The Cash-Strapped Parent’s Guide to Christmas: How to Have a Merry Christmas For Free

I walked into Wal-Mart this weekend and was met with Christmas displays and trees. As I walked down the aisles I heard the Christmas music playing softly in the background. I admit that I was a little agitated that Thanksgiving has been completely ignored or at best got one day of attention (probably on the day nobody really went shopping).

I got over the agitation and proceeded with my shopping. But it was not without thinking about the thousands of single moms out there who feel burdened by the Christmas holidays. I’ve faced this dread myself in years past. I know what it’s like to wonder where I’ll get the money to buy gifts for my kids. Several times I’ve made the decision to only purchase one gift or no more than three (in the spirit of Christ’s birth). As much as I wanted to give my precious little ones everything they wanted I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the money because I needed to pay the rent or car note. I needed to make sure there was food in the house for the days after Christmas.

There are so many moms like me out there who need a helping hand this year. So I’ve done some research and came up with a pretty long list of resources. These are organizations that help needy families during the Christmas holidays. They give toys and sometimes clothes to families that need a helping hand during this time of year.

Most of the organizations have local chapters so you will have to contact the one nearest you for more information. Please don’t be shy about calling. They are there to help and often are looking for people to help. The more localized the better for you. Also remember to get a head start on applying for help. Some deadlines have already passed but try anyway. Your persistence will pay off.

Toys for Tots – this organization has many local chapters. Their deadline in some places was in October but they are still taking applications. If they have toys left you will be contacted.

Angel Tree – This program is for kids who have parents in prison.
Salvation Army – Contact your local chapter for information about their program. They don’t collect money in those little red pails for nothing. You just may be one of the families they help this year.

Shiners/Lions/Masons – These organizations are famous for the help they give to children. Call your local office and find out when and where they are taking applications.
St. Vincent de Paul/Catholic Charities – These Catholic organizations help people year around. They have offices in many locations so call and find out where you can go for help.

VFW/American Legion – Your local organization may have a Christmas toy donation program. Be sure to call and find out.

County Help Lines – Your county help line may have information about other local organizations that are helping the needy this Christmas. To find your state or county helpline, Google “[your state] + helpline”. It may show up as a crisis hotline but they may also have information that you can use.

Local Churches – There are likely churches in your area that are collecting toys to give to needy families. Open the phone book and call the churches near you and ask if they have a program. Find out how to get on the list.

Local Businesses – I worked for a large corporation that collected toys every year for needy families. They may work in cooperation with other charitable organizations but many may offer direct help. Look in the newspaper for announcements and call a few to learn about which companies are helping the needy. Also ask your friends if they their companies have programs.

Libraries/Banks – The local library and banks often have Angel or Giving Trees. Ask how you can get your kids’ names on the tree to receive Christmas gifts this year.

United Way – this organization is the umbrella unit of hundreds of charitable organizations. Call your local office and find out what programs they have to help kids for Christmas. I’m sure they can point you in the right direction.

There are likely many more resources out there you just have to investigate the options. Please do not be put off by the word “needy”. It is not an indication of you as a person but a temporary status. We are living in tough economic times right now so everyone is struggling. Fortunately you now have a few resources now to help give your kids a great Christmas.

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