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5 ways to give back this holiday season

One easy and fun way to get friends and family in the giving spirit is to join or set up a donation drive that could benefit your community. The options are endless. You can also participate in national gift drives such as Toys for Tots. 

Why is it ‘better to give than to receive?’ Simply put, because it’s good for you. Studies have shown over and over that gift giving can have major psychological and sociological benefits.

An act of altruism, or acting in someone else’s interest, actually releases endorphins in your brain and helps prolong your life.

Another benefit of giving — for those of us trying to avoid racking up credit card debt this holiday season — is that it doesn’t have to cost a thing. This holiday season, you can give your time, resources, or talents to benefit others.

We’ve put together 5 easy, convenient, and wallet-friendly ways to give the gift of service this holiday season.

Get the Whole Family Involved

The best part about giving is that it’s easy to get the whole family involved.

Start a giving game with your family members. For example, for each gift a child receives, the family must agree to donate a gift or toy to a special cause.

Another option: have every member write a note saying what they are grateful for about each family member. Then, get together and have each person read the notes about themselves. Add a discussion afterward to drive the lesson home.

Crowd gifting platform, iSow, is one way to teach your kids about finance and philanthropy this season. You can create accounts for your kid and teach them to set savings goals. When the holidays come around, family and friends can ‘gift’ money to these accounts and help your kid reach their goal.

iSow has partnered with KidsShoes.com this season for a #KidsHelpingKids Campaign. To participate, all your child would have to do is assign one of their goals to a kids-related cause. For each kid that signs up, KidsShoes.com gives the first donation up to $10,000.

Cook or Deliver a Meal

Enjoy your holiday feast with the knowledge that you’ve done something to help others go to sleep with a full stomach, too.

Consider donating your culinary talents or time to an organization that delivers or serves meals during the holidays. Call your local Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, veterans or hospice organizations to sign up to help deliver meals or ask if they need help with other services.

Make sure to call at least a few weeks in advance as you might need to receive special training and these organizations may have a spike in volunteer requests during the holidays.

Make Holiday Cards for Those Away From Home

If you are lucky to spend the holiday with your family, consider sending a card, letter, or gift to those who aren’t as fortunate. Every year, thousands of well-wishers send holiday greetings to deployed military personnel, hospitalized patients, and those who work to keep our communities running while we celebrate, such as firemen and the police.

To write to military personnel, try contacting a letter-writing organization like Operation Gratitude, Soldier’s Angels, or Operation We Are Here to get the information you’d need.

Call your local hospital and ask to ask for permission to make get well cards, or send gifts for patients who are hospitalized over the holiday season. Get an idea of how many cards or gifts you’d need to make or collect to make sure everyone gets one. Round up some friends and family to help you get everything together.

Donate Money or Items to a Drive

Another easy and fun way to get friends and family in the giving spirit is to join or set up a donation drive that could benefit your community. The options are endless. A few ideas:

  • Arrange to collect canned food for an organization supporting the homeless or a local food pantry.
  • Have a yard sale to raise funds for a non-profit organization you care about.
  • Host a party where guests can bring a toy drive to donate to an organization that gives them to chronically ill children such as Andrew’s Toy Box.
  • Set a goal on crowdfunding sites such as Crowdrise, Razoo, Causes, or Indiegogo and raise money from friends and family to donate to a charity or cause you are passionate about.
  • Collect new or lightly used children's’ books from your coworkers to donate to a local elementary school’s library (they can be added to the library or sold for money to benefit the library).

Always make sure to call ahead and ask (1) if the organization, school, etc. accepts donations, and (2) what kinds of items the organization needs most. Calling beforehand helps ensure your donation will be helpful to them.

You can also participate in national gift drives such as Toys for Tots, the Children’s Hospital Foundation, or Christmas Toy Drive. These organizations have deadlines and rules to donate so be sure to visit their websites or contact them for that information.

Give Songs & Smiles

Bring back to life an old-school tradition and go caroling. Practice a few songs with family or friends and share your talents with those in a local homeless shelter or elderly home. Again, call them first to make sure it’s okay. You could also consider making a few baked goods and stop by a police station or firehouse, or hospital to give them to holiday workers to enjoy as you sing.

MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.