It’s that time of the year when people start being hyper-aware of generosity and thankfulness. These are both things that we should strive toward on a daily basis, but holidays are a reminder for many. I’ve said this before, but I will say it again. Life is all about balance. It’s about salads and cookies. It’s about exercise and movie marathons. But it’s also about being a generous person without breaking the bank.
Sure, some years generosity is easy. When you have extra money, you can afford to donate a brand-new bike and helmet for a kid’s big Christmas present. But some years aren’t as prosperous and that’s okay! At the end of the day, you have to pay your bills and put food on the table. But have no fear, I have some ideas that can help you feel more fulfilled this giving season without stressing your finances.
- Coworkers: Stop by your local Dunkin or bakery and pick up a dozen (or two) doughnuts to show your coworkers how much you appreciate them. Or you could even bake some cookies and bring them in to share. No matter what you choose, I’m sure they will appreciate the token of generosity.
- Strangers: A few months ago I was at a gas station and the gentleman in front of me was there buying his daughter a slushie and a snack. He ran out to his car to look for his wallet and I paid for the food and my gas before he could get back. To him it was a big deal, but to me it was a no-brainer. That was probably the best $4 I have ever spent. I have even heard of people paying for the meals of the car behind them at fast food establishments. Sometimes the little things mean a lot to others.
- Military: I used to be a pen-pal with a person stationed overseas in the army. I would send him several letters and a themed package monthly. I would include things like games, movies, and candy. There were other options available including simply writing letters to the military member a few times a month. There are many agencies that you could use to help you with this, but I used Soldiers’ Angels specifically because a friend of mine was familiar with it. For a few dollars, you could make someone’s day a little brighter.
- Women’s Shelters: I haven’t done this yet, but I am sure that a lot of women’s shelters would be extremely pleased to have donations at this time of the year. Whether that means toiletries, pads and tampons, gloves, nail polish, or anything else that you think could be useful, I’m sure it would be appreciated. I would suggest calling your local facilities to see what they might need or accept. A lot of things could be purchased at stores such as the Dollar Tree.
- Schools: A lot of schools have coat drives when the colder months settle in. People will donate new (or maybe even gently used) coats to the school and they will distribute them to children in need. They may even accept hats, scarves, and gloves. Your local Walmart or department store would have all of these available. Call your local school to see if they have a similar program that they are accepting donations for.
- Family: Buying presents for family can get very expensive. When you add up the cost for gifting to siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles,… it gets costly. Our family has had awesome success with “Secret Santa” gift giving. Around October (or even November) someone is chosen to be in charge of the event. We write everyone’s names on pieces of paper (separating children from adults) and then pick names for each person to gift to. It’s a surprise until the day of the swap (except for the person delegating of course). We have a $20 limit for the gifts and then when we have our family celebration, everyone has a gift to open and nobody’s wallet is empty. It’s a lot of fun to focus your energy on one or two gifts instead of having to purchase for everyone in your family.
- Homeless Shelters: This is another location that could use donations and help around the holiday season. The colder months lead to an increase in occupancy. You could simply donate your time on Thanksgiving or Christmas to help serve meals. Or, if you would prefer, you could donate toiletries. You might even be able to use that extra yarn you have laying around to crochet/knit scarves and hats to donate. Contact your local shelters for specific information.
- Animal Shelters: My family is full of animal lovers. A few years ago, my brothers (who were about 7 and 8 years old at the time) held a lemonade stand and used the money to purchase animal food, treats, and toys for their local animal shelter. I have also heard of children asking for dogs food and other donations instead of gifts for their birthday party. I’m not saying that you need to force your child to do that, but it’s a great conversation to start. Generosity is a great quality to instill in your children at a young age. But you don’t have to have a winter birthday to donate! A lot of animal shelters accept community donations. Call your local animal shelter for details.
- Food Banks: Our postal service allies with local food pantries a few times a year for food drives. We will get notice in the mail that they will be running the food drive on a specific date. You can leave any unopened non-perishables that aren’t expired in a bag on your porch and when the postal worker stops to drop off your mail, they pick up your donation. It’s a great way to give back to your community while decluttering your pantry. I am sure that they accept donations at other times also. Some grocery stores will have food drives hosted right there. You can grab groceries for your home, pick up a couple extra things, and drop them right into the box after you pay. Contact your nearby food bank for details – this is a great way to instantly donate to your local community.
- Overseas: Many churches link with agencies to donate gifts to children and adults from other countries. Several years ago, I was involved in a church that was affiliated with an agency to allow the congregation to donate care packages of gifts for children in Africa. (Wow, that was a long-winded sentence.) It was awesome that the church, although it did a lot for the community, also thought about other countries where people aren’t as fortunate. Contact the leader of your church to see if this is an option for your congregation.
Don’t forget that your time is ultra-valuable! Any volunteering that you can do is a great way to give back to your community and the people around you.
I hope that this post has inspired you to get out there and give this season. Get in the habit of generosity and allow it to become a part of your life. Be the positive light for others that you seek for your own life.