Giving back on a budget

As people gear up to receive gifts and revel in the holiday season, we should remember that there are many out there who are less fortunate than us. It is this time of year I like to think more about giving than receiving.

The idea of altruism comes to mind when I think of the holiday season. The Salvation Army sets up, ready to raise money for the needy, while donations pour in from across the country to help the homeless, struggling families and anyone in need.

One might wonder, though, how they could help out this time of year on a tight budget. Maybe you’re unsure whether you can even afford a few gifts for close family members. I’m here to offer some ideas for the college student on a budget that will help you see how much you can help while making your donation count.

First off, there are countless ways to give back, and many don’t involve any kind of monetary donation at all. The Atlanta Mission is always in need of volunteers for their holiday campaign to help the homeless in Atlanta. Their weekly trips to areas of high homelessness ramp up in December when meals and clothing are provided for those making it through this winter without a home. On Thanksgiving Day, Hosea Feed the Hungry has countless volunteers helping feed those in need of a warm meal. In recent years, the turnout has been more than ever at this event and the need for volunteers is higher than ever.

If you plan on donating to a charity or organization this holiday season, consider mailing a check directly rather than various other methods out there. For example, the Yoplait yogurt “keep the lid” campaign a few years ago donated 10 cents to breast cancer research per each lid you sent in. Campaigns like this are misleading and in a way are nothing more than clever marketing to sell more of a product. At 10 cents per lid, if you ate three cups of yogurt each day for the three months the campaign ran and saved and sent in every lid, your contribution would be $27. Seriously, just mail a check to the Susan G. Koman foundation instead.

Another simple idea is to reallocate the giving you normally do. If you are the type that loves getting everyone in your family a gift, consider buying a few extra and donating those to Toys for Tots. One of my favorite holiday campaigns is the ability to buy Christmas gifts for a needy family. It is humbling to see some of the wish lists for those in poverty, and to be able to share that happiness that you associate Christmas morning with to a child in need is truly what the holidays are all about.

Altruistic characteristics are no longer just for the mega rich and philanthropic millionaires. There are a growing number of ways that college students can give back and support charities without breaking the bank, becoming a charity case in the process. Make it a habit to give, and give often. Saving money and sticking to a budget is rewarding in its own right, and that reward is made so much better when some of the money you save is used to help out those in need.

Visit these links to view some opportunities to give back this year: