive?

PS – I’m going to do a small giveaway later in the week to hopefully brighten someone’s day. So check back!


  1. I love HP’s new unbirthday ritual! We should all celebrate each day. I’ve been reflecting about finding joy in sadness this week. It was Laetare Sunday this past week where you reflect upon finding joy in the suffering of Christ. I think I’m going to try to write about how that really hit home for me yesterday. And not just “why is the priest wearing pink this week” which is what happens most years.

  2. Well, I’ve been leaving more comments on blogs 🙂 Seems silly, but having your content makes it easier to self isolate so I want to be encouraging. Just had the first local case, and city council just tabled a hunker down order. We are pretty well prepped, but I should call our local food bank. Thanks for the reminder

    • Also–there appears to be a bit of a blood shortage. You can donate blood, too. (Although this does require going out into public, if you’re healthy and they are taking precautions, it is at least as worthwhile a risk as carryout from your favorite local food joint!)

  3. KaLynn

    Love this post! You inspired me to leave a compliment for the take out we got last night.

    Today is teddy bear day in our neighborhood. We also started with shamrocks then went to something orange, yellow, etc. Later this week is Christmas decorations and Mickey day. The kids are loving it!

  4. I am definitely going to leave positive reviews. I have been meaning to do this for some time but never get around to it. This is a great idea to support small businesses.

    I am also commentinf and reading more blogs. Virtual community is important in these times.

  5. If you read the shelter in place rules they do not say you have to stay in your house. You mentioned going for walks in fact. You can still go for a run, a walk, ride a bike, drive to a trail for a hike, all those things are in keeping with the rule as long as you don’t do them in close proximity to other people. We haven’t had any changes to our running, hiking, tennis, off roading or fishing here. Those are all great social isolation activities.

  6. Crown me the worst PF blogger, I can’t think of a single free way I’ve helped anyone, I’ve just been digging deep to send some monetary help to as many as I can. ? I guess sheltering in place would sort of be our thing but it means we’re spending more on heat and electricity. I am going to be doing some baking to share with the neighbors via porch dropoff when I can find time, but that’s not free either.

    Oh but we are having free fun. We’re taking advantage of all the free educational stuff available online, doing chalk drawing and playing outside on rare sunny days.

  7. One of the big things we’ve been doing is checking in on our people. Hubby is a phone guy, so he has been on the phone with his family every night while I have been making a point to reach out to friends more through text. A small thing, yes, but it’s been nice to connect with others while also practicing social distancing.

      • And oh boy has he been shining lol. As an update, I would say in the last week or so, he has called someone and had a lengthy conversation with them about something they’re interested in every single day. It’s been both fascinating and admirable to watch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.