You don’t have to feel like Scrooge if your wallet doesn’t allow you to give as much as you would like this holiday season. After all, it’s a time of year when people are really strapped for cash yet are expected to give the most. As we try to teach our kids fiscal responsibility as well as compassion for others, we need to think of innovative ways to accomplish both. Many of us can’t afford to simply write out a check (even if it is tax deductible) but it’s important to remember that money isn’t always the answer.
Even if you aren’t financially flush, you can still be generous of heart and help others less fortunate than you. If you have a favorite cause that you simply can’t donate money to this year, ask if you can donate your time instead. Perhaps you can pass out fliers or volunteer at their office. Many places need help collecting items. You can set up bins around your neighborhood and collect school supplies, toys or books for organizations. Here are some more giving ideas to help when cash flow is tight. Just remember to call first to make sure the places suggested can make good use of your donations:
Those awaiting a white Christmas may have forgotten about hurricane season, but the victims of Hurricane Sandy can still use some help. Organizations such as the Red Cross Salvation Army and, AmeriCares have special sections just for Hurricane Sandy. While it is usually best to stick to well-known organizations, you may also want to check out Jersey Shore Hurricane News on Facebook, which often lists local groups looking for supplies in the hardest hit areas.
Honor Guard lounges offer a home away from home for service members around the country and to supply their efforts, the USO Honor Guard collects individually wrapped snacks such as cookie, crackers, fruit snacks, cereal bars and bottled drinks. You can check your local USO or donate to the Washington DC branch which provides refreshments for Honor Guards conducting funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, these folks are far too busy. Contact Emily@usometro.org to help out.
If want to get the most bang for your buck, check out Kiva.org. This non-profit organization has created a vehicle for donors to loan money to those who need it most. Called microfinance, for as little as $25, you can help a struggling business owner or student through a rough patch. And because it is a loan, the people you help must pay it back. Your donation then becomes a credit in your account and allows you to help someone else. It really brings new meaning to the gift that keeps on giving.
Even shopaholics can help while surfing the net. Buy4.com allows you to shop at more than 2,500 online retails and spread holiday cheer. When you join Buy4, you can choose from 1.5 million registered non-profits to donate to and then, just by shopping eligible purchases at select retailers, a percentage of each sale is created to your appointed charity. The great thing is that the site also offers coupons and money saving deals that still bring in money to your organizations.
Before your closets get stuffed with coats from visiting guests, be sure to go through and weed out the items the kids have outgrown and donate them to the The Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Drive.
Cell Phones for Soldiers allows folks to get rid of the old phones and turns them into prepaid calling cards for the troops. Nothing beats reducing clutter and helping those who serve connect with their loved ones.
Pictures and cards a worth a million dollars to service members and veterans over the holidays. Send a card to them through American Red Cross’s Holiday Mail for Heroes.
Local food banks are especially hurting this time of year and can always use supplies.
Holidays can be a lonely time, especially those in nursing care facilities. Check with your local nursing home and see if you can “adopt a grandparent.”
All of your travel soaps, shampoos and free samples would be welcome at local homeless shelters.
Towels, sheets, blankets, toys and stuffed animals are put to good use at animal shelters
Local Lions Clubs collects old prescription glasses and gives them new life for folks who can’t afford them.
Teardrops to Rainbows helps to redecorate cancer patient’s rooms and give parents and kids going through treatment a better atmosphere in which to heal. They need everything from computers to home goods like curtains, wallpaper and supplies.
All of those sewing projects you’ve never gotten to or old quilting squares would be great for Project Linus , which provides free blankets for sick children. They also need people to sew the blankets.