2021 money challenge: Planning Your Charitable Gifts

To usher in the new year, CNBC Select is releasing a new money challenge every day for the first week of 2021. Think of these chores as your deep financial cleansing based on expert advice to help you base your monetary decisions on your preferences over most. These are simple tasks, but they require a commitment. Are you in?

This is day six of seven.

Day Six: Plan Your 2021 Charity Gifts

If you’ve been following our 2021 Money Challenge since day one, you should have already calculated your wealth, planned your budget, and set your emergency savings. After all of your needs have been met, if you still have a disposable income, you may be ready to invest. Or, you might want to think about your 2021 donations and how you can align your daily expenses with your values.

While November and December are the most popular months for charity, it’s not too early to start thinking about how much you would like to donate to causes and organizations this year.

According to the Mint, more consumers have set savings goals for charity in 2020 than in previous years. They peaked in May and June amid protests against Black Lives Matter and heightened national talks on racism and inequality.

Individuals find ways to prioritize spending on issues that matter to them. Prior to this, CNBC Select spoke with Mint’s Financial Planner Brittney Castro, CFP, about how to make sure you can fund the issues that interest you this year.

Ways to prioritize charitable donations

If you want your money to make an impact this year, you can just take a New Years resolution to save more for charity, “says Castro, especially if you want to prioritize permanent change.

Consider these methods and decide which one works best for your budget:

Recurring donations

“Set specific goals for yourself to support causes that are important to you,” says Castro. This could include “making recurring donations to a pantry, community organization, or security deposit”.

Even $ 5 or $ 10 a month makes a difference. Many organizations allow you to set up recurring donations online. Just enter your credit card or debit card information and check the box to automate a monthly charge. (Note that credit card processing fees may apply.)

Use company matches

Many large employers offer donation adjustments as part of the company’s benefit package.

Matching gifts is one of the easiest ways to double your donation. And you can almost think of this game as part of your annual compensation package.

Ask your HR representative if your company offers this benefit and what you need to do to match your donations. If they match up to a certain amount (say, $ 500) each year, see if you can reasonably achieve that match (or at least part of it).

Donate with credit card points

You can redeem rewards as donations to partner charities and non-profit organizations with select card issuers. Log into your card’s online rewards account and navigate to “Charitable Redeeming” or similar link.

Currently you can redeem rewards for donations with Amex, Citi and Discover:


If you have a card that collects Membership Rewards® points, such as the American Express® Gold Card, thanks to Amex’s partnership with JustGiving, you can donate to more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States.


Cardholders who have a card that collects ThankYou® points, such as the Citi Premier® card and Citi Rewards + ℠ card, can redeem points at the American Red Cross, No Kid Hungry, and other charities.


Discover’s donation program allows card members to donate their Cashback Bonus® rewards to a variety of organizations, including the American Red Cross. To donate, call 1-800-DISCOVER or donate online through your Discover Card Account Center. For example, if you have the Discover it® chrome, you can donate for coronavirus relief.

Air miles and hotel points

At least 12 credit cards from airlines and / or hotels also offer opportunities to donate rewards. Read our Guide to Donating Credit Card Rewards to learn how.


When money is tight but you have the time, consider volunteering for an organization you care about. Your interactions may be virtual in order to comply with coronavirus precautions. However, companies still need employees. Remote working can include helping with newsletters and communication, coordinating donation submissions, tutoring, mentoring, card making, reading books for patients, and even sewing. Make an inventory of your skills and decide on a realistic time investment.

Beyond Donations: How to Spend Effectively

“Prioritize spending that has a bigger impact,” advised Castro, noting that where you shop is just as important as where you donate.

“Whether it’s local shopping or buying from companies with missions you believe in, the value of the dollar was reaffirmed last year.”

To stay motivated, start looking at your expenses from step two. Add up how much you’ve spent in big stores in 2020 and consider the benefit of investing those dollars in small and local businesses instead.

Buy locally

Consider shopping at your local corner shop before clicking “Buy Now” on Amazon. That goes for clothing, electronics, beauty products, and more. Check your local Facebook community groups to see what businesses are still open and how they work after more trading is online.

Buy from small businesses

It may be a bit of Googling, but for most products, you will most likely find an alternative to Amazon and / or mega retailers.

At Etsy, you can shop for handmade jewelry, home decor, skin care products, and more. If you are a book lover use Bookstore.org which gives back a percentage of its sales to small bookstores.

Don’t try to be perfect; Starting with (and sticking to) a few household purchases is enough to get you on the right track. Once the habit is ingrained, move on.

Spend with the environment in mind

If you are environmentally conscious, shop for clothing and other vintage and second-hand goods on eBay and other resale sites.

For information on household products like pantry and cleaning supplies, visit Thrive Market’s monthly $ 5 memberships, which gives you access to over 6,000 sustainable and organic products at a reduced cost.

For makeup and skin care, consider BLK + GRN, a natural marketplace for self-care for all black artisans.

Bottom line

The year ahead is sure to bring more changes, but we can all join in to help. Don’t forget to plan your donations for 2021 and consider ways you can balance your dollars and values.

Editor’s note: The opinions, analysis, ratings, or recommendations expressed in this article come solely from the CNBC Select editorial team and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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