Find holiday help with gifts for your kids

For those times when there's no money for presents.

The holidays are a time for giving, but 54% of Americans feel stressed about their finances during the holidays.1 Lacking extra cash during the holiday season and having no money for Christmas presents (or whatever you may be celebrating) can really leave you feeling down, but as you can see, you're not alone. In fact, not having a budget is so common that there are literally hundreds of organizations ready to help—no matter which holidays you’re gifting for. Why? Because gifting shouldn’t be about how much money you have, it should be about the spirit of the holidays you celebrate.

Where can I get free holiday gifts for my kids?

There are a number of places you can turn to in times when there’s no money for the holidays, including:

  • Toys for Tots.2 Started by a former Marine and officially adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948, Toys for Tots partners with leading toy retailers and local donation centers across the country to collect and distribute new toys, free of charge. The age cutoff is typically 12 years old, but some locations offer free toys for kids up to 16 years of age. But be aware that supplies become limited quickly for the holidays and vary from location to location. So if you're interested, request a free toy from Toys for Tots as soon as possible.

  • The Salvation Army.3 You’ve seen their iconic red kettles and bell-ringers collecting donations outside of stores for decades, but the Salvation Army has been supporting people since 1865. They help 25 million Americans each year through the Angel Tree program, which gives out free gifts for kids, and through various grocery and bill-paying assistance programs. To sign up for their services, find your local Salvation Army and enter your ZIP code.

  • Specialized sources. If your family is part of any type of government program, ask your case worker to find out about the toy drives they conduct. This includes programs like Headstart, which offers assistance for low-income families, and Early Intervention, a program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. For kids with an incarcerated parent, call 1-800-55-ANGEL to find out about free gifts from Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship.

  • Local sources. Almost every neighborhood has charities, churches and organizations that collect toys for local kids in need. Check online for specific programs meant to help those in need during November and December. Perform separate internet searches with your town, city, county and state names followed by “holiday toy drives” or “free gifts for kids.” Contact city hall. Look for programs at your local police and fire departments, churches, scout troops and retail stores. Organizations like veterans groups or Rotary Clubs also hold community toy drives, and some are centered around holidays outside of Christmas like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. The internet is the best way to find them.

Just remember, these programs exist because everyone hits a rough patch now and then. Sometimes creating a budget can be the answer. Also keep in mind that people you know might be struggling to figure out how to celebrate with no extra money to spare but don’t want to speak up. Time spent together is the true spirit of the season, so grab some friends and family and spread joy through volunteering and donating together.

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