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Giving to charity without giving it all away

Feb 20, 2012, 6 a.m.

Being a good person can get expensive. Unless giving up everything and becoming the next Mother Teresa is a personal goal, committing acts of charity may require some careful planning and clever thinking. In many ways, the rules regarding how to give to charity on a budget are similar to the ones for paying off debts. In addition to general scrimping, saving, and shopping smart, here are the four best tips for making donations to charities on a budget.

Regifting the Right Way

Instead of facing that embarrassing moment by accidentally giving an unwanted Christmas sweater back to the giver, choose the less risky option of returning the item and donating the money received, or donating the item itself to a charity that accepts gift donations. If all else fails, consider donating unwanted or unneeded gifts to a local thrift store to avoid letting them go to waste.

Consider Unrestricted Donations

Many donors can be distrustful of charitable organizations unless they offer restricted donations, which are donations that are designated for a specific purpose. For example, a restricted donation program would say something like, "All of your donations will go toward medical research to find a cure for breast cancer." Although these donations are certainly helpful, many nonprofit organizations could really use general, unrestricted donations, no matter how small.

Throw a Sale Item in Your Cart For Charity

Put shopaholic tendencies to good use. If there is an especially good sale going on at a grocery or retail store, or using a good coupon for an essential item, consider adding a few extra items in your cart to donate to a charitable organization. If it's truly a good sale, the cost won't be too high and you'll still be able to help out those less fortunate.

Space it Out

If the piggy bank is shooting you questionable looks, consider making smaller monthly donations to a charitable organization instead. It can be surprising what a small donation can become after an entire year of consistent giving. To make things a little easier, consider keeping a jar at home with loose change and extra cash for donation at the end of the year.

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