How Volunteering Can Improve Your Financial Wellbeing

Not many people would think of volunteer work as a way to improve their financial health. But then not many people fully understand what it means to be financially ‘healthy’. 
It isn’t just about the numbers; financial health also includes how you personally feel about your financial situation and how you think about and relate to your finances. And this is where volunteering can change things. 
By giving some of your time to volunteering, you can alter your perceptions of your finances. You are reducing your focus on the importance of money and earning. You gain a different sort of payment through volunteer work – the reward of the pleasure and satisfaction of helping a good cause. Volunteering has been found to improve wellbeing in so many different ways: providing a positive sense of purpose (Greenfield & Marks, 2004), feeling good about your accomplishments (Herzog et al., 1998), interacting with like-minded individuals (Casiday et al., 2008), reducing stress, broadening your outlook and feeling appreciated by those you help (Volunteer Now, 2013). By engaging in unpaid work, you are shifting the balance of how much you value money and how much you value all of these other important things in life. 
Of course, you need enough money to live. But past that point of having ‘enough’ money, we tend to be so driven to continue to earn more and more, to become the richest we can be, and this is not helpful for our mental health and wellbeing. So of course, be financially sensible – create and stick to a budget, contribute to savings, plan for retirement – but give a little time to something that isn’t about earning as well. The benefits you will gain from it will likely reduce the stress you might feel when you think about money, and make you more relaxed and satisfied with life generally. For something that could take as little as a couple of hours of your time per week, that’s definitely worthwhile. And if you can find some voluntary work that is linked to an interest or hobby of yours, then it’s hardly even work!
So if you feel like you don’t have time to volunteer, or you don’t want to devote time to something with no concrete financial benefits, I would urge you to think again. Consider that: 
Financial health includes how you feel about your finances; not just how much you earn
Volunteering can alter how much you are driven by money alone, in a positive way
To live a healthy life, there are so many other important things to pay attention to besides your earnings
Explore local voluntary organisations, ask friends and family, do some research online… you are bound to find something that you would like to get involved with. And now that you are more aware of the benefits it will bring you, you might enjoy it even more!
Written by Emily Jarrett

Currently studying an MSc in Occupational Psychology, Emily is passionate about improving people’s mental health, especially in the workplace. She is excited to be studying the wellbeing of professional dancers for her dissertation, and also has experience in the area of assessment

Casiday, R., Kinsman, E., Fisher, C., & Bambra, C. (2008). Volunteering and health; what impact does it really have. London: Volunteering England.
Greenfield, E. A., & Marks, N. F. (2004). Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adults' psychological well-being. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59(5), S258-S264.
Herzog, A., Franks, M. M., Markus, H. R., & Holmberg, D. (1998). Activities and well-being in older age: effects of self-concept and educational attainment. Psychology and aging, 13(2), 179.
Volunteer Now & University of Ulster (2013) The Impact of Volunteering on the Health and well-being of the over 50s in Northern Ireland, Summary Report: An investigation with existing, new and non-volunteers, and stopped volunteers.