What do you do when you're heading into a store and you see a bell-ringer asking for a donation? Do you donate money, or just keep on walking?
Millions of people make this decision frequently this time of year as charities kick their holiday donation drives into high-gear.
"Everybody's buying this time of year and times are hard," explained Carlie Kurk, Salvation Army volunteer.
He's posted in front of Sam's Club, armed with his bell, a bucket and a desire to help others.
"I do what God wants me to do and that means getting out here and helping out anybody I can, and appreciate what we do while we're out here," Kurk said.
But Kurk and other charities need help to reach their goals of bringing smiles to people's faces.
This holiday season, like others, they need people to donate money.
Since 2003, there's been a steady increase of Americans who donate to charities during the holiday season.
In 2005, 87-percent of Americans gave money to charity, totaling $260-billion.
Dennis Wilson, assistant professor of Economics at Western Kentucky University, attributes the ever-growing amount of charitable gifts to a growing economy.
"The fact that our economy has continued to grow, people feel secure in their incomes and their current conditions. People are more willing to give," Wilson explained.
He also says catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina and the recent tsunami have also given people a reason to reach into their wallets.
Pat Puffer, who frequently gives to charity, believes the holiday season brings out people's compassion.
"I think people are seeing that times are hard. They're hard for all of us. They're hard for all of us. Even what little we have, if we can share a little love, then it makes it not so painful for all of us," she said.
Every year, the average household gives about two and a half percent of their income to charity.
Religious-related charities receive almost 36-percent of all gifts.
Human service charities like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army only receive ten percent of all donated money.