Volunteering, making donations, and opening your home are just a few ideas for giving back:
1. Bake for your neighbors.
Holiday baking is a treat in and of itself. This year, extend your goodies list beyond friends and family to include your neighbors. Dropping off baked goods could give you the chance to catch up with neighbors you haven’t spoken to in a while—and finally meet the new ones you’ve been meaning to introduce yourself to.
2. Foster a pet.
Are you a lover of animals? You might consider giving back by hosting a four-legged friend. Many animal shelters fill up during and after the holidays. When you foster, you offer a dog or cat a safe and peaceful place as they wait to be adopted. Contact your local shelter to apply.
3. Give gifts to teachers.
Teachers work tirelessly all year long, and the holidays are the perfect time to show your thanks. Give a Starbucks gift card in a coffee mug, custom stationery, or even a classroom sign. Don’t forget to include a handwritten note from your child expressing why they appreciate their teacher.
4. Have patience.
Giving back can be as simple as giving someone a break. The holidays are hectic when it comes to travel, dining out, and shopping. You can ease the stress on harried workers by waiting patiently, forgiving mistakes, and allowing yourself extra time at the airport or when shopping for holiday dinner.
5. Help out a neighbor.
Offer to lend a hand to a neighbor who needs help shoveling, decorating, holiday shopping, or writing cards. This is a great opportunity to get the whole family involved. Even young kids can pitch in to decorate—and help take the decorations down once the holidays are over.
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6. Invite friends to holiday dinner.
Do you know any friends, acquaintances, or co-workers who live far from family? If they aren’t traveling home, invite them over for appetizers or holiday dinner. Alternately, if friends who don’t have anywhere to go decline your invitation, consider making extra food, freezing the leftovers, and dropping it off to them the next day.
7. Leave a glowing review.
Posting a positive review can have a big impact on small businesses. If you had a great experience with a local boutique, meat market, or restaurant, make it official by leaving a five-star review with as much detail as possible. Giving back via a good review costs you nothing and does wonders in boosting a local business.
8. Look for giving trees.
What’s a giving tree? You might find one displayed in a department store, grocery store, school, or community center. A giving tree is typically decorated with wish lists from at-risk kids in the area. Pick a wish list hanging from the tree, purchase the gift, and return it to the organization that set up the tree.
9. Shop with a purpose.
Put your money to good use by buying from brands that are either local, sustainable, support a cause, or pledge a matching contribution. For example, some philanthropic brands commit to giving back by donating a portion of their profits. Others have a “buy one give one” policy for every garment purchased. Donations in someone’s name also make thoughtful gifts.
10. Spend time at a nursing home.
Since most residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are socially isolated, an afternoon visit can be worth its weight in gold. For the residents, this social interaction can help to improve their quality of life. And for the visitor, volunteering may offer physical and mental health benefits. Search for a local organization that manages senior helpers or reach out to a nursing home to ask about their policies.
Giving back as a holiday volunteer may include participating in a local Toys for Tots drive or serving meals at a food bank. If you don’t have the time to volunteer in person, you could sponsor a family instead. Many local organizations have holiday “adopt a family” programs, matching you with another family in need of basic necessities and/or gifts.