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Charity work and donations feel great — and they offer excellent family bonding opportunities — but it can be difficult to find the means to donate with a limited budget. Here's how to give back in creative ways, while starting to save money for personal donations at the same time.

Volunteering Your Time at Local Nonprofits

Even if your budget doesn't allow for cash donations, there are many ways that you and your family can give your time to local nonprofit projects.

  • Hospitality Work: Feeding America is a national nonprofit that allows volunteers to serve food for those in need.
  • Animal Care: Consider volunteering with The Humane Society of the United States, an organization that, along with SPCAs nationwide, provide care for over 100,000 animals each year.
  • Garden/Outdoor Work: Check out Friends of Trees to find their local tree planting schedules.
  • Tutoring: The National Tutoring Association offers face-to-face tutoring and online tutoring services around the clock in a variety of subjects.

Finding Effective Donations (and Organizing Your Home)

Donating items in good condition is another great way to give back without hurting your wallet. Find time for a big cleaning project and consider donating:

  • Clothing: Goodwill and The Salvation Army will be happy to take in usable clothing, which is also a great excuse to clean out your closets.
  • Toys: In addition to Goodwill donations, you can also look into donating toys to children who are less fortunate via Toys for Tots.
  • Books: You can donate books to a local shelter or library, or consider setting up your own outdoor book stations with the Little Free Library project.
  • Functioning Electronics: The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers an easy-to-use search that will tell you where to donate or recycle your used electronics.

Creating a Charitable Giving Plan for Your Personal Goals

You can also start saving money to make specific purchases and charity donations, even with a limited budget. Here are the three steps you need to begin:

1. Know Your Monthly Nonessential Cash Limits

Every good budget should delineate how much money will be left for nonessentials. This pool of cash is typically used for entertainment, like dining out or renting movies. When planning out your charitable giving, you need to know how much is available for nonessential activities before you start saving.

2. Find a Manageable Amount to Save Every Month

Now set aside a portion of your available cash for charity purposes. A simple $5 to $10 donation per month is a great place to start for the average household. As the traditional advice goes, "You can save that much just by skipping Starbucks® a few times." Sometimes it's helpful to move this money to a separate online wallet for easier tracking, but it's not necessary.

3. Pick a Nonprofit Goal to Work Toward

You'd be surprised what you can do with only $5 to $10 each month. A variety of charities look for small-amount food gift cards that they can give to the homeless. Even nonprofits like Scrap PDX allow you to send small gift card donations through email to families who may enjoy a craft project. More national nonprofits such as Boys & Girls Club of America also allow you to make donations, even if it's just a few dollars here and there. Pick a goal that sounds fulfilling and start working toward it. Some employers offer a matching gift program, allowing employees to maximize the impact of their donations.

Finally, remember to track your donations. You can often fill out charitable deductions on your tax returns to save money on tax payments every year. However, you must have proof of the donation, such as a receipt or report from the nonprofit on the value of the donation.

Before giving back, be sure to do a financial wellness check in order to determine how much you can give.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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