10 Cheap Ways to Make the World a Better Place

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You don't have to have a ton of money to help your favorite causes.

Whether your budget is tight or you want to provide more personalized help than merely handing over a check, there are plenty of ways that you can make a difference in the world without parting with your money.

Here are 10 free and simple ways to give back:

1. Click: One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to simply click your mouse. There are a number of charities that raise money through click donations. You click a button on the charity's Web site and a number of advertisements will appear. These advertisers pay a small amount to the charity for placing your eyes in front of their advertisement. Sites such as the Animal Rescue Site donate 100% of the sponsor-generated money to the cause and they also have other affiliated sites where your click can help charities dealing with hunger, breast cancer, child health, literacy and the rain forest (see the tabs at the top of their sites).

2. Search: If you use a search engine while on the Web, the searches that you make could generate money for a nonprofit. Sites such as Good Search allow you to allocate a portion of the money made on the search to the charity or school of your choice.

3. Shop: If you regularly shop online, you can often do so through your favorite charity's Web site. Online stores often pay a referral fee when a site sends a customer that purchases something. While this does not affect the price that you pay, by going through your favorite charity's site when making a purchase, the charity will earn some money for their cause.

4. Donate your computer's free cycles: When you aren't using your computer, it can be used to help find a cure for cancer, make climate predictions or just to do basic research. There are a lot of projects that want to use the idle cycles of the CPU in your computer for its computational power. You simply download a client that will run the program when you aren't using your computer. A good place to find these projects is at BOINC.

5. Lend money: There are a lot of small businesses in the world that need small loans, but traditional banks won't even consider lending money to them. Through organizations like Kiva, you can make small loans of as little as $25 to individuals that you choose from their site. Kiva disperses the loans and then you get paid back your money over a period of six to 18 months. You don't earn any interest, but you get back the original amount you loaned, so you don't lose money. There is a slight chance you can lose your money, but of the $952,910 in loans with completed terms, the default rate is only 0.3%, according to the site.

6. Credit card: Many nonprofits now offer branded credit cards. When you use one of these credit cards, the charity gets a small percentage back on the amount you spend. This is the exact same concept as cash back credit cards, but the nonprofit gets the money instead of your account. Just be sure to pay off your credit card balance each month.

7. Donate items: When you are getting yourself better organized and removing clutter from your house, consider taking items you no longer need down to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or any local charity that collects goods to resell instead of throwing them into the trash. You get rid of stuff that you no longer need and the charity gets to resell it to make a bit of money. Even better, you can claim a deduction for the fair market value of the donated items on your taxes if you itemize.

8. Sell goods for charity: Another option for items you no longer want is to sell them on eBay and have the income generated go to the charity of your choice. eBay's Giving Works allows you to choose a nonprofit for which to auction your items. This will give a donation to the nonprofit and you can still deduct the amount generated off your taxes.

9. Donate time: Your time can be quite valuable to a charity, especially during their busy times of the year. Taking the initiative to spend some time each month helping out the charity of your choice can be a great way to help a cause and get the direct feeling that you are making a difference -- something not always tangible when you simply donate money.

10. Donate skills: If you have special skills, they may be of great value to a charity. For example, if you design Web pages you could donate your skills to build a Web site for a nonprofit. This allows the nonprofit to use the money that it would have spent to pay someone else on something else. There are also charities that are looking for people with specific skills. Habitat for Humanity is always looking for people with carpentry, masonry, electrical and plumbing skills to help direct their house-building projects.

Making a difference in the world doesn't have to cost a lot of money or drain your savings account. Try some of the above suggestions and make the world a better place -- at no cost.

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