How to Give to Charity When You Have Student Loans

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

November 27, 2019

Student loan debt can be overwhelming. Studies have shown that carrying student loan debt delays or blocks big purchases, such as buying a car, paying for a wedding or buying a home. When you’re making large student loan payments every month, the idea of donating to charity could seem impossible. Hey, every extra penny needs to go to your student loans, right? But there are ways you can give to charity even when you have student loans.


Give your time

Even if you don’t have money to donate, chances are you can find some spare time to help causes you care about. allows you to explore volunteer opportunities based on your location and what you’re interested in.

Clean your closet. 

What is stress-inducing clutter for you, could be a fortunate gift for someone else. Go on a cleaning spree, and donate anything you don’t use anymore – coats, clothes, old cell phones, kitchen gear, furniture, eyeglasses, kid’s toys and whatever else. The Salvation Army, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity are all good places to consider for donations.

Donate some of yourself. 

Help save lives by donating blood, organizing a blood drive or donating plasma. Organizations such as Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love allow you to donate your hair to make wigs for patients in need.

Turn your hobby or talent into a chance to give back. 

Does your hobby allow you to give back in some way? If you’re a knitter, you can make blankets, hats and gloves to those who need them. Talented photographers can help the local animal shelter take photos of their rescue animals. If you’re a social media maven, there are tons of non-profits out there who could use a hand.

Donate old gift cards. 

We all have gift cards lurking in our wallets with small balances or to stores we don’t really use. Instead of taking up space, donate to Gift Cards 4 Change, which helps education projects, poverty assistance programs, family and child hunger programs, homeless shelter projects and more.


Apps that Help You Give Back

Donate a photo. 

Johnson and Johnson sponsors the app, Donate a Photo, which allows you to donate one photo per day. For every photo you donate, $1 is donated to good causes, from environmental issues to education.

Use CharityMiles. 

Download the Charity Miles app, and start earning for charity. For every mile you log, money is donated to one of 40 charities, including Wounded Warrior Project, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Feeding America. Most airline web sites allow you to donate your frequent flyer miles to one of a specified set of charities.

Help the homeless. has an app that allows you to tap a button anytime you see a homeless person in need. That unlocks a donation from one of their corporate donors.

Share your receipts.

Shoparoo will donate to a school anytime you upload a photo of your receipts from participating stores. Grocery receipts earn a cash donation while other receipts earn an entry into a sweepstakes to win up to $15,000 for your selected school.

Take a photo of your food. 

The Feedie app allows you take a photo of your meal at participating restaurants. The restaurant will then donate the equivalent to one meal to The Lunchbox Fund, which has provided 20 million meals since it was created.


Turn Shopping into Giving Back


Donate rewards. 

Many stores have a reward program to incentivize more shopping. But there are many that allow you to donate your rewards instead. For example, DSW allows you donate your points to one of their charitable causes. Hotel reward programs, such as Radisson Rewards, Hilton HHonors and IHG Rewards Club lets you redeem points to donate to the American Red Cross.

Shop with a smile. 

Chances are if you’re dealing with student loan debt, you’ve cut back on your spending. But when you are shopping, find stores that give back with your purchase. Visit, which donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases. So far $144 million has been donated to charity. Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to someone in need when you buy one for yourself. Bombas donates a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair purchased. Cotopaxi donates 2% of their revenue to help end poverty. At DIFF eyewear, every pair of glasses purchased means the company donates a pair of reading glasses to someone in need.

Get cash back for donating with Upromise.

Upromise is a rewards program that allows you to earn cash back when making online purchases to put towards a college savings account or to get back via check. You can also donate to various causes for cash back, too. For example, you can donate socks or underwear on for $1 and get 4% cash back. Donate with Finish Line, and get 12% cash back.


Make Your Donation Go Farther 

Get creative with finding money to donate. 

Even if you don’t have a lot of extra wiggle room in your budget, there may be other ways to find extra money to donate. Consider donating your spare change, your cash back credit card rewards or money you get from using cash-back apps, like Ibotta. Have a yard sale, and donate a portion to charity. 

Go through a donation matching program. 

If you are going to donate money, consider one that allows for matching. Often employers will match a donation up to a certain amount. What a wonderful way to boost the impact of your donations.

Donate appreciated stock. 

This can automatically increase the value of your gift plus your tax deduction. For retired individuals, you may be able to donate all or part of the required minimum distribution (RMD) after age 70-1/2 from your IRA as a Qualified Charitable Distribution in certain circumstances.

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At, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.


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