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T his is definitely the most depressing time of the year: from now until Jan. 1.

We’re all in a post-holiday stupor, suffering a nationwide overspending hangover. We’re now all catapulted back to the real world after the money-, sugar- and mulled wine-fueled rush of the holidays. As our brain chemistry slowly returns to normal, we’re all trying to wrap up the old year with as much sanity as possible.

So I have one more suggestion for your budget this year: I think this is the perfect time to make a few charitable donations.

I know, I know. I should be telling you how to save money, not spend it. And at this age and in this economic bracket, most of us students are the charity cases to which our friends and family donate.

But at the risk of sounding too serious or — gasp! — adult, even having some money with which to scrimp and save makes us better off than a lot of the world. No one makes it on their own; especially at our age, everyone relies on the support of innumerable friends and family members to make it, and of those to whom much has been given, much is expected. At some point soon, we should also begin giving back as well. Why not start on the good-karma path right now? Start out with only $10 this year, if that’s what you have, at least that’s a start.

Presuming you’re convinced, now how to go about it? First off, almost all of us have come into contact with a whole host of charities we really believe in: whether we volunteered or benefited from them, know people who work for them, or something else entirely. For me, they include Heifer International (heifer.org) and the Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder (efaa.org). There are also those hefty fallbacks that everyone knows: the Red Cross, Goodwill, local food banks, etc.

In both of these cases, it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought or effort to donate — and once you realize you have a few extra dollars to spend, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.

But I also think it’s kind of fun to really put some thought into what you think the future needs. Is it better education? Less war? No more starvation? Better equality? More free sandwiches on campus and powder days in the mountains? And do you want to focus domestically or abroad?

Obviously, they’re all closely intertwined, but I find it helpful to think about each issue individually — otherwise everything seems like an overwhelming mess. For this process, there are a few sites (justgive.org and charitynavigator.org) to help you wade your way through the hordes of worthy (or unworthy) choices. Oh — and do it by this Saturday to get a tax credit in this fiscal year. (Finally, something saving-oriented to reclaim my frugalist credentials!)

I should also point out that donating time is often just as valuable as money. If the homeless shelter had piles of food, but no volunteers to cook it, they still couldn’t make a dinner.

But if you do that, try to really commit to it as these things can sometimes slip through the cracks. That’s why writing a check is nice: like ripping off a Band-Aid, it’s painful for a second, but then it’s over and you and your karma will feel better all year!

Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.

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