Last week Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on the Florida panhandle causing hundreds of thousands of folks to evacuate, and over a million homes and businesses to go without power. Thousands are now discovering that almost everything they own has been destroyed.

Natural disasters get us all thinking — it could have been me! — and we wonder how to help others in need. Donating to disaster relief victims is a bit different from donating to help refugees or to a local food bank.

Instead long-term needs like school supplies, small appliances, and shoes for growing kids, natural disaster victims struggle to meet immediate needs. Items like toilet paper, underwear, first aid supplies and more are all difficult to find and desperately needed. Here are a few things you can do to help:

 

1. Use Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to find out how efficient organizations are with the money you donate.

Double check websites like Charity Watch and Charity Navigator before you donate to make sure a significant portion of your donations are going toward disaster relief.

Here are some of the most highly-rated charities that accept disaster relief donations:

If you live in an area affected by a natural disaster, you can also search Feeding America for food banks, or contact WomensShelters.org to find women’s shelters in your local area to see what kinds of donations are most needed.

 

2. Donate items from your stockpile if you can’t send money.

Major charities prefer you to donate money. If you can’t afford to donate your own hard-earned dollars, there are ways you can use your stockpile to donate, even if you don’t have money to spare. Every couponer has some items in their stockpile that are perfect to donate.

To get started on stocking up for disaster relief, just buy a couple extra of these items when they hit a stock-up price:

 

Toiletries:

Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid often have store rewards promotions (like Plenti Points at Rite Aid and Balance Rewards at Walgreens) that you can stack with manufacturer and store coupons for huge savings.

We’ve scored Speed Stick deodorant for $0.49 at Rite Aid and better-than-free toothpaste at CVS by stacking coupons, sales, and promotions. Walmart and Target also have great deals on personal hygiene items. Plus, follow KCL and we’ll show you how to always get items like toilet paper on the cheap.

KCL stock-up price:

  • Deodorant: Free-$0.99 per stick depending on brand
  • Soap: Free-$0.99 per package
  • Feminine hygiene products: Free
  • Toothpaste: Free
  • Body wash: Free
  • Shampoo and conditioner: Free-$0.99 per bottle depending on brand
  • Toilet paper: $0.01 per square foot
  • Hand sanitizer: Free-$0.25 per bottle
  • First Aid items such as bandages and gauze: Free-$1.00 per item

Clothing:

Underwear is an often-overlooked item that victims desperately need during natural disaster relief. We’ve seen 7-packs of kids’ underwear and 10-packs of women’s socks at Target for just $4.75. Keep an eye out for these basics during the holiday season at major retailers like Target, Walmart and JCPenney.

KCL stock-up price:

  • New underwear: Under $0.50 per pair
  • New socks: Under $0.50 per pair
  • Baby sleepers: Under $1.00 each
  • New children’s and toddler clothing: $1-3 each, depending on what type of clothing

 

Household Goods:

Learn how to never pay full price for laundry detergent again, so next time there’s a disaster, you can donate that OxiClean you got for under $1 at Walgreens. You can find the best deals on Tide at Target, and look for Purex deals at CVS.

Watch for deals on other cleaning supplies in April, when people start thinking about spring cleaning, especially at Target, where you can combine gift card promos with coupons and score freebies like dish soap and sponges.

KCL stock-up price:

  • Laundry detergent: $0.06-$0.09 per load, depending on brand
  • Dish soap: Free-$1.00 per bottle depending on brand
  • Cleaning Supplies: Free-$0.49 depending on brand
  • Sponges and cleaning tools: Free-$0.49 depending on brand

 

 

Food:

Watch for canned and boxed breakfast items at grocery stores in February (National Canned Food Month and National Hot Breakfast Month). Watch for free and better-than-free items at Target, Walmart and major grocery store chains when you combine Ibotta rebates with these seasonal sales.

KCL stock-up price:

  • Canned vegetables, fruits, pasta and beans: Free-$0.50 per can
  • Canned soup: Free-$0.25 per can
  • Rice: $0.99 per box depending on brand
  • Boxed pasta: Free-$0.25 per box
  • Baking mixes: Free-$0.25 per box
  • Jarred sauces: Free-$0.50 per jar
  • Canned meats like tuna and chicken: Free-$0.25 per can

 

Baby supplies:

Grab diapers to donate when you see prices below $4.00 for a jumbo pack. You can also get free diapers if you can’t afford to buy them for donations.

We see diaper deals every week at KCL, especially at drugstores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

KCL stock-up price:

  • Diapers: Under $4.00 per jumbo pack
  • Formula: Under $1.00 per oz
  • Bottles: Under $1.00 per bottle
  • Wipes: Free-$0.99 per tub, depending on brand

 

Toys:

Buy toys during holiday clearance sales at Target and Walmart. Look for small activity books and toys for up to 90% off, with prices starting at just $0.10 per toy. Don’t want to wait? Your local Dollar Tree has great options on coloring books and puzzles for just $1.00.

KCL stock-up price:

  • Coloring books: Under $1.00
  • Puzzles: Under $1.00
  • Crayons: Free-$0.10
  • Colored pencils: Free-$10.00
  • Activity books: $0.10
  • Blank notebooks: $0.5-$0.10

TIP: You can also buy these toys and activities for under stock-up prices during back-to-school season.

 

3. Donate blood if you can’t afford to donate money or you don’t have a couponing stockpile yet.

Image via: FEMA

Blood Banks need people to donate blood to help with the rise in need due to injuries caused by disaster. You can find a local blood drive on the Red Cross website by calling 1-800-733-2767 or by using the Red Cross blood donor app.

 

RELATED: How to Build a Stockpile for Less than $10 a Week

 

4. Remember to keep donating to disaster relief even years after a natural disaster.

It takes a long time to recover from a natural disaster. For example, after Hurricane Katrina it took the city of New Orleans 10 years to recover, and it’s estimated it will take Houston several years to recover from Hurricane Harvey. But disaster victims don’t stay in the news media spotlight that long, so we forget there are still needs.

If you want to donate, make it a part of your couponing routine to continually do so, even if a disaster is no longer talked about in the news or on social media.

 

5. Consider adopting a pet from the affected areas through the Humane Society.

In 2017 animal welfare organizations in Texas, Florida, and around the country were flooded with abandoned pets that desperately needed homes during Hurricane Harvey.

You don’t even have to live in the affected areas to help an animal in need. Check with your local animal shelters during a disaster to ask about adopting, either to make room for the new animals or give an abandoned animal a new home. You don’t have to pay to “ship” a pet from the site of a disaster if your local shelter is already getting shipments to help with disaster relief, and you can even ask to specifically adopt a relocated pet.

 

6. Get tax deductions for your disaster relief donations.

You can actually donate your couponing stockpile items for free or make serious money by reporting the donations to the IRS as a tax deduction. This can be more lucrative than selling your stockpile. I know you’re not looking to donate so you can make money, but if disaster relief is something you want to do but you feel that you can’t afford it, it’s important that you know how this works.

For a deduction you get to claim the retail value of the products (without coupons). Which means if you bought laundry detergent for only $0.50 per bottle, but it retails for $9.99 per bottle, you can claim $9.99 as the value of the bottle you donate. That adds up quick!

Here’s what to do:

  • Keep track of each item you donate and who you donated it to.
  • Estimate how much each product or donation was worth based on its retail value.
  • Fill out Form 8283 when you file your taxes, and attach it to your return.

TIP: TurboTax even has an app called It’sDeductable that helps you track your charitable donations throughout the year, making it so easy.

 

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