35 Ways to Pay it Forward

'Tis the season to PAY IT FORWARD. While I think it is a good idea to donate to charities and give back to your community year round... this seems to be the time of year when most of us jump on the giving wagon. Last year, since I was a newly stay at home mom with a lot of time on my hands... Amelia and I went out on adventures with the sole intention of making people smile and adding a little brightness to their day.

Last year, shortly before Christmas, there was a shooting at the shopping mall located about 15 minutes from our house. It was a scary thing and had people on edge for months after. The mall added extra security and police officers during the holiday shopping season. I had the idea to pass out candy canes and personally thank them all for keeping us safe... so Amelia and I did just that. Let me tell you, the look of appreciation we got from them was well worth the few hours we spent.
Amelia dressed up to spread some holiday cheer
You have probably heard of the popular Starbucks pay it forward chain that sometimes happens. I've purchased drinks for people before. Usually I go through the drive through and I love the fact that the person has no idea who I am and no clue that I've just paid for their drinks/pastries until after I drive off. This really does make someone's day... trust me, I've had it done for me.  

Remember the people who are often forgotten. Your garbage man and mail person definitely don't get the recognition they deserve. Last year I bought boxes of chocolates for both and let Amelia hand them out. A Christmas card and chocolates... the perfect way to tell someone you appreciate what they do. 
Waiting for our mail man
We also made sure that we greeted people we came across with a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". Just a little saying such as that makes a person smile... and it helps if a cute little girl is doing it :) 

This year I have big plans for paying it forward and I hope you all give it some thought as well. There is always someone less fortunate, someone a little less appreciated, someone a little down, sad, lonely and perhaps just having a bad day. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture to make someone smile. 

Here are some ideas for paying it forward. I am gonna be honest, there is no way I will accomplish every one of these this year... but it's worth striving for. 

  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, nursing home etc. 
  • Send a care package to a soldier!!
  • Pay for someone's drink
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Compliment a stranger when out and about (well really... you could compliment anyone and make their day)
  • Hand out candy canes to people working during the holidays (malls, grocery stores, banks etc.)
  • Take treats to local fire departments and police stations to thank emergency service personnel. A lot of them give up time with their families to keep our safe during the holidays. 
  • Let someone cut you in line
  • Pay for someone's meal at a restaurant
  • Clean up litter at a local park or waterfront
  • Clean out your closets and donate items to a shelter. Look for one who gives the items away for free instead of reselling them. 
  • Give a small give to your mailman, garbage man, doctors and any other people of that nature you come in contact with
  • Send an unexpected letter/card to a friend just to let them know you care
  • Help someone in need load groceries into their car (parents with kids, elderly, handicapped)
  • Donate any unwanted books to local libraries and schools
  • Deliver hot soup and tea to a friend who gets a holiday cold
  • Clean out your pantry and donate any non-expired canned goods that you don't want or need
  • Buy a toy and donate it to a local toy drive... every child deserves to open a present on Christmas
  • Tip generously
  • Offer to babysit (for free) for a friend or couple who you know would appreciate a night out 
  • Donate blood
  • Take a box of doughnuts to the staff room at your child's school or to share in your lunch room at work
  • Gather a group of friends and go out caroling. I WILL do this during the holidays this year! 
  • Take baked goods to neighbors
  • Check with your church for any volunteer opportunities
  • Rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor, friend or relative
  • Leave an envelope with change taped to a vending machine saying "Have a treat or drink on me"
  • Put change in a street performers bucket
  • Give your seat up on a bus or train
  • Check with a local hospital to see if you can donate handmade blankets for patients (hand tied fleece blankets don't require sewing skills)
  • If you have a skill such as photography... offer services to a family for free, such as taking family pictures with no payment required
  • Cut wood and deliver it to an elderly person who you know heats with wood
  • Put a dollar bill in books before you return them to the library
  • Offer to pay a parking meter for someone
  • Smile... it really is contagious!
The possibilities are endless when it comes to paying it forward. I challenge you to give back this holiday season... as well as throughout the year. You will not only make someone's day, but it will make you a happier person as well. And remember... We aren't paying it forward with the expectation of getting something in return. We might never even see the reaction of a person on the receiving end. We pay it forward for the satisfaction of knowing we made someone's day a little brighter and that is reward enough!
Ashley Elizabeth


  1. What a cute idea! It's the little things we can do for other people that add up to BIG things! :)

    1. Exactly! People respond so well and it means so much to them when you pay it forward. Doesn't have to cost any money, even a compliment makes a person smile.

  2. Great list!! I need to add several of those to my to do list for the coming holiday season. Thanks for sharing.