Four Ways to Pay it Forward This Holiday Season

Everybody likes a good deal for Black Friday or getting a shiny new toy on Christmas morning. But I also know that between the economy, the government shutdown and just the regular old bills of everyday life, this might not be the year to spend too much on the holiday season. And maybe that can be a good thing! If we’re not putting all our focus on just buying gifts there’s more time to really think about the holiday season, family and our communities. Here are three ways to really get into the holiday spirit and pay it forward this year:

1. Make a Charitable Donation in Someone Else’s Name

Making a charitable donation to a cause you know someone cares about is a great gift. Check out, which has a database of 1.8 million charities to choose from. You can also buy a Charity Gift Card¬†from them, which allows the recipient to choose the charity of their choice so that they can feel good about paying it forward too. It doesn’t have to be expensive: donation levels start at $10 and they’re also tax-deductible.

2. Keep in Touch

Sometimes the best way to make someone feel good about the holiday season is just to let them know you care! Instead of writing tons of Christmas Cards that take forever and don’t feel very personal, think about writing individual letters to the people you don’t get to talk to nearly enough. Or schedule a time to video chat over Google Hangouts or Skype. Your time and attention may be the greatest gift!

3. Volunteer Your Time

Paying it forward is all about recognizing the good things in our lives and trying to pass it on. Volunteer work is a great way to help others and a chance to appreciate what we have. Take a look at United We Serve or Volunteer Match to find local or national opportunities you would enjoy. And if you have any special skills, like web design or accounting, there is definitely an organization out there that can use your help! Paying for those kinds of specialized services can be a huge drain on the budget for small non-profits: your contribution could make a real impact on their bottom line.

4. Give the Gift of Education

Check out, where teachers make requests for materials they need for their kids. Teachers are always struggling in cash-strapped districts. Educators are at the front lines of developing the next generation and they need our help. DonorsChoose has been around for a while is absolutely vetted and legit. My favorite feature is that you can make a direct impact to your local community. Simply type in your zipcode and local projects in your area will pop up with descriptions of different needs, along with how much they need and how much has been raised thus far. I’ve donated to 2 Baltimore City school teacher projects, and I’d love it if you could donate what you can to your local community.

Have any other ideas? I want to hear about them! Let’s all commit to try & pay it forward at least a little this holiday season.