Life

7 Ways Families Are Rethinking What It Means To Give This Holiday Season

by Hannah Selinger

If I were to ask what "living your best life" means to you, it would be fair if you started going on about poolside cocktails and Mediterranean vacations. But much-needed tropical vacations aside, it's important to acknowledge that living your best life also involves giving back to others.

Especially around the holiday season, it's common to hear of people prioritizing the importance of giving back to their own communities, and #bestlifegiving moments can't happen until you reach a certain level of financial confidence. In fact, SunTrust Bank knows that being able to pay forward acts of kindness and donate to your favorite charities are surefire signs that you are living your best life.

To inspire you and your family to tap into your generous side this holiday season, I asked eight millennial parents to share their favorite ways to give back as a family. Read on to be inspired by their sweet ideas below, then learn more about how you and others can achieve financial confidence by participating in SunTrust Bank's #bestlifegiving challenge!

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These Parents Forego Gifts For Each Other In Place Of Gift Cards For Others

"Starting last year, my husband and I decided to skip Christmas gifts for each other and put the money towards something charitable instead," says Holly, a parent to two. Working with the nurse at her local elementary school, Holly and her husband arranged to help with the school's "Families in Need" program.

They used to spend around $150 on presents for each other, so now they spend that same amount on six $50 gift cards. "We anonymously donate a gift card to each family, with a note about how we want to help lessen the financial burden of holiday meal times," she says.

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One Family Gives Back To A Place With Special Significance

As a parent to adopted and foster children, Tina's family likes to give back to their local "foster care closet" — a place that allows foster parents to borrow essential items. "I always involve the kids when I go through old clothes, toys, and books to donate and explain how we are donating to the place that helped us when they first came to live with us."

Tina and her family also supplement these donations with a few new items. "It has been very empowering for the kids to know that they are now getting their needs met and, no matter where they came from, they can still help someone," she says.

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This Parent Organizes A Cookie Drive

Annamarie, 30, gives back using her skills in the kitchen. "For the past few years, I've been running a cookie drive,” she says. "My kids help me bake, and then we sell the cookies and give the proceeds to charity. It’s pretty popular. Last year, we raised a few hundred dollars!"

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This Parent Works To Help Local Kids

Three years ago Byron, a parent to one son, started North Shore Bikes for Kids, an organization that gives new bikes to kids in need. During the holidays, he reaches out to local social workers, who can apply on behalf of children. "I wanted to give back, but I also wanted to see and feel the difference myself in the community," he says. "And just giving money to a charity...I have no way of seeing the difference."

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This Family Gives Pets Attention, Too

Knowing that rescue pets need to feel the love of the holiday season too, animal-lover Katherine organizes a drive with her local pet shelter every year. She reaches out to friends and family members and collects lightly worn blankets, extra dog food, clean beds, and toys for shelter dogs who need a little love. "My son loves animals as much as I do — especially dogs — so he's always asking his friends to get their parents involved," Katherine says.

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These Parents Gives Their Friends A Night Off

"Close friends of ours have four-year-old twins," says Becky. "They rarely go out. Since the holidays can be super stressful, my husband and I always offer to watch the boys for a night so that they can enjoy a special dinner alone." They've made this a yearly tradition, adding the twins to their own family of three for the evening. "We feel like this is something small that we can do that really helps our friends," she says.

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This Family Spends Their Holiday Volunteering

Marnie and her entire family started a new tradition a few years ago where they volunteer at a local soup kitchen. "I wanted my kids to understand the importance of helping other people," she says.

On Christmas morning, Marnie and her husband take their two children to a local church, where they serve food to people in need. "I worried at first that my kids would miss out on the traditional Christmas-morning routine, but, as it turns out, this is a new tradition that they really look forward to."

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And Finally, Don't Be Afraid To Get Creative!

But if none of these ideas are quite right for you and your family, there's still plenty more you can do! Consider signing up for a local Turkey Trot or holiday race. Many races donate proceeds to charity, and you can get your whole family involved in the fun. Or make handmade holiday cards with your family, and deliver them to friends, neighbors, and community members in need.

Ready to give back to your community this holiday season? The first step is to make sure your budget's in a good place so you feel financially confident. Get inspired by participating in SunTrust Bank's #bestlifegiving challenge for tips on managing your money in a way that helps you experience the joy of giving this holiday season and all year long.

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This post is sponsored by SunTrust Bank.