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Cheap Charity

It's been a couple of years now, and the economy is still tight for many people. At this time of year, when people are on a shoe string budget, they are always looking for ways to give gifts with less money. But, charity is also important at this time of year -- the season of giving -- and there are definitely ways to be charitable on the cheap.

Don't Give Money, Give Time
Since financial donations to non-profit organizations are low, many have cut needed services. Find an organization that is close to your heart, and then offer some hands-on help. If you are handy, perhaps you can fix the leaky plumbing so the organization does not have to pay a plumber. If you are an accountant, offer to handle the organizationís tax returns for free. Maybe you are a public relations consultant, like I am. I handle the media relations for a local charity Ė you can too.

Pay it Forward
You may not realize this, but one small act of kindness or charity shown toward one person has a tremendous ripple effect. Is there a person or a family you know that is particularly hit hard by the economic crisis? Has a neighbor lost his job? Target these folks and offer to do whatever you can to ease their pain. Maybe you can babysit their children while they are job hunting. Why not cook a few meals for them to help them save a few dollars at the grocery store? It won't cost you much, but it will be much appreciated. And, down the road, when things turn around for these folks, they will spread the goodness.

Give Just a Little Bit
You may not think you can give enough monety to make a difference, but every little bit counts. Charitable organizations are experts at stretching every dollar they have, and I donít know one that would turn down a donation, no matter how small. Don't pass by that Salvation Army kettle without throwing in something -- even a few quarters. It really does all add up, and maybe next time if you have a little more, you'll give a little more. While shopping at the toy store, pick up an extra gift and drop it in the Toys for Tots bin. There are many cheap gifts that a child would love. Can you spare $5 or $10? Then you can make a difference.

The bottom line is that there are many ways you can give, in good times and, especially, in bad. Just look inside yourself to find the ways that work best for you.
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