Dr. Seuss once wrote: “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” The Grinch had to learn the lesson the hard way, but at this time of year, are we guilty of the same?

November has seen the debut of the long-awaited Christmas ads. The nation was on tenterhooks to see what John Lewis had up its sleeve this year, and we’re now all fondly acquainted with Bear and Hare. Sainsbury’s have already had people sobbing with their digitally-focused Christmas in a Day campaign, after clips of the 50 minute film, directed by Oscar winner, Kevin McDonald, were recently aired. The film itself will be premiered on 28th November at the Bafta cinema in London and then publicly shared via Sainsbury’s YouTube account from 29th November. It took 14 months to create from over 360 hours of real footage submitted by 114 families all over the UK.

And that’s not even considering the excitement surrounding a certain Coca-Cola Christmas truck – the holidays really are coming. But whether you prefer to shop at M&S – with the hope of spotting Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – or if Morrisons, Ant and Dec and a singing gingerbread man is more your thing, you have to give credit to these big retailers; they know how to set the Christmas spirit on fire.

But Christmas is a time for giving – the endless Christmas lists are testament to that – so can charities even compete with the cast of celebrities, special effects and smiling bears?

Undoubtedly, people think of their families at this time of year. There’s nothing quite like seeing your child smile when they see the Christmas tree lit up. Or watching your dad fall asleep after one too many glasses of port. But, when the purse strings are already tight, charitable giving can often be the last thing to think of when there’s a party of ten to feed on Christmas Day.

So what about giving to those who really need it?

It’s very rare that charities have the budget for creative animation or celebrities in posh underwear, but they do have a lot of spirit. Though, sometimes, it’s hard to see the wood through the Christmas trees.

But is there a way that you can get your Christmas shopping done and bring a smile to a few extra faces?

Shop smart

It’s nothing new, but it’s still surprising how many people still aren’t aware of Give As You Live – a site where you can shop online and a percentage of what you spend at certain stores can be donated to a charity of choice, at no extra cost to you. Charities can register at any time throughout the year – giving isn’t just for Christmas after all. So if you feel like you have to tighten your apron strings a little this Christmas, there’s no excuse for you not to give and no excuse for charities not to sign up either.

Don a Christmas jumper

A lot of us have a Christmas jumper – whether one we choose to wear, or one we are forced to wear – and we can actually make a difference by wearing one this Christmas.

So, whether you view the Christmas Jumper in the same way that the Grinch would, or you totally embrace retro Christmas chic, you can don a festive knit for Save the Children on 13th December this year. Think of it as non-uniform day for Christmas lovers – just donate a £1 or more and wear Rudolph on your chest with pride. Go on – you wanted an excuse to wear it anyway.

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And look! We did it last year…

Pass it on

We all know, especially the parents among us, that Christmas usually means that our houses become packed to the brim with new things. Whether toys, clothes, gadgets, food, things you don’t want or need but politely accept anyway…

But if you don’t need something, don’t hold on to it. Clear out your cupboards, get your coat on, and go and donate your things to local charity shops. You can free up some space in your home for your family’s presents, help a charity to raise more crucial funds and you may even help those who are facing Christmas on a budget treat their own families too.

You could even get involved in Age UK’s Donate a Coat Appeal – a single coat could mean £10 for Age UK and if Geri Halliwell and Stephen Fry are doing it, we should too really.

Give a little time

If you are short on cash, but want to give back this year, then give some of your time. The colder months are the hardest for those living on the streets, and Crisis’ Crisis at Christmas campaign is desperate for volunteers. You may not have much in the bank to give, but your time could make someone’s Christmas.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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