5 Ways to Help Those in Need This Holiday Season

Charity volunteer handing wrapped box to elder woman as they stand next to a donation box.

Image source: Getty Images.

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Many people struggle to cover their extra holiday spending — things like gifts, travel, and decorations. But then there are people who struggle to put food on the table, or provide their children with clothing and other necessities. If you’re in the fortunate position of being able to cover your basic living expenses, there are plenty of things you can do to give back this holiday season — even if you’re not particularly wealthy. Here are some options to consider. 

1. Donate money

If you’re on a budget, you may not have much wiggle room to give money to charity. But this year, donating spare cash gets a little easier. 

Normally, charitable donations aren’t tax-deductible unless you itemize on your tax return, and if you’re not a homeowner, itemizing often doesn’t make sense. But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the CARES Act that was passed in March to provide relief for it, charitable donations of up to $300 can be deducted for 2020 tax purposes, even if you don’t itemize on this year’s return. 

Here’s what that means. Normally, if you don’t itemize and give away $300, you get none of that back in tax savings. This year, if you give away $300, the IRS won’t tax you on $300 of income. If your tax rate, based on your total income, is 22%, that means you effectively get $66 of your donation back. 

Of course, the numbers will still work out so you don’t get the bulk of your donation back in saved taxes. But you will get the satisfaction of having helped those who need that money more than you do.

2. Donate goods

Maybe you’re not in a position to donate money to charity this year, and that’s OK. Another option is to take inventory at home and donate gently used clothing, toys, or goods to families who may not have the means to afford them. If you have young kids who have outgrown some rarely worn apparel, bag it up neatly and take it to a local shelter or another charitable organization. And if you have old holiday gifts still in their packaging, consider bringing them to a children’s hospital.

You can also find out about local families in need of assistance through social media, your town, or your kids’ school district, and that way, you may be better able to provide more targeted aid. For example, if you learn of a specific family in need with a toddler, you’ll know to focus on donating baby items instead of clothing and toys for older children.

3. Donate your unused airline miles

Many credit cards make it easy to rack up air miles to use for travel. But if you’re not traveling this year, you can look at donating unused miles to support a variety of causes. If you access your miles or rewards page via your credit card issuer, you should be able to find more information on how to make this happen.

4. Donate credit card reward points

The great thing about accruing credit card reward points is getting to use them to score cash back, gift cards, or other things that make your life easier. But if you’d rather give back this year, you can choose to donate those rewards. Just visit your credit card loyalty program’s charity page and see which organizations you have the option to give to directly. And if you’re not happy with your choices, you can always cash in your rewards and donate the money or gift cards you get in return.

5. Donate your time

Maybe money is tight in your household this year, and you really don’t have any unneeded clothing or goods lying around. Similarly, maybe you’ve cut back on spending this year and don’t have air miles or credit card rewards to give away. If that’s the case, you can still help those in need by donating your time. Organize a community garage sale for your neighbor who is struggling to pay the bills. Or sign up to help at a local food pantry. There are so many ways you can make a difference even if you can’t spare so much as a dollar of your own money. 

It’s always nice to be generous during the holidays, but given the pandemic, this year it’s even more important to give back. You shouldn’t hesitate to get creative in the course of your giving, because any effort on your part could really go a long way.

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