Thrifty Ways To Give Back This Christmas

Photo courtesty of Trey Ratcliff

Background photo courtesty of Trey Ratcliff

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” -Buddy the Elf

I love Will Ferrell, but for me the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to give my time, energy, and resources to bless someone else. I emphasize the giving back part of the holidays with my children. Each day during December my kids pull an advent card out of envelope that lists an activity. Some of the activities are typical holiday traditions – cookies, Christmas lights, Christmas movie marathon – but we also do several activities that involve giving to others – treats to our neighbors, food to the food bank, toys for needy children. I was at a second hand store last week and realized that we could incorporate several items from the store into our calendar by purchasing, cleaning, and donating them to various charities. I would love to donate more but don’t have unlimited funds and thrifting can be a great way to help others if you are on a strict budget. If you would love to find ways to give more this Christmas, keep reading.

greeting cards

thrifty donate christmas cards charity

Greeting cards can be fun to receive, but some people will not receive a greeting card this year. Why not purchase several cards at a thrift store and fill them out for people who won’t necessarily receive Christmas cards this holiday season. For our advent calendar, my boys and I are going to write cards to soldiers and send them in to this Red Cross program, deliver a batch of cards to a local nursing home, and take some cards to the homeless shelter downtown. Some other ideas are the local hospital, the teachers at your neighborhood school, any kind of veteran’s organization, and even the closest jail/prison. This is a great project to do individually, as a family, or even with a group of friends.

coats, gloves, hats

thrifty donate winter gear charity

A very practical need in most of our country is cold weather gear. If you want to help, cannot afford a new coat to buy and don’t have hand me downs to donate, purchase, clean, and donate hats, gloves, scarves. The Salvation Army runs their Coats for Kids campaign every holiday season. Alternatively, contact your local school district and see if they have any needs (they usually do), or, for adult clothes,  your local homeless shelter.

stuffed animals & blankets

thrifty donate stuffed animals charity

When my older son was three, he fell and required ten stitches around his eye.  The ER experience was very scary for him, but he was comforted when a nurse brought him a handmade Sesame Street blanket and told him he could keep it.  The blanket had been donated to the hospital by Project Linus. Project Linus, along with another charity, SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies), donate blankets and stuffed animals to emergency rooms to help comfort children who are hurt and/or scared. I make a Project Linus blanket every year, sometimes from thrifted children’s character sheets. One of our advent calendar activities is to find a stuffed animal in good condition and donate it to this charity. If you do not have a chapter near you, call your local hospitals and ask if they will accept stuffed animals or blankets for their emergency rooms directly. You can also contact your local fire and police departments, who often use small toys to soothe children during emergency calls.


thrifty donate books charity

Books are found in abundance at thrift stores, and there are so many places that can use them. Buy gently used children’s’ books and donate them to the local hospital, doctor’s office, children’s home, or shelter.  Preschools, school districts, and day cares are also great places to donate books. Most libraries have a Friends of the Library foundation that can sell used books to raise funds. Thrift adult books, especially large print, and donate them to a nursing home. Several charities specialize in sending used books to soldiers and prison inmates.


thrifty donate board games charity

Toys of all kinds can be donated to charity. Recreation centers and schools can use sporting equipment;  board games are great for nursing homes; and toys of all kinds to a local shelter, Children’s Home, or church. Pediatrician and dental offices generally appreciate toys that can be sanitized. Hospitals might not be able to accept toys for health reasons.


thrifty donate clothes kids adults charity

Clothes can be a great way to give back to a person or charity, but this works best if you have already identified a need and are shopping for that need. If you know a mom who is struggling and needs clothes for her kids, ask if it is okay for you to shop for them. Contact a local children’s home , nursing home, or shelter and ask what their clothing needs are. Purchase business clothing and donate to Dress for Success.


We take shoes for granted, but someone in a different country might not even own a pair. You can bless someone in a life changing way by donating a pair of thrifted tennis shoes to a charity that ships them to a third world country. Two of my favorites are Donate Your Old Shoes and Soles4Souls . The shoes you buy might be the first pair that someone will ever wear!

 A simple way to start would be to call your favorite local charity to find out what the need is. Go to your thrift store and see what catches your eye. Thrifting and donating is a great way to pay it forward in many ways – you are giving your time and energy, thinking about other people, and if the thrift store you are shopping is a non-profit, you are raising funds for them as well. Before you donate to any local institution, make contact first and ensure they can  accept used items. Unfortunately, some can only accept new (especially for sheets and baby gear, which is why you did not see them on this list) items for health reasons. Even so, there are plenty of opportunities for you to use your thrifty talents to bless someone else this holiday season. Happy Thrifting!

Merry Christmas,


5 Responses to “Thrifty Ways To Give Back This Christmas”
  1. Great ideas – it’s horrible to think someone will go without a card/company this Christmas….

  2. Kate says:

    You have totally inspired me! I’m in the middle of a big and very-unexpected move and I’m finding myself in a much smaller space. Instead of lamenting my new need to scale down my wardrobe, I’m very excited to throw myself in the Spirit of this Season and give, give, GIVE!

    Thanks so much for reminding me to keep my head in a healthy place and to think of others. =]

    • natfee says:

      Yay, Kate! I’m so excited this post has inspired you to give in a creative and thrifty way! Good luck with your move and let us know if you have any tips for giving 🙂

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] For more great ideas on how to thrift to give back, check out Thrifty Ways To Give Back This Christmas. […]

  2. […] Did you know that each year millions of people are out on the streets trying to scrap together the little money they have to buy food for their families, or even just a small gift during the holiday season? If not, you should put this in perspective – would you rather be away with your family having a good time, or out in the cold dark streets over your Christmas break? If you aren’t going away for break and are bored and want something fun to do, consider getting a group of friends together to give back to your community. This season is all about spreading the holiday cheer. Click here for fun and creative ways to spread holiday cheer and give back during this festive seaso…. […]

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