Christmas may well all be about the season of giving, but when money is this tight, we all have to draw the line somewhere. Unfortunately for charities an increasing number of us are drawing that line before we have any spare cash to donate to those who really need it this Christmas.
However, giving to charity doesn't have to be expensive if you think a bit creatively, and there are 10 easy ways to do it without breaking the bank.
1. Give as you shop
If you are doing your shopping online you can add a charity donation to your shopping without any effort at all. If you sign up to a site like www.givingabit.com or www.giveasyoulive.com you can donate for free. Retailers give these sites commission for directing people to their websites to make purchases and this is then donated to the charity of your choice.
You can give a bit of your time. This could mean helping in a homeless shelter, visiting someone living alone, or volunteering in your local charity shop. There are some useful websites where you can put in your postcode and find out about charities near you who need your help. Two good websites to visit are www.timebank.org.uk or www.do-it.org.uk
3. Buy gifts from charity shops
Charity shops make great hunting grounds for gifts and generate vital income for charities. They also offer the double whammy of carrying some great second hand bargains. If you're keen to buy new, you can give a charity gift. Lots of charities sell gifts that you can purchase from their websites such as tea towels, or cushions, or you can buy food for a family, or help educate a child. To find a local charity shop visit: www.charityshops.org.uk/locator.php
4. Give while you surf
Switch your search engine to everyclick.com and raise money for your favourite UK charity at no cost to you, or your charity. Everyclick.com donate 50% of their advertising revenue to charity. For more information visit www.everyclick.com
5. Help from home
If you are looking for ways to help charity but are cash, or time poor then visit http://helpfromhome.org. The site has an extensive list of ways you can help charities from home and includes a "pyjama rating" which lets you judge how easily the activities can be done.
6. Pet presents
We spend around £100 million on Christmas presents for pets. If you are looking for a present for your cuddly companion why not make sure it comes from a charity. The Dogs Trust (www.dogstrust.org.uk) now do a range of grooming products that make great presents and the Cats Protection (www.cats.org.uk) have a number of presents designed with cats in mind.
7. Give pennies
You don't have to be a millionaire to make a difference; all it takes are pennies. The Pennies Foundation's electronic charity tin allows you to donate your 'loose change' when you pay with your card online, or in shops of participating retailers. All you need to do is click on the donate button. Find out more: www.pennies.org.uk
8. Gift Aid donations
If you are donating cash to charity this Christmas and are a UK taxpayer make sure you tick the Gift Aid box. This means for every one pound you donate HMRC will give an extra 25p to the charity. If you're a higher-rate taxpayer then you can also claim the difference between the basic and higher-rates of tax on your donation when you complete your year end tax return. Charities Aid Foundation estimates that around £750m of Gift Aid goes unclaimed each year.
9. Giving apps
While you spend time recovering from turkey overdose why not update your phone with the latest charity apps. The Orange Do Some Good app helps locate charitable activies that take around five minutes from micro-volunteering to filling in a charity survey – great if you are short on time (visit the app store on your phone to download). For those who struggle getting out of bed in the morning the Let Give snooze app pledges a donation to charity every time you press the snooze button. While it's only open for people to give to US charities at the moment it is hoped that UK based charities will be able to sign up soon.
10. Donate unwanted gifts
Make sure you donate any unwanted gifts to charity shops. Gift Aid can now also be claimed by charity shops on items sold, so if you are a UK taxpayer ensure they are aware. They will need to take your details and contact you to ensure that you are still a taxpayer when the donated item is sold.