This post was written by Jana Lynch. Read more about her after the post.
A week or so ago, I was cleaning out the small suitcase I call a purse. Among all the debris, receipts, loose change and random bits of paper that I know my child puts in there, I noticed things like my library card. Appointment reminder cards. The ticket that allows me to pick up my child from school (don’t ask. It’s a stupid system). A frequent buyer card to our local frozen yogurt place. And as I was organizing and sorting all of that…stuff, it struck me just how connected to my community I am.
Believe me, it was surprising to me, too. But there’s something comforting about knowing you have roots and ties to somewhere. And not just in the vein of personal relationships. There are plenty of financial benefits to being connected to your community:
Being involved in your community is a great way to network for jobs, business, clients, or anything else that you can think of that can earn you money. Creating networking opportunities is easier than you think, too. If you volunteer or belong to a gym, religious institution, PTA, your kids go to daycare, a moms group, or anything where people get together, you have the ability to meet people and form a network.
Once you do that, you’ve expanded your circle and made it that much easier to earn some money. Clearly you don’t want to take advantage of your newly formed network but those community connections can beget leads, which are crucial and often difficult to find, especially when you’re first starting a business.
Churches and temples, schools, community recreation centers, libraries, and state service centers have the ability to provide financial assistance. This isn’t just in the form of straight cash. It can come in the form of scholarships for school or activities, help with transportation (when I was a social worker, we often gave out bus tickets to our clients), assistance with your taxes, clothes closets, employment assistance including resume writing workshops, job fairs and networking events, or vaccination clinics (for both humans and pets).
These are all things that can help keep you afloat and prevent you from getting into a bigger hole. Why not look into them?
Free or Discounted Activities
If you’re living on a strict budget, you know that finding money for entertainment is at the bottom of your priority list. But finding free or inexpensive activities is pretty easy if you are in tune with your community. I’m not just talking going to the park or borrowing a movie from the library.
I’m talking festivals, carnivals, family movie nights on the beach, plays, concerts and hosts of other activities can be found if you look for them. For instance, my local YMCA offers discounted tickets to games for our local minor league baseball team. Universities and churches or temples often offer bus trips at a cheap price. Getting in tune with what’s around can give you experiences while saving money.
Yes, there are food pantries and clothes closets but what I’m referring to runs deeper than that. When I was in third grade, a boy in my class (and his family) lost almost everything they had in a house fire. The school pulled together a clothing drive and a fundraiser to help them out. Because of their attendance and involvement in the school, they were able to receive assistance when they needed it most.
In times of crisis, your community can be your biggest supporter. You see this often when someone dies or has a baby. People will stop by with food or offers to help with household chores; because really, your community isn’t just the place you live. It’s also the people you surround yourself with.
Being tied to your community can help in so many ways. Financially is just one of them. But taking advantage of the financial benefits is not only good for your wallet, it’s good for your soul. Because when you can, give back to the programs that helped you. Or, if you’re participating in an activity, there’s a good chance that some of the proceeds are going towards helping others as well.
And that helps foster even more community connections.
What financial benefits have you seen in being connected to your community?
Jana Lynch is the founder of the Bloggers Helping Bloggers Mentoring program. (Her program is awesome and I have been both a mentee and am now a mentor.)