Affordable Ways to Give Back this Christmas

Amanda Blume

With the holidays upon us, I have been wanting to simplify life this season. This year I want to get my kids involved in giving back to our community, to put the focus on giving more than receiving. I don’t have a fortune to spend; but sometimes the best gifts are not the ones that cost the most money, but the ones that involve time. Here are a few things for our family is going to do to make this message a reality:

Volunteer at a Nursing Home
There are many residents in nursing homes who have very few visitors. The holiday season can be especially difficult for these residents. This is the perfect time of year to call a nursing home, speak to the activities coordinator, and ask if there is an activity time you could come be a part of. Activities vary, but might include game time, music/sing-along time, or craft time. You can volunteer for the activity that best suits the age and engagement level of your kids.

Total cost: Just your time

Organize a Community Food Drive
You or someone you know may have experienced food insecurity. The holiday season is a time of year when families can feel this pain more acutely, both physically and emotionally. Parents are making choices of keeping the electricity on or buying food. In the winter, between coming home to a dark, cold house or going to bed hungry, electricity usually wins out—especially since it’s a little easier to get food donations than to get an electric bill paid. That’s why, at this time of year, local food banks are often running low.

Fortunately, creating a food drive in your community is much easier than you may think. Using social media, you can easily network with friends and neighbors to collect food items. I suggest starting with your local social media parenting groups. Announce that you and your family are collecting food for the organization you choose. Then pick a date for front porch pick-up. When then the day arrives, create a pick-up route, pick up donations and deliver to the area’s food bank. Getting the kids involved in pickup and deliver is a great way to teach compassion, stewardship, and community involvement.

[Editor’s note: food banks often have a list of needs that you can ask about, to make sure you’re giving effectively. You can also look for guides like this one to make sure you’re collecting what families need most.]

Total Cost: A few hours of time, plus the cost of gas for picking up donations.

Holiday Cards
Think about the people who have an impact on your day-to-day life. It could be the neighbor you wave to in the morning as you hurry out the door to work and school, the barista who makes your coffee and gets your day started on a positive note, the crossing guard who chats with your kids on their way to and from school.

The holidays are a great time to show them that what they mean to you. Gather up some art supplies. Take the kids to a dollar store and buy a few special items to decorate with. Have your kids make a list of the people they see daily, with whom they’d like to share some cheer, and set to work creating homemade holiday cards. Encourage the kids to write personal messages in their cards.

Total Cost: $10 in art supplies, the time to make and deliver cards.

These are just a few suggestions of ways we plan to reach out to people in our community, while being easy on our wallets and teaching our kids to think of others throughout the holiday season. I challenge readers to find other low cost ways to make an impact in their communities, and have this be the season you do something new.