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Plan your peaceful Christmas: give back

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?

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Emily

    My favorite is Food For the Hungry ( which is very, very similar to Compassion and World Vision. A whopping 93% goes to it’s many programs, with very small percentages going to advertising and administration funds.
    My second favorite is The Mercy House, which I just recently discovered and started supporting.
    I will have to look into Love 146, I’ve never heard of it before, and I’ll have to check out Give Back too!

  2. Heidi

    Just one thought . . . there are some people who really aren’t in a position to give financially. If this is the case, there is so much service to be given, which can often be as or more meaningful than giving monetarily. This past week my youth’s church group went and sang Christmas carols at a center for the handicapped. They loved it – it made their whole day, and perhaps their whole month! It made me so happy, and reminded me of what Christmas is all about.

  3. giozi

    I talked too about gift box last week. I did mine and I choose a girl 2-3 like my chubby, lt really good when I went to buy something for this little girl that I don’t know yet. I sent a picture of my hildren too. I would like to received a letter for her and keep touch.

    (sorry for my English)

  4. Courtney

    Spot on! Thanks for these useful and timely tips.

  5. suzie

    Thanks for this wonderful post. My husband and I are both exploring more ways to be givers, not just at Christmas time, but year round. I enjoyed sending the shoe boxes, and I decided to do this through out the year and just mail them out at Christmas time. Check out Little Dresses for Africa. It’s a nice way to give, especially if you don’t have any extra money. Giving away love is free, I am challenged to be someone’s answered prayer.

  6. Rachel

    We do Operation Christmas Child. I love that program! And I love the idea of taking yummies to people who are working (for us!). But I asked my husband’s family to do charitable gifts for me this year instead of buying me regular presents. You’d have thought I asked them to murder Santa. “You can’t tell us not to buy gifts for you! We have to be able to buy gifts for you! You can’t make people give to charity!” Sheesh!

  7. Hope with Samaritan's Purse


    Thanks so much for mentioning SP along with so many great organizations! We appreciate your support!

  8. Lauren

    I love giving locally. I also love knowing the people we give to as well. Not always personally. I have been helped out so much in my life, even if we can just do hand me downs I feel like i can pass my blessings down.

  9. Megan @ Faith Like Mustard

    My favorite charities are Compassion International and Samaritan’s Purse (especially Operation Christmas Child). This year, I have also started a Christmas Jar inspried by the book of the same name where we will save change and when the jar is full, anonymously drop it off on someone’s doorstep. A Sunday School class at our church did this last year and managed to raise $600 to give away!

  10. Sarah

    Thanks for mentioning:
    “Even when you’re in debt, it’s healthy to give. ”

    However, it is hard to reconcile that while trying to stay on budget, buy Christmas gifts and try to pay down on debt.

    Any suggestions as to how to reconcile the two? Giving while in debt? (Does the amount matter?)

    It would be greatly appreciated, as we are struggling with that very issue and were discussing it just yesterday!!! 🙂

    • Julia

      We are trying to reduce our debts as well. Meanwhile, there are still many ways to give that don’t cost much money. A few examples:

      -Prepare a simple meal for someone who is sick.
      -Make an ornament with materials that would be otherwise discarded.
      -Donate via internet clicks (like P&G’s water program).
      -Use coupon strategies to get free products to donate to a homeless shelter.
      -Offer to babysit for an afternoon or evening.

      • Sarah

        Great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  11. Melissa

    I love these tips, especially #1. I used to be so overwhelmed in trying to find ways to serve or give back, since I have 4 kids under 4 and it seemed like too much work. But just before Thanksgiving, I decided to see what we could do — I called our local women’s shelter to see if they had anything for young kids to help with, and it snowballed into a big project for the whole community. You can read more details here on my blog:

    But the bottom line is, everyone can find a way to help despite financial, physical or mental restrictions. Even my two year olds could help out and have fun along the way. It’s never too early to get your family involved in helping others, and Christmas is a perfect time to do it.

  12. Alison @ Femita

    Another suggestion: why not give a green gift to your friends? E.g. a carbon offset certificate (check out We thought it was a great idea either for friends or business partners.

  13. Meagan @ The Happiest Mom

    It’s easy to have good intentions but get so overwhelmed by the activity of the season that you forget to follow through. Thank you for the reminder that Christmas is RIGHT around the corner, plus these very actionable tips!

    As far as organizations go, I love Heifer International: I love that it helps people in poverty-ridden areas become self-sufficient by providing them with the means to provide for themselves.

  14. Bryony Boxer

    I agree, Most of us can give. Even during this terrible recession, there are always people around us who have so much less. Thank you for an inspiring post.

  15. Sarah

    We’re big fans of the huge tip. In the days leading up to Christmas, we’re usually so burned out from baking food-gifts that we have no interest in cooking dinner, so we head out to the restaurants we’ve spent the most time at over the course of the year and blow the servers’ minds. We do try to keep it relatively anonymous (as you say, “get out of there as quickly as possible”), but we’ve had servers chase us down in the parking lot to say thank you.

    An unexpected gift is always, ALWAYS more satisfying to the giver than an expected one!

  16. Gekakel

    I really love your post! We are collecting vitamines to send to an orphanage in Uganda. We sponsor one of their children; in their latest newsletter they asked to send vitamines. I wrote a post about it on my blog and it is really amazing how many bloggers/readers/families/friends are giving. We alreay collected 1760 vitamines in one week!

  17. Living the Balanced Life

    We like to give as much as we can locally too. We designate a family we can bless anonymously with a gift of cash each year. We also serve with projects that give to underpriveleged children in our community as well as with a women and childrens homeless shelter in a major metro area near us.

  18. Mama Kelly aka Jia

    This time of year my family gives new and unwrapped toys to Toys for Tots and non-perishable items to food drives both at my daughter’s grammar school and at the girls’ Tae Kwon Do school

  19. Pennie

    We usually try to anonymously donate $100 during the holiday season (from the beginning of November to the end of January, in my book) because it was once done for my family and I’ll never forget it. This year it might lean more towards the end of January as we recently lost $1400 and will not be able to buy gifts for our own children, but by George, it WILL get done!

  20. Shelley

    Although my writing is about women in Texas, I’m currently living in California, where so many people having to move out of their homes has forced them, sadly, to leave their pets at the pound. Consider a donation to help these newly-homeless pets at your local pound facility.

  21. Alicia Bayer

    Great advice. I love that you work $100 into your holiday budget for charities too. 🙂

  22. priest's wife

    I love giving anonymously! Putting it in the budget seems like a no-brainer, but we don’t really plan for it- will do next year!

  23. Denise

    Time is also a great gift if you can’t give financially. There are many organizations that need help packing and delivering gifts to the needy and they are always in need of extra help over the holidays. We can’t afford a large christmas donation, so we volunteer our time and ring bells for the salvation army as a family.

  24. Dena

    Every year our family, with a bunch of other people, goes to an orphanage and has a Christmas party for the children. The gifts are donated and we have a blast playing group games with them.

  25. Constance Dewhurst

    I was wondering if you knew of anything online that a stay-at-home mom could just make a little extra money. I don’t know if it would be something like typing or anything. It doesn’t have to be much, but just something that would provide a little extra money and that the website is completely safe and not rip me off.


  26. Gwen~healthymamma

    Very lovely post! Thank you so much for taking the time to mention so many wonderful charities and options for giving and sharing. Our family spends time all throuout the year at places that need volunteers. My 16 year old son has been doing it for years now and volunteering is part of his life.
    The Holiday’s are an especially important time of giving, but Let’s not forget those in need all throuhout the year.

  27. Joanna

    Hi Tsh, just wanted to say I am loving, loving, loving the book, your website and posts. I have been slowly chipping away at the clutter and sheer amount of ‘stuff’ in my home for more than a year, and although i had done lots, i really needed your book to push me over the edge and ‘get radical’! I have given more than a truck-load away to charity and yes, it does feel good. I have less which makes my life easier to manage and others have more which will help them live better. Win – win!
    I work with the motto if it’s not loved, beautiful or goes! And…simply, do i really need 5 milk cans?
    Follow your hair advice – what a blessing it is to be free of shampoo. Ps hairdresser said “hair’s looking nice”… eh-hum!
    Using the oil (almond) as a face-wash/moisturiser. Make a paste with baking soda once a week for a good scrub. and my tip to you.. mix 1 cup witch hazel with a tsp vodka and you have a perfect toner!

  28. priest's wife

    I love the idea of giving to people who have to work on Christmas…my husband works full time at the hospital, but has Christmas off- maybe we will stop by after church…not maybe…we will- your post has inspired me!

    • Joanna

      don’t forget all the people working in hotels..

  29. Scarlet

    I like to give to the local food bank. Can’t stand the idea of people going hungry!

  30. Kristin

    We love giving to Gospel for Asia. They give 100% of your gift to the work in Asia. You can support a child’s education, or give gifts from their online catalog to help support a family- like a sewing machine, or animals, a water purifier, etc.

    I will definitely budget in money for anonymous giving next year. Great idea.

    Also, I’m loving your book, Tsh! It’s one of my favorite gifts to give this season. : )

  31. Jo@simplybeingmum

    I too am involved in the Not For Profit sector professionally, and every year I give a donation ‘in lieu’ of cards. I hate sending cards anyway, it’s such a fantastically simple way to donate. This year I will be donating to Mencap UK in memory of my Grandma who died last month – it was her favourite charity. Have a peaceful Christmas all – Jo (simplybeingmum – family life simply done)

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