Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Charitable Giving During the Holiday Season: Some Helpful Tips for Stretching Your Dollar and Time

This is the time of the year that I always slip into "holiday mode."  It seems like the last three months just fly by and before I know it the holidays have passed.  I am looking forward to being closer to family this year, so we do not have to spend so much time traveling and away from home.  Perhaps I will feel like it didn't all just pass me by in a blink of an eye this year, because we won't be so rushed and sleep-deprived!

This is also the time of year that I realize how blessed we are to be able to celebrate these holidays with our families and to provide food and gifts for these occasions.  We all know that not everyone is so fortunate.  Every year we set aside money in our budget to purchase food to donate to food drives or to provide a Thanksgiving meal for a family.  We also participate in Giving Tree opportunities, choosing one person for each member of our family.  As our kids have gotten older, I think it is important to include them in these charitable opportunities and help them understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are.

Because we are on a budget, I work hard to make our money go as far as possible for these occasions.  I look for sales in the grocery adds and stock up when there are good deals on non-perishable items we can donate.  Another way to stretch your money a bit is to use coupons for popular items that you may not normally buy.  By the time the donations are requested, I have usually stockpiled quite a bit of food.

When we purchase gifts for the Giving Tree, I shop around for the best price.  After discussing what we should buy each of our people, we look in the ads or online.  A lot of times I purchase our gifts online to cut costs, as it seems like that is where you can get the most for your money (especially after using Ebates in addition to the sale price).  I love to buy books for our kiddos from the Scholastic book orders and will double up on some of the books, especially the $1 books each month, and include a few of them with the gifts for the children we choose from the Giving Tree.  I love to give the gift of reading!

Throughout the year I will check the clearance section at stores like Target and Kohls to see if there are some everyday basics on sale.  In the past I have purchased sheet sets, clothing, backpacks, and other necessities at a fraction of the cost they were during the peak season.  I store them away and pull out my "stash" when it's time to donate items.  By saving money on these items, we can help more people.

I know that at times you may get caught up in the busyness of the holiday season and adding anything else to your plate may seem overwhelming.  By doing some of the work ahead of time, you can contribute to wonderful causes during the holiday season and not feel like you've taken on too much.  A little planning ahead goes a long way and you will feel wonderful knowing that you've brought some joy to those in need.


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