By Holly Tomlinson
Giving back more is one of the most popular resolutions made each year, but as we round out the first month of 2016, I find myself having done nothing towards my goal. If you’ve also made a commitment to improving the world around you, you might be wondering how you can do so on a tight budget when you find yourself often having less than you need. I always try to remind myself that there is always something worse off who could use a helping hand, and I’ve come up with a list of ways you can fulfill your charitable resolutions without breaking the bank.
The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” couldn’t be truer. Consider donating used goods that you don’t get much utility from anymore. Clean out your closets, including those of your kids, and put any things that you’ve outgrown or haven’t seen in at least six months into a bag. You can also go through recreational items, like hockey sticks from an abandoned hobby, old golf clubs, baby toys, and other things you can bear to part with. Take them to a local church, homeless shelter, or Goodwill and make a difference in someone’s life.
The Tax Breaks
While altruism should be the main reason behind your urge to give back, you can’t deny that tax breaks do give incentive to charitable contributions. A gift to an IRS-approved charitable organization may entitle you to a tax deduction if you itemize deductions on your tax returns. Most charities qualify for this deduction but make sure you do your research before banking on a tax break. You’ll also need to ensure you get receipts from your donations, as no deduction is allowed for anything over $250 if you don’t have documentation of it.
Unused Gift Cards
If you’ve got gift cards with small balances that you’re never going to use, consider giving them to charity or a homeless shelter. More often than not we let them hang out at the bottom of our purses or tucked behind credit cards in our wallet, and according to a MarketWatch estimate, almost $750 million worth of gift cards went unspent in 2014. Don’t hang onto it on the off chance that you might use it, and give it to people who could actually benefit from it.
For Online Shoppers
If you’ve got a mean online shopping addiction, use your purchases to donate money to charities that could use your donations greatly. Websites like iGive.com allow you to choose a cause to support initially. After you’re set up, all you need to do is shop on iGive-approved websites — they’ve got upwards of 1,700 online shopping sources to peruse. Everything from car rental websites to upscale clothing stores are on the list, meaning your every need can be met with the added bonus of donating to a charity that’s close to your heart.
Use Social Media
If you’re looking for ways to get involved, stay active on social media and follow different charities. Often local organizations will post about upcoming events, giving you the opportunity to participate and make a difference. Another handy part of the process? You’ll be able to share great things that come up and spread the news to your friends and family — you never know who’s looking for a way to get involved. Social media outlets like Facebook often have pages where likeminded volunteers can come together in their community and plan ways to get involved, so do a simple search and press join–you’ll be glad you did, I guarantee it.
The Ripple Effect
Even the smallest gesture can create a ripple effect of altruism within your community. Small generous efforts can mean big results, and you don’t have to spend a ton to get them done. If you’re a Starbucks addict, pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you — they might be so thankful that they’re inspired to pay it forward. If you know of a family friend going through a hard time, pick up a gift and drop it off at their home unannounced. Even something as simple as dropping off cookies at a children’s hospital will change someone’s day. Fulfilling your charitable resolutions is easier than you might think, and changing the world starts one person at a time. Consider what you can do to improve your community, and watch the karma dividends come back to you.
(Photo courtesy of Randy Heinitz)