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Season of Giving and Setting Limits

During this season of giving it can be difficult to know when to stop. There are lots of people, places, and institutions asking for donations. I used to think it would be handy to have a small sign to pull out of my handbag which said something like “I already made a donation”.

Set Your Limit

That was until I decided how much money I could afford to give. Now, that I have set my limit (you can always modify your limit) once I have reached it, I know I have done my share.


It’s easy to overspend when all you do is whip out the credit card. Most of the time we don’t even have to sign our name on the receipt or the card reader. We can control the amount we spend when we create budgets and decide early on in this season of giving just how much we are comfortable spending.

Donations Request Box

I read in another blog about having a donation request box. I have set this up for myself as well as for many of my clients. I have a box into which I put any donation requests that come to me (or my clients) in the mail. I make my donations in December. Based on my limit I decide how much to give each of the organizations. This simplifies the task.  Since the donation requests are collected in the box until December, there is no chance to give to the same organization twice.

Around Town

There are places around town (the grocery store and some department stores) that also ask for donations at the register.  This is where I wanted my sign “I already made a donation”. I used to feel like scrooge when I said ‘no, thank you’ after being asked ‘do you want to make a donation?’  It is easier for me now that I have set my limit. I am confident knowing that I have done my part.

Other Ways to Donate

The other day I was shopping at the Pet Store for my dogs, Miles and Josie. They love the toys they get for Christmas. The girl at the cash register let me know that they are collecting old towels and blankets for the cats and dogs at the Humane Society.

I know I have some old towels and blankets that I could bring to them.  This would be a great way for me to empty a shelf or two in my linen closet and help the Humane Society. How about you? Do you have any towels or blankets that are not being used?

The Burlington Coat Factory and The Container Store collect coats to donate to people who need a coat. This is another way to donate. If you get a new coat as a gift, consider donating your old coat.

The Food Pantry in my town (and probably in your town) collects canned goods to fill their shelves. The Publix down the street from me has a collection bin for cans. If you get an extra can or two that will help.

A Gift for You

During this holiday season give yourself a gift and set limits for yourself. Be as generous as is comfortable for you.  Overspending will leave you with a gift you don’t want – extra debt.  Shop from your closets. Give towels, blankets, extra coats or sweaters you no longer need or wear to those who will love them. Speaking from experience, I am much happier now that I have set limits on what I spend during this season of giving. I think you will be, too.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.


  • In the work we do, we often talk about setting boundaries. For example, if you have challenges with collecting too many magazines and catalogs, we often suggest using a container or bin to house them. When the bin is full, it’s time to do some editing. But the container helps create a visual boundary for the amount we keep.

    I love your suggestion for creating a boundary around donations. Considering in advance what you can afford will help when it’s time to determine what to give. We tend to donate throughout the year in addition to making year-end donations. One of the things we do is to collect our change. Every so often we roll it up, deposit it into the bank, and then use that money to make a donation to a local charity.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      I love your idea, Linda! Collecting spare change and then putting it to good use is terrific. Thank you for joining the conversation!

  • I like the idea of saving up all your donation money and doing it at one time. Not only is it easier to keep track but you don’t have to say “No” to a cause you’d like to support because you’ve already make all your donations!

  • Seana Turner says:

    This is all such excellent advice. I know exactly how you feel about declining when asked if you want to make a donation. I feel bad about saying no. BUT, you are completely correct that we shouldn’t spend more than we can, either for gifts or charitable donations. I use a similar system to your donation box, and I feel it simply alleviates tension all year long and lets me make my best decisions by comparing all the requests at once. I typically find that many requests come from only a few charities, so even just sorting the requests makes the job easier!

  • Julie Bestry says:

    Diane, these boundaries are so important — for our heads, our hearts, and our pocketbooks. Add me to the list of those who like the idea of setting aside coins; in the Jewish tradition, we have a tzedakah box for collecting coins, and giving that money to those who need it most, whether that’s an individual or a charity. Having those boundaries means that instead of spreading your efforts hither and yon, when you do donate, it concentrates the value, both for the recipient and for the giver. Great piece!