Don’t Have Cash? Four Alternative Things You Can Donate

by Miranda Marquit · 9 comments

While it’s true that we should probably be thinking of others all year, it seems that we are more likely to want to give during the holiday season. Though with the recession dampening our holiday spirits (and our pocketbooks), it can be difficult to come up with the cash necessary to help others right now. The good news is that you don’t have to give cash in order to channel your feelings of generosity. Here are four alternative things you can donate:

1. Yourself. What?


Give the gift of yourself. Head down to the blood bank and donate blood or plasma. Consider donating bone marrow too. There are often shortages of these items, especially if you are a rare type. You can provide the gift of life and health to someone else, without spending more than what it costs to buy a gallon of gas to drive to the center. If your hair is long enough, you can donate your locks. Some programs will accept hair that is as short as six inches, although most programs require at least eight to 12 inches minimum. This gift can provide confidence to someone struggling with cancer or some other illness.

2. Time

You may not have extra cash, but do you have extra time? If so, consider heading to the soup kitchen to take a shift handing out meals to those who are less fortunate. You can also volunteer at woman’s and children shelters, food banks and to help with programs like Sub for Santa. Volunteer to help pick up items for charity drives, or agree to take a turn manning a booth at a charity fundraiser. Go to the senior center and spend an hour or two visiting with the lonely or playing a game of checkers or cards.

3. Stuff

Many of us have more stuff than we know what to do with. Instead of keeping it around, or selling it to get a few extra bucks, why not donate it for use by someone else? If you have items that are in good shape, but that you don’t want or need, you can donate them to a thrift shop, shelter or some other good cause. And, if you remember to get a receipt for the value of your donation, it can also mean a tax deductions for you come April.

4. Investments

Many people don’t realize that you can donate investments. If you have investments that you don’t mind unloading, you can donate those instead of cash. If your investment has appreciated in value, you can donate without having to pay capital gains, and you can deduct the entire value of the investment if you itemize. If you lost money though, you might be better off selling first, so that you can get the tax break for your long-term loss, and then donate that money to the charity of your choice (and get a tax advantage for the donation).

You can also donate other investments and assets. There are donor-advised funds available that can help you be generous while avoiding capital gains taxes. Life insurance policies and real estate are also possibilities. Just make sure you consult with a tax professional before you take the plunge.

Creative Donations

There is no reason to limit your generosity by your immediate cash reserves. There are many things that charitable organizations need, and you can provide these things. A little creativity, and a determination to help others in any way you can, will ensure that you share in the spirit of giving this holiday season.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

MrsCasanova December 3, 2009 at 7:37 am

What do you mean by donating stuff? Where can you donate things and get a tax reciept.

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CD Rates Blog December 3, 2009 at 7:42 am

When low on funds, yourself and time are great. Many places need extra hands, feet, eyes, etc. Give what you can.

cd :O)

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John DeFlumeri Jr December 3, 2009 at 8:20 am

I had no idea that you could donate investments, that can be very attractive.

John DeFlumeri Jr

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Josh December 3, 2009 at 8:44 am

@MrsCasanova
- Just ask for one… many places don’t offer them because it’s more work and not everyone will use them. The more work comment is not because of laziness, but because they are usually understaffed & underpaid if paid at all.

Just ask for a receipt and you will be given one… if not… find a different place to donate your things…

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Miranda December 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

@MrsCasanova If you take items you are no longer using (sports equipment, cooking equipment, clothes, household items, furniture, etc.) that are in good condition to donate to a thrift store or shelter, the workers can give you a receipt showing the approximate value of the items (which is less than what you paid for them — something closer to “market” value, perhaps around what you would get selling on eBay). This needs to be kept as a record of your donation if you want to use it as an itemized deduction.

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Financial Samurai December 3, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Donating stuff is great. One man’s junk is another woman’s treasure.

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Josh December 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

donating stuff is a good thing. Especially when you can match your stuff with a specific organization that can use those items…

You can donate, office or storage space, classroom/office type equipment furniture, cloths, etc…

Of all the things that can be donated to and used by the organization I volunteer for, time and talent are the most beneficial in my humble opinion.

Many people think of donating time equates to serving someone in a soup line… it does not. There are many opportunities whether your the volunteer firefighter type or the volunteer administrative/office worker type…

Civil Air Patrol ( http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com )
Red Cross ( http://www.redcross.org )
etc

looks for & welcome every type…

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CD Phi December 4, 2009 at 9:22 am

Great topic especially considering the holiday season is coming around. It’s really nice to give back some of your time. That’s probably my most favorite idea because you are able to directly see where your time and efforts are going to and it gets you into the holiday spirit, too.

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Miranda December 4, 2009 at 11:47 am

Great points, @Josh. Sometimes we forget that there are places to donate our time to and volunteer opportunities all around. I was even in Civil Air Patrol for awhile…

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