December is a huge month for charitable donations. According to Charity Navigator, almost a third of donations happen in December each year, with more than 10 percent occurring on the last three days of the year. Granted these statistics are affected by individuals and companies looking for last-minute tax write-offs and using up budgeted funds. These considerations aside, December remains, for many families, the preferred time to give – especially when it comes to those in need. Collecting toys or blankets for the less fortunate is not only a wonderful way to show gratitude and a terrific mood-booster, but an excellent way to teach kids the message of giving back.
But what if there were a way to sustain those feelings and lessons throughout the year? A way to still make a big impact without breaking the bank – or even altering your daily routine? I’m not talking about monthly donations that auto-deduct from your checking account or linking your Amazon and Kroger accounts to the nonprofit of your choice (though I encourage everyone to do the latter as it doesn’t cost you a dime). I’m talking about real, tangible ways to make a huge difference in other lives – all while simply living your own.
The secret can be found at places you go all the time: the grocery, the drug store, the department store, and the pet supply place. All you have to do is remember to pick up one additional item on each trip and collect the items throughout the year. By December, you’ll have a whole basket of much-needed donations to deliver, and you probably won’t even notice the difference in your weekly shopping bill.
Check out these five items you can snag for just a few bucks – especially when they’re on sale or you have coupons. All are either free of expiration or have long shelf lives, so you can stock up all year long. Of course, you can also donate monthly if you prefer!
Do you have a teenaged son? Enough said. Seriously, though, this stuff isn’t exactly cheap, especially when you’re living on a shoestring. And it’s not as though skipping a few days, particularly during our balmy Georgia summers, is a good option. Imagine trying to make a school presentation or go to an important interview with no deodorant. Not okay.
FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Yes, I’m asking you to buy tampons and pads as gifts. Hear me out, here. One vastly unpleasant fact of life is that girls in group homes, women in shelters, and ladies of all ages in poor countries frequently have limited or no access to these items. They often have to do without or make a one-a-day allotment suffice. As a result, feminine supplies are always on the list of most requested donations.
If you have kids, you know how fast they wear out socks. And if you’re like me, you have a serious appreciation for warm, clean socks. Bottom line: socks are awesome. But many people don’t realize that thrift stores and charities don’t usually deal in used socks. Wear and tear aside, used socks can present health hazards and going without socks causes shoe problems, especially in kids. New socks of all sizes, styles, and colors are always in demand at group homes and clothes closets.
Seriously, animal shelters go through these like water. If your giving inclines toward our furry friends, towels, dish soap, bleach, sponges, hand sanitizer, and ziplock bags are all in huge demand. Have a little extra to spend? Toss a bag of kitty litter or a medium, large, or extra-large Kong in your cart once a month for your local rescue group. Cats and big dogs end up in shelters at a far higher rate – and they’re much harder to adopt out.
What virtually every nonprofit needs more than anything else are dollars they can use to meet the most crucial needs of the moment. It sounds old-fashioned, but sticking a few bucks in a jar once a week really is a great way to fund an end-of-year donation. Even a dollar a week – or a $5 bill each month – will add up to impact.
I know, I know! Most things on the list aren’t as fun to buy as toys and clothing. They don’t feel like the kind of magic we tend to associate with the Christmas, especially when it comes to kids. But when the holidays are over and the wrapping cleared away, these are the things recipients most need, the things that will bless their lives each and every day throughout the year. And isn’t that what giving is really about?