How to Give Back at Christmas and Throughout 2011

Christmas giftThe holiday season is arguably one of the most charitable times of the year. Charitable giving is up 67% from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 compared to the same period last year, and we expect the giving to continue through the rest of the year. We've rounded up some tips from a pro on how to maximize your charitable giving before the end of 2010 and some great ideas for carrying the generosity through 2011.

WalletPop turned to Sharon Snow, a Savings.com DealPro who writes about coupons at CouponPrincess.net, for her tips on giving back and involving your kids in the process. In an email to WalletPop, Snow tells us that, "For really last-minute donations, the answers can be really simple, it's not rocket science, it just takes making a decision to make the time."Snow suggests looking for deals on items that have real value, even if they aren't fancy. Some of her best finds come from the Dollar Store, where she has found individually wrapped toothbrushes in bulk, which she had her children separate and donate to a school drive. She has also found great charitable gifts at TJ Maxx and combines coupons with Toys R US sales to get plenty of small games and gifts for less than $1 each.

You can find coupons at her blog, CouponPrincess.net, on Savings.com, by signing up for newsletters and many other places. If you are going to take your kids shopping with you anyway, have them get in on the experience by picking out a toy or other item to donate.

Another great way to give back in 2010 comes from MicroPlace, a PayPal company that makes it easy to invest in an individual's fight against poverty. This is another great family experience because you can all gather around the computer and find a person or cause that the whole family wants to support.

From now through Dec. 31st, when you make a $20 investment in Microplace, you also get a $20 gift certificate to give to someone else, which will allow them to make an investment of their own.

As we enter 2011, the charitable spirit tends to take a backseat even though the needs in our local communities don't subside. Snow has a few more tips to help us give back in 2011.
  • Know the sales cycles -- Every store has a particular sales cycle for clearance merchandise, Snow told WalletPop that at Target, it's, "30% off, then 50% off, then 75% then 90%, and these price cuts mean you can stretch your charitable dollars.
  • Give toys in July -- Target has a huge 75% off toy sale the last week of July, which is a great time to pick up toys for your kids and others in your community.
  • Make a New Year's resolution -- Take time to learn the rewards programs from CVS or Walgreens, which aren't hard to learn and can yield tons of freebies for your household or the local food pantry throughout the year.
The final idea is one we really like. Snow and a group of friends sponsored children from a local children's home, but did not hand out Christmas presents. Instead, each group member decided to get a child a birthday present, something that's important because birthdays are often forgotten.

Don't forget the deals and Fantastic Freebies from WalletPop's own Bargain Babe that are also a great place to find items to donate throughout the year.

Correction: This story was corrected on December 21, 2010. The original version incorrectly spelled Sharon Snow's last name. We regret the error.

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