It’s time for the inevitable: shopping! But what if the thought of hitting the mall makes you break out in hives (as it does me)?

Because I hate to frequent traditional retail establishments during the Thanksgiving through New Year’s season (it's a resolution I adopted years ago and never quite manage to live up to), I tend to either shop online or make my own gifts. After all, the supermarket and the craft store are nowhere near the mall.

But sometimes I'll shop for charities, too. This is especially helpful if I've got gobs of people to give gifts to and the social obligation to deliver. If, like me, you also have a desire to avoid giving people more junk from China that they'll just stuff into their garages, charity donations are an excellent way to handle your gift responsibilities ... responsibly. (And they're tax deductible, too!)

Here are my favorite recommendations:

1-Heifer International: My love of goats makes this a gift from the heart, and one that never fails to deliver a beaming smile from the recipient. Donate cash and your giftee gets the pleasure of having "bought" a goat for a family in Guatemala. How can you resist that?

2-The International Fund for Animal Welfare: Thanks goes to Embrace Pet Insurance’s blog for raising awareness for this one. From saving elephants to paying for shelter animal care, you can dedicate your dollars to a variety of animal welfare imperatives.

3-The University of Pennsylvania’s Shelter Medicine Program: Every year I recommend, and give this one. I believe the work my alma mater does in this area is groundbreaking and essential. One of my clients gave $500 in my name a couple of years ago and it made me cry. So sweet.

So fess up––what are your faves? 

Dr. Patty Khuly