The giving season has begun!
Growing up in Australia, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Actually, there’s no national holiday even like it down there. After moving to the USA, Thanksgiving quickly became my favorite holiday. This will be my 13th year celebrating!
What I love most about this holiday time is seeing everyone actually showing and expressing thanks, together as friends and family. Giving is addictive, and it’s one of the quickest routes to personal happiness.
We’ve written about ways to include charity in your budget and giving methods in the past. Here’s a few more cool ideas and methods to help get you thinking about giving more this holiday season…
Pay Off Someone’s Layaway Toys
This note came from reader Jess:
“Every year for Thanksgiving my mom goes to a store and speaks to the customer service department, explains what she’s doing, and asks then to search through their layaways for a list that is unpaid but mostly children’s toys. Then she pays it off. This way she knows she’s helping a family who’s struggling to pay for holiday gifts for the kids.”
What a beautiful thing, and I like that it’s anonymous! It lets you dream and wonder what type of family you are helping out. Picturing the parents’ surprise at the store, as well as the kids’ faces when they open their presents almost brings me to tears. What a rewarding way to care for strangers.
If you don’t visit big box stores much in person (like me!), there are some cool online charity organizations like Pay Away the Lay Away that make it easy to donate online! Same idea, they just pool together all the money donated and give to places like Kmart, Burlington, Walmart, and Navy Exchange during the holidays and back-to-school time.
Become an Elf With USPS Operation Santa!
Each year, hundreds of thousands of kids post letters to Santa. And the US Postal Service has now set up an online system for people to “adopt and respond” to them.
Check it out here: USPS Operation Santa. Typically the letters selected are written by underprivileged kids, who are asking for small gifts that their parents can’t afford. Starting Dec 4th, you can commit to responding to a letter (or a bunch of letters) and post gifts to the children.
You can read some of the letters online here **might want to have a box of tissues standing by**, and it looks like they’ve made a documentary movie about the whole process which comes out on Dec 4th too!
Buy Someone’s Medical Debt (for Pennies on the Dollar), Then Forgive It!
I first learned this idea from The Wealthy Accountant who wrote a blog post about buying a $20 million bundle of medical debts for about $50k, then not collecting any of the debts. Really interesting stuff!
How can you buy debt? And can you do it in small amounts? Check out these sites like RIPMedicalDebt and Rolling Jubilee. These nonprofits basically pool everyone’s donations together and buy MASSIVE chunks of packaged debt, at huge discounts. Then they “forgive” the debt.
This helps the world in a couple ways:
- It relieves the debts of people that simply can’t afford to pay. Hopefully without these massive hanging burdens, they can start rebuilding and strengthening their financial situation.
- It hurts the ugly organizations that profit off of other people’s financial burdens. Debt collectors typically buy large packages of debt at discounted rates, then chase all the people that owe money to make a profit. It’s sad because most people fall into debt for living necessities (medical, education, housing).
Activate Amazon Smile (FREE) for Your Holiday Shopping!
Chances are you’re ordering at least some gifts online this year… This is a way to make a difference while doing the exact same shopping activities you are already doing anyway!
Simply visit smile.amazon.com. It looks exactly the same as the regular Amazon site. Same products, same prices, and no extra costs. The only difference is Amazon will donate 0.5% of all eligible purchases to your favorite charity when you check out! Make sure the Smile Logo is at the top of the Amazon page, and you’re good to go!
Want to activate this on your Amazon cell phone app? I just did it, it’s easy!… Open the Amazon App → Go to Settings → click Amazon Smile. Then click the “Turn on Amazon Smile” button. It looks like this:
Again, there is no cost to you! While 0.5% might not seem like a lot for Amazon to give, every cent counts! You also get to choose which charities your shopping supports! 🎗🎗🎗
Help Out at a Local Food Bank, or Host a Food Drive
Sharing holiday meals is a beautiful thing. And helping provide food for others is a good way to appreciate the basic things in life that many take for granted! This can be a great family activity also (better check first with your local food bank to make sure you can bring kids along. Some volunteering activities are for people of 18 years and older.)
You might be thinking, “But what about COVID!!? I don’t want to congregate in big groups right now”…
Pretty much all food banks and meal related charities have adopted wicked health practices so they can continue their mission in helping people, even through this pandemic. Masks, gloves, distancing, shift work, and other best practices help both the volunteers and clients stay safe.
Personally, I volunteer at Meals on Wheels every Friday. A year ago, I remember being huddled in a tiny office, working shoulder to shoulder with 20 other volunteers, handling raw fruit and veggies…
Oh, how times have changed!
Now, they only allow 1 person to enter a room at a time. All the food is pre-sorted, packaged, disinfected and grouped by delivery route. I can pick up and deliver 20 meals without being close to anyone. Safety is #1 because most of the clients that need food are elderly and are in a high risk category. 🙂
Donate Your Airline Miles – They May Be Expiring Anyway!
You might not feel comfortable traveling right now due to COVID… Or perhaps your airline miles are about to expire? Consider donating them!
Personally I have about 4,000 United Airline Miles. That’s not enough to pay for a 1-way ticket, and I never fly that airline anyway. Donating my miles (even though it’s a small amount) can be grouped together with other mileage donations and help someone else get their travel wish granted.
The Make a Wish Foundation says that 75% of all their requests include air travel! This site lists some of the major airline’s Helplines and Guidelines for gifting miles. Easier than I thought!
Gift a Side Hustle!
One of my friends has a birthday coming up, right around Christmas time. I was thinking about giving her money, because she’s struggling a bit financially… But then I thought, maybe I could get her a gift that helps her make more money on her own.
Looking through our mega list of side hustles, I noticed some have a small start-up cost. My thinking is that if I cover the start-up fees as a birthday gift, she’ll follow through and be able to start making some extra cash on the side (provided she enjoys doing whatever I sign her up for 🤣)
I think I might get my friend some voiceover acting lessons (Side Hustle #60 – Voiceover Acting).
Anyway, this holiday season if you can’t think up any good gift ideas, think about a side hustle that your person might enjoy, and buy them whatever is needed to get started. Stuff like:
- Someone who might like a blogging side hustle… Buy them a domain name and hosting plan for a year (under $100)
- A friend who would be great as a Podcast host or YouTube video creator… Grab them a microphone, selfie light ring, or online coaching courses. ($50-$100)
- Artistic friends or family members that could start their own online stores… You could buy them art materials like jewelry making kits, stained glass supplies or whatever! (Under $50)
- For the entrepreneurial spirited… they might be interested in a land-flipping course or real estate investing coaching ($100 – $500)
These are just a few random ideas. The main point is that helping people realize their full potential empowers them and gives them confidence in a way no regular material gift ever can!
Build a Donation Machine
This last idea is a bit random, but I wanted to include it as something to think about for future gifting. It came from a reader: R.S…
“One approach I’ve taken is creating a specific brokerage account where any dividends from the shares are donated. So in a nutshell it involves putting money regularly into the account and any dividends are automatically paid back into a bank account where the funds are then transferred to a charity through a bank transfer. I’ve gone into more detail here”
This is kind of like setting up your own private “foundation.” But instead of having billions of dollars like the Rockefellers, you just build it slowly and start small. The idea is that instead of donating money directly to charity, you invest the money instead. Slowly when the investments pay dividends, they are given to charity, as well as the initial capital increases the size of the donation machine over time.
I might try building one of these in 2021!
Have a great Thanksgiving week!
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!