Another do-gooder post about charity and giving

Happy Monday, generous people!

It’s my favorite time of year… That time when we all start thinking a little bit less about ourselves, and a little bit more about other people.

It’s the giving season! 🤗

Giving means a lot of different things to people. For some it’s about volunteering their time. For others it means random acts of kindness. And for some wealthy buggers out there it means giving away 8 billion dollars secretly throughout their lifetime! (Ex-billionaire Chuck Feeney finally completed his mission of becoming “broke” last year)

No matter what your definition is, there is no right or wrong way to be generous.

Here are some random ideas for you to think about this holiday season…

USPS Operation Santa! ($15 – $50)

Operation Santa began in 1912, when some post office employees were authorized to open and respond to letters addressed to Santa. Then in 1940, they opened letters to the public, allowing charities, businesses, and families to help anonymously respond and give some of the gifts that children were asking for.

Today, anyone can adopt and respond to Santa’s letters! Check out the video here, read some of last year’s letters here, and stay tuned for this year’s letters starting Nov 29th!

Give $5 in an Envelope to Well Decorated Houses ($5 – $50)

When I was a kid, there was this house on my block that always had HUGE Christmas decorations each year on their front lawn. I mean, MASSIVE decorations. It must have taken them hours to set up and take down each year, not to mention the electricity it cost them to run.

Later in life I found out my Mum put $5 in an unmarked envelope, and dropped it off in their mailbox each year as a Thank You for brightening the neighborhood.

This year I plan to do the same for maybe ~10 houses around my neighborhood. It truly does brighten my day seeing houses all decorated and I want to encourage them to keep going ;)

Fill up someone’s gas tank! ($50-100): 

With the ridiculous gas prices right now it’s a sore spot for so many people. Next time you’re at the gas station, walk over and swipe your credit card at someone else’s pump.

The person you help will never forget it. 😉  

**pro tip: If the person you help has kids in the car, the children learn about random generosity, too.

Say Yes anytime you’re asked for money (Up to $100?):

This was one of J Money’s giving tricks over the years, not just during the holiday season.

If your budget allows, add a few hundred dollars extra into your charity line item. That way, anytime someone asks you for a donation, you can say Yes and know that the money has already been budgeted for. Say yes to:

  • Kids asking to support their school events
  • Friends/family sponsoring runs or fundraisers
  • Charities asking for a few dollars randomly at the mall
  • Co-workers or your company asking for help with a cause
  • “Round-Up” your purchases 

Employer Matched Donations (FREE)

Many workplaces offer donation matching as part of their benefits package. So before making any donations this year, ask your company if they will match the donation you are giving. Ask your HR department about the process, it typically needs to be initiated by the donor (you!).

Some Employers PAY YOU for Volunteering (FREE)

Many people don’t know this… but just like the employer donation matching above, many employers will reimburse you with PTO hours in exchange for volunteering.

Again, ask your HR department if they support activities like this within their benefits plan. You might be able to take a few days off work, and get paid to volunteer in the community. (some companies have a maximum of 2 days per year or something).

**Hey, even if your employer doesn’t offer PTO for volunteering as a standard… It doens’t hurt to ask for it anyway? 🤷‍♂️**

Visit a Grave, Help a Stranger (FREE)

This cool idea I got from a reader last year named Lou. And I’m actually signed up to participate this year!! Here’s the original email I got:

“another idea that doesn’t involve money.  only some of your time.  Find-a-grave.

you sign up and tell them where you live.  family folks doing genealogy post requests to the site for photos of gravestones.  (click “contribute” at the top of the webpage)

you go to the graveyard near your house, find the gravestone, take and upload a photo.

lots of walking, doing good for your health and for an anonymous person far away and doesn’t cost a dime (so probably not the best for a blog about money, but…)

what’s interesting is that here in the united states, people can’t move or repurpose a graveyard without contacting all the descendents and getting their permission.  so we have, literally, thousands of tiny family graveyards….many on what’s now federal property.  so some of them can be fairly remote.

its an interesting hobby.  sometimes if i know i’m going to go hiking in a park, i’ll look for any graveyards in the national park or forest and then look them up on find-a-grave…so you’re not confined to just doing around your house.

again, not about money but there’s something peaceful and satisfying about it.  and you can learn a lot of strange stuff….like just last week i learned that there was once a formal national group of horse thief specialists called the “horse thief detectives”.  who knew?”

Start a “Little Free Library” ($0 – $300?)

Join the world’s largest book-sharing movement… Little Free Library

You can buy a library bookshelf kit for your house (they’re kinda expensive! – maybe split with your neighbors?) or you can make your own library if you’re a handy DIY person!

When you stick it up in your yard, fill it with books and encourage people to “Give a book, take a book!”  (Bonus points if you fill the entire bookcase with finance and money books! 🤑)  You can also add puzzles and board games for swapping too!

A little free library near my house in LA! 😀

Amazon Smile (FREE):

Most of y’all know this one, but it’s always worth repeating. (Amazon also makes you *manually* renew the Smile setting on your cell phone twice per year! If you don’t renew, it stops giving!! So everyone please go to your Amazon App on your cell phone right now and make sure Smile is activated in the settings!!)

When you shop on Amazon in a web browser — use the **smile.amazon.com** domain. It’s the exact same service and prices, except a portion of your purchases get’s siphoned off to a charity of your choice. Also, many schools are registered as charities so you can donate to your kid’s school if you don’t have a charity picked.

Other Community Fun & Giving Ideas (FREE):

Here are a few fun things you can do for your immediate community:

    • Donate your skills: Know how to fix bikes? Stick up an ad on NextDoor offering 5 free bike services for the first 5 people that respond. Play an instrument? Consider offering some free lessons.
    • Pro Bono work for business owners: For anyone that owns a trade business, perhaps you could offer your services for free to some customers this season.
    • Free dog walking, or pet sitting:  With many neighbors traveling over the holidays, looking after their pets (for free!) is a great way to be generous.
    • Shoes & clothes for the homeless:  Not sure about you, but there are a few resident homeless people in my neighborhood. Giving them jackets and warm clothes directly is nice vs. just dropping off to Goodwill.
    • Homemade Christmas ornaments: Follow some beginner Origami Tutorials on YouTube and give them as tree ornaments to your neighbors. Bonus points
    • 10 other ways to cheer up your neighbors: Think back to last year’s lockdown and the neighborhood activities people did to cheer up the community. Can you continue these things, even though we’re not in lock down anymore?

Give Up One of *Your* Gifts? (FREE)

Last idea…  Out of the 5-10 presents you will probably receive from people this year for Christmas, is it worth asking just 1 of them to donate the money to charity instead? Chances are you don’t need ALL the presents coming your way. It’s a good time to share your presents with others!

*****

This holiday season, let’s all take a quick break from life’s craziness and find something fun we can do to contribute and help others.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what fun and unconventional ways you are trying this year!

Love,

Joel

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8 Comments

  1. Liz November 22, 2021 at 7:33 AM

    Due to not gathering last year I didn’t get stocking stuffers. Instead I picked a charity to donate to in each family members honor, in alignment with their interests. My dad is an avid bird watcher (out the kitchen window), my sister’s favorite animal rescue, a music program for my brother who is self taught on some instruments, & an animal rescue close to my mom I knew she visited before the pandemic.
    It was fun trying to come up with charities outside my normal point of reference.

    Reply
    1. Joel November 22, 2021 at 9:17 AM

      That’s a really fun idea Liz!

      Reply
  2. Angie Pannkuk November 22, 2021 at 12:06 PM

    I love giving randomly to people throughout the year. I think it’s cool to give when people don’t expect it. When it comes to December, I go crazy and spoil myself…I rarely give presents to anyone.

    As for charity, I do that ALL the time.

    Joel, I got my dream apartment in Dallas!! It’s the one I showed you. I’ve met the landlord in person (when he traveled to Vegas for work) and we’ve been communicating via text. However, I leave in eight days to move and no lease has been signed and I still haven’t paid my first month’s rent and security deposit. Hmmm…

    Reply
    1. Joel November 22, 2021 at 7:46 PM

      Hey Angie! Congrats and good luck with the move!!!

      Reply
  3. Poetzplus November 23, 2021 at 7:50 PM

    Another way to give (and this is a two-fer for Amazon Smile) is to go to the Amazon Smile desktop site, then select one of the charitable gift lists. The hyperlink can be found below your personalized wish list(s) and directly above the Alexa Shopping List.

    This way you can purchase an item off of one of the many charitable wish lists available and still benefit your preferred charitable organization by having a portion of the purchase go to whichever org is registered for your Amazon account.

    Reply
    1. Joel November 23, 2021 at 10:35 PM

      This is freaking awesome!!! I didn’t know this existed! I just found it when I hover the mouse over “accounts and lists” and it’s under the my lists section. Thank you for sharing!! I’m gonna order som pet toys :)

      Happy Thanksgiving!!
      Joel

      Reply
  4. Impersonal Finances November 23, 2021 at 11:09 PM

    I LOVE seeing those little libraries. I always stop to browse. That’s a good idea. I think I’m going to copy the holiday lights idea with some Starbucks gift cards–that’s very sweet of your mom.

    Reply
    1. Joel November 24, 2021 at 12:43 PM

      Woohoo! Make sure you write a funny joke inside the gift card… Maybe a Starbucks Pun, like… “have a Grande Christmas!”

      Reply

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