As we give thanks and count our blessings in the weeks ahead, our desire to help others becomes even stronger. Although our hearts are in the right place, sometimes our budgets are somewhere else altogether. There are ways to give back, all throughout the year, without wreaking havoc with our carefully planned budgets.
Help your community shelters, food pantries, schools, and military personnel.
Clear out your “clutter” for a cause: You’ve redecorated your bathroom so your towels no longer match. Your children have outgrown the toys they just “had to have,” but only played with them a few times. You’ve dieted and exercised with a passion and now your clothes don’t fit. Donate your “clutter” to those who will continue to enjoy these items.
Use those coupons: Newspapers and online sites are full of coupons for everything from shampoo to dog food. Some encourage you to buy one item and get the second for free. Contribute your free items. Even if your family doesn’t use a particular item, buy it anyway using the coupon. Start a basket for all these items, or give the actual coupons to a local food pantry so volunteers can shop for items they need.
Even if you don’t have children, participate in the Box Tops for Education program. Save the box tops and labels from your grocery items and give them to your neighborhood school. They can be redeemed for valuable supplies that many schools can’t afford.
You can also clip and send coupons to military personnel serving overseas. Most commissaries will honor them up to six months after the expiration date. There are many coupon websites that provide information, or go to www.ocpnet.org to learn about the Overseas Coupon Project.
Donate your freebies: If you have free/sample toiletries and make-up, contribute those to homeless shelters.
Volunteer your time.
You turn out a great meal, you sew like a professional, you love to read, you enjoy gardening. Put those hobbies to work on a volunteer basis by providing meals to a neighbor who is ill, making the costumes for the grade school holiday play, reading to the sight-impaired, or sharing your garden produce with a food pantry. Or, gather as a family and serve a meal to those who may be alone during the holidays. Check out our Difference Maker Fund (link to DMF page) and our Project Library (link to library) for ways to help.
And don’t forget … you have 24-7 access to friends and neighbors when you use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Be social and share your enthusiasm for your favorite cause or charity via the Internet. Include links to articles and information about your cause. Invite your “network” to participate with you as you’re making a difference. It’s amazing how quickly people will become interested and help you accomplish your goal.