10 Easy Ways to Give to Charity Without Spending an Extra Dime

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The holiday season is upon us, and many are feeling the stress of shopping, cooking, entertaining, and other obligations. Charitable giving can weigh on the minds of people who want to help but are strapped for cash or time and unsure where to start. Here are 10 ways to spread the giving spirit this holiday season -- and a reminder to do a little research before giving. Charity Navigator evaluates and ranks charities on a variety of criteria, such as accountability and transparency, fundraising efficiency, and program expenses. GuideStar makes it easy to find nonprofits' financial statements, annual reports, and tax forms.

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Contribute to a charitable organization by simply choosing a different way to search the web. Sign up on a site such as Goodsearch and choose from more than 110,000 nonprofit organizations (and schools), then search online as usual. A portion of the advertising revenue generated on the Yahoo-powered search engine is passed on to the chosen charity.

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Sites such as Goodshop (which works alongside Goodsearch) and Amazon Smile are online portals that let shoppers send a percentage of what they spend online to a charitable nonprofit.

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The mobile app Benefit lets users buy prepaid digital gift cards and use them to pay for goods and services ranging from restaurant meals to cruises. With each purchase, 3 percent to 25 percent of the price is directed to a cause, school, or church.

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Learn something while raising money for the hungry on Freerice.com. The website lets users choose from several subjects and quizzes them on word definitions. Freerice rewards each correct answer with a donation equivalent to about 10 grains of rice. The funds come from ads on the site and benefit the United Nations World Food Programme.

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Scientists can use the combined computing power of otherwise unused home computers and laptops to solve complex problems. Computer owners simply need to download and install custom software, and when their processor has spare power it will be used to help cure diseases, simulate high-energy particle collisions, and study global warming. The software is available from the University of California, Berkeley (BOINC), Stanford (Folding@home), IBM (World Community Grid), and CERN (LHC@home).

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Skip the technology and contribute to charity the old-fashioned way: by giving time. Volunteer Match is a free service that helps link volunteers to opportunities. Users can search the site's extensive list to find local charities or assignments for remote work such as writing a press release or designing a website. The American Red Cross also maintains a database of organizations seeking volunteers. Inquire with local libraries, hospitals, food banks, or schools about their volunteer needs.

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By using the iOS and Android app Charity Miles, walkers, runners, and bikers can raise money for different charities. Sponsors give 10 cents per mile biked and 25 cents per mile run or walked. Users are asked to share a message about their accomplishment and the donation on social media afterward.

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Instead of selling used items for pennies at a secondhand shop or neighborhood garage sale, pass them on to a thrift store associated with a charity or an organization that hands them out for free to people who cannot afford them. This time of year, plenty of organizations take donations of gently used clothing and home goods -- for instance, children's winter coats that no longer fit and toys collecting dust. Old business clothing can be donated to Dress For Success, an organization that supports women in need by providing professional attire and development.

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One benefit of making financial donations during the holidays: Some organizations offer matching contributions. Before making a donation, look for an opportunity to double the value. Some employers, for instance, match workers' donations. Check the company website or speak with the benefits manager to find out which charities are eligible.

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There are many ways to save on fees and other ongoing expenses. For example, phone, Internet, and cable providers may be willing to lower service charges for subscribers who call and ask for discounts -- or threaten to switch to a competing provider. Some checking and ATM fees can be avoided by using an online bank or local credit union. Take all the savings and sign up for a monthly contribution to a charity.