I spend a lot of time thinking about the holidays with thoughts about Christmas, cheap dates at Christmas (the holiday dates section), and the benefits of artificial Christmas trees among others. Whether you agree with my ideas or not, I believe that thinking about the holidays and how they affect your wallet is important.
I love the period of Thanksgiving to Christmas. If you do not celebrate Christmas, you may celebrate Chanukah or Quanzaa or Dinali or some other holiday. Regardless of whatever beliefs we may embrace, I believe first and foremost that it is really wonderful that at the end of our calendar year (at least in the West), we have a period of several weeks when we are reminded to give thanks for what we have and to appreciate the love of our family and friends.
Although I write about ways to save money, this time of the year should not be about spending, as much as it is about giving and sharing. Fortunately, there are several gifts that we can give that do not require any spending at all, and there are other gifts that we can give that cost us nothing because someone else will cover the cost, as long as we take the time to make the gift.
For example, if you want to make this time of year a bit more special for an American soldier who is stationed overseas, you can visit the official site of the “Let’s Say Thanks” program and send the soldier a postcard free of charge. When mail call rolls around, it is always sad for a soldier who does not receive anything and you can brighten a soldier’s day with very little effort by participating. Sending a postcard will not cost you a penny, and it will take only a few seconds of your time, but you will be making another person feel a little less alone and a little more appreciated.
In the same way, you can help military families that live overseas cut down on their food bills by sending coupons to them. While widely available to those if us living in the US, coupons are difficult to come by when living overseas and that means military families have to pay full retail price for their food. You can take a simple Coupon Quiz and for each answer you get correct, the site will send $0.50 in coupons to military bases overseas.
If you have a lot of friends and not a lot of cash for Christmas gifts this season, you can still give many of your friends a gift certificate to dine out! Restaurant.com’s “Feed it Forward” program will allow you to give away three ten dollar gift certificates every day between now and Christmas. It is all part of their commitment to give away $30 million worth of gift certificates over the next month. You can return every day until Christmas and give three more gift certificates as long as the program has not given away its limit of $30 million. I’ve already surprised six people with gift certificates!
You can also help to feed the world’s poorest people and have some fine while you are doing it. Simply visit free rice and take the site’s vocabulary quiz. For every answer that you correctly provide, the site will donate 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program. I answered 14 questions just now and donated 280 grains of rice. Although that is only a few mouthfuls of rice, when added with the 80+ million grains that are donated each day, it’s saving a lot of lives at no cost to those of us who play.
There are many other free charity sites on the web. For example, I found the Hunger Site by doing a simple web search for free charities. With one click of my mouse, I was able to donate 1.1 cups of food to a charitable organization. All of the donations are covered by sponsors and it makes me feel good knowing that even though I may not be able to afford to feed the world by myself, I can contribute with a simple mouse click to those who might have that ability. Take a moment or two to search for free charity sites that you may like, or visit one of the sites that I have noted here. They are free and they will make you feel a bit more thankful for what you have and a bit more love for those who might not have as much as you!
Will you be giving anything back this holiday season? Or perhaps you will be paying it forward? How will you find ways to enjoy this season of giving, with or without spending money? What free charity sites have you found?