(Even if you’re broke as a joke)

It’s that time of year. Yep, that time where we’re finally burning those winterberry candles we bought on sale last February at Pier 1, we’re all feeling a bit more jolly towards the neighbor that doesn’t understand volume control, and we can’t help but smile at the thought of little daycare kids taking their morning waddle, hand-in-hand, wearing big boots and marshmallow coats with their mittens dangling from the clamp on their sleeves. *I know, I know, we’re having a mild winter, but you know you still smiled at the thought.* Admit it, even if you are the biggest scrooge during this time of year, you’re seem to be feeling that slight tingle of holiday spirit in the air.

But perhaps the holidays give you a dose of anxiety. After all, it’s gift-giving and travel season. So on top of booking your flights home, getting the perfect present for mom, and picking up the most popular white elephant gift for the office holiday party, you’re also thinking of ways to give back to the wonderful community around you. But donating some of your hard earned cash just seems out of the question.

N’er fear! (Can I say that? I’m gonna say that…Translation: ‘Never fear!’)

Here are 5 great ways you can give back this holiday season without breaking the bank:

1. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen

The holidays are a time where we share big meals with loved ones and friends. Perhaps your family always volunteers at a soup kitchen during this season. Or are you young and single and living alone in a city far away from Ma and Pa? Try getting some friends together for an evening of volunteering at your local soup kitchen. A feel-good quest you can organize yourself. Search online for soup kitchens in your area, visit your local church or check websites to government agencies.

2. Donate food and clothes to the local pantry

We have much to be grateful for with our friends, family and things we have acquired in our lives, but it’s also more rewarding to give rather than receive. I’m willing to bet you have clothes and shoes in your closet that you no longer wear because you’ve outgrown either in taste or in size. You might have food in your own pantry that you keep thinking you should eat eventually and then end up pushing it to the back with your next grocery haul. This is a perfect opportunity to give your still-functioning, non-damaged goods to a local pantry, church, or shelter.

3. Write holiday cards for hospitalized children

Being sick and away from home over the holidays is the last thing anybody wants for their child. Perhaps you have an artistic side and would like to make cards for hospitalized children. Contact one of your local hospitals to learn more details about making holiday cards for kids, or visit cardsforhospitalizedkids.com. You only have a few days before the deadline (even though they are flexible) so dig out those markers and turn on that Mariah Carey album I know you love to do all your holiday crafting to.

4. Visit those confined to the indoors

When I was in grade school we always visited the nursing homes during the holidays. There is so much opportunity to bring joy to the lives of others while they are confined in a place that doesn’t always feel like home. Visiting nursing homes and hospitals are a great way to spread the holiday cheer and the best part? You make new friends!

Are you an animal lover? Animal shelters count too! Go visit your local shelter and offer to volunteer so that rescue workers can go home to visit their families. There also might be an opportunity for you to foster a pet in your home over the holidays. I know you animal lovers, you can thank me later for that one.

5. Give a toy to a child in need

This year my boyfriend and I each picked a toy to gift a child off a ‘giving tree’, and now I keep pestering him that we need to “go buy Christmas gifts for our kids”–you can imagine how that makes him shudder every time. Being the comedian that I am, I just laugh maniacally to myself. Depending on the rules of the giving tree, you may have to purchase a toy, but there are many cases where you can simply donate some old (but not lead-paint-based old) toys that you have from your childhood, but maybe better off from a much younger cousin’s or niece’s childhood. Visit your local church, school, public library, or community shelter to inquire about gift giving to the needy during the holiday season.

And there you have it. No fancy galas to attend, no big checks to write, just pure good samaritan sweat-equity that you have invested to lift the spirits and lives of others during this holiday season. Though I preach over and over again that getting a grasp on your money matters is very important, it’s not always about the money, and around this time of year I hope that you have friends, family, and perfect-strangers to help you realize that.