Christmas gift giving
There's an old saying "It's not the gift, it's the thought that counts." This is very true unless the gift you are giving is yourself.
Lend your helping hands
Many organisations rely on volunteers, and during the holidays the pool of ready helpers can sometimes dry up.
So whether it's serving a holiday meal at the local shelter or reading to children at your local library, just know that your contribution will be helping to make someone else's Christmas a bit brighter.
An indulgent food drive
Start a food drive at work or school. Fill it with indulgent items like boxed chocolates, holiday tins of biscuits and ready-made mince pies. Of course all items of food help feed families in need, and charities are so appreciative to get all donations, but at Christmas everyone deserves a special treat.
Put a new twist on the old Advent calendar
A friend told me about her family's Advent calendar. Instead of opening each day to find a chocolate, her children pull out a bit of paper which has a random act of kindness written on it.
Most items cost nothing but time: delivering some Christmas cookies to the local fire station, weeding someone's garden for the holidays, walking the dogs at the local RSPCA or donating gently-loved toys to your favourite charity.
It's a great way to teach your children about giving back to the community.
Become a 'Secret Santa'
Kmart stores throughout New Zealand have charity giving trees set up. Just take a tag off the tree, purchase a gift, wrap it up and return it to the giving tree (with the tag attached). Any and all gifts are accepted, and your gift will bring a smile to a child who may never have had a Christmas present before.
You can even set up your own giving tree. Contact local non-profit organisations to let them know you'd like to host a giving tree. Remember that a good location for these trees is essential and should include offices, stores, banks, restaurants, libraries and universities.
Ask the non-profit organisation to prepare card "ornaments" containing a child's name, age, sizes and gift request. Or they could supply you with the information and you can make them up yourself.
You want to make sure you arrange for the gifts to be delivered to the organisation the week before Christmas so they can get them to the kids in time for Christmas morning.