8 creative ways to buy less and give more over the holidays

Dec 2 2019, 4:57 pm

‘Tis the season of giving, in more ways than one.

Chances are, you may feel that this time of year has turned into an opportunity for every charity to ask you for money… like a dozen times. Even if you’re passionate about helping a cause you care about, that can get a little overwhelming.

The reality is that you do care. We all do. We know that the world isn’t perfect and that each of us has a role to play in making things better. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be great if Giving Tuesday (happening December 3) helped us reconnect with that part of ourselves?

We’ve rounded up some simple ways to take action and make it count this season, no stress necessary.

Give your time or talent

Giving back/United Way

Can you remember the last time you volunteered? In that case, it’s already been a while. Two-thirds of Canadian volunteers say they gain skills through volunteering. Studies have also shown that volunteers have better health, more stamina, and lower stress levels. And if you think volunteering is a big commitment, think again.

It’s incredibly easy to sign up to become a volunteer at iVolunteer.ca and start to do good in your neighbourhood. Once you sign up, explore volunteer opportunities in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley and choose one that matches your interests. Your profile lets you log all volunteer hours and helps you stay on track with how much good you’re doing.

Rethink what it means to “volunteer”

It’s easy to think that volunteering means finding a non-profit, filling out forms, doing a criminal record check, and signing up for a shift once per week for a year. But volunteering actually has a deeper meaning, and most of us volunteer every single day without realizing it.

Maybe you shovel a family member’s driveway when it snows, or watch your neighbour’s kids after school if they get stuck in traffic. These little gestures go a long way for the people around you. So on Giving Tuesday, why not make a commitment to help someone in a small way? This could be making lunch for your partner, holding the door for your colleagues, or taking your friend’s dog for a walk!

Say “Hi Neighbour”

Hi Neighbour/Shutterstock

Almost half of British Columbians (46%) say they sometimes feel lonely. This staggering number came as a result of a poll commissioned by United Way of the Lower Mainland. Social isolation is on the rise, and the negative impacts this brings for our health and well-being can’t be understated.

That’s why United Way of the Lower Mainland is tackling the issue head-on with their Hi Neighbour initiative. Through Hi Neighbour, you can identify the symptoms — and unique solutions – to social isolation in your own community. You can take action to help solve it and receive support from United Way’s expert team of community engagement specialists along the way. They even have ‘local love funds,’ or small grants you can access to bring your idea to life.

Pick up holiday gifts that do good

Exchanging the same gifts among family and friends year after year can start to feel transactional. Come on, our sock drawers are probably already overflowing. However, when you take the time to choose something you know your favourite person will really love, it matters more.

According to a 2017 study, more than half of people (78%) want companies to address social justice issues, and 87% of consumers claimed they would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy concerning a social matter. For instance, if your aunt cares about the environment, get her swimwear from a brand that gives a percentage of its proceeds to the Surfrider Foundation.

Plan a hamper delivery

Kids’ toys/Unsplash

When it comes to gift-giving, most of us think of items that we can wrap up and give to friends and family. Things like blankets, toiletries, gifts for kids, used clothing, or other everyday necessities can almost always be put to good use.

But remember, if you plan to deliver a hamper to a small organization this year, you won’t be the only one — organizations can get overwhelmed when everything comes in at once. That’s why it’s key to call ahead if you’re planning to deliver food, clothing, or sundries. Better yet, call the charity ahead of time and ask them what they need!

Do your research (and go right to the source)

If you’re tempted to make a quick donation before the clock strikes midnight on Giving Tuesday just to avoid FOMO, it’s a good idea to make sure you do your research beforehand. We all want to feel confident that our donations are being spent wisely on programs we care about, but some websites that grade and rank charities can be misleading.

For example, a 2018 MoneySense article reported United Way of the Lower Mainland’s total administrative costs at 23%, when they are actually about 15%. Why the difference? Every website uses a different formula, making it difficult to compare apples to apples. To find out what a charity spends on administration, go right to their annual reports and audited financial statements. It’s the only way!

Find your passion in a design jam (without getting out of your PJs)

Getting cozy/Unsplash

Wondering what a design jam is? Well, it’s like a party, but instead of leaving the party tired, you leave energized and full of ideas. It’s a place to identify an issue or challenge and come up with ideas to address it. Of course, over the holidays your social calendar is no doubt fully booked.

The good news is that United Way has made it easy to do a design jam, without leaving your couch (or getting changed out of your PJs). All you have to do is take 10 or 15 minutes to answer some questions with a United Way representative, and by the end of it, you’ll have honed in on a local issue you care about and identified the skills to make a plan of action! Make your local love action plan here.

Too busy? Just make a donation (and feel great about it)

We get it, all of these ideas are different and creative, which means they might take a little longer to execute. We can’t always give our time or talents, but we can give our treasure. No matter how or what you have to give, United Way makes it easy. This year, there are plenty of reasons to do so.

More than 25,000 local seniors say they have no one to talk to, but United Way seniors’ programs are helping those affected make life-changing connections, every day. One in 10 local kids say they don’t think a single adult cares about them. However, United Way after-school programs connect kids with caring mentors, sometimes changing the entire course of the rest of their lives.

Don’t worry, nobody expects you to do it alone. Tag a friend and commit to donating at the same time this Giving Tuesday. You could even round up your co-workers and see the collective impact you could generate by giving together. When it comes to Giving Tuesday, it truly is better together. Go to United Way to make a donation now.