One thing I love about the holidays is the great emphasis on giving to others. I may not love shopping for presents, but I love that it’s on everyone’s heart and mind to help their community and neighbors in need. I also know how sad or frustrating it can feel when you don’t have much money to spare, so for all those who don’t have much to give here are ten ways to give even when you’re broke.
1. Give Blood – What’s closer to your heart than your blood? It saves lives every day. It helps children with cancer and people in car accidents. Giving blood is literally giving life to someone. You can do a quick search by zip code on the American Red Cross website to find a blood drive near you.
2. Change Anyone? – I don’t know about you, but I don’t carry much cash anymore and always feel a little sad when I hear the Salvation Army bell ringing and I don’t have any change on me. This year, I’m going to return soda bottles with my kids and let them put the money in the kettles whenever we spot one around town. It’s important that they feel like they have something to give as well. It only takes one person to change the world and it can be a child. I’ve been lucky to have seen first-hand how the Salvation Army helps local families in need.
3. Coats, Hats & Gloves – It seems everywhere you look there is a coat drive going on. There are so many people in need of warm coats, hats and gloves so even if you don’t have much money you can check your closets for these coveted items to donate.
4. Check Your Pantry – Check your pantry for doubles. If you’re like me you usually buy a few of your staple items to have on hand, jars of spaghetti sauce, boxes of macaroni and cheese, canned fruit or vegetables. Chances are you have a few items to spare and there are so many non-profits collecting during the holiday season who could really use it to help those struggling to put food on the table.
5. Coupon For A Cause – If you already use coupons, you know that there are some great freebies to be had out there. I’ve been able to score many free food and personal hygiene items over the year from combining manufacturer coupons, e-coupons, sales and frequenting stores like ShopRite that double the face value of manufacturer coupons. Sites like livingrichwithcoupons.com will even show you what coupons to use at your stores of choice to get the best deals.
Even if you can’t get items completely free, using coupons allows you to give more with the money you have. I used coupons to purchase cat food and dog food for our local SPCA. Toiletry items can be donated to local homeless and domestic violence shelters. Food can be donated to local food pantries. Just because you don’t have a lot of money to give, doesn’t mean you can’t give something that will mean a lot to someone else.
5. Free Gift Cards – If you’ve accrued enough points on your reward credit cards from all your holiday shopping, you can cash those points in for gift cards to the store of your choice and donate it to a charity or give it to a friend or neighbor you know is having a hard time with their finances. If you don’t use a credit card with reward points, no problem simply sign up for Ebates for the first time and get a free $10 gift card. I chose a $10 Walmart gift card when I first signed up and can attest that I did receive it. Also if you’re doing lots of online shopping you can earn cash back which you can then donate to the cause of your choice even if you don’t receive your check until after the holidays.
6. Baby Gear – I recently took all our big baby gear to my local pregnancy support center to donate it. I was surprised when I called and asked if they even take car seats and was told they happily take all donations. All that clunky baby gear taking up space in your house can be put to good use by moms who don’t know how they would otherwise be able to purchase these items.
7. Clothes – The kids outgrow clothes so fast, most of them hardly get worn. Gently used clothes are also in high demand this time of year. Chances are you probably have clothing in your closet you no longer wear either. Items like suits, dresses and work attire could be especially beneficial for programs like Dress For Success in Dutchess County that help people get the clothing they need for interviews.
8. Turn Your Trash Into Cash – You could use eBay, Craigslist or local consignment shops to turn your unwanted items into cash for the charity of your choice.
9. Toys & Household Items – Many charity run thrift shops will happily take your unwanted toys and household items and sell them to support their mission. Even the kids can help decide which of their items to donate.
10. Share A Meal – If you know a friend or neighbor who will be alone for the holidays, invite them to join you for dinner. There’s usually food to spare and it can really lift a person’s spirits at a difficult time of year to be alone.
Money is a great tool for change, but the biggest change comes from the desire to help. When you have the desire, you only need to look around at what you already have or what you can do and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to help. Fellow HVP blogger Roxanne, but together a great list of local charities you can donate to. Beyond donating money or goods, you can also volunteer your time. Remember, just cause you’re broke doesn’t mean you can’t be a blessing to someone.