smart spending

6 cheap easy ways to donate to charity

Make a change with change
Make a change with change

That jingling you hear is not reindeer, but all the change in your pockets. Before it ends up between the sofa cushions, pull out an old piggy bank or pickle jar and collect it for a week, month or a whole year, says Yunker. Get the family involved. At the end of the specified time, exchange the change for bills and donate to the charity of your choice. (Call your local bank to see if they exchange coins without a fee, or visit a Coinstar machine to make a donation to one of the charities it sponsors.)

If you don't feel like lugging change around, pull out the $2 you would spend every day on a coffee from Starbucks, Yunker says, and take that to a charity at the end of a month.

And what about that $2.36 left on a gift card you'll probably never use? Donate it to charity, recommends Sandra Miniutti, chief financial officer of online nonprofit evaluator Charity Navigator. Call up your cause of choice and ask if they take gift cards. For example, an underfunded school might benefit from a Best Buy or Staples gift card, while a homeless shelter may be helped by a supermarket or clothing store card.

You can also trade in your gift cards for cash you can donate. If the gift card has more than $20 remaining, you can sell it to GiftCards.com, a gift card exchange. Its website allows you to get back up to 92 percent of the card's value, which you can then donate to a charity.

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