This holiday, more people than ever will need just a little help to enjoy the season. How can we help others when we too are suffering the effects of the economic downturn? Even if you think you have nothing to spare, there are small ways you can make a difference.
Did your child receive a toy from a well-meaning yet distant relative that wasn't exactly age-appropriate, or something he or she would enjoy? Local fire departments host toy drives every year where they ask for still-packaged toys which they distribute to kids in need.
Do you have some cans of soup, chili or vegetables which you bought on sale and your family didn't like? Donate them to a canned food drive in your area.
Do you have some toiletries or makeup samples lying around? Did someone gift you with a bottle of shower gel for your birthday with a fragrance you don't care for, or a book you wouldn't enjoy? Deliver them to a women's shelter or retirement community. They are always looking for donations, especially this time of year.
Are there some holiday decorations that you just don't use anymore? You could offer them on Freecycle.org or donate them to a local thrift store so that someone who needs them can have them.
If you are unable to donate money or goods this year, what about giving your time? Many local churches and organizations such as women's clubs, the Salvation Army and Lion's and Rotary clubs need volunteers for relief events they are organizing this season. Check with local organizations to see if they need workers for toy drives, grocery giveaways, holiday breakfasts and dinners for the needy, etc. Local SPCA's and animal shelters may also need volunteers for holiday adoption drives.
Don't forget about people in your own neighborhood who may need help. You may have elderly neighbors that could use some assistance putting up their tree or Christmas lights. A "secret santa" gift left on the porch of a nearby family you know are having a tough time this year would be a nice gesture.
I hope this post has shown you some ways you can help out this season, even if you are experiencing some financial challenges yourself. Please share your own ideas for giving something back to the community.