For $100, you could give Aunt Hilda a nice scarf...or you could give her a $50 scarf and send $50 to protect five African families from malaria. Feels better, doesn't it?
Maybe you're fed up with holiday consumerism. Or maybe you're fed up with anti-consumer holiday purism. Whichever side of the to-buy-or-not-to-buy debate you favor, this year we encourage you to straddle the fence and adopt what Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Progress Paradox, calls the "half and half" holiday. The idea: For every dollar you spend on a gift, donate an equal amount to charity. Or, for every real gift you purchase, contribute the same amount to a group that champions the recipient's favorite cause. "Half as much is actually twice as good," says Easterbrook, who's been practicing the principle with his family since 2001. "We don't sacrifice the gifts, but we have more of a sense of fulfillment and the spiritual meaning of the holidays."
For do-gooders who still get a thrill from shopping, a new breed of charities offer boutique-ish websites with lots of customization; you can shop your heart out browsing dollar amounts and causes for just the right fit. If you're daunted by the thought of choosing among the million charities currently in operation, start by visiting CharityNavigator.org or CharityWatch.org, both excellent hubs for all things philanthropic. If you think the person receiving the present is best suited to pick it out, JustGive.org lets you buy gift certificates that recipients can allocate to a charity of their choice. And if you don't believe your budget is big enough to have an impact, think again: Our roundup of eight great charities proves that even small donations can make a world of difference.
Learn more ways to change your holiday tradition.
Note: We've researched these groups, with help from the folks at CharityNavigator.org, to ensure that the bulk of individual donations goes to programming or meeting a specific need of the donor's choice, but in some cases, donations might be used in other programmatic ways. Before giving to any charity, always research it yourself.
We Hear You!