Blog post

Ten Swaps to help you get to your Pledge

6 min read
23 Apr 2015

I wrote recently about how supporting Fair Trade products when you go shopping may not be the most effective way to help those in poverty. But the idea of making a difference every time you go shopping is an attractive one. And it can still be done.

By taking the Giving What We Can pledge you can make a truly significant difference to the lives of people living in extreme poverty. 10% may seem like a lot but it doesn’t take too many changes to save a significant amount of money. Instead of buying Fair Trade, why not try some of these 10 spending swaps and donate the money saved to effective charities?

Whether you’ve taken the pledge already, you’re trying giving or you’re working your way up to it find a piggy bank and see if you can find one or two easy swaps that suit you. These are just small steps: you can make bigger strides by re-considering where you rent, your holidays, whether or not to buy a car, and so on. But these swaps can help you get used to giving an increasing percentage of your income, and to see the difference you are making by saving every day.


Food and Drink

Whether it be a few less pints, or a packed lunch instead of a lunch out, there are small changes we can make to our food and drink habits to help ensure that people across the world have the nutrition they need.


The first on the list is the example so often given by Peter Singer. British people in 2013 spent on average £122m a week on take away coffee, that’s £393 a year per person. Even if you say no just to every other coffee shop visit this week, you could save £146.50 for effective charities like the Against Malaria Foundation and buy about 73 life-saving Malaria nets.


Want to cut calories, reduce health risks and help people in poverty? Cutting back on alcohol could save up to £787 a year. Just pass up on your average pint and there and then you have enough to deworm around 8 children by donating to the Deworm the World Initiative.


Why not go old school and take a packed lunch to work? It’s so easy to just buy a few things from the corner shop or a takeaway sub, but it might be costing you about £4.55 each day .

Make up a weeks worth of leftovers you can reheat in the microwave at work or just make your own sandwiches and bring some water with you, and you’re down to about £1.50 a day. Save that £3 every day and in only a week you’ll have enough to treat 30 people for schistosomiasis for a year.


The average Briton spends £109 a month on convenience food. Next time you fancy a Domino's pizza why not try making your own easy pitta bread pizza and put the money you save in your piggy bank. Just £10 saved a month ensures 20 children are protected against schistosomiasis for a year.

Go one brand down

Which brand do you normally go for in the supermarket? Are you buying the finest version or the value one? Just because something is the basic version doesn’t mean there is necessarily any downgrade in quality in anything other than the packaging. Why not try the next version down on the items for a week, and, if you don’t notice a difference, keep buying that instead.

Money Saving Expert give you an idea of how much you can save with their simple Downshift Challenge tool. I put my weekly spending habits in and found I could save £10.10 a week. £525.20 for the year will get me another step closer to my 10% pledge.


I have to be honest, I have a lot of clothes. Along the way though I’ve found a few great ways to make sure this habit doesn’t break the bank.

I’m shocked to read that apparently the average 30 - 45 year old woman in the UK spends on average £1,200 a month on clothes, shoes and accessories. Imagine what that could do if they donated this to charity instead.

Even with much more modest clothes budgets there are some savings we can all make.

Charity Shops

This has to be my top tip. Charity shops have become my first point of call for clothes, shoes, and bags now. I recently bought a dress for a wedding for £3 where it would have been £80 new. I regularly find suits, new shoes, and high quality jeans to give me some semblance of style without splashing out.

If you go to places like Oxfam, you have the added bonus of contributing to one of the more effective charities, on top of contributing for the most effective charities by donating with the money you save by buying second-hand.

DIY Clothing Repair

An oldie but goodie. If there’s a button missing, an unfortunate stain or a small tear it’s so easy to think ‘Oh well, I best buy some new clothes’. But is that really necessary. Give yourself an excuse to browse Pinterest and learn how to remove oil stains, fix zips and un-shrink clothes.


Advance and Split train tickets

There are a whole host of ways you can save on train fares if you know where to look. In fact Money Saving Expert has a whole guide dedicated to this.

According to the Trainline, you can save on average 43% by buying train tickets in advance. Even if you can’t plan that far ahead, you can sometimes save, bizarrely, by buying several single tickets adding up to your total journal rather than the one ticket, known as Split Ticketing. Split Tickets claim this can save you on average 22% on the price of your ticket.

On their example of a trip from London to Manchester and back you could save £90. With the savings from just a couple of journeys, you have a life-changing amount to give directly to someone to help lift themselves out of poverty.

Give As You Live and Easy Fundraising

Did you know that you can shop online and raise money for charity at no extra cost to yourself?

With plugins like Easy Fundraising and Give As You Live when you shop online with participating companies they donate to a charity of your choice.

I’ve donated to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative just by doing my normal shopping on sites like Sainsbury’s, Argos and Samsung. It’s safe, easy and free to use. That’s a win-win.

Amazon even have their own version, Amazon Smile where on selected purchases Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price to your chosen charity. Their charity list is a bit smaller but you can still choose the high effective charity the Against Malaria Foundation.

And Finally…

Always ask the question: do I really need this?

Will whatever it is really make your happier than helping those in need? If you wait a day or two do you still really want it as much? Could you at least get it cheaper somewhere else?

It’s so easy to get lured into buying an item of clothing you will never wear or a knick knack that will gather dust in a cupboard. Save yourself from the clutter by always asking: do I really need this?

And there you have it. Ten ways you can save money and some of the great places you can spend it instead. Add these tips together and you can soon find you’re saving your 10% with very little real change in lifestyle. Ensure that you gift aid your donations every time and you’ve just added another 25% to your total for free just by ticking a box.

Giving doesn’t have to be a sacrifice, it’s just about more effective choices. You can have a huge impact by giving to effective charities. It can be as simple as a few swaps.