Don’t Be a Scrooge – Charitable Holiday Giving on a Budget

Every year our credit union “adopts” a local family for Christmas. They give us their wish list and we take care of the rest. Staff and members buy gifts off the list and bring them back to the office so we can wrap and deliver them to the family. This year our anonymous family has a 4 year-old daughter and I have honestly NEVER had more fun Christmas shopping than when I went out to buy a gift for her. I spent way too much time the kid’s section of Target selecting just the right outfit. I don’t have a lot of extra cash this time of year so I had to limit myself to just 2 items. After much debating here are the adorable clothes I finally picked:

If these are not the most adorable clothes you have ever seen, you must not have a soul.

If only it were appropriate for my clothes to have this much tulle and glitter . . .

Why was shopping for her so much more fun than for everyone else on my list? The easy answer is that I have always had a soft spot for clothes that are fashionable but tiny. They’re just so darn cute. But I think a better answer might be that it’s more fun to shop for someone when you are not obligated to do it. No one makes me take an Adopt-A-Family ornament. I do it because it’s fun. I do it because it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good for someone else. And I do it because I want every kid to have Christmas memories that are just as great as mine are. I am unbelievably lucky to come from a family where piles of presents, warm yummy meals, and loved ones gathering together were a given every year. My parents never worried about being able to afford the Christmas they wanted to give my sister and I. Not every family has that luxury. My small purchase is just one step in helping a family have a Christmas to remember. And even though I won’t get to see them open up their presents on the 25th, it’s enough just knowing that they will get to is enough.

Hopefully that wasn’t too sappy for you, but I think we all want to give a little something back to our communities this time of year. Like me, your wallet might not be bottomless this holiday season. So here are a few ideas on how you can spread some holiday cheer without overspending:

1. Donate Within Your Budget – You don’t have to make a Bill Gates sized donation to make a difference to a charity; small donations are just as valuable. According to the Dunkin’ Donuts website, they serve 1.7 billion cups of coffee in a year. That’s 4.6 million cups a day. A large coffee costs about $2 which isn’t a lot, right? We could all scrounge up $2, even if you had to use some change. But if all 4.6 million people donated their $2 coffee budget to a charity for one day you could raise $9.2 million. That’s HUGE! So this holiday season, think about making a small donation of just $5 or $10 to a charity that’s important to you; it will make both your wallet and your heart happy.

2. Add Up Your Spare Change – Have spare change laying around at home? Why not roll it or bring it in to a coin machine so you can exchange it for bills. Then donate that money to charity. You won’t miss it because you weren’t using it anyways. Ask your financial institution if they have coin wrappers or a coin machine you can use.

3. Wrap Gifts for Someone – I know most people hate it, but I LOVE to wrap presents. If you’re on a tight budget and donating money is out of your reach this year, this is a 100% FREE way you can lend a helping hand. Tell a family, friend, or neighbor that you’ll be their wrapping elf this year – with all of the other chores to do during the holidays, I bet they’ll truly appreciate the help!

4. Volunteer for an Hour – Serve lunch at a soup kitchen. Participate in a blood drive. Help out at your local animal shelter. Whatever you choose to do, your time as a volunteer is a priceless gift.  There are so many great organizations out there who could use an extra hand. You might not be able to donate money, but your time is just as valuable check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/ for volunteer opportunities in your area.

5. Donate Old Clothes, Coats, Hats, Mittens, Etc. – Here in the great old state of Maine, it is currently 19 degrees outside. Imagine if you didn’t have a good winter coat to wrap up in? Clean out your closet for old winter gear you no longer use and donate it your local Good Will or Coats for Kids http://www.coats-for-kids.org/ .

I hope you and your family have a very Happy Holiday and the Best New Year! – Kelsey

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