“I’d love to give more, I just can’t afford it.”
“I donated last year.”
“I gave at the office.”
Do any of these sound familiar? According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, most American households donate about five percent of their income to charity each year — and that an even larger percentage would like to give more. But concerns about the economy, tight household budgets and an overwhelming number of organizations looking for support make it difficult for many families to increase their charitable contributions.
However, you can increase the amount you give to charity without making significant changes to your lifestyle or draining your bank account. In fact, some of the best ways to boost your charitable donations are relatively painless.
If you work for a large corporation, there is likely some type of charitable-giving program in place to allow employees to support specific organizations. Many companies have established relationships with large nonprofit groups, such as the United Way, which allow employees to donate via payroll deductions. Whether you choose to give a set amount each pay period or a percentage of your pay, by the end of the year you will have made a substantial donation to the organization. As a bonus, your donations are automatically recorded and you’ll receive a receipt at the end of the year, making it easier to deduct it at tax time.
Affinity Credit Cards
Affinity credit cards allow you to support organizations while doing something you would anyway: shop. These credit cards work like any other card, except that a percentage of each purchase is donated directly to a charitable organization. For example, many universities offer affinity cards branded with the university logo, allowing alumni to show pride in their alma mater while supporting them financially. The drawback to affinity cards is that the contributions are not tax deductible, as you aren’t technically making the donation yourself. But if you use the card regularly and pay off the balance each month, you can feel good about providing a little more to the nonprofit’s coffers.
Your old car has been collecting dust in the garage for months. Your husband has been claiming he’s going to fix the boat in the backyard for years, but the only water it’s seen is rain. Instead of putting all of the effort and hassle into selling these items, consider donating them instead. The car donation tax deduction can be considerable if the car has any fair market value; even if the organization sells the car for a few thousand dollars, you can still see a significant reduction in your tax bill. While you may not be able to make this deduction every year, if you’re looking to increase your contributions this year, now is the time to get rid of your old vehicle.
Selling Unwanted Items
While it may be easier to clean out your closet and drop everything off at the local donation bin, if you want to take a tax deduction, you need to itemize every item you donate and place a value on it. You can save yourself the hassle and the paperwork — and potentially make a larger donation — by selling items yourself and donating the proceeds to charity. Hold a garage sale and let buyers know that the proceeds will be donated to a specific charity. You may find they will be less inclined to haggle or even offer to make additional donations to the cause.
Make Change With Change
By some accounts, the average household has as much as $30 in loose change lying around on dressers, in coat pockets, the sofa cushions and other locations — and that’s not even counting the change you cavalierly toss on the dresser each evening or into the bottom of your purse. Instead of letting loose change pile up, collect it in a large container. At the end of the year,donate it to your favorite charity. By simply emptying your pockets each night, you could save several hundred dollars over the course of the year — and score a large tax deduction.
Increasing your charitable contributions doesn’t mean you have to give up your lattes or cut back on your cable bill. In fact, by making small changes and leveraging the spending you’re already doing, you can significantly increase your contributions.