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Being kind to animals can be a sacrifice — it’s not easy to give up your favorite comfort foods, check nutrition labels on everything you buy, and avoid wool and leather clothing. What’s more, adopting an animal is so rewarding, but many lack the time, money, or accommodations to be a proper pet parent. And many would like to volunteer regularly at an animal shelter, but day jobs get in the way.

Despite all these obstacles, there are plenty of simple ways to make a difference in an animal’s life while keeping your own life relatively sane. Check out the family and budget-friendly ideas below for inspiration, and feel free to tweak them a bit to suit your needs. The best part is, when others see how much fun you’re having, they’ll want to join in and help animals too!

1. Throw a Knitting Party

Shelters constantly need blankets to comfort and warm their animals, but many don’t have the means to provide soft, clean bedding. Hold a knitting party to make blankets (or other warm garments) for a needy shelter! Collect some yarn, fabric, and knitting equipment and gather with friends in a cafe or living room for a relaxed evening of friendly chit-chat or T.V. viewing, while your hands keep busy making blankets. Those who don’t know how to knit can make a simple no-sew fleece blanket or use an arm-knit technique you can learn in minutes.

2. Go Yard Sale-ing

Cruising the local yard sales and curb alerts on a Saturday morning is a fun way to bond with your neighbors and check out their tastes, but if everything looks like junk, you can still find some treasures for your local shelter. Pet and wildlife rescues use baby toys to entertain their animals, and of course blankets and most standard pet supplies (aquariums, cat scratching posts, pet bowls) are always welcome donations. Even throwaways like cardboard boxes and plastic bags are useful for bedding and to pick up waste. You could also hold your own yard sale and Donate the profits to your favorite shelter.

3. Build a Backyard Mini-Sanctuary

Depending on your funds and acreage, you could do any number of things to invite wildlife to your backyard. Something as simple as installing a small feeder could prevent birds from going hungry over the winter (make sure to research your favorite birds to learn what foods and feeder types attract them), and an occupied bat house will keep bloodsucking insects at bay. If you have the space, plant native shrubs and wildflowers to attract native insects and animals, and install a birdbath or pond to keep animals clean and hydrated. Remember to keep cats inside and skip any lawn chemicals and chemical pesticides or your nice new sanctuary will become an animal death trap.

4. Hold an Animal-Themed Fundraiser

Actress Doris Day just celebrated her 90th birthday with an auction and tribute dinner to benefit her animal foundation. You can do the same with your upcoming birthday or wedding. Doris Day’s bash included a doggie fashion show, but if that sort of thing is too gimmicky to fit in your plans, you can simply ask guests to Donate to your favorite charity instead of bringing a gift. A menu of tasty vegetarian dishes and snacks would help set the right mood for the occasion.

5. Make Your Own Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

We all know the horrors of laboratory animal testing, but products that don’t test always seem so expensive and hard to find. This applies to items required for basic hygiene (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant…) as well as purely cosmetic beauty aids. To save money, you can have fun making your own cosmetic concoctions with all-natural ingredients available at most health food stores. You might even try selling your cruelty-free concoctions on Etsy! Recipes for soap, lotion, shampoo, and other necessities are readily available on the Internet, and can be left plain or scented with your own special blend of essential oils. Check out some cruelty-free cosmetic recipes available on OGP below:

Green Monsters: Have any fun, creative ways you like to help animals? Tell us in the comments!

Image source: sneakerdog / Flickr