Christmas season isn’t just about shopping and opening gifts, it’s also a reminder to open our hearts to those in need and less fortunate than us. Even if you don’t have extra money for donations, sometimes your smile and your time is just enough to brighten the spirits of those who need it the most. Here are some ways to pay it forward, without spending a dime.

  1. Visit a Senior Residence and Share a Talent

More seniors pass away in January than any other month of the year. They often hang on for that last family gathering, or for that last sign of hope. This Christmas, take some time to visit a senior center and play a musical instrument, or share a craft talent with the senior residents. Not feeling as if you have a talent to share? Even offering a hug to seniors will often put a smile on both of your faces that will brighten up their season, and yours.

  1. Bring Extra Towels to Your Local Animal Shelter

Contact your local animal shelter. Find out what items they are needing. It might just be as simple as some extra used towels. Bringing your old ones will simultaneously help you clean out your closet. While there, check out the variety of volunteer opportunities available year round.

  1. Serve the Homeless

Glide Memorial in San Francisco places about 10,000 volunteers each year, totaling 65,000 hours of service. In addition, there are many opportunities to volunteer during the holidays, including everything from sorting out toys for tots and serving a meal on Christmas Eve. As stated on their website,

“Together, we celebrate the Holiday Season by spreading hope and love. Join us and brighten up your holidays by bringing light to others.”

Check out the volunteer opportunities around the holidays at a homeless shelter near you.

  1. Toys for Tots

Donate a toy at one of the area toy drop locations, host a Toys for Tots event at your home, office or other venue and collect toys for Toys for Tots, or volunteer at the local warehouse. Whichever you choose, you’ll be putting a smile on a child’s face that will last long after December 25. Select your state in the U.S. to find your local Toys for Tots location.

  1. Start a Petition

If there’s an issue you care about in your local community or worldwide, you can start a petition. Care2′s community of activists will join you in your cause and help you make a difference.