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31 Days of Giving on a Budget: 3 Ways to Give Gratitude to Those in the Military (Day 27)

Welcome to December’s series on 31 Days of Giving on a Budget. In this series, I’ll be sharing inspiring stories from my readers and posts with practical ways to give — even on a limited income.

If you have a Giving on a Budget story to share of a way you or your family has given to others this year or this holiday season, please email me your story and a picture to go along with it, if possible. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!

Guest post from Katie

During the holiday season, we are all pulled in so many directions — whether with church, school, or community service groups, sometimes it is hard to determine how to invest our extra time and resources.

There is one group of people that none of us should neglect — especially during the holiday season — our military. Being away from the comforts and joys of home can be difficult for a deployed member of our military especially during the holidays.

As a wife to an active duty Marine who is currently serving in the Middle East, I can personally say how humbling it is to have people all across the United States praying for, and supporting, my husband and those like him deployed all over the world.

There is so much that those of us here at home can do to support the thousands of men and women who sacrifice so much day in, and day out, to protect the freedoms (including the freedom to celebrate our holidays!) we enjoy every moment here in the United States.

Here are three practical (and budget-friendly) ways you and your family can show gratitude to the men and women serving our country:

1. Write letters.

This is the most inexpensive, yet one of the most appreciated and heartfelt, gifts our servicemen and women overseas can receive. Organizations like Operation Gratitude accept letters that they include in their care packages. If you know a family in your community with a son or daughter in the military, be sure to ask for their address. By the way, letters to our military only take one stamp to mail overseas.

Small children who do not know how to write yet can draw pictures. Often, whoever receives the letter or picture will write back to you. This is a great way to start a penpal relationship!

2. Put together care packages.

If you are a savvy couponer, donating items like magazines, food, and toiletries won’t busts your budget, but will be very much appreciated. You can donate these items to organizations like Operation Gratitude or Or, you can pick up a flat rate box from your local post office and pack it full of special treats and letters and send it to a soldier you know or someone listed on the AnySolder website. These boxes cost from $10-16 to ship.

3. Encourage the spouses and families left at home.

Write a note or email, or drop off a small gift to brighten a military spouse’s day while their loved one is deployed. Separation is hard during deployment and a little bit of encouragement goes a long way!

We are so blessed to live in a country where we are free. That freedom has come at a very high cost and the least we can do is show our men and women in uniform that we care and support them, even from thousands of miles away.

Katie is a teacher, and Marine wife living in Southern California. She is passionate about working with kids and loves encouraging young women and other military wives.

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  • Jennifer B. says:

    I’d like to add a rather inexpensive way to support the families here at home. Offer to babysit for free!

    Even a couple hours for the adult to run to the store without kids in tow is such a welcome gift. These parents at home also still have doctor and dentist appointments or needs for car servicing — all of which are easier with the assistance of another adult’s time when there are children at home to care for.

    • Yes yes, Jennifer! I remember when my husband was deployed and I had an infant on my hands, it would’ve taken soooooo much stress of of my hands if someone would have taken care of her for me even for just a few hours so I could go grocery shopping. Great suggestion!

    • Whitney says:

      Exactly! I was wondering why free babysitting or other services wasn’t on the list. My husband is a reservist, which means we don’t live near a base or a community that is used to deployments. When he deploys, it’s like I no longer exist for some people. They just don’t know what to do. My wonderful next door neighbor mowed my lawn every single week last time. It only cost him his time, but it was one of the best gifts I could have asked for.

      • Emma K says:

        Mowing the grass and babysitting are the best ways for people to help families of soldiers deployed. I hated trying to figure out a time to mow the grass with a 1 and 3 year old.

        Those are all great ways to support those that are deployed. A simple “thank you for your service” when you see someone in the service or thanking a family. In my opinion if a spouse is deployed it makes them feel better when they know someone cares and helps their family when they are gone.

  • Katie says:

    Operation Gratitude also has a program to support and thank our veterans: and support the children in military families!

  • Joy says:

    My brother is currently in the Navy and serving in Afghanistan. He has been adopted by a youth group from, and his friend was adopted through The smiles that you can hear in their voice when describing the letters/cards/packages is priceless!! They love knowing that someone else appreciates all of their sacrifices.

  • Ashley P says:

    I really like the 3rd idea… mostly because it got me a new friend!

    There was a couple at my church, and the husband deployed the week after their wedding. A few months later, I felt God nudging me to approach the wife and ask how she was doing. We started talking, found out our life stories were virtually identical, and made plans for her to come sleep over at our house one weekend so she wouldn’t be so lonely. She’s really into scary movies that I can’t watch, but my hubby loves! So they enjoyed watching a spooky film (which I mostly spent with my eyes closed or running to the kitchen for snacks!) and then she and I made treats afterward since she loves to bake. She slept in our guest room, and then we all had an enormous breakfast the next morning. It was fun for us girls to feel like teenagers again in our “sleepover” mode.

    We’ve been fast friends ever since, even though her husband is already back home (hopefully for good this time since that was his 4th tour). Now we get together for dinners and double dates and we may even be starting our families together (fingers crossed and say a prayer!).

    So I totally encourage people to visit or write notes to the families of the deployed. You never know when you might make a friend!

  • Jamie S. says:

    My family has always wanted to volunteer on Christmas since it is just a regular day for us. This year we were a part of 3 families that were looking for something to do and we could not find any volunteer opportunities so we came up with a new Christmas Day tradition for us. We decided to spend the day making cards and care packages for the troops. We sent a flyer to the families in our children’s class (a few families donated) and we shopped for some things ourselves. We met up in the morning and started with breakfast (too much food of course) but then the kids went and started making cards, we organized the donations and started packing boxes. For our first year doing this we ended up with 8 boxes to send to the troops overseas. We got names from a relative overseas and the kids loved making the cards. It feels good to be able to help and has given us a new Christmas tradition.

  • Thank you so much for including this in this series. As an army wife I can say that our guys greatly appreciate it when people they not only know and love, but people whom are total strangers express their gratitude to them in any way, even if it’s for a small price. It’s always the thought that counts, and these kinds of things are what help get them through each deployment.

  • Mrs. S says:

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing these ideas. As the wife of a severely injured Marine (ret.) I can not begin to express how much the “little” things mean to both the troops and their families. My life now revolves around full-time care giving for my husband, and still the little (free) things mean the most to me! Babysitting is a *huge* help, as is asking if I need anything from the store while you are out, dropping by or calling for some adult conversation, or sending a note to my husband, thanking him for his service. I does Not have to cost a lot (or any) money to support our troops (at home and abroad) and their families. Mostly we just want to know we are still remembered!

  • WilliamB says:

    Another idea is sharing coupons. There are programs in place that let you send coupons to families overseas. Military commissaries overseas accept coupons six months past their expiration date so even families that depend on coupons could share. To participate, contact the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation group (MWR) and/or base chaplin of any base, even a US base, and ask how to get started.

    It’s a little late this year, but another idea is to share your holiday with a military member. If you live near a base, you live near people who are either single or separated from their families. Contact the MWR or base chaplin to offer a seat at your table.

    • Emma K says:

      Great idea! We are stationed in Korea right now and there is a facebook group that collects coupons and distributes them to those that are interested throughout all the bases in Korea. The Morale, Welfare and Recreation group also collects them 🙂

  • jenn says:

    When my husband was deployed, I was the recipient of several anonymous gift cards to the grocery store. Still have no idea where they came from!

    Neighbors and friends mowed the yard (I was 6 months pregnant when they left, the baby was 14 months when they returned), his co-workers and other friends would plow my driveway and scoop sidewalks, I had a list of people I could call for household things (like when my sink faucet was leaking or the window leaked)

    Even though we are no longer military, I remember what it felt like to be a new mom with her husband halfway around the world. I try to encourage the wives that we know in little ways.
    The most important thing is don’t forget the families if a mom or dad is deployed. They crave “normalcy”.

  • Amber says:

    Thank you for the info in this post. I’ve just spent quite a bit of time browsing on the AnySoldier site. I don’t know anyone in the active military and am very glad for someone to show me how to offer my support!

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