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What to Do with Unwanted Gifts

Are You Giving to Save Money?

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It’s that time of year when many people take a moment to remember those less fortunate than themselves and plan their contributions to their favorite charities. Those donations ensure that many millions will be fed, housed, clothed and aided in innumerable ways. So it’s all good.

Does the fact that many of those donations are tax deductible in any way cheapen the nature of the gift?

We don’t think so. The important thing is to help as many people as possible. If someone decides to donate because it lowers her/his tax bill, the food will still fill a hungry belly, the shelter will still offer protection and a pair of shoes will still keep feet warm and dry.

But maybe you’ve found yourself calculating “what’s in it for me” when you’re contemplating a donation. And maybe that’s made you feel a little less altruistic than you used to.

First of all, don’t let that stop you from writing the check. The people (and animals and hospitals and historic homes, etc.) who need the help just need it. It isn’t about you.

Second of all, consider additional ways of giving. Work in a soup kitchen. Deliver meals to the homebound. Tutor a child in math or reading. Volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Finally, do you remember the 2000 film, Pay it Forward? Haley Joel Osment’s character rethinks the idea of paying back a favor and turns it into a progressive plan to increase community service. It can be as simple as holding the door for a mother who’s maneuvering a stroller and a toddler or as grand as providing a college scholarship to a graduating high school senior.


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