One of the big costs over the holidays that most people don’t consider is the number of charities you donate to. It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of giving and to feel that you can do more for others. It’s a great thing, but you really need to plan for it so that you don’t put yourself into a precarious financial situation because of it. Just like every other aspect of your finances, you should budget this into your holidays and then stick to it. Here are a few ways to make sure you are generous without being irresponsible.

–        Determine how much cash you are going to carry and use that for unplanned donations. From the people standing on street corner and in the front of stores to charities at work and school, if you have cash on hand, you will be far less likely to overspend your budget.

–        Budget how much you are planning to give using checks and credit cards. Many charities are already sending texts, emails, and mail asking you to give to their causes. Plan how much you can spend and think about who you want to donate to so that you can divvy up how much will go to each of them.

–        Take inventory of the things in your home that you want to donate and keep that in mind for charities. Some of them are just as happy to take items as they are to take money. Of course, you can also try to sell those items instead, and then give that money to charity.

–        If you get a bonus, start with a percentage of how much of the bonus you want to donate. It is always great to give more when you are given extra yourself.

–        Remember that you can always donate your time.  Take a neighbor to visit the doctor or just spend time with someone who needs a listening ear.  Invite someone to share a holiday meal with your family.  Little acts of kindness will go a long way.

–       One thing to keep in mind is that you should hold onto the receipts and documentation you get for your donations. You will want this for your 2015 taxes. Make sure to record your charitable donations in PIMYU so that it is easier to determine how much you gave.

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