Giving Back on a Budget

Make Your Donations Count

Make charity pay off. The IRS lets you claim charitable deductions totaling up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. Of course most people never reach that figure, but you might be surprised by how your donations can add up.

Cash contributions: You're probably on top of the donations you make by check or credit card, but even smaller ones -- like the groceries you bought for the Thanksgiving fund-raiser at your kids' school -- are deductible too. You only need a receipt for cash contributions above $250.

Non-cash donations: Clothing, furniture, and other items you give to charity are deductible as long as you get a receipt listing what you gave and the estimated value, says Michael Eisenberg, a CPA in Westwood, California. You can also deduct mileage related to charitable work (up to 14 cents per gallon), but keep a log of where you went and when.

Originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

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