Something Good You Can Do For Free

Giving back - a simple idea for how you can give back to society without compromising a long-term committment to frugality.

As we struggle to adapt our behavior and habits to move towards financial independence, it’s easy to lose sight of what we already have.

The fact that you’re reading this text, on a device capable of rendering it, probably wearing decent clothes and recently fed, already means you’re not one of the 50% of the planet who live in poverty.

It’s important to take time to reflect on how fortunate we are, even if we all have our daily struggles. I don’t mean to suggest that we should feel guilt, but rather that we should be grateful. Particularly for the opportunities and benefits that come with being born in a certain place, to certain parents, in a certain time, with certain support structures around us.

During that reflection, you might wonder if there isn’t something you can give back.

While giving your money away isn’t necessarily compatible with a “frugal” lifestyle, there are other things you can do, and I wanted to share one particular idea, which is particularly important to me. One suggestion, no doubt among many possible things you could do, for how you can give a stranger something as valuable as life itself, at zero financial cost to yourself.

You may already have guessed what I’m talking about. My suggestion is that you think about signing up for the international blood stem cell donor database.

If I’m promoting this, it’s because I think it’s an amazing project that saves many lives and that it deserves all the support it can get. It’s also completely free to sign up for and allows you to reach out from whatever part of the world you live in and completely transform a stranger’s life for the better.

As the logo above suggests, blood stem cells can be used to cure various cancers of the blood, by replacing diseased cells with those taken from a compatible donor.

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to find a compatible donor. There are thousands and thousands of characteristics in the patients blood which need to be matched to characteristics in the donor’s blood. The odds of finding a match are very slim, but the bigger the database of potential donors, the more people can be saved.

For every donor there is only a 4-5% chance that they will match a patient within the next ten years, and yet, if someone is fortunate enough to find you in the database as a compatible donor, you will have saved their lives. No ifs, no buts, simple as that.

How Do I Register?

The registration is simplicity itself and utterly painless. You sign up online here (or here if you live in the USA) and once they have your details, they send you a swab kit in the mail. You follow the instructions to gather some cells from the inside of your cheek (takes 30 seconds and causes no discomfort at all) and mail it back to them.

That’s it. Congratulations, you just volunteered to save a life.

What Does It Cost?

It’s interesting that something so utterly life-changing, not only for the recipient, but also for the donor, can be financially free.

Of course it’s not really free, charities need to pay people to work, and databases need computers to run, but you are not being asked to contribute to the funding of DKMS, you’re being asked to contribute your cells. The financing is taken care of my financial donors. You can become one of these also if you choose, but that is not what I’m suggesting here.

Should you find out that you are a match for a person seeking a blood stem cell donor, you will undergo a procedure to extract a few blood stem cells. This procedure involves a little discomfort, but in 90% of cases is an outpatient procedure involving the extraction of stem cells directly from the blood in your arm, and takes approximately 4 hours. In 10% of cases it is removed from the bone marrow in your thigh under general anaesthetic.

That’s the cost. A 4% to 5% chance of undergoing a 4 hour procedure that saves someone’s life.

I cannot think of a bigger contribution you can make to someone’s life that costs you absolutely nothing.