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    Giving Back When Money’s Tight? Here’s What You Should Know

    Key Takeaways

    • See if your employer will match your donation.
    • To receive a tax break from your donation, you need to itemize deductions. Most people do a standard deduction.
    • A donation on behalf of someone is a great holiday gift.

    By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

    Giving to charity is one of the most rewarding ways to use your money. That’s especially true during the holidays. However, finding money to give can be a sobering experience when you’re just starting out and still struggling with student debt.

    Still, there’s a role everyone can play to help those in need, even if you’re on a tight budget.

    How do you maximize a donation?

    The first way is to ask your company if they match employee donations to qualified charities. If they do, then you’ve just doubled your donation without having to dip into your own pocket.

    The second way is to set up small recurring donations to a charitable organization. Maybe it’s a few dollars from every paycheck. But that money adds up over a year’s time, and it’s easier to squeeze into your budget than doing a one-time larger donation.

    And thirdly, don’t forget that giving your time can be just as valuable as giving your money. Ask your favorite charity for a list of volunteer opportunities. See if you can bring some friends, family, or co-workers with you!

    Are there tax benefits?

    Yes, there are tax benefits, but only if you itemize your deductions when you do your taxes. Itemizing deductions involves making a series of claims from a list of eligible expenses, such as out-of-pocket medical and dental costs, mortgage interest, and contributions to qualified charities.

    Most people don’t itemize deductions on their taxes. This is because they get a better tax benefit through the standard deduction, which reduces your taxable income by a fixed amount. Standard deductions are even more prevalent now in light of the tax bill passed in 2017.

    Speak with a tax professional to figure out which deduction option will work best for you.

    What can you do around the holidays?

    Struggling to come up with gift ideas? Here’s one: Make a donation on behalf of a family member or friend to their favorite charity! That’s a personalized gift that’ll mean a lot to them. You don’t have to worry about going over budget, and you’ll both feel good about it. That scores a win for you, the recipient, and the charity.

    You can even let the recipient choose which organization to donate to by using Donors Choose. That way you can be confident the money is going to the right cause.

    What to remember

    Don’t get discouraged because you don’t have a lot to donate right now. There could be more room in your budget once student loans are paid off and you advance in your career. But remember, there will always be expenses in your life. Today, it’s monthly student loan payments; tomorrow, it could be a mortgage, childcare, or other major expenses. Don’t expect to wake up one day with a ton of money to spare.

    But if giving back is important to you right now, add it to your budget and fund it by cutting back in other areas.

    More information

    Looking for breathing room in your budget? Refinancing your student loans could save you money each month. Those savings could help cover your existing expenses or be reallocated to your charity of choice, particularly during the holidays. Click here to see if our Education Refinance Loan could put money back in your pocket.

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