As the holiday season ramps up, Americans increase their charitable giving. Here are five ways to give to others while still staying on budget:
1. Adopt a family. Instead of family members giving gifts to each other, “adopt” a family and use some of the money you’d normally spend on presents to get make sure a family in need receives items such as outerwear, clothes and toys.
You can usually find a local organization or group that puts programs together to adopt a family over the holidays; some even offer the opportunity to deliver the gifts to families.
Soldiers’ Angels is a national organization that helps military families. Other organizations include Christmas Family Adoption Foundation and Families First.
2. Beware of scammers. Unfortunately, scammers use goodwill to their advantage, so be on the lookout for anything shady. Research charities before donating to confirm their legitimacy through the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator.
And remember to never click on a link or open an attachment in an email or text, even if it appears to be genuine, and never wire money or send cash. Use a credit card instead as it provides more protection.
3. Check for matching funds. If you work for a large company or organization, see if they offer matching donations funds. Additionally, some charities offer special promotions during the holidays to match donations if they get a corporate sponsor or are trying to generate additional contributions before the end of the year.
4. Declutter for a cause. If you have a closet stuffed with gently used clothing, toys your kids have outgrown or books you no longer need, use this as a win-win by cleaning out and giving it to someone in need.
Facebook marketplaces also allow you to give away the items to other local families — although you’ll want to make sure you meet in public places and protect yourself with any online sales or transactions.
5. Donate while shopping. You can give to charitable causes even when you’re shopping online. Amazon’s AmazonSmile program donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to a charity you select from a list of nearly 1 million options. Amazon says over $ 62 million has been donated through this program as of August.
Other shop-and-give options include Target’s Yoobi line, which helps provide supplies to classrooms, and Toms.com, which donates proceeds from every purchase to provide shoes, eye care and other items to people around the world.
By following these steps, you can feel good about giving and keep your finances in check.
Ellen Sirull is senior manager of content at Experian Consumer Services, a division of Experian, the nation’s largest credit bureau.