With show-stopping sales, amazing deals and over-the-top shopping incentives, consumerism is a force that underscores the months of November and December. With credit cards in hand and retail-conquest strategies in mind, we seek out the perfect gifts for our loved ones in preparation for some of the most festive events of the year. While we enjoy the warmth, beauty and family-oriented focus of the season, we still find ourselves exhausted, spread thin and to some extent, stressed out. (For more, read 8 Tips To Help You Control Holiday Spending.)

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When the shopping bags keep us weighed down and the icy cold winds make us feel weathered, it's important that we take a step back and value the amazing things that we have – regardless of what we can or cannot afford. At the end of the day, the true beauty of the holidays comes from what we love most in the form of friends, family, small moments and big memories. Healthy or budget-strapped, your finances shouldn't hold you back from giving back. Here are six ways that you can volunteer to make a difference, feel good and give a gift that transcends material wealth.

Collect and Donate Jackets to the Homeless
It's cold outside, and if you're out shopping for a coat, chances are that you have some spare winter wear. Instead of throwing away your extra jackets or leaving them in your closet, give them to someone who could use a little more warmth. As an added dimension, you could get your neighbors, school or community involved in the project. Rather than leaving the jackets with an organization, you could, as a group, go out and hand-deliver them.

Collaborate With a Food Bank
Especially for people who are elderly, disabled, homebound or sick, cooking is an extremely difficult task. As a society, we love food so much that our culture really revolves around it. Without at least one delicious meal, the holidays can feel isolating and unfulfilling. If you're someone who loves to cook, get in touch with your local food bank to see if you can participate in a home-delivery food program in your area.

Make Decorations for Places That Need More Cheer
Hospitals and convalescent homes can be emotionally taxing places to spend the holidays. As a community, we should make an effort to infuse these places with love, kindness and happiness. Get your neighborhood's kids involved, or help organize projects with local schools, Girl Scout troops and Boy Scout troops.

Organize a Caroling Group
Everyone can appreciate good music, which is especially fun to discover in unexpected places. Work with your local government to see if you can organize a caroling group in your neighborhood, park or local downtown area. Local businesses especially would love to enjoy the good music.

Adopt a Family
Through organizations like the Salvation Army, it's possible to sponsor an entire family for the holidays. Sponsors can be individuals, businesses, families or groups of people who are able to make charitable contributions. According to the Salvation Army, adoptees connect with the organization through referrals from social workers who assist in completing applications for the program. Usually, these applications include lists of items that are in need such as food, clothing, and home goods.

Collect and Donate Items to a Local Humane Society
Don't forget about the dogs, cats, puppies and kittens that are without a loving home this month. As with humans, animals need emotional support. Even though the holidays are oriented towards humans, homeless pets could definitely use some love and attention too. If you're an animal-lover who is looking for a creative way to volunteer, your local Humane Society may be a great option.

The Bottom Line
When it comes to volunteering, especially during the holidays, do what feels right. The best gifts will come from your heart – not from your wallet. Volunteering helps us realize this fact by keeping us down to earth and grateful.

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