Since I am a tax accountant, tax season is on my mind but in case you don't live and breathe taxes, here's some reminders about charitable contributions - since this is near and dear to my heart. If you plan on donating cash or non-cash items to a qualified charity and deducting it on your 2008 taxes, the donation needs to be made by Wednesday, December 31st. If you donate by personal check, the check needs to be in the mail on or before December 31st. For donations by credit card, it must be charged to your card in 2008 to be deductible in 2008 so plan accordingly. You cannot deduct a cash contribution, regardless of the amount, without proper documentation. This can be in the form of a written receipt from the charity, a copy of your cleared check or bank statement, or a credit card statement.
If money is tight these days, there are probably things around your home that you no longer use or want and are in good condition, that you can donate and be able to deduct the value of the items now, not what they cost new. Many communities have thrift shops that sell items to help support charities. In our town, the thrift shop we donate items to supports the local humane society. This is a relatively painless way to help support causes important to you while clearing your home of unwanted items. It's a win-win situation!
If you received Christmas presents that you don't particularly want, rather than re-gifting, you can donate these items. Or you can exchange the item for washable dog and/or cat toys for example and donate them to a local animal shelter. Another idea is to exchange it for children's clothing and donate to a cause that helps low income families. By donating unwanted gifts, you help spread the holiday cheer to those in need and that feeling is priceless!