Growing up, my parents always told me that "giving is better than receiving" during the holiday season. At school, sign-up sheets encouraging me and my classmates to volunteer for community service covered the walls in the hallway (and we actually looked forward to going on these field trips).
When you're an adult with a full-time job, though, helping out with canned food drives or building a house for Habitat for Humanity is often among the last things you're thinking about come the holidays. Instead, you're caught up with paying bills, attending parties, and trying to make sure that you have enough presents for everyone. It's what happens.
So, for those of us that don't have as much time on our hands as we would like, here are 10 ways to do good without necessarily spending extra money (or time) in the process. They're two-for-the-price-of-one type deals that'll save you cash and hours.
Your wallet, your community, and your conscience will thank you for your service.
Donate You Clothes With EaseDo you have old clothes that you've been meaning to get rid of, but no time to take them anywhere? If you live in the Tri-State area, donate the extras from your closet to Big Brothers Big Sisters. They'll send representatives to pick up the items from your doorstep, saving you the hassle. Besides, knowing you're helping children in need will make you feel way better than underselling your clothes at Buffalo Exchange.
Foster An Animal Friend For The HolidaysDo you like animals? Of course you do! Consider fostering a rescue dog or cat from your local animal shelter. It's the perfect way to temporarily have a pet without having to fully commit yourself to adopting them. But who knows? Maybe you'll get so attached that you can't give them up and they'll get to stay in the comfort of your home forever. Obviously, run it by your roommates first before you surprise them with a new resident. For more information visit the Animal Care Centers of NYC or Dogs Without Borders online.
Mentor A Student Via EmailRemember the days before the Internet dominated the way we communicate with everyone in the world? At some point or another, you probably had a pen pal. This person might not have served as a huge influence in your life and you've probably forgotten all about them, but I'm sure you thought it was cool to get out of your world and into someone else's every once in a while. So why not consider becoming someone's mentor? There are plenty of places where you can register online, but consider getting back in touch with your alma maters. Not only will the experience enhance your career, but it will change someone's else's life for the better. Sending an email or talking on the phone once a week to someone who actually cares is no big committment if you think about it.
Get Creative With Group TherapyAre you better at helping people on a mental level? Maybe you should join a class that allows you to exercise this skill. Try out something like Ballet for All Kids, an organization that offers ballet classes as art therapy for children regardless of their (dis)abilities or financial situation. If the way in which you want to get involved doesn't already exist, create it yourself! There are so many different ways to volunteer that we often don't even consider.
Head To The LibraryAre you a bookworm? Does spending an entire day surrounded by books in complete silence sound appealing to you? You should probably get involved at your local library. Most libraries offer an assortment of volunteer programs such as mentoring middle-school students, transcribing files online, or putting the books back on the shelves where they belong.
Lend A (Digital) HandSo maybe you don't have enough time in your schedule to physically go out and volunteer. It's totally understandible. Thing is, you don't have to get out of your chair to lend a hand. If your line of work is more digitally based, consider Sparked. The service helps people become microvolunteers for nonprofit organizations based on their interests and skills including graphic design, research, and copywriting.
Eat Out With Your iPhoneIf you're obsessed with taking pictures of your food, download the app Feedie. For every photo you upload of a meal from a participating restaurant and share on social media, the company instantly donates to The Lunchbox Fund, a nonprofit that provides nutritional meals to orphaned and at-risk school children in South Africa. Also, give the app FoodCircles a try. Users can search for restaurant vouchers and, vendor processes your coupon, 100% of your meal’s dollar value is donated to feed a child in any part of the world.
Start Your Own Private Charity WalkAre you a runner or biker with a mind toward charity? Take a water break and download Charity Miles, an app that will link you up with a sponsors to raise money for just getting your heart rate up. Every mile you run or bike earns money for a charity (cyclists earn 10 cents per mile while runners/walkers earn 25 cents) and when you're finished with your workout, all you have to do is accept the sponsorship, share your progress on social media, and then the app sends a notification to confirm all the good work you've done. Easy stuff.
Loan Out Your EyesAt some point during your morning commute, you might have almost accidentally walked into someone that is visually impaired. Of course, you've been in a rush, so assisting them on the subway probably didn't cross your mind. If you've ever felt guilty about that, redeem yourself and download Be My Eyes. The free app connects blind people with remote volunteers that can provide live assistance through video calls.
Spare Some Online ChangeSometimes, you don't always have change in your pocket to donate to a homeless person. Other times, you simply don't want to. But you still feel conflicted about it, WeShelter gives you the power to donate to the homeless without taking anything from your wallet. When you see a homeless person in need, all you have to do is notify the app and it will "unlock” a donation from a corporate sponsor that goes toward a local nonprofit to assist the individual. (WeShelter also provides direct access to 311 for outreach support during emergencies.)