How to Give More This Holiday Season
It’s that time of year. The giving spirit is in the air (and I am not talking about toys from Santa). The Thanksgiving holiday unofficially marks the “season of giving” in the United States. A time when we not only shop for ourselves and our loved ones, but also open our hearts, our wallets, and our stockpiles to those in need.
According to Charity Navigator, most non-profits receive 40% of their annual donor gifts between Thanksgiving and New Year’s each year. This includes cash donations, as well as time and other items such as food, clothes, and personal care supplies.
And no donation is too small. Everything from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and local Adopt-a-Family sponsorships to the famous Salvation Army bell ringers, and food drives at virtually every school and church across the country provide different levels of giving opportunities and work together to make the giving process easy.
Whether you just have some spare change or want to make this holiday season complete for those who couldn’t afford to otherwise, the opportunity to do something – anything – is everywhere. However, taking a little and doing a lot does not just apply to couponing and your family’s budget, but also when trying to make an impact on the world around you.
Teaching More than One Lesson: My Giving Story
I began to think about the importance of this “taking a little and making a lot” concept the weekend before Thanksgiving. I was out shopping with my daughters at our local Stop & Shop, just running in for a specific item we needed for our family’s Sunday dinner. In other words, it wasn’t a true “shopping trip” (i.e. I wasn’t prepared to buy anything more than that one thing). However, when we arrived, we were greeted by a huge yellow school bus and the flurry and fanfare of one of our local radio stations running its annual “Stuff the Bus” bus food drive to benefit the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.
Volunteerism is has always been strong in our family. I am a local Girl Scout leader, as is my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law before her. My own mother has spent decades giving her time to everything from crisis hotlines to school art education to the local ambulance corps. Plus, with the holidays right around the corner, like many parents, I try to emphasize the “give” aspect over the “receive”.
Needless to say, my girls were adamant about getting something to put “on the bus” and I was not going to discourage that spirit, even if it meant paying full price (or just the sale price) on a nonperishable food item or two. So, as we went down the pasta aisle (they always want pasta!) I directed them towards the brand that was on sale, and I took care to note that we could get two boxes for the price of only one of another brand.
However, while they were looking I noticed a little catalina printer attached to the shelves. It offered $0.55 off one of the healthier, whole grain options among the brand that was on sale which was a double-winner since many food banks try to emphasize the need for nutritious options such as whole grains and shelf-stable protein. The coupon was DND with a limit of two, so with the sale I paid $0.33 for each box of pasta and they were both able to add a box onto the bus for less than the sale cost of one.
Couponers Are Natural Givers
Now I, like many of you, could have easily afforded to buy two $0.88 boxes of pasta and I would have done so for the teachable moment alone. However, the incident allowed me to highlight another important concept to my girls – not just giving when you have an abundance, but maximizing the impact of that gift.
For many of us, couponing is a way to save money and stretch the family’s budget, but it also leads to an overflow of free and nearly-free products that we don’t want or need.
But someone does need them.
This idea, what we call “Couponing for a Cause” is nothing new – in fact, we just revamped that page on the Living Rich with Coupons website.
However, between 150 emails an hour encouraging you to buy gifts for family and friends, the rush of getting everything done in time for December 25th, and in the wake of the Giving Tuesday announcement by Mark Zuckerberg and Patricia Chan, who plan to donate 99% of their wealth in their lifetime, it is easy to get overwhelmed or feel like what you can give isn’t enough to matter.
But it does, and by maximizing the value of the gifts you do give, you make certain that your impact is greater and means more to the one or two people who you can help. Couponing does that and, as my story above illustrates, it doesn’t even take a lot of planning to do so.
Shop your stock pile.
Look for those hidden catalinas.
Get that “extra” free item that you don’t need and give it to someone who does.
It all matters and it all counts, this time of year and all year long.
Take the $5 Challenge!
However, if you want to spend a little time making your giving count, consider a $5 giving challenge.
Here’s how it works:
While we might not all be able to write big checks to our charity of choice this holiday season, most of us can spare $5. So, rather than just stuff it in a red bucket or buy a few random items, let’s take that $5 and stretch it. Make your couponing count for others the way it does every week for yourself.
You can do it yourself or invite family and friends to join you. Either way, the rules are simple: get as many donateable items as you can at one store for only $5. Make it a game. Involve the kids. Then, gather your treasures and donate it all together. It costs a little, but added together, it makes a lot.
Happy Holiday Couponing!