Stretch your holiday charitable giving: Donate on any budget

My family isn’t unlike yours, I bet: Our budget is always tight, especially during the holidays, when we face extra expenses like Christmas presents, travel and OH MY GOSH CANDY CANE JOE-JOES. (Don’t deny it; you stock up, too.) But that doesn’t mean we scrimp on our holiday charitable giving.

Generosity and a commitment to helping others are central family values in this house. For us, that means giving to nonprofits throughout the year, but we always increase our donations during the holidays. (The giving spirit is in the air—or wait, maybe that’s pumpkin spice and evergreen scent!)

When it comes to our holiday charitable giving this year, I want to get the most bang for my buck. I’m betting you do, too. So no matter if your budget is super tight or as expansive as Bill and Melinda Gates’, here’s how to make the biggest change with your money.

This Christmas, make sure every dollar makes the biggest impact with your holiday charitable giving. 10 tips to make generosity and charity possible for any budget. Read more

Handmade change jar: Watch your savings grow! [tutorial]

Watch your Money Grow Change JarEric is really, really good about saving his change. I tend to spend mine, getting way more excited than is warranted when I get to use pennies at the store, whereas he empties his pockets at the end of the day to watch a jar fill up with dimes and quarters.

Not too long ago, the peanut butter jar we’d been using was too full to accept a single more cent. I took it to our credit union—and walked out more than $135 richer.

Saving money change jarAw, yeah.

The problem: I could not go back to using that scuzzy plastic jar. It was dirty, it was ugly and I didn’t want it sitting on our mantle, no matter how much money it held.

So I enlisted Peeper’s help! Together, we made a brand-new/upcycled change jar so we can (ahem) watch our money grow. (Get it?)

Watch your Money Grow Change JarWatch your Money Grow Change JarHere are the instructions so you can make one, too! Read more

Yes we can

Clink, clink, clink. Beer bottle, Pepsi can, Budweiser. Men and women dropped them into the heavy duty garbage bag I held out in front of me. Clink, clink. To my young ears, the noise of aluminum and glass falling into the Hefty sack was the music of money.

Growing up, my dad and I collected cans and bottles then returned them for the 5-cent deposit. I stood outside the gates at University of Oregon Duck football games as fans filed in; I scoured bleachers for left behind “empties”; I hopped out of my dad’s Dodge Caravan at stop signs to snag “nickels” discarded by the side of the road.

Collecting bottles and cans was like a treasure hunt. I trained my elementary school-aged eyes to scan tall grass for the glint of aluminum as we drove along. We celebrated when we found a stash of malt liquor cans on a walk along the river. We never knew when opportunity would present itself, so we went about our errands together as if a cache of cans—just waiting to be transformed into cash—might be waiting for us anywhere if only we were ready.

It was a grand adventure.

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Kiddy consumerism

Faced with an overflowing toy box and fistfuls of receipts for baby gym classes, British mother Hattie Garlick committed to not buying anything for her toddler for a year. Rejecting kiddy consumerism is the subject of her blog, and she’s documenting the clothing swaps, no-cost activities and lack of store-bought baby purees over at

This article about her experience made me think about how money and consumption could affect how I raise Peeper.

We don’t spend a ton of money on our daughter, in part because we just don’t have disposable income. Almost everything she owns and wears is either a hand-me-down or a gift. We buy throwaway diapers (reusables intimidate the hell out of me for some reason!), but they’re just about the only Edie-related expense we have, aside from the occasional necessity.

When we traveled to the East Coast in the fall, Peeper wore a sleeper given to us by a friend when I was still pregnant. “Handsome boy,” read a little label on it. The flight attendants got a kick out of it when we pointed out that our baby was actually a girl, and I still think the moment was funny.

Second-hand clothes may lose some of their humor when Peeper gets older, though.

My family didn’t have a ton of money when I was young. We shopped at resale stores, so I wasn’t always up on the latest trends.

I remember trying to hide my off-brand Keds under the school bus seat and the cheek-burning embarrassment when my used Hypercolor t-shirt didn’t actually change colors. Sometimes it was hard to not fit in.

Raising a child who isn’t materialistic or spoiled is important. But I’d hate to subject my loved one to unnecessary ridicule. Surely there’s a balance to be struck here.

I have plenty of time before kids at play dates look askance at my daughter’s wardrobe. But projects like Garlick’s make me think about how we’ll one day handle the protestations of “But everyone else has one!”

How do you teach your kids to do without? Do you find yourself spending a lot on your kids? Do you feel guilty when you don’t?