A few years ago, we heard about Impact 52’s 25 Days of Giving project and challenged ourselves to take part in each day’s act of kindness. Since then, it’s been one of our favorite holiday traditions (although, we certainly don’t limit ourselves to paying it forward only in December!)
While we still look to Impact 52’s list of acts of kindness for inspiration and try our best to follow along, sometimes the kind-act-of-the-day doesn’t fit well with our schedules or our budget. And that’s okay! It’s simply doing something that really counts.
So, are you ready to dive in? Here’s a list of 25 free (or very affordable) ways to pay it forward this holiday season!
25 Affordable Random Act of Kindness Ideas
Write a note, letter, or e-mail. Admit it: You get a little rush when you discover something in your mailbox (or inbox) that isn’t a bill or monthly statement. Everyone else does, too. Think of someone you haven’t reached out to in awhile and write them a letter simply to say “hello” and that you’re thinking of them.
Pick up the phone. In a world of text messages and Snapchat, actually calling someone and having a conversation can feel a bit awkward. But the feeling that follows a good catch-up over the phone can’t be beat – and someone in your life could probably use the pick-me-up!
Visit someone in person. ‘Tis the season of give-give-give, but no gift is better than that of your time. Choose a day or two this month and mark out a couple of hours – schedule it in your calendar if you must – to spend with someone you don’t see enough of.
Help out a neighbor. We’re all busy, and keeping up with the day to day can be a real challenge, especially this time of year. If you’re out shoveling your sidewalk and notice your neighbor is still at work, take care of theirs, too. Bring their overflowing mail to the front door, push their garbage bins back to their garage, or offer to house-sit while they’re visiting family out of town.
Give up your place in line. All too often during the holidays, I rush into the store for one item and end up standing in line for what seems like hours as people ahead of me with overflowing carts slowly make their way through checkout. If you see someone who will be done in a flash, someone with fussy children, or someone who otherwise looks like they’d benefit from going ahead of you, let them.
Compliment someone. Easy-peasy. Make it known that you’ve noticed the extra effort that someone has taken, acknowledge the hard work they’ve put into something, or simply appreciate a certain element of their personality with a quick compliment.
Say thank you. Whether it’s your significant other who you just don’t say “thanks” to enough, an employee at a busy shop or restaurant, a veteran who passes you by, or a customer service representative you’ve been dealing with over the phone – anyone and everyone appreciates (and deserves) that simple phrase every now and then.
Offer a helping hand – at no charge. If and when you are able, offer assistance without repayment. If you overhear someone struggling to work their smartphone, show them how it’s done. If you learn a couple has to miss out on a concert they’ve already bought tickets to because the babysitter cancelled, offer to watch the kids.
Give a social media shout out. Social media frequently has a way of dampening our moods, especially on days when our feeds are full of horrific news stories, personal rants, and rude comments and feedback on posts. Take a minute to send out some positive vibes – a good memory, a compliment, or a simple “hope you’re well” – on a friend or acquaintance’s page.
Make a meal (and maybe deliver it, too.) All of the rushing around this month, on top of it being cold, dark, and gloomy by the time we get home, can make homemade meals seem like a daunting task. Plan to take that to-do off of someone’s list one night this month!
Leave random, uplifting notes in public. Grab a stack of Post-It notes and jot down positive phrases like, “You’re unique,” “You’re beautiful,” “It’s going to be okay,” “You’ve got this!” and so on and post them in public spaces – bathroom mirrors, bus stop shelters, the office fridge…
Donate leftover change. When paying up at the drive-thru, cafe, or gas station with cash, toss any leftover change into their tip jar, take-a-penny bowl, or donation box.
Make tiny care packages to have on-hand for the homeless. Fill a Ziploc bag with travel-sized toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotion, chapstick, tissue) and snacks (peanut butter crackers, granola bars) and keep them in your car to have at-the-ready when you see someone in need.
Deliver greeting cards to a hospital or nursing home. Most of the time, neither of these places are places you want to be during the holiday season. You can buy greeting cards in bulk for low prices just about anywhere. Choose some with a holiday greeting already written, then sign your name and write something like “Happy Holidays” on the envelopes. (Make sure to call the location you plan to visit and find out how many patients or residents are there so you’re sure to have enough!)
Volunteer your time at a local non-profit. Most non-profits will appreciate your time more than money. Volunteering an hour or two gives you the opportunity to learn more about the organization, its people, and its impact in the community.
Clean out your closets and donate gently used items. Do a little winter cleaning, box up any items you no longer use, and drop them off at a local donation center.
Raise funds for your favorite causes while you shop. If you’re shopping on Amazon, you can utilize their Smile feature to raise money for your favorite charity while you do so!
Read to someone. Both children and the elderly love being read to – and benefit from it- so grab a good book and practice your character voices for story time!
Buy a cheaper meal so you can leave a generous tip. Instead of going out to a more expensive restaurant, go somewhere more affordable and leave a generous tip. Once, Jeremy and I opted to eat somewhere where a meal cost about $8 and left a tip of the same amount for a total of $16 when the restaurant we were initially going to would have amounted to $20-25 per meal.
Support local businesses. Shopping locally pays it forward in many, many ways. The money you spend stays in the community, goes back into our economy, helps grow local jobs, and so much more.
Genuinely listen to someone. Offer to lend an ear to someone who needs to talk or vent, and do just that. Don’t go in with the intention of giving advice and don’t interrupt – genuinely hear the person out and be there for them.
Spare a few dollars and cents. This is one of my all-time favorite acts of kindness. Grab a bit of cash and some tape, and adhere just the amount needed in dollars and cents to cover the cost of a soda, a vending machine snack, an arcade game, a load of laundry, a parking meter… you get the idea!
Offer a hot beverage to someone working – or living – outside. Grab an extra hot cocoa, tea, or coffee and give it to someone who is working or living in the cold weather. Go the extra mile and strike up a conversation with them if you’re able.
Relay an overheard compliment. I frequently hear co-workers saying great things about other co-workers and have a bad habit of just smiling to myself about how nice it is of them. Only just recently did I experience a “duh” moment and start letting people know that they’re being talked about… because they’re appreciated!
Donate blood or plasma. What better way is there to pay it forward than to save a life? One blood donation can save up to three! Additionally, consider signing up to be an organ donor if you haven’t already.
Most of these acts of kindness are flexible enough to fit into any schedule and any budget this holiday season. Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of 101 ways to pay it forward!
What are your favorite ways to spread a little kindness and make even the smallest difference in someone’s life? We’re always looking for new ideas to add to our list!