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Giving back to others on a budget

Dec 6, 2011, 2:19 p.m.

As we get a little older and our children are out on their own (at least on a good day), it's time to think about how we can give back to our community, how we can help those near us with fewer resources than we have. However, philanthropy can get expensive. Below are a few ways you can make an impact without depleting your bank account.

1. Make tax incentives work for you. Cash donations to charitable organizations are generally tax deductible. That means the $10 you give the church every week really costs you only $7 (assuming you are in the average tax bracket and pay around 30 percent in taxes each year.) Make sure that you get a detailed receipt from the organization or keep your canceled check. You'll need those come tax time.

2. Getting top dollar by donating your car. If you're thinking about getting a new car and are getting rid of the one you've been driving for years, consider giving it to a church, school or other charitable organization for their use. We all know that a older car isn't going to net you a lot of money as trade-in. The IRS allows you to deduct the fair market value of the vehicle on your taxes and you don't have to worry about finding a buyer.

3. Use your frugal skills for charity. All those saving skills you honed while you were raising a family on a budget needn't go to waste now that your children are grown. If you can use coupons to get toothpaste for 25 cents a tube or packages of rice for free, take these items over to the food pantry or local homeless shelter. It will only cost you a little time and effort. Are you a coupon whiz? Consider hosting a couponing or frugal living seminar for free at your local community center and teach others to live well on little.

4. Donate your time. Do you have more time than money now that you're retired? Think about volunteering your talents to help at a soup kitchen, to share your business skills with start-up small companies or to visit with folks in care facilities that don't have anyone to talk to. The IRS lets you deduct the cost of transportation to and from the place you volunteer as well as any costs you incur to work there (such as a uniform, postage or supplies.)

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