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10 great ways to have happier holidays

By Amanda Ponzar @LivingUnited


As we approach Thanksgiving, #GivingTuesday, Hanukkah, Christmas and the general holiday season (no matter what you celebrate), it's time to start thinking about giving –- and giving back. So, here's a list to get you started.

1.) Tweet: After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, stop buying stuff for a second and take part in #GivingTuesday on Tuesday, December 3. It's as simple as sending a tweet supporting your favorite cause.

2.) Make something: Grandpa built a storage cube with my son this past weekend. They had a CAM00527 great time pounding nails and getting organized. Why not make holiday gifts using a special skill (baking, painting, sewing, carpentry, graphic design, cleaning for someone else, babysitting, etc.).

3.) Spend time together: Build a gingerbread house or make popcorn balls; visit Hershey Candy Lane, attend a local play or pageant; take a family walk; go sledding; rake leaves. Go caroling at your local nursing home. Just be together!

4.) Be the hostess with the most-est: Invite someone over for a meal, especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many individuals, couples or families don't travel home for the holidays and may be looking for a place to go for food, fun and fellowship. Order takeout to avoid stress. Guess what? I switched to INSTANT mashed potatoes and no one noticed.  

5.) Make a difference: “Turn Christmas Upside Down” with the Advent Conspiracy from IJM –- spend less on gifts, give more presence. Watch the inspiring video or check out the toolkit.

6.) Consider nonprofit gift catalogs –- many organizations encourage you to “buy” a Goatgoat for a family and then send a card in someone's honor. World Vision, Heifer International and International Justice Mission (IJM) offer these catalogs.

7.) Donate your unused stuff –- if it hasn't been used/worn for a year, you don't need it. If you moved and never took it out of the box, ditto. If you're renting a storage shed to keep your extra stuff, stop the madness and stop wasting money! Drop off your gently used clothes, appliances, electronics, etc. at your local Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity Restore or Goodwill. You can also schedule a pick-up. Best to ensure your donation goes a reputable nonprofit such as these since many organizations call or send postcards “we've got a truck in your neighborhood” or have drop-boxes in parking lots –- read the fine print; sometimes they take a large percentage of what's received, or it's actually a for-profit company selling the items.

8.) Volunteer –- cook a meal at your local homeless shelter; volunteer at your child's school or your house of worship. Check out or VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities near you.

9.) Raise your voice -– giving back is also about giving your influence, so promote your favorite cause on social media, send a letter to the editor and call your elected officials. Sojourners is a great organization focused on social justice for the poor; you can find ways to take action there. Or, help end human trafficking on IJM's Freedom Commons by taking simple steps.

10.) Shop –- sure, we all want to support the economy. Don't forget small businesses –- even individual Cuff linkssellers on Amazon, eBay or etsy (I got a great pair of Scrabble cufflinks!). My friend Kerri started her own confection business ( and sells delectable desserts, chocolates, cakes and candies. Or, find a local store in your community. Why not shop with a friend to spend time together? Sometimes it's better to get one really special gift (doesn’t have to be expensive) versus buying tons of stuff that no one wants or needs. Consider donating the same amount of items you buy –- kids can help by picking a few old toys to donate.

Would love to hear your ideas -- tweet @LivingUnited.  Here's to more peace, joy and love for all of us.


See related posts such as:

Forget Black Friday; Momma's Shopping Online

What do you have and what can you do?







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