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The main reason to give to a charity or charities is because there's a need – and it's as good for you as it is for the charities to which you contribute. When you help others, it connects you with life outside your little circles of circumstances. In fact, most people say that giving can be the ultimate social network.
Fortunately, there are some ways to give without pain – that is without breaking the bank. Here are some of them.
I know of one person who saved nearly $13 in a few weeks just by picking up coins and saving change left over at the end of the day. He was able to save enough that at the end of the year he was able to send a nice check to his local food bank.
Thrift shops and the Freecycle network
One good way to give without breaking your bank is to donate clothing, books, housewares and even furniture to charity thrift shops such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Make sure the items you donate still have some “life" left in them. If you itemize on your taxes, be sure to get a receipt– so you’ll get a double win. You’ll have done something nice for your community and for yourself as well. You can also donate stuff to the Freecycle network. This is an especially good way to donate large items as the Freecycle people will come to your house and pick them up.
How about books and magazines?
The American Library Association has a fact sheet with information on libraries that accept donated books. When your kids outgrow their children’s books, you could donate them to a social service agency or a public health clinic. If you subscribe to magazines, wait until you’re finished with them and then cut off the mailing label on the front (so people won’t have your name and address) and drop them off at job-source organizations or other places where adults in need are sitting and waiting.
Clothing and food drives
If you have a hat or coat that’s like new or other "gently used" clothing, you could donate them at a clothing drive. Where I live, one of the TV stations has a big clothing drive before every Christmas season, which is a great way to donate clothing and help someone stay warm throughout the winter. There are also food drives where you could donate canned goods. Buying $10 worth of canned goods probably won’t put a serious dent in your budget but they could certainly help a needy person or family.
Mentor a child
It would cost practically nothing to mentor a child through an organization such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Or your place of worship might have a way to match motherless or fatherless kids with caring adults. In either case, you could make a significant difference in a child's life without spending much more than several dollars a week if that much.
Right now as you read this article, there is someone lying in a hospital who needs blood. You might be able to donate through a bloodmobile if one comes to your place of work. Failing that the Red Cross probably has a blood drive in your city. You'll get juice and cookies and it doesn't take very long to donate blood, which can be a literal lifesaver.
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