5 Ways to Donate During the Holidays if You’re Short on Cash

Nicolas Cesare  | 

The holiday season is a time for giving, but not everyone has the same amount to give. If you’re short on cash this holiday season, it can be hard to find ways to donate. For those who are having a tough time covering all of their own living expenses, there are still ways to embody the spirit of the season and exercise those altruistic muscles. Here are five ways to donate during the holidays if you don’t have much money to give.

1. Donate Your Credit Card Rewards

Even if you don’t have much cash in your bank account, you may still have assets available elsewhere that you aren’t going to use and that can be given to charity. Some credit cards rewards programs will actually allow you to donate your rewards points to charity.

This can be a great choice for you if your account came with a rewards program that you aren’t likely to use or you have a lot of rewards points that are just about to expire. Contact your credit card company to see if they will let you donate your rewards to charity and, if so, what the process for that donation is. Be aware that some companies will require you to meet a minimum donation amount, usually at least $10 to $25.

2. Donate Loose Change

With cash becoming less relevant as card and digital payments take over, a lot of us are starting to accumulate more and more spare change that we’re not very likely to use. Instead of letting those quarters and dimes sit on your counter or in your car, you can put them to use and donate to charity.

Some charities, like Change for Change, are built specifically to collect donations in loose change. If you do have spare change to donate, it’s best to find a charity that’s specifically asking for it first. Otherwise you could dump a lot of busywork on a charity during one of the busiest times of the year as they work to count up your donation.

3. Donate While You’re Shopping

Shopping is something that nearly everyone does during the holidays. Whether you’re shopping for Christmas gifts or you’re visiting the grocery store to prepare for your big Christmas meal, shopping actually gives you a chance to donate to charity.

If you’ve ever shopped with your credit card during the holidays, then you’ve probably encountered a screen asking you if you’d like to add a $1 donation to your purchase amount. Saying yes here is a great way for you to donate small amounts that won’t get you into trouble financially. You can also set an example for other customers in the checkout line, encouraging them to donate as well. All of these little donations add up, and can make a big difference for charities during the holiday season.

4. Donate Leftover Food

Although it’s usually preferable to donate money over food, it’s definitely better to donate something over nothing at all. If you have some cans of food or other non-perishable items that you aren’t likely to use, go ahead and donate them the next time someone comes around with a collection box!

5. Volunteer During the Holidays

All charities love to receive monetary donations, but sometimes there are things that money can’t buy. One of those things is warm bodies to get some work done at a moment’s notice. By volunteering your time during the holidays, you can fill a need without spending any money of your own. Whether you’re able to help by collecting donations from others, sorting through toys that have been donated, or just keeping someone from feeling lonely during the holidays, volunteering your time is one of the best ways to give.

Donating doesn’t always have to mean giving big monetary donations. If you’re short on cash, there are plenty of other ways to give. Whether it’s donating small amounts of money where you’re able or giving something other than money like food or your free time, anyone can do a lot of good during the holidays.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated October 19, 2017. It was originally published October 21, 2017.