No matter where you live in the world, the holiday season—generally seen as November through December—provides a great opportunity for your kids to learn about charitable giving. The trouble is, many families are facing increasingly tight budgets, which can put a serious crimp in your children’s plans to help out. With a little planning, it’s still possible for your kids to make a big effect and feel great about being generous.
1) Have your kids look at what they already have. Even though some organizations or drives request new toys or clothes, many will readily take gently used ones. Have your kids go through what they have and pick out a few items in great condition to give away. Ones they’ve outgrown are always good picks, but point out how much they’ve used certain toys or worn particular garments, too.
2) Hit up a dollar or bulk stores. Dollar stores can provide decent deals on certain non-perishable food items, which are perfect for taking to shelters, soup kitchens or church pantries. They also are a great place to get cheap supplies for arts and crafts, which your child then can give as meaningful gifts. While some toys at dollar stores aren’t of very good quality, others are, and they fit well into shoeboxes or tubs that many places collect. Bulk stores can provide prices on clothing, toys and food that are comparable to or lower than the sale price at other stores. Your child might be able to take advantage of these prices through the entire year, letting them slowly build a collection of items to donate as money is available to them.
3) Join forces with other kids. Okay, so maybe your kids have a great idea for something to make and give away, but they can’t afford everything they need. Ask the parents of your kids’ friends if you can all get together for a charity party. Simply have each family pick one of the supplies to buy. Then have the kids get together to pool their resources and make the final gifts. This option not only teaches about generosity, but also about the power of uniting for a cause.
4) Love the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. In North America, manufacturers traditionally slash prices on a host of different goods on the Friday and Monday immediately following Thanksgiving. You don’t need to live in North America to take advantage of these savings, given the ease of online shopping. Have your kids shop for a few good items when they are discounted.
5) Have a divided charity bucket. If you’ve already got your child working with a charity bucket (savings and spend are the other two they should have), then kudos! One trick that works well for handling holiday giving is to split this bucket in two. One half (or other percentage your kids choose) is for more immediate or “any time” giving, such as donating at your church. The other half only gets distributed during the holidays. The end result is that your kids end up saving specifically for holiday giving through the entire year.
6) Invite a guest. If your kids know people you trust who would be home alone during the holidays, have your children invite them over for a holiday dinner. They can chip in to buy some of the groceries for the meal or simply donate their time to help you prepare it
7) Look for matching options. Some charities have generous sponsors who agree to match a percentage or all of what your child gives. By finding these groups, your child can stretch his dollar or even double it. Some of these charities will match donations only up to a certain amount, however, so just do your homework to ensure you know what will be matched and what won’t.
Kids often don’t have a ton of money or goods to give during the holiday season. Even so, this doesn’t need to stop them from being generous, and there are easy ways to help them do more with what they have. Whether you pull them together with other kids, explore matched donations or hit key sales, they can make a real difference, even if they never meet the people they end up helping face to face.