This year at my house, we decided to make this holiday season more about giving than gifting. Neither Garrett nor I need any more things, and most of our family and friends are in the same place. Because so many others haven't been as fortunate, we decided to make donations to non-profits on behalf of our family and friends rather than buying gifts. So instead of facing the post-Thanksgiving shopping crowds, Garrett and I spent time together picking out causes that matched with people's interests: FirstBook for the sister-in-law that reads more than Matthew; Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary for the brother who wants to bring every stray animal home; and health-related Gifts That Give More for my mother-in-law the nurse. Now, even if my family isn't completely satisfied with their gifts, at least I know that they won't be sitting in a closet unused.
If you are interested in doing something similar, there are plenty of sites to help you pick out the right cause. For example: Redefine Christmas, Network for Good, and JustGive.org. Or if you already know the organization you want to give to, you can head directly to their website for information on how to give.
For those of you who don't want to or can't give up giving gifts, there are still ways for you to make your gifts go farther. When you shop at The Hunger Store or Epic Change Gift Shop, a portion of your purchase helps to feed a family or build a school. Also, through We-Care.com when you shop at merchants like Target, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, a portion of your purchase is directed to the organization of your choice. (I'd recommend Pro Bono Net, but I am a little biased.)
And even if you don't want to spend any money, there are still ways for you to give. Check out the Give List. Through del.icio.us, Twitter, and their blogs, people are contributing ideas for how to give back without spending anything more than time. - K