This time of year is magical. Everyone starts thinking of giving and helping and doing kind things. I wish that attitude lasted at a societal level all year, but these couple of months are great for it. One challenge I’ve come across at times in my life is reaching this season and wanting so much to give and contribute, but not being able to due to temporary financial circumstances. Here are some ways you can give back, even if you’re finding yourself strapped for cash this holiday season:
Give to Charities
- Donate food. We waste so much food in this country. If you have extra food in your cabinet, donate it to your local food bank or other like organization. Go through your canned goods. If you’re saving for the apocalypse, that’s fine, but if there’s an expiration date that’s three months from now, you might as well donate it as you’ll probably have time to replace it, and someone should eat it instead of just letting it go bad. (What do I know, it could happen tomorrow.) Or, you can start monitoring your food waste. Once you realize how much you’re not actually consuming each week, keep buying the same amount of groceries and donate what you know you’re family won’t actually eat.
- Donate kids items and empty out your toiletry drawer. Even if you’re a little tight on cash, you’ll probably be buying your kids some new stuff for Christmas. Go through their old stuff now to make room, but also to help someone who may not even have enough to put presents under the tree. There’s no shortage of toy drives (think Toys for Tots, Toys for the Troops Kids, etc.) And you can donate clothing items to places like Planet Aid bins. (Just don’t support Goodwill.) Really, you can do this with your own clothing items, too. Another place to look for adults is your bathroom. Do you have shampoo you haven’t used? Sample sizes of lotion or an extra container of soap? Many organizations need these toiletry items that may just lie forgotten in that cabinet under the vanity sink.
- Donate your time. This seems like and “Oh, duh,” one, but I was reminded of how important it was when a bunch of Pittsburgh mom bloggers led by Diary of a First Time Mom headed to the Ronald McDonald House. People that go there are from another town and have traveled to the house because their child needed serious medical attention at a different/specialized/better hospital. Monetary donations are important, as are toys and clothes, but a big thing is people volunteering their time. These mothers need someone to talk to when they’re not around their regular support system. These siblings need kids to play with when their friends are back home tens to hundreds of miles away. And I would think the need would be so much more so this holiday season. But it doesn’t have to be the Ronald McDonald House. It could be any organization that moves you. Most of them have a real need for volunteers.
- Donate Your Points. As a parent, a pretty big budget suck is diapers. And wipes. Many of the companies that produce them have a reward point system, where you enter a code online in order to redeem points. Then you can use your points to get cool swag. Or, you can donate your points to different charities or causes. For example, right now Huggies is working in conjunction with the National Diaper Network to get diapers to moms/kids in need. Every 2 points donated Huggies donates a diaper. That’s something that doesn’t cost you any money and can help someone else out so much. And diaper brands aren’t the only ones that work with charities when it comes to their rewards programs. If you belong to one, regardless of the product, see if you can donate them. A lot of times the answer will be yes.
Give to Those Around You
This may be cliche, but giving doesn’t have to cost a dime. Notice those around you and become invested in them. Hold the door open for the mom struggling with a stroller. Or anyone, really. Offer to watch your friend’s kids for free so she can run errands or have a date night. Talk to someone going through a hard time. Express appreciation. Share half of that batch of cookies you just made with your neighbor. Say hello. Be kind.
It doesn’t take a lot to make this time of year magical. It’s not the gifts under the tree or even Santa that make everything and everyone so special; it’s our attitude of giving. And that attitude doesn’t have to cost a cent.