A Guide to Free Gifts If You Can’t Afford the Holidays

If holiday costs are keeping you up at night, you’re not alone. With unemployment at record highs, many Americans are wondering how to afford the holidays this year.  If you’re going through a rough patch financially, there are people who can lend a hand. No one should be forced to go without during the holiday season. Here are a few of your options. 

5 charities offering free toys for Christmas 

1. Salvation Army Angel Tree 

The Salvation Army is one of the largest and oldest charitable organizations in the country. Their Angel Tree program provides Christmas presents for thousands of kids in need every year. The program is offered through select local chapters of the Salvation Army. If you go to the Angel Tree website and type in your zip code, you can find information on programs in your area. You can also call your local Salvation Army for more information. 

2. Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is a well-known organization for helping parents find toys for their children. Toy requests are handled by local partner campaigns across the nation. Find a campaign located in your area at the website, then “request a toy.” Requests at some campaigns are already closed for the season, so you should apply as soon as possible.

3. United Way Christmas Bureau 

During Christmas, United Way collaborates with many charities to support gift initiatives, as well as provide a variety of assistance programs on their website. The organization has a wide range of connections with charities across the country, making it an ideal stop if you’re seeking help during the holiday season. Their site also provides a useful FAQ section that can direct you to detailed pages depending on your situation. 

4. Catholic Charities USA

Catholic Charities is a network of organizations that help people in need. Many local chapters have programs specifically for the holidays. Aside from toys, Catholic Charities also helps to connect people with other household necessities. Check out the national website and type in your zip code to find an organization that’s serving your community. 

5. Make-A-Wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps children who are critically ill. If you have a sick child and need help with the holidays, you can “refer a child” on their website. The application goes to a local chapter of the foundation, so the process can take some time. 

In this article

    Seeking help from loans and credit agencies 

    While many programs can help low-income families, it’s common to seek traditional financing resources, like credit cards or loans. But these options should always be carefully considered first. Remember, every dollar you borrow must be paid back in the future.

    Credit cards 

    Credit cards provide a rolling line of credit to help with purchases. Even if you have poor credit or are trying to build credit, there are credit cards you might qualify for, such as secured credit cards and subprime credit cards. Secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit. The deposit can range from $200 to $2,500, and the credit card company uses the deposit as collateral in case the credit card is not paid off. Subprime credit cards are for people who are trying to establish their credit. These credit cards have less favorable terms than secured credit cards, so we only recommend them as a last resort.

    Personal loans 

    Personal loans are another option for financing the holidays. These loans require an application process and are offered by banks and other lenders. Before agreeing to a personal loan, it’s important to read over the terms and conditions carefully. Pay attention to the interest rate, as well as the date when the money needs to be paid back. It’s smart to shop around for a personal loan with different lenders to find the best terms. A good place to start looking is your bank—they already know you and will be more willing to work with you.

    Payday loans 

    Payday loans are offered by private lenders in storefronts around the country. But these loans have terms and conditions that are highly unfavorable to borrowers, so agreeing to a payday loan could leave you in greater debt. If you plan to take a payday loan, make sure you can pay back the full amount — including interest and fees — by the due date. Failing to do so can result in steep penalties.

    Julian Dossett

    Contributing Writer

    Julian writes about what’s coming next, covering stories from artificial intelligence to cryptocurrency. He lives with his wife in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whenever he has a day off, Julian can be found at Isotopes Stadium watching the ballgame.