smart spending

6 cheap easy ways to donate to charity

Donate yourself
Donate yourself

Don't think you can afford even a little bit this year? Instead of cash, donate time. Cook meals at a local homeless shelter. Foster rescued cats or dogs. Even something as simple as raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor makes the world a better place and sets a good example, Yunker says.

If you have a particular skill, look for a charity that might be able to benefit from that, says Bob Ottenhoff, former president and CEO of GuideStar, which keeps a broad database on charities.

If you're a writer, perhaps you can help pen grant letters. If you're a computer tech, try upgrading a nonprofit's server. Retired executives can help tweak business plans for struggling organizations. Websites such as VolunteerMatch.org and Idealist.org help pair volunteers with appropriate opportunities.

"It's a wonderful way to tap into the experience and expertise from people who have had wonderful careers but are looking for something more meaningful," says Ottenhoff.

Last, give the gift of life by giving blood. The American Red Cross has a blood drive locator on its website that's searchable by ZIP code.

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