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Pay It Forward: 20 Free Ways!

Published in Sweat Equity Magazine February/ March 2017 Issue

If you’re anything like me, Christmas is a bit of a double-edged sword. The months leading up to the Big Day are filled with carols and wish lists, gift ideas and decorations. Big Day momentum escalates to epic holiday proportions, ultimately climaxing in one final familial event on the 25th. But when it’s all said and done, when the fir tree has dried out and the hydro bills have rolled in, when New Year’s Day has come and gone, only the shadows of the season remain: a waistline surplus and a bank account deficit.

A victim of both post-holiday blues, I was trudging mindlessly through Facebook selfies, weight loss recipes, and political rants when I stumbled across something different: one family’s recap of a full day spent “paying it forward.” The couple and their two kids (aged 6 and 9) spent the day going allover the city, doing random acts of kindness for total strangers. Their story inspired me to find more ways to boost my post-holiday spirits and make a difference without making a dent.

20 Simple [And Free!] Ways to Pay It Forward:

  1. Post a rave review of a local store or restaurant. For small businesses, word of mouth is everything.

  2. Clean out your closet. Let go of anything you haven’t worn in six months (especially the nice stuff!). Wash, fold, and donate the items to a women’s shelter.

  3. Donate old books to your local library.

  4. Share good news and inspiring stories. Make smiles go viral.

  5. Introduce yourself to a new neighbour. Bring a plant or some housewarming dish.

  6. Fill a colleague’s candy jar.

  7. Stay late. Spend a few extra minutes with a student, a loved one, a friend, your boss, a colleague, or a friendly stranger. Time is a precious and unique gift that only you can give!

  8. Tuck uplifting post-it notes inside library books or behind windshield wipers. This small gesture can turn someone’s day around.

  9. Leave coupons you won’t use on community boards for someone else to enjoy.

  10. Read a book to a senior citizen who lives alone.

  11. Lend something to someone and forget about it.

  12. Send a thank you card to someone who has inspired you. Tell them how they’ve influenced your life.

  13. Leave a good book in a coffee shop for someone to discover.

  14. Listen to a friend with rapt attention. Turn your phone off.

  15. Bake a treat for your friend’s pet. Yes, their pet! Pets are kids to animal lovers.

  16. Compliment the first person you see today, and mean it..

  17. Play chauffeur for a day. If you know someone who doesn’t drive, offer to take them for groceries or to run errands.

  18. Bring healthy homemade treats to the office.

  19. Scrape your neighbour’s car windows or shovel their driveway—anonymously.

  20. Put someone’s grocery cart away for them.

Bonus: These two might cost more than a penny (or a nickel, that is), but their impact on both parties is immeasurable:

  1. Give your change to people who are canvassing or say yes to the cashier who asks for $1.

  2. Buy a homeless person a coffee. Sit with them and learn their story.

Reset your bank account and refuel your spirit at the same time. Pay it forward!

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