The holiday season inspires the giving side in all of us. We feel an immense gratitude for the things we’ve been given in life, and we are suddenly all too aware that there are people among us who are much less fortunate. The temperature drops, the festive lights go up, and we immediately feel compelled to help others who may be struggling.
But what if you’re struggling a bit yourself? What if you don’t have the extra money to donate to worthy causes or buy a special present for a child who might not have one to open on Christmas morning? We’re often taught that to give back is to open our wallets, but what if there’s not much in your wallet to give? It’s a difficult reality for many people this holiday season: they want to give back, but feel they can’t afford to do so.
The good news is that there are lots of great ways to give back during the holiday season that won’t cost you a penny. You are more than your income — you have more to give than just anonymous dollars. This holiday season, if you’re strapped for cash but want to help others in your community, consider one of these ten great ways to give back without spending money.
1. Donate clothes you don’t wear and things you don’t use.
Even if you don’t have much extra cash, you probably have clothes that, for whatever reason, you just don’t wear. Maybe they don’t fit right, maybe the style is wrong for you — whatever the reason, you can give them to others who can use them or to an organization, such as Goodwill or Salvation Army, that can sell them and use the money. The same goes for toys your children have outgrown, books you’re never going to crack open again, kitchen gadgets and small appliances you haven’t touched in years, and so on. You can give back by donating these things, and as a bonus, you’ll have less clutter in your home.
2. Volunteer to serve meals.
On Christmas, many service organizations and even restaurants open their doors to serve a free, hot meal to anyone in need. Places like The Salvation Army, Gospel Missions, and other community centers rely on volunteers to help cook, serve, and clean up after these events. See what’s available in your own community, and spend some time doing your part to make sure others enjoy Christmas too.
3. Give blood.
Even if you’re flat out broke, you still have an incredibly valuable resource in your own body: blood! The need for blood donations is especially high during the holiday season, and many hospitals and donation centers ramp up their efforts to bring people in. It’s a simple process that takes less than an hour, and your donation of a single pint can save up to three lives. Check the American Red Cross chapter or blood donation center near you for blood drives or walk-in opportunities to donate.
4. Register to become an organ donor.
Just as valuable as blood are the healthy organs in your body. It’s not something that many people like to think about, but if you were to die as a result of an accident, your organs could be used to save the lives of individuals who need a transplant in order to live. This holiday season, you can give back by committing to donate your organs when you no longer need them. Check your home state’s organ donor registry for more information. It’s better than the gift of money — it’s the gift of life.
5. Surf the web.
You don’t have to wait until the holiday season to do this one: Tab for a Cause is a simple Chrome web browser plugin that raises money for charitable causes every time you open a new tab. Think of how many web browser tabs you open in a day, or a week, or a year, and at a few cents each, you can understand how quickly the money adds up. You’ll have to see a few extra ads as you browse, but it’s a small trade-off for the good that comes from it.
6. Walk, run, or bike.
Fitness enthusiasts will love this option. All you need to do is download the Charity Miles app on your iOS or Android device and start it when you go for your morning walk, run, or bike ride. For every mile you log, Charity Miles will donate a small amount — 25 cents for running or walking, 10 cents for biking — to one of their selected nonprofit organizations. Like some of the other suggestions on this list, using an app like Charity Miles is something you can (and should!) do all year round, but the holiday season is a great time to get started.
7. Set a few extra places.
If you’re hosting a holiday meal, you know that you’ll have plenty of food to go around. In fact, festive dinners often have copious amounts of leftovers. Instead of dealing with so much excess, you might open your home to a family that may not have a place to go or a hot meal to eat. If you belong to a church or other religious or community group, check to see if there are families who might like to join you. By setting a few extra places at your table, you could make a big difference for a few people.
8. Donate points.
If you’ve got a bank account, a credit card, or a frequent flyer or guest account, you’re probably racking up rewards points right now. While those points could be used for free things for you, such as gift cards or free flights, many companies will allow you to donate your points to charitable causes. Log into your own account and see if “Donate Points” is an option. In many cases, the donation is worth much more than the value of any prize you’d claim for yourself.
9. Put your knitting and sewing skills to work.
In many parts of the world, the holiday season means cold weather. The snow falls, the wind blows, and it’s downright frigid outside. If you have the ability to knit or sew, consider making some items to donate to organizations that help the homeless and the less fortunate. Things like mittens and gloves, warm hats and scarves, and cozy blankets are in great demand during the holiday season. You can help keep others warm with just a few stitches.
10. Use Amazon Smile.
If you do your holiday shopping on Amazon, you’ll want to pay attention to this tip. Instead of heading to amazon.com, shop at smile.amazon.com. It’s the same site with the same items at the same prices, but when you shop on Amazon Smile, 0.5% of your purchase price on qualifying products will go to the charity of your choice (from a list of organizations that Amazon has already approved). It’s not much for each individual order, but every purchase helps raise money, and it’s at no cost to you.