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Hobbies on a Budget: Five ways to make a difference this holiday

By Sharon Williams

Contributing columnist

It’s the season of giving and people everywhere want to show how much they care.  Every time you turn around there is another really good organization, cause or emergency that needs you to donate money, toys or items for someone in need. 

How do you go through the holiday season without breaking your budget, maxing your credit card or going into debt?  Here are five ways to give back that don’t cost a penny and still make a difference in the world around you.

Be kind

It seems so simple, but unfortunately the simple act of kindness often gets overlooked during the holiday season.  When you checkout at the grocery, remember to smile and thank the cashier.  If you see a shopping cart blocking the way of your parking spot, instead of getting upset, just round it up and return it to the cart area.  When you go to the post office to buy stamps and the line is backed up, just be patient and smile. 

Remember that other people around you are stressed and maxed out too.  So take a few extra minutes to just be kind instead of contributing to the chaos that can often characterize the holiday season.

Volunteer

Some people have a holiday tradition of ringing the bell for the Salvation Army each season.  Others donate time to do toy drives or help with church food boxes.  Maybe you can spend a few hours caroling at the local nursing home. 

Since I play the piano, I love helping out with the children’s Christmas program and giving others a break.  If you love kids, maybe you could volunteer in the nursery or offer to keep a friend’s young children while they go shopping. 

Consider what skills you have to offer and then volunteer and take the load off of someone else.

Make something special

Crafters love to craft;  bakers love to bake; woodworkers love to create.  It’s not tough on them to whip up something small.  Baking holiday goodies to give as gifts would be a chore for me and cause me stress but there are people who can create amazing things with little effort.

Look at your strengths.  Can you use the things that you have in your home to create something special for others?

Be aware

Look around you and really observe the world around you.  Is there trash on the ground that you can pick up and make your world cleaner? Do you have coats in your kid’s closet that no longer fit but would be perfect for a student in your child’s class?  Are there families around you that have no Christmas decorations while you have extra boxes of unused greenery, wreaths or lights? 

Sometimes it just takes a few minutes of studying your world to see that there are needs that you can meet.

Be available

Sickness, treatments and doctors visits don’t stop just because it’s the holiday season.   Can you offer to drive someone to a checkup or treatment appointment and give the caregiver a break?  Do you have a friend or family member who needs a 2-hour break from a hospital vigil? 

Are there moms with young children who would welcome a hand around the house while the spouse is deployed or away for work? 

The gift of time is invaluable to many families all year round but especially during this holiday season.

How are you planning to give back this holiday season?  Got any other ideas that don’t cost money and yet still make a difference?  I’d love to hear!

For more ideas on hobbies and life, check out Hobbies on a Budget (www.hobbiesonabudget.com).