As exciting as the holidays are, this time of year can cause a certain degree of stress due to busier schedules and the increased amount of money we sometimes find ourselves spending. Gifts, travel costs and end-of-the-year expenses can quickly add up.

Despite this, the holidays often inspire people to give back to their communities and people who are in need. No matter how much money you have to spend this year, we’ve outlined some meaningful ways you can give back without spending a dime.


Give blood. Get in touch with a local hospital or Red Cross to find out if you’re eligible to give blood. You’ll need to answer several questions and undergo a short physical to ensure that it’s safe for you to donate. If you are eligible, the process of giving blood shouldn’t take any longer than half an hour. Your donation center will provide you with snacks and beverages to refuel your energy levels when you’re finished. By donating blood, you give a gift that’s more valuable than anything money can buy. According to the Red Cross, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. To find a nearby donation center, visit


Run a charitable 5k. When you participate in a fundraising run/walk, you’re doing something good for others while doing something good for yourself. A quick Google search will help you to find an organization sponsoring an event in your area. Sign up several months in advance so you have a goal to work toward, which is especially helpful this time of year when the weather gets colder, the days get shorter and it becomes more difficult to find the time to exercise. Let your friends, family and coworkers know that you’ve decided to participate and ask them if they’d like to sponsor you.


Volunteer your time. Time is one of the most valuable gifts we have to give, and spending face-to-face time with someone in need is the most direct way you can impact someone’s life. Local charities, soup kitchens, hospitals, nursing homes and shelters are always looking for volunteers, especially during the winter when they’re busier than usual. Volunteering with your friends and family is a rewarding way to spend time together. If you’re a parent, taking your children to volunteer can be an eye-opening experience that will help them to appreciate the things they have.


Clean out your closet. Many of us have clothes that we’ve outgrown or we no longer wear. Take the time to clean out your closet and evaluate the items you need and which ones you can part with. Organizations like Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps women achieve economic independence, will accept your professional clothing to give to the women who they support. Visit to learn more. Goodwill, Salvation Army or local churches also accept clothing donations.

Giving back during the holidays is a great way to help others, but it’s also a great way to help yourself. According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies find that giving can lower your blood pressure and stress levels and increase your self-esteem. All of these benefits lead to greater happiness and longer life.

 Regardless of how much money you have to spend, there are always ways you can make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

By Caroline South