The holiday season, if not planned, can get expensive. Add up lights, decor, a tree, extra baking ingredients, plane tickets for travel, not to mention gifts, and Christmas can become a major line item in your annual budget.

But did you know that this time of year is often a charity’s biggest push for donations? Many people want to get a tax deduction before the year ends, so charities ask people to give to their non-profit organization during the holidays.

As someone who has been involved in non-profit work for many years, I know these end-of-the-year gifts make a big difference in a charity’s annual budget.

But as someone with a home and family to manage, I know finances are usually tight. We want to give, but it’s not easy to decide where to give. We want our money to go where it’s needed most, and we want it to be used appropriately.

Here are some tips for giving as a family during the Christmas season.

First off — Why give?

Here are some great reasons to give.

1. It’s needed.

As I mention in my book, if you live in the United States, you are in the top six percent of the world’s wealthiest people. Worldwide, 80 percent of the world lives without running water or electricity. Half the world’s population live on less than $2 U.S. per day.

Give. You can.

2. It’s good for you.

Even when you’re in debt, it’s healthy to give. It keeps your heart soft, it keeps you focused on managing your money wisely, and it helps you remember that all good things are a gift from God, from your clothes to your cars.

3. You’re modeling for your kids.

If you want your kids to care about others, you need to show them how to do it. You’re their most influential teacher in life.

How to Give?

Here are some great ways to give over the holidays.

1. Bless with your presence.

For years as a kid, my father would leave for a few hours every Christmas Eve, and I never knew where he went. I found out years later that he would deliver cookies to people who have to work that day — at the airport, in hospitals, the fire station, even stores.

Check ahead of time, since places these days have certain protocol about accepting gifts. But doing this as a family would brand your children’s memory with the importance of loving on others, even in small ways.

Photo by austinevan

2. Bless anonymously.

We spend $100 as part of our Christmas budget to give as we find the need, as anonymously as possible.

Sometimes it’s a waitress who serves us on one of our dates, and she does a fantastic job — we leave a $100 bill as a tip, and get out of there as quickly as possible. Or, we might divide up the dough and spend it here and there — paying the toll of the car behind us, or the purchase of the people in line behind us at the coffee drive-thru.

This blesses us just as much as it (hopefully) blesses the recipient — it’s a ball to give this way.

3. Give gifts.


Many churches have Angel Trees in their foyers, for you to give a gift to one of the 1.7 million American children with a parent in prison. You can also provide a shoebox gift with Operation Christmas Child, who gives a Christmas present to children around the world who otherwise would never receive a gift or know about the season.

Both of these are great ways for your kids to give as well — they love picking out gifts for other kids.

Use money you’d otherwise spend on frivolity — one more gift you just don’t need, too many cookies, or an extra lawn figurine. Spend it where it matters eternally. Stick to your budget and to your gift giving protocol.

For inspiration this season, follow the blog Christmas Change.

3. Give as your presents.


Instead of buying a tchotchkie or a gift certificate for that person who has everything, give them the gift of giving to something, in their name, that truly matters.

Give five fruit trees in Ethiopia for $30. Or two chicks for $25 in the Philippines. Or $385 worth of clothing for $35, to children all over the world.

This has been my in-laws gift from us for several years now.

4. Give money.

Charities and other non-profits depend on monetary donations to operate well. There are so many reputable organizations out there, so it’s important to do your research to make sure your potential gift is spent where you prefer.

We like to give to several organizations. This means we have several tax records at the end of the year, and while that’s not super complicated, it’s important to us that we keep track of our giving accurately.

Give Back is a brand-new site that does something really cool — you can create your own foundation, add as many charities as you want (if they’re registered with the IRS, you can add them), and then give whenever you’re ready. It’s a place where you can manage all your giving in one place, and you’ll get one receipt for tax time.

It’s 100 percent, totally, completely free. Every dime goes to your charities of choice. You can learn more about how it works here.

They’ve also partnered with tons of online stores, who’ll give a small percentage of your total purchase to your foundation. For example — this year, I’m printing our Christmas cards through Shutterfly. In doing so, they’ll donate eight percent of my total purchase to my foundation.

I can give whenever I want, spread out over all the charities in my foundation, or just to one. It’s super easy. And did I mention it’s free?

Also, from now until the end of the year, Give Back will add an additional $100 to one random foundation per day.


These are the charities in my foundation, the places where our family is giving this year:

So I add funds from our budget’s giving line item, and when I’m ready, I give directly from my Give Back foundation in order to have just one tax receipt. And then when I shop from their partnering online stores, my charities get a little kick back.  Pretty cool, I think.

There are lots of creative ways to give — your time, your talents, and your treasures. How is your family giving this year? What’s your favorite charity?