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It doesn't take much to keep on giving

The holidays are cheerful, but they can also be a busy time of year for many, with crowded schedules, shopping and stress. That doesn’t mean you have to lose the giving spirit!

The best gifts often aren’t material ones. Small acts of kindness that show you’re thinking of someone can mean more—and cost less—than a physical item. Write a thank you note to a local volunteer. Offer a friend a ride to the airport. Donate anonymously. Even the smallest acts of good can go a long way and bring a smile to someone’s face.

These 10 ideas make it easy to keep up the kindness this holiday season.

  1. Thank volunteers. If you’re unable to make a volunteer commitment this season, thank those who can. Send a note to your local fire dept or a thank you letter to shelter volunteers. Or make sure those Salvation Army volunteers ringing holiday bells stay warm too with gloves, hats and coffee or hot cocoa (and donate to their cause!).
  2. Mind your manners. When you’re out and about this holiday season, small acts of kindness can make a world of difference. Say thank you to your postal worker, let someone go in front of you in the crowded grocery line or smile at a stressed-out employees who may be overworked.
  3. Buy—or bake—a little extra. Another way to spread cheer without breaking the bank—or your schedule—is by doing a little extra of something you were already planning. Baking Christmas cookies? Make an extra batch for the local nursing home. Cooking up a big meal? Drop some off at the homeless shelter. Or if you’re doing some shopping, purchase toys for children in need. There are plenty of programs, like the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree , that can make sure your gift gets to a child in need.
  4. Ease someone’s travel. Holiday months mean peak travel time—and the stress that comes with it. Give a friend or neighbor ride to the airport or train station, or offer to pick someone up. It will make a big difference amid overcrowded transit and delayed flight times!
  5. Spread the warmth. Heating and utility costs during winter months can climb quickly. Is there someone you know who’s short on cash? A family in the neighborhood going through a tough time? Call the electric company and anonymously pay their gas or electric bill for the month.
  6. Be a friend. The holidays may not be full of joy for everyone. They can be a lonely time for someone who has lost a loved one or doesn’t have nearby friends and family. If you know someone who finds the holidays tough, make sure to include them. Invite them to your gatherings, or just spend some extra time with them one on one. Be there when they need you, but know that if they want to be alone sometimes, that’s OK too.
  7. Donate anonymously. It doesn’t take long to go online, search out a cause that matters to you and make a donation. Before you donate, though, make sure you do your research. Use these tips to give back wisely.
  8. Write a letter to strengthen bonds. Many people have made a difference in your life. This season, remember to tell them. Write a letter to friend or loved one, or reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Expressing how you feel and how much they mean to you is the perfect holiday gift.
  9. Sing a song. What’s more festive, spirited and soothing than music? If you don’t know of a caroling group already, gather one together to make rounds in your neighborhood or take your tunes to an assisted living facility and fill the halls with song.
  10. Foster a pet. Make a new friend this season by fostering a cat or dog. Animal shelters can get chilly in winter weather, which is a great reason to take a pet back to your warm home. Do you love dogs, but not sure if you’re ready for the commitment? Or maybe you want to teach the kids the responsibilities that come with owning pet. For these reasons and more, taking care of an animal is a great way to spread the love this season.

Find more at Create the Good

For more ways to give—and give back—this season, visit Create the Good to find volunteer opportunities near you. With tools, ideas and inspiration, it’s easy to keep the candle burning on doing good all year round.

The holidays are about family and friends, so invite them to join in the giving back fun too! Share these ideas with those closest to you and encourage them to do the same.

Try getting the kids involved. For instance, gather a group together after school to craft some festive holiday cards for local nursing home residents. For more ways to get the whole family involved in volunteering.