It's that time of year when doing good is en vogue. Salvation Army bell-ringers greet shoppers. Volunteers line up to serve food to the less fortunate. And local fire stations make calls for donations.
While it seems corporations may make the biggest donations, it's everyday Americans who keep charities afloat. Last year, charitable giving totaled $290.89 billion, with three-quarters of that coming from individuals, says Jim Yunker, the vice chair of the Giving USA Foundation. That marked the first increase in two years after the Great Recession devastated household wealth.
So far this year, charitable giving has stagnated as many Americans face falling incomes, higher poverty rates, and unemployment or underemployment. For many, making a big donation just doesn't pencil out this year; but as the saying goes, good things can come in small packages.
"You don't have to be the Bill Gates of the world to be a philanthropist," says Yunker. "It doesn't matter if it's just a few dollars or pennies."
Here are some quick ways to give back on a budget.